Real-Life Examples of Opportunity Cost

Real-Life Examples of Opportunity Cost

Real-Life Examples of Opportunity Cost

Opportunity Cost

In terms of factors of production, implicit Opportunity Costs allow for depreciation of goods, materials and equipment that ensure the operations of a company. When evaluating the potential profitability of different investments, companies look for the option that is expected to give the highest return.

While the opportunity cost of either option is 0%, the T-bill is the safer bet when you consider the relative risk of each investment. The other crucial component of opportunity cost is that it doesn’t only apply to financial concerns.

Opportunity Costs for Production

After a dropshipping merchant has found suppliers that are fit for purpose, instead of ordering quantities of products from the supplier, they place the products on their website. Only buy products from the supplier when orders come in from customers. We have already given three examples of Opportunity Costs for ecommerce merchants. But there is an important Opportunity Cost specifically when choosing between a traditional ecommerce model and that of dropshipping. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool’s premium services.

  • This theoretical calculation can then be used to compare the actual profit of the company to what the theoretical profit would have been.
  • But once you understand opportunity cost is a factor you should weigh, the amount of opportunities to consider may seem intimidating.
  • Optimal gas pricing and investment in infrastructure would benefit all sectors of the economy without any adverse effects on the poor.
  • Opportunity cost is the value of what you lose when you choose from two or more alternatives.
  • In general, the greater the risk that you lose money on an investment, the higher returns it provides.

Accounting practices do not aim to measure opportunity costs.6 Opportunity costing generally requires comprehensive, disaggregated data at the individual patient level. Even then, the allocation of overhead and fixed costs is difficult since the cause and effect relation between resources and different users is difficult to determine. Since many economic evaluations use accountancy cost data, the results should be treated with some caution.


Opportunity cost can be useful in evaluating several alternatives, to ensure that your best course of action has the lowest downside. While this global health crisis continues to evolve, it can be useful to look to past pandemics to better understand how to respond today. By Pierre Lemieux If creating jobs made a country great, North Korea would be very great… I am of course speaking of involuntary unemployment at the going wage rate. It is preferable to be unemployed if one prefers that and can afford it. If you dropped the coffee (careful!), invested $54 per month and earned the same 3%, compounded monthly, you’d have $7,619 to dunk your doughnut into in 10 years. “It’s about thinking beyond the present and assessing alternative uses for the money—that is, not being shortsighted,” she writes.

Opportunity Cost

In accounting, it is common practice to refer to the opportunity cost of a decision as a cost. For various reasons, the opportunity cost is critical in this form of estimation. Time spent chasing after an income might have health problems like in presenteeism where instead of taking a sick day one avoids it for a salary or to be seen as being active.

What is Opportunity Cost?

Sometimes people are very happy holding on to the naive view that something is free. Thinking about foregone opportunities, the choices we didn’t make, can lead to regret. It doesn’t cost you anything upfront to use the vacation home yourself, but you are giving up the opportunity to generate income from the property if you choose not to lease it.

  • The power of compounding investment returns can make the prospect of forgoing expenses today more compelling.
  • The business will net $2,000 in year two and $5,000 in all future years.
  • In economics, risk is the possibility that an actual and projected returns of the investments are different and that the investor will lose some or all of the invested amount.
  • To properly evaluate opportunity costs, the costs and benefits of every option available must be considered and weighed against the others.
  • Increases to marginal opportunity cost can become smaller or larger as you produce more goods, depending on the conditions.
  • Opportunity costs matter to investors because they are constantly selecting the best option among investments.

The difference lies in the difference between the money already spent and possible returns not earned on that investment since one invested capital elsewhere. Purchasing 1,000 shares of company A at the cost of $10 a share, for example, makes a sunk cost of $10,000. This is the sum of money invested and getting that money back needs liquidating stock either above or at the purchase price. A sunk cost may also be termed as the initial outlay to buy an expensive heavy equipment, which can be amortized with time, but which is sunk in the sense that you will not get it back. An opportunity cost is to buy a heavy equipment with a projected return on investment of 5% or one with an ROI of 4%.

Opportunity Cost vs. Sunk Cost

This could include the cost of one employee to train another into a job, or the cost of machinery depreciating over time. Without it, we could not rationally make a business decision that makes economic sense to our businesses. This Opportunity Cost could simply be weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of choosing one pricing structure over another. It could also involve more complex thinking to achieve clarity on a subject. Volatility profiles based on trailing-three-year calculations of the standard deviation of service investment returns.

