DEFINITION of 'Variable Overhead Spending Variance'
The difference between actual variable overhead based on costs for indirect material involved in manufacturing, and standard variable overhead based on the budgeted costs. Variable overhead spending variance arises from difference in the costs of indirect material compared to budgeted costs. It is favorable if actual costs of indirect material – for example, paint and consumables such as oil and grease – are lower than standard variable overhead. It is unfavorable if actual costs are higher than budgeted costs.
BREAKING DOWN 'Variable Overhead Spending Variance'
Variable overhead spending variance is one of the two components of total variable overhead variance, the other being variable overhead efficiency variance. For example, in the case of a widget manufacturer, if variable overhead spending variance is favorable $5,000 (because actual indirect materials costs were lower than budgeted) and variable overhead efficiency variance is unfavorable $4,000, then total variable overhead variance is favorable $1,000.

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