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Sunk costs

In the budget constraint framework, all decisions involve what will happen next: that is, what quantities of goods will you consume, how many hours will you work, or how much will you save. These decisions do not look back to past choices. Thus, the budget constraint framework assumes that sunk costs    , which are costs that were incurred in the past and cannot be recovered, should not affect the current decision.

Consider the case of Selena, who pays $8 to see a movie, but after watching the film for 30 minutes, she knows that it is truly terrible. Should she stay and watch the rest of the movie because she paid for the ticket, or should she leave? The money she spent is a sunk cost, and unless the theater manager is feeling kindly, Selena will not get a refund. But staying in the movie still means paying an opportunity cost in time. Her choice is whether to spend the next 90 minutes suffering through a cinematic disaster or to do something—anything—else. The lesson of sunk costs is to forget about the money and time that is irretrievably gone and instead to focus on the marginal costs and benefits of current and future options.

For people and firms alike, dealing with sunk costs can be frustrating. It often means admitting an earlier error in judgment. Many firms, for example, find it hard to give up on a new product that is doing poorly because they spent so much money in creating and launching the product. But the lesson of sunk costs is to ignore them and make decisions based on what will happen in the future.

From a model with two goods to one of many goods

The budget constraint diagram containing just two goods, like most models used in this book, is not realistic. After all, in a modern economy people choose from thousands of goods. However, thinking about a model with many goods is a straightforward extension of what we discussed here. Instead of drawing just one budget constraint, showing the tradeoff between two goods, you can draw multiple budget constraints, showing the possible tradeoffs between many different pairs of goods. Or in more advanced classes in economics, you would use mathematical equations that include many possible goods and services that can be purchased, together with their quantities and prices, and show how the total spending on all goods and services is limited to the overall budget available. The graph with two goods that was presented here clearly illustrates that every choice has an opportunity cost, which is the point that does carry over to the real world.

Key concepts and summary

Economists see the real world as one of scarcity: that is, a world in which people’s desires exceed what is possible. As a result, economic behavior involves tradeoffs in which individuals, firms, and society must give up something that they desire to obtain things that they desire more. Individuals face the tradeoff of what quantities of goods and services to consume. The budget constraint, which is the frontier of the opportunity set, illustrates the range of choices available. The slope of the budget constraint is determined by the relative price of the choices. Choices beyond the budget constraint are not affordable.

Opportunity cost measures cost by what is given up in exchange. Sometimes opportunity cost can be measured in money, but it is often useful to consider time as well, or to measure it in terms of the actual resources that must be given up.

Most economic decisions and tradeoffs are not all-or-nothing. Instead, they involve marginal analysis, which means they are about decisions on the margin, involving a little more or a little less. The law of diminishing marginal utility points out that as a person receives more of something—whether it is a specific good or another resource—the additional marginal gains tend to become smaller. Because sunk costs occurred in the past and cannot be recovered, they should be disregarded in making current decisions.

Problems

Use this information to answer the following 4 questions: Marie has a weekly budget of $24, which she likes to spend on magazines and pies.

If the price of a magazine is $4 each, what is the maximum number of magazines she could buy in a week?

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If the price of a pie is $12, what is the maximum number of pies she could buy in a week?

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Draw Marie’s budget constraint with pies on the horizontal axis and magazines on the vertical axis. What is the slope of the budget constraint?

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What is Marie’s opportunity cost of purchasing a pie?

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References

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. 2015. “Median Weekly Earnings by Educational Attainment in 2014.” Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2015/median-weekly-earnings-by-education-gender-race-and-ethnicity-in-2014.htm.

Robbins, Lionel. An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science . London: Macmillan. 1932.

United States Department of Transportation. “Total Passengers on U.S Airlines and Foreign Airlines U.S. Flights Increased 1.3% in 2012 from 2011.” Accessed October 2013. http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/press_releases/bts016_13

