Def Of Opportunity Cost

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This law states that the total output of a group of individuals will be greatest when the output of each good is produced by the person with the lowest opportunity cost for that good. That is to say, you don’t have to be the absolute best at something to be the person who should make a particular good or service. And, even if you can make everything better than someone else, you still can benefit from trading with them if you have different opportunity costs. What things you should produce with your time depends on your relative ability to produce those things. Opportunity costs are real in the sense that there is always a missed opportunity when you’re allocating resources (time, money, etc.).

opportunity cost examples

  • A simple opportunity cost example is choosing between two investment options with a guaranteed return.
  • Implicit costs are costs that don’t involve a direct monetary payment; rather these are the opportunity costs involved with dedicating existing resources to one course of action instead of to another.
  • Similarly, the expenditures on activities that are precluded by being a student—such as hang-gliding lessons, or a trip to Europe—represent savings.
  • Some even graduate from college before reaching their prime earning years.

The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Behavioral Economics is the study of psychology as it relates to the economic decision-making processes of individuals and institutions. Return on investment is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or compare the efficiency of several investments. The problem comes up when you never look at what else you could do with your money or buy things without considering the lost opportunities. Having takeout for lunch occasionally can be a wise decision, especially if it gets you out of the office for a much-needed break.

Now sales volume has surged to the point where the it takes to handle shipping has become unmanageable. As a result, the company is seriously considering outsourcing the function to a third-party logistics provider. Granted, the latter will cost it more, but the time saved also has value by eliminating employee involvement. Instead, these workers can focus on new product development, which, in the long run, can lead to new revenue streams.

Opportunity Cost Formula, Calculation, and What It Can Tell You

They have an actual, tangible dollar amount and directly affect cash flow and profitability. The concept of opportunity cost does not always work, since it can be too difficult to make a quantitative comparison of two alternatives. It works best when there is a common unit of measure, such as money spent or time used. When you decide, you feel that the choice you’ve made will have better results for you regardless of what you lose by making it. As an investor, opportunity cost means that your investment choices will always have immediate and future losses or gains. 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.

Start a business and design the life you want – all in one place. Bugs definition, examples, who is responsible for fixing them, and FAQs. Opportunity cost is the benefit you forego in pursuing one path over the other. Another example would be a college student who studies for a test, instead of going out and partying with their friends on the weekend.


But you do give up the opportunity to make money on the property by not leasing it. In other words, the opportunity cost is what you could have done with that $30 if you had not added the new item to the menu. You could have saved it in your retirement account and earned interest on it.

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Jane gets four fish and five coconuts, more food than if she worked by herself to get two fish and five coconuts. In the time it takes him to collect one coconut, he could have been doing something else—namely, fishing. In her case though, she gives up four-tenths of a fish to go collect one coconut. If she agrees to trade with Tommy and specializes in collecting coconuts, she frees Tommy up to do the thing he is comparatively better at. For calculating opportunity cost, the difference between the expected returns of each option must be taken into account. Studies show that reminders of opportunity costs make one-time donations less likely.

The term opportunity benefit is sometimes used to refer to the advantages that one option in a choice set has over others. For example, the opportunity benefit of a certain policy refers to the advantages that this policy has over others. Though people often underestimate or ignore opportunity costs, there are also situations where the opposite is true. In such situations, you can think of opportunity cost as what you will gain by going with a certain option, compared to what you’ll miss out on by foregoing the best alternative. The opportunity cost of buying a certain product is the value of the best alternative thing that you could have done with the money instead, such as buying a different product.

Opportunity cost is money or benefits lost by not selecting a particular option during the decision-making process. That an amazing invention has never been found in some secret warehouse does nothing to reduce people’s belief that such things exist; they’re hidden, aren’t they? The reality is that the opportunity cost of hiding a valuable invention is so great that inventions worth more than they cost are quickly made available. Hidden inventions exist only in economically uninformed imaginations….

Definition of Opportunity Cost:

The opportunity cost of spending $19 to download songs from an online music provider is measured by the benefit that you would have received had you used the $19 instead for another purpose. The opportunity cost of a puppy includes not just the purchase price but the food, veterinary bills, carpet cleaning, and time value of training as well. Owning a puppy is a good illustration of opportunity cost, because the purchase price is typically a negligible portion of the total cost of ownership. Yet people acquire puppies all the time, in spite of their high cost of ownership. The economic view of the world is that people acquire puppies because the value they expect exceeds their opportunity cost.

Studies suggest that opportunity cost reminders may also impact people’s long-term giving decisions. They often make expensive impulse purchases because they don’t know how to handle money. Some of their financial decisions are not viewed or considered as opportunity costs. Because we can’t have everything we want, we must choose among the many choices in life. Scarcity means that we must make decisions based on costs and tradeoffs.


The concept of opportunity cost has important implications both in business and in everyday life, so it’s important to understand it. As such, in the following article you will learn more about opportunity cost, and understand how you can account for it as effectively as possible. 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.

What is Opportunity Cost?

The business will net $2,000 in year two and $5,000 in all future years. Funds used to make payments on loans, for example, cannot be invested in stocks or bonds, which offer the potential for investment income. The company must decide if the expansion made by the leveraging power of debt will generate greater profits than it could make through investments. Considering the value of opportunity costs can guide individuals and organizations to more profitable decision-making. Because opportunity costs frequently relate to future events, they are often difficult to quantify.

5 best use cases of ethereum smart contracts ethereum guidesally speaking, though, opportunity costs are still very real. Yet because opportunity cost is a relatively abstract concept, many companies, executives, and investors fail to account for it in their everyday decision making. Often, they can determine this by looking at the expected RoR for an investment vehicle.

This concept acknowledges not just the explicit costs of a choice but also the implicit costs of what you forgo when you make that decision. Opportunity cost provides a framework for decision-making to find the most benefit, particularly for limited resources like time and money. Since resources are limited, every time you make a choice about how to use them, you are also choosing to forego other options. Economists use the term opportunity cost to indicate what must be given up to obtain something that’s desired. A fundamental principle of economics is that every choice has an opportunity cost.

Examples of Opportunity Cost

Using the car-buying example, a consumer might default to thinking of the relative value of the $1,500 upgrade to the base price of the car, say, $18,500. Opportunity costs where direct monetary costs are lost when making a decision. Explicit Opportunity Costs are direct monetary costs that are lost when making a decision. If we do take on the project, we need to think about the opportunity costs involved. As a business grows, the need for automated software to manage other operational activities, such as supply chain, inventory and order management, grows as well.

Opportunity cost is the value of the best alternative that you miss out on as a result of choosing a different option. Opportunity Cost is the benefit foregone related to the alternative choice when a decision is made. The Opportunity Cost arises here through the choice to buy products from the supplier before or after a customer buys from you.