Definition of Contribution Margin Ratio
A company's total contribution margin in dollars is the total net sales minus the total amount of variable expenses. Dividing the contribution margin in dollars by the total amount of net sales is the contribution margin ratio.
Example of Break-even Point in Sales Dollars
To illustrate the break-even point in sales dollars, let's assume that a company has fixed expenses of $100,000 per year. The variable expenses are estimated to be 80% of the net sales. This means that the contribution margin ratio is 20% of net sales.
Since only 20% of the sales dollars are available to cover the $100,000 fixed expenses, the company will need to have $500,000 of net sales ($100,000 divided by 20%). At $500,000 of net sales, the amount of variable expenses will be $400,000 (80% X $500,000). That leaves $100,000 to cover the $100,000 of fixed expenses. Hence, at $500,000 of net sales the company will be at the break-even point, which is the point where sales will be equal to all of the company's expenses. This is the point where the net income will be zero.