What Is Contribution Margin? How To Calculate It?

Wajiha Danish | July 13 2023

In the dynamic business world, understanding financial metrics is essential for making informed decisions and assessing a company’s performance. Two crucial measures that provide insights into profitability are the contribution margin and gross profit margins. While both these metrics analyze revenue and costs, they serve distinct purposes and offer unique perspectives on a company’s financial health.  

In this blog post, we delve into the comparison between contribution and gross profit margins, highlighting their definitions, calculations, and applications. By grasping the key differences between these metrics, you’ll better understand how they can guide your strategic decision-making and contribute to your business’s success. 

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What is Contribution Margin 

Contribution margin is a financial metric that measures a product’s or service’s profitability by determining the amount of revenue remaining after deducting variable costs. It helps businesses understand the portion of each sale, contributing to covering fixed costs and generating a profit.  

In simple words, contribution margin measures the profitability of each unit sold or each dollar of revenue generated after deducting the variable costs directly associated with producing the goods or providing the services. It helps businesses understand how much revenue is available to cover fixed expenses and generate a profit.

Contribution Margin Formula 

The contribution margin formula is as follows:  

Contribution Margin = Revenue – Variable Costs  

Alternatively, it can be calculated on a per-unit basis using the following formula:  

Contribution Margin per Unit = Selling Price per Unit – Variable Cost per Unit  

By analyzing the contribution margin, businesses can evaluate the profitability of individual products, services, or business segments. It provides insights into the company’s financial health and helps in decision-making related to pricing, cost management, and product mix.  

How can one calculate contribution margin? 

To calculate the contribution margin, follow these steps:  

 1. Determine the Selling Price

Identify the selling price per unit of the product or service. It is the price at which it is sold to customers.  

 2. Calculate the Variable Costs

Identify all the costs directly associated with producing or delivering the product or service that vary with the level of production or sales. These costs may include raw materials, direct labor, and other variable expenses. Sum up all the variable costs.  

3. Subtract Variable Costs from Selling Price

Subtract the total variable costs calculated in the previous step from the selling price. The result will be the contribution margin per unit.  

4. Calculate the Contribution Margin Ratio

To express the contribution margin as a percentage, divide the contribution margin per unit by the selling price per unit and multiply by 100.  

Here’s an example to illustrate the calculation 

Let’s say a company sells widgets for $50 each. The variable costs associated with each widget amount to $20. We can calculate the contribution margin as follows:  

Selling Price per Unit: $50  

Variable Costs per Unit: $20  

Contribution Margin per Unit = Selling Price per Unit – Variable Costs per Unit 

Contribution Margin per Unit = $50 – $20 = $30  

Contribution Margin Ratio = (Contribution Margin per Unit / Selling Price per Unit) * 100  

Contribution Margin Ratio = ($30 / $50) * 100 = 60%  

In this example, the contribution margin per unit is $30, which means that for each widget sold, $30 is available to cover fixed costs and contribute to the company’s profit. The contribution margin ratio of 60% indicates that the contribution margin represents 60% of the selling price.  

What is the importance of contribution margin?  

The contribution margin is an important financial metric business used to analyze the profitability of individual products or services. It represents the amount of revenue remaining after subtracting the variable costs associated with producing or delivering a product or service. The contribution margin helps assess the financial viability of specific offerings and supports decision-making processes in several ways: 

1. Profitability Analysis

The contribution margin provides insight into the profitability of individual products or services. By comparing the contribution margin of different offerings, businesses can identify which products or services generate higher profits and contribute more significantly to overall financial performance.  

2. Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis

The contribution margin is a key component in cost-volume-profit (CVP) analysis, which helps determine the breakeven point and assess the impact of sales volume changes on profitability. It helps businesses understand how sales, costs, or price changes will affect their bottom line.  

3. Pricing Decisions

Understanding the contribution margin is essential for setting appropriate product or service prices. By considering the variable costs and desired profit margins, businesses can establish pricing strategies that ensure profitability while remaining competitive.  

4. Product Mix Decisions

The contribution margin assists in evaluating the profitability of different product lines or variations. Businesses can determine which products or variations should be emphasized or discontinued by comparing the contribution margins of various offerings to optimize overall profitability.  

5. Decision-Making

A contribution margin is a valuable tool in making decisions related to resource allocation, such as determining which products to promote, which marketing initiatives to pursue, or which cost-reduction strategies to implement. It helps prioritize investments and allocate resources to maximize profitability.  


Overall, the contribution margin is crucial for businesses as it provides insights into the profitability of products or services, aids in pricing decisions, supports cost-volume-profit analysis, and facilitates informed decision-making. By understanding the contribution margin, companies can optimize their operations, enhance profitability, and make strategic choices that align with their financial goals.  

Also Read: What Is Marginal Cost, Its Formula, And How To Calculate It?

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Author Bio

Wajiha is a Brampton-based CPA, CGA, and Controller with 17+ years of experience in the financial services industry. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brookes University and is a Chartered Certified Accountant. Wajiha spearheads Monily as its Director and is a leader who excels in helping teams achieve excellence. She talks about business financial health, innovative accounting, and all things finances.