Questions & Answers

how environment affect demand and supply of commodity ?
Amos Reply
Wht at the criteria for market ?
Amos
what is difference between monitory policy and fiscal policy?
Malik Reply
monetary policy is a policy thrust by National Govt(CBN) to influence government spending, purchase &taxes
Frank
necessity of economics
Pamela Reply
I will say want,choice,opportunity cost,scarcity,scale of preference
Alao
what is monopoly market.How price output are determined under monopoly market
bisham
b) Monopoly market is an impecfect market where s single firm having the innovation to produce a particular commodity.Prices are determined through output since there are no other competitive.
Frank
Monopoly market:firm has market power & does not respond to market price
Frank
Explain the process of price determination under perfect competition market with suitable diagram
bisham Reply
Price determination under perfect competition via this process :firms have no market power to influence price rather firms respond to market price.
Frank
price is different from demand- demand is amount of commodity
Effah Reply
demand is amount /quantity of commodity a potential buyer is willing to buy at a given price at market
Frank
demand is a desire of customer on commodity with the ability to pay it and willing to buy it at given price of commodity
Harika
demand is price of what
Faith Reply
show that shortrun average cost
Baby Reply
what is economics
Mbah Reply
what is money
Mbah
what is money
Mbah
Difine macro economics
agaba
money is a medium of exchange between goods and services,maybe inform of currency.
Wesonga
Economics is study of how human beings strive to satisfy numerous wants using limited available resources.
Wesonga
how do you find the maximum number of workers the firms should employ order to produce where there are increasing returns
Jane
what are implications of computing national income?.
agaba
pl
MUDASIRU
what is the formulae for calculating national income
MUDASIRU
it calculated by value added method
Praveen
classify the production units like agriculture, banking, transport etc
Praveen
money is anything that is generally acceptetable for human
Ogbaji
Estimate the net value added(NVA) at fixed cost by each industrial structure
Praveen
definition of unemployment
Adam Reply
what are the causes of unemployment?
Mbubi Reply
The main causes of unemployment are listed below. 1. Frictional unemployment 2. Cyclical unemployment 3. Structural unemployment
assani
We can also categorize the causes on a broader sense as: 1. Political and 2. Social cause As unemployeement root causes are embaded in this two.
Yonathan
would opportunity cost exist if there was no scarcity?
assani
yes just because the opportunity cost arose when there is Alternative to choose among the alternatives.
BADAMASIU
I am thinking that, if our resources were unlimited, then there wouldn't be any need to forgo some wants. Hence the inexistence if opportunity cost
assani
Politics
Job
politics has done what?
assani
consider time assani
Mary
I'm Emmanuel,...I taught the main cause is the change in gov't.
Emmanuel
...Lack of capital to set up a firm respectively
Emmanuel
🙈
Emmanuel
I would like to bring in Educational levels can also be the cause the cause of the problem respectively
Emmanuel
I think the main causes of unemployment is lack of INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT OVER POPULATION OVER DEPENDENT ON GOVERNMENT LACK OF SELF EMPOWERMENT...
ananti
lack of skills among the new generation is the serious issue.
Vishal
Where I come from , I don't see why education or personal aspects seem to do with unimployment, technically the motivation and eigerness in all works of live is there , dispite the cultural influence and physical bearriors;the thing we lacking is Government Support and open market ethics.
Joe
sorry about that-(repation). We have a over powering ethical political system that's displacing the marketing asspects of economy and causing large scale unemployment right across the board...
Joe
can someone Explain Expansionary Monetary Policy and Contractionary Monetary Policy Using one of the instrument of Monetary Policy? Please am kinda lost here?. ta
Emmanuel Reply
using a graph show the case of substitute and compliment goods
Ade Reply
can anyone give me a simple explanation to Five Sector Macroeconomics?
Emmanuel
Can someone please define what economics is
jason Reply
economics simply is a social science subject that study human behavior.
dajan
economics is a social science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means that has alternative uses
Alao
Can someone please tell me how to calculate GDP
Emmanuel
emmanual kapal to calculate GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has three method in calculating it (1)income approach (2) expenditure approach (3) value added method
Alao
thanks Alae
Emmanuel
u are welcome
Alao
in basic terms economics is revered to as battery system, it date back to when Men sees the need to exchange sapless goods and produce to gain , either wealth , basic necessities or to establish trading ties for personal benefit or social asspects in terms of coexistence and continuity, future .
Joe
what is the law of demand
Berlinda Reply
keep other thing constant, when the price increases demand decrease when the price decreases demand increases of the commodity.
sj
all things being equal,quantity demanded decrease as price increase and increase as price decrease
Seth
there's practial joke to it ..." the higher the demand ; scarcity, increase in production and drop in quality"... quite the controversy - for example China vs Europe, United States and we are all boxed up in between somewhere...
Joe
Other thing remain constant the low price of commodity the high quantity of commodity and vice versa is true
Baraka
Explain Effective demand
Anita Reply
What is effective demand
Anita
like Modi is in demand...best example of effective demand
Pranav
Don't get you
Anita
Anita you mean you don't get me or who?
Onyeking
level of demand that represents a real intention to purchase by people with the means to pay
Pranav

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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