Operating Expenses: Overview, Definition, and Examples

Operating expenses

Last Updated February 28, 2024

In the realm of finance and accounting, understanding operating expenses is crucial. Operating expenses, often referred to as OPEX, play a significant role in determining a company’s financial health and operational efficiency. In this article, we will delve into what operating expenses are, what they include, examples of such expenses, and their importance in financial management.

What are Operating Expenses?

Operating expenses, simply put, are the costs a business incurs to keep its doors open and its operations running smoothly on a day-to-day basis. These expenses are essential for maintaining the core functions of a business and are distinct from costs related to production or the creation of goods and services.

What Is Included in Operating Expenses?

Operating expenses typically include costs such as rent, utilities, salaries and wages, office supplies, insurance premiums, and maintenance expenses. These are ongoing expenses that are necessary for the regular operations of the business.

Operating Expenses Examples

Examples of operating expenses include:

  • Rent: The cost of leasing office space or a storefront.
  • Utilities: Expenses for electricity, water, and gas.
  • Salaries and Wages: Payments to employees for their work.
  • Office Supplies: Costs for paper, pens, and other materials used in daily operations.
  • Insurance Premiums: Payments for insurance coverage for the business.
  • Maintenance Expenses: Costs for repairing and maintaining equipment and facilities.

What Does an Increase in Operating Expenses Mean?

An increase in operating expenses can indicate several things. It could suggest that the business is expanding its operations, hiring more employees, or facing rising costs for utilities or rent. However, a sudden or significant increase in operating expenses may also signal inefficiencies or mismanagement that require attention.

What Are Non-Operating Expenses?

Non-operating expenses are costs that are not directly related to the core operations of a business. These may include interest expenses, losses from investments, or one-time charges that are not part of the regular operating costs.

Operating Expense Ratio

The operating expense ratio is a financial metric used to evaluate a company’s efficiency in managing its operating expenses relative to its revenue. It is calculated by dividing operating expenses by total revenue. A lower operating expense ratio indicates better efficiency in managing expenses.

Operating Expenses and Capital Expenditures

It’s important to distinguish between operating expenses and capital expenditures. Operating expenses are costs incurred to maintain daily business operations, while capital expenditures are investments in assets that are expected to provide benefits over an extended period, such as equipment or property.

Importance of Operating Expenses

Operating expenses play a crucial role in determining a company’s profitability and financial health. By effectively managing operating expenses, businesses can improve their bottom line and ensure long-term sustainability. Additionally, understanding operating expenses can help businesses make informed decisions about cost control and resource allocation.


Operating expenses are a fundamental aspect of financial management for businesses of all sizes. By understanding what operating expenses are, what they include, and how they impact a company’s financial health, business owners and managers can make informed decisions to ensure the long-term success of their organizations.