What Is Opportunity Cost?

Opportunity Cost

The other crucial component of opportunity cost is that it doesn’t only apply to financial concerns. While money is often the thing in mind when the various options are considered, other resources such as time and labor can be involved as well. For example, the financial cost of the farmer planting two different crops may be the same, but one could involve significantly more labor in terms of planting or harvesting. The opportunity cost of the more labor-intensive crop is more time spent working in the field, as opposed to the other 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.

Opportunity cost is tied to the concept of risk, and can be viewed through that lens. Opportunity cost is, in many ways, another way of describing the relative risks of choosing one option over another. The risk of one option providing a better or worse return than another is at the heart of the concept. A concrete example of opportunity cost can make the idea easier to understand.

Use In Economics

Not only do ecommerce entrepreneurs have a limited amount of money with which they can purchase inventory, they also have a limited amount of space. In this situation, opportunity cost can be determined on both the different types of merchandise that may be bought and the amount of space they take up in storage. Considering these variables, and the potential results of choosing one over the other, helps to paint a clear picture of the different options available. For merchants who make the products they sell online, the opportunity costs of different raw materials can be considered in much the same fashion.

Start small—even with a pack of gum—and brainstorm as many alternative uses for your money as you can. A student spends three hours and $20 at the movies the night before an exam. The is time spent studying and that money to spend on something else. For example, if we graduate from college and suddenly find ourselves in the job market, there are choices to be made. We can either work for Company A or Company B. The job with Company A promises to pay us $20 an hour, while Company B offers to pay us only $10.

Opportunity Cost

For an economist, the cost of buying or doing something is the value that one forgoes in purchasing the product or undertaking the activity of the thing. For example, the cost of a university education includes the tuition and textbook purchases, as well as the wages that were lost during the time the student was in school.

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In the last example, where you have an opportunity to earn an extra hour’s worth of pay, we’ll often neglect to consider the future value of our opportunities. If we work that extra hour and then invest those earnings in the future, it can grow to be worth much more.

Opportunity cost is all about weighing the costs and benefits for each option. This blog post draws on data and research discussed in our entry on Environmental impacts of food production. If people decided to cut out beef and lamb, we would reduce emissions by 2.6 GtCO2e per year (a 20% reduction), and save an additional 4.5 GtCO2e by restoring vegetation on abandoned farmland. If we also cut out dairy we could save 12.3 GtCO2e each year – almost as much as global food emissions today.


The consideration of opportunity cost remains an important aspect of decision making, but it isn’t accurate until the choice has been made and you can look back to compare how the two investments performed. It is easy to incorrectly include or exclude costs in an opportunity cost analysis. For example, the opportunity cost of attending college does not include room and board, since you would still make this expenditure even if you were not attending college.

Our World In Data is a project of the Global Change Data Lab, a registered charity in England and Wales . All visualizations, data, and code produced by Our World in Data are completely open access under the Creative Commons BY license. You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce these in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited. The EAT-Lancet diet was designed by a group of researchers in nutrition, health, sustainability and policy to balance and improve both human and environmental health. The WHO recommends a minimum protein intake of 0.8 grams per day per kilogram of bodyweight. For a person that weighs 60 kilograms, this would equate to 48 grams of protein per day; for a 70kg person this would be 56 grams; and for a 90 kilogram person this would be 72 grams of protein. Averaged over a population, 76 grams of protein would be sufficient for everyone to meet this requirement.

  • It also spotlights the people and programs that make the St. Louis Fed central to America’s economy.
  • The difference between the expected payoff and the certainty equivalent.
  • The opportunity cost of taking a vacation instead of spending the money on a new car is not getting a new car.
  • You’re thinking economically when you look at the value of a choice through the eyes of its benefits and costs.
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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. Marginal opportunity cost is a measurement or estimation of the opportunity cost involved with producing more of a particular good. Increases to marginal opportunity cost can become smaller or larger as you produce more goods, depending on the conditions. For example, the cost of materials per unit may decrease if materials are purchased in greater quantities, but labor may become more expensive if overtime needs to be paid.

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In this way, opportunity cost is the value of the opportunity lost. Let’s first see how taking opportunity costs into account affect the comparisons of individual food items. Note that this simple example assumes that the production possibility frontier between fish and coconuts is linear.

Opportunity Cost

Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. Although Brex Treasury does not charge transaction or account fees, money market funds bear expenses and fees.

Comparative Advantage Versus Absolute Advantage

The Opportunity Cost of staying there is the amount of rent the company would get. Instead of working one night, you go to a concert that costs $25 and lasts two hours. The opportunity cost of the concert is $150 for two hours of work. If you decide not to go to work, the opportunity cost is the lost wages.

  • As a result, the role of accounting has evolved in tandem with the rise of economic activity and the increasing complexity of economic structure.
  • The reality is that opportunity cost can be applied to nearly all areas of operating an online store that involve the use of resources and more than one seemingly suitable option.
  • That is, you have a finite amount of time, money, and expertise, so you can’t take advantage of every opportunity that comes along.
  • 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.
  • While it’s often used by investors, opportunity cost can apply to any decision-making process.
  • The consideration of opportunity cost remains an important aspect of decision making, but it isn’t accurate until the choice has been made and you can look back to compare how the two investments performed.

You currently have a job that supports your cost of living and you have no debt. Since the advisor would be investing in stocks and bonds, it’s possible that you could lose money as well.

Determine Potential Gains

Various market factors during the course of the growing season could make potatoes especially valuable and bring cucumbers below their normal price. 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.

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You might also have food in the fridge that gets ruined and that would add to the total cost. An investor calculates the opportunity cost by comparing the returns of two options. This can be done during the decision-making process by estimating future returns. Alternatively, the opportunity cost can be calculated with hindsight by comparing returns since the decision was made.

Think about short- and long-term financial gains or if you could save more money by making one decision over another. It’s also essential to consider any non-financial benefits, including what could make you feel more fulfilled or better position you in your career path.

Scarcity of resources is one of the more basic concepts of economics. Scarcity necessitates trade-offs, and trade-offs result in an opportunity cost. While the cost of a good or service often is thought of in monetary terms, the opportunity cost of a decision is based on what must be given up as a result of the decision. Any decision that involves a choice between two or more options has an opportunity cost. The more you can inject real data — like market-rate salaries, average rate of return, customer lifetime value, and competitor financials — into your projection, the better.