Sunk Cost

A sunk cost is money that has already been spent and cannot be recovered. In business, the concept that one has to "spend money to create money" is mirrored in the phenomena of the sunk cost.A sunk cost is separate from anticipated future expenses that a corporation may incur, such as product pricing decisions or the cost of purchasing inventory. Sunk costs are ignored while making future business decisions since they will not alter regardless of the decision taken.

Understanding Sunk Costs

A sunk cost is money that has already been invested and cannot be recovered. A manufacturing company, for instance, might have a variety of sunk expenses, including the cost of machinery, equipment, and facility leasing payments. A sell-or-process-further choice, which refers to things that can be sold as-is or can be processed further, excludes sunk costs.

Organizations should only take into account relevant costs—including any future expenditures that still need to be incurred—when making business decisions. The relevant costs and the possible earnings of various options are compared. A firm only takes into account the costs and revenue that will change as a result of the option under consideration in order to make an informed choice. Sunk costs shouldn't be taken into account because they remain constant.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

The sunk cost fallacy is an incorrect way of thinking that a business or person may have while making decisions. This fallacy is predicated on the idea that because resources have already been committed, sticking with the current strategy is justified. This oversight could lead to poor long-term strategic planning judgements based on committed short-term costs.

Psychological Factors

  • Loss aversion - Individuals could reject an equal gain in favor of avoiding a loss. Because of their low risk tolerance, these people are hesitant to commit to a sure loss (i.e., discontinuing a project with sunk costs). When everything else is equal, some people prefer to avoid losses to pursue gains.
  • Commitment bias - Individuals may adhere to a strategy since it was the one that was made in the beginning. A project receives special consideration just because it was chosen at the beginning.
  • Waste avoidance - It's possible that individuals wish to save money. However, not all opportunities pay off because doing your homework could end up being useless, especially in research and development..
  • Personal decision-making - Individuals could feel emotionally invested in or accountable for a particular undertaking or choice. As a result, there is a psychological bias that the project would fail or the data might be inaccurate.

How To Avoid Sunk Cost Fallacy?

The sunk cost fallacy can easily be disproved with dedication, awareness, and careful planning. Here are some tips for getting past the mental obstacle.

Frame the problem - Making decisions must begin with a very particular problem that needs to be solved as its foundation. The conversation should center on this issue, and analysts should use it to guide all of their efforts. This step clarifies what is significant and what should be viewed as a distractor of less significance.

**Remain independent **- People could lose sight of what's actually going on when they become emotionally immersed in business decisions. They rely on their overly optimistic vision to justify their poor choice rather than the data. Recognize that making the appropriate choice should be the most important thing in the end; failing projects don't necessarily represent the decision-maker.

Trust the data - Sunk cost is typically not taken into account when evaluating different choices. Although it may seem odd to do so, the method is sound and provides the most solid foundation for making decisions.

**Change risk preference **- Some investors intentionally seek out risk because they think that's where the best rewards can be found. On the other hand, some investors continue to bury wealth under their mattresses and would prefer to forgo any future growth for the sake of liquidity. Investors can more easily accept that they have acquired sunk costs that will never be recoverable by learning to tolerate risk more and letting go of risk aversion.


  • Spending that has already been made but cannot be recouped is known as sunk costs.
  • Sunk expenditures are frequently ignored in businesses because they are seen to be unrelated to current and upcoming financial difficulties.
  • Relevant costs, which are future expenses that have not yet occurred, are in contrast to sunk costs.
  • The sunk cost fallacy is a psychological roadblock that keeps people tied to unsuccessful activities just because they invested money in them.
  • Sunk costs can be things like wages, insurance, rent, nonrefundable deposits, or repairs (as long as each of those items is not recoverable).
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