Sunk Cost

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DEFINITION of 'Sunk Cost'

A cost that has already been incurred and thus cannot be recovered. A sunk cost differs from other, future costs that a business may face, such as inventory costs or R&D expenses, because it has already happened. Sunk costs are independent of any event that may occur in the future.

INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS 'Sunk Cost'

When making business or investment decisions, individuals and organizations typically look at the future costs that they may incur, by following a certain strategy. A company that has spent $5 million building a factory that is not yet complete, has to consider the $5 million sunk, since it cannot get the money back. It must decide whether continuing construction to complete the project will help the company regain the sunk cost, or whether it should walk away from the incomplete project.

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