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What Is Sunk Cost? | Speed Commerce

What Is Sunk Cost?

3PL Glossary > Sunk Cost

What Is Sunk Cost?

Sunk cost refers to the financial investment that has been made in the past and cannot be recovered. In other words, these are costs that have already been incurred and should not be factored into current or future decision-making processes. The key characteristic of sunk costs is that they are irretrievable, regardless of the choices made moving forward. This concept is vital in various fields, including economics, business, and personal finance, as it encourages individuals and organizations to focus on the potential future benefits and costs rather than dwelling on historical expenditures.

How does the concept of economies of scale impact the overall cost structure of a manufacturing company?

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Understanding sunk costs is vital for making rational decisions and avoiding the trap of what economists call the "sunk cost fallacy." The fallacy occurs when individuals or businesses continue investing time, money, or resources into a project or decision simply because they have already invested heavily in it. This mindset can lead to suboptimal choices, as decisions should ideally be based on the assessment of future outcomes rather than past investments. By recognizing sunk costs and ignoring them in decision-making, individuals and organizations can allocate resources more efficiently and make decisions that maximize future gains.

In practical terms, a business example of sunk cost might involve a company that has invested substantial funds in developing a new product that, upon further analysis, is unlikely to generate significant returns. Rather than persisting with the project due to the money already spent, a rational approach would be to abandon the endeavor and allocate resources to more promising opportunities. This way, the focus remains on future benefits, and decisions are not clouded by past expenditures that cannot be recovered.


No. Sunk costs are costs that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered. In decision-making, it is generally advisable to focus on future costs and benefits rather than considering sunk costs. Decisions should be based on the prospective impact on the business going forward, as sunk costs are irrelevant to choices that lie ahead.

No. It is not advisable to consider sunk costs as a justification for continuing an unprofitable venture. Sunk costs are past expenditures that should not influence future decisions. Instead, decisions should be made by evaluating the prospective costs and benefits of continuing the project, irrespective of the historical expenses already incurred.

Yes. The concept of sunk cost extends beyond financial investments to include any resource, effort, or time that has already been expended and cannot be recovered. Whether it's money, time, or other resources, if the cost has been incurred and is irreversible, it is considered a sunk cost. The principle remains the same: for effective decision-making, focus on future costs and benefits rather than being influenced by unrecoverable past expenditures.

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