This concept is what drives choices—and, by extension, costs and trade-offs, Caceres-Santamaria says. For investors, explicit costs are direct, out-of-pocket payments such as purchasing a stock or an option, or spending money to improve a rental property. In this example, the opportunity costs are continued interest gains on bond “A” and the initial loss of $10,000 on bond “B” while hoping to recover it and increase your profits in the future. If your current bond “A” has a value of $10,000, you can sell it to help purchase bond “B” at a slightly lower rate. Bond “B” has a face value of $20,000—so you’d spend an additional $10,000 to purchase bond “B.” To determine the best choice, you need to weigh the options. Using the simple example in the image, to make 100 tonnes of tea, Country A has to give up the production of 20 tonnes of wool which means for every 1 tonne of tea produced, 0.2 tonne of wool has to be forgone. Meanwhile, to make 30 tonnes of tea, Country B needs to sacrifice the production of 100 tonnes of wool, so for each tonne of tea, 3.3 tonnes of wool is forgone.

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Assume the expected return on investment in the stock market is 12% over the next year, and your company expects the equipment update to generate a 10% return over the same period. The opportunity cost of choosing the equipment over the stock market is 2% (12% – 10%). In other words, by investing in the business, the company would forgo the opportunity to earn a higher return.

What is meant by opportunity cost in business?

The definition of opportunity cost is the potential gain lost by the choice to take a different course of action when considering multiple investments or avenues of business.

If the sunk cost can be summarized as a single component, it is a direct cost; if it is caused by several products or departments, it is an indirect cost. If a printer of a company malfunctions, the implicit cost equates to the total production time that could have been utilized if the machine did not break down. The internal rate of return is a metric used in capital budgeting to estimate the return of potential investments. Capital budgeting is a process a business uses to evaluate potential major projects or investments.

Marginal cost

As an investor, weighing out the opportunity cost of each investment decision you make can help you make the most prudent decisions. Without this careful weighing of the options, you may find your portfolio filled with easily outperformed assets. The alternative stock would have yielded a profit of $2,000, while the stock you actually bought yielded zero profit. Your investment didn’t lose money, but in retrospect you can see that there was an opportunity cost of $2,000 for not buying the other stock instead.

Opportunity Cost

However, businesses must also consider the opportunity cost of each alternative option. While financial reportsdo not show opportunity costs, business owners often use the concept to make educated decisions when they have multiple options before them.

Change your country or region.

A trade-off is what you have to expend in order to pursue an option, while an opportunity cost is what you miss out on by not pursuing a better option. The principles behind opportunity cost are being applied in some fashion by many store owners, even if they’ve never heard of the term itself. In the long view, understanding opportunity cost is an important part of making smart business decisions.

In the stock example detailed above, having to pay $1,000 to acquire the stock is the trade-off. The trade-off to acquire either of the stocks in question would have been the same, but not going with the better performer had an opportunity cost. Learn why economists refer to “opportunity cost” and why it is such a big factor for investors who are considering how to allocate resources. Inflationary pressures from higher energy prices would be completely offset by positive impacts of infrastructure constraint removal. Optimal gas pricing and investment in infrastructure would benefit all sectors of the economy without any adverse effects on the poor.

The downside of opportunity cost is it is heavily reliant on estimates and assumptions. There’s no way of knowing exactly how a different course of action may have played out financially. Therefore, to determine opportunity cost, a company or investor must project the outcome and forecast the financial impact. This includes projecting sales numbers, market penetration, customer demographics, manufacturing costs, customer returns, and seasonality. It is important to compare investment options that have a similar risk. Comparing a Treasury bill, which is virtually risk free, to investment in a highly volatile stock can cause a misleading calculation. Both options may have expected returns of 5%, but the U.S. government backs the RoR of the T-bill, while there is no such guarantee in the stock market.

Can opportunity cost zero?

Can the opportunity cost be zero? Yes. The formula for calculating opportunity cost is to compare the net benefit of one choice with the benefit of another option. If the difference between those benefits is zero, then the opportunity cost is zero, meaning you'd get the same benefit from either choice.

When the manager of the project starts to argue that the company has already invested $5 million in the technology, they are committing the sunk cost fallacy. There are many examples of the “skip the latte” argument in personal finance. Over 20 years, you’re not just missing out on the $36,500 you could have saved (365 days x $5 x 20 years). You’re missing out on $61,655, which is the $36,500 you spent plus the investment returns you could have earned from compounding your savings for 20 years with a 5% annual investment return.

If the next-best alternative to eating out is eating at home, then the opportunity cost of eating out is the money spent. In addition, another opportunity cost is the experience you forgo by not eating a home-cooked meal.

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