That Really Costs What?!?

We are taught to read the fine print of purchases; now if we do or not is a completely different topic!  No one ever really mentions looking for the hidden costs of things.

The price of a car is listed on the window and we receive the fine print during the financing stage.  When we join a gym we know the cost upfront and read the details when we sign the contract.  Then there are times when we want to attempt a DIY project or go on a family outting to a sports event and next thing we know all of our money has disappeared out of our wallets!  Where the heck did it all go?  Hidden costs!


There you are in the dealership getting ready to finalize the deal to drive that shiny car home – taking in that new car smell.  You feel confident in the deal you made and know what your monthly payments are.  Then you go to put gas in the car for the first time.  Premium only.  Whoa!  With the way gas prices are rising, gas can be one of the largest hidden costs of owning a vehicle.

What’s the next largest hidden cost we don’t think about while imagining ourselves driving with the top down, wind blowing through our hair?  Maintenance.  Tires continue to evolve and become safer and with that comes a higher price tag.  Many vehicles also require synthetic oil for oil changes over the once common conventional oil.

Vehicle insurance can be another cost we don’t initially think about when purchasing a vehicle that will take more money out of your wallet each month.

Gym Memberships

Hopefully you read your gym contract thoroughly and found the most cost effective membership for you.  Gyms are famous for the hidden fees on their contracts.  Beyond the contract there are still hidden costs that you may not realize at first.

First off, you have to get to the gym somehow!  Going to and from the gym several times a week will add to your already high fuel costs.  Then there is the need to purchase new workout gear because, let’s face it, being in a gym with a bunch of fabulous looking people in baggy sweats is not flattering at all.  Once you get home, the hidden costs continue.  If you don’t shower at the gym you are showering at home, thus increasing your water usage and heating bill.

Recreational Activities

A trip to the Museum or National Park is a great way to spend a Saturday with the family.  You know that there will be a parking fee and admission fee so you plan accordingly.  After a few hours of some great adventure, stomachs start to grumble causing you to shell out some extra cash for over priced food at the museum you are at.  Then by the time you spend the day exploring and driving back home, who wants to cook dinner?  Pizza delivery!  When planning family trips, be sure to plan for food and even souveniers so you aren’t too shocked about how much that family fun day cost you.

Even getting involved in a new sport or hobby can take you by surprise.  Bicycling, for example, has tons of extra costs that we don’t think about before getting involved.  For starters, you usually need to purchase new peddles (this one even caught me off guard!).  Bikes usually come with test pedals not meant to be used outside of your test ride around the store.  Then there are the accessories you can add onto the bike – waterbottle holder, mirror, repair kit – and some cool riding gear that can make your ride more comfortable.

Morale of the Story

All of the hidden costs in everything we do can end up becoming huge budget-busters.  Before making a big purchase, commitment, or adventure trip, try and make it a point to think about other related costs so you are not left wondering, “where did all my money go?”  Some of these “hidden costs” can be avoided if you are aware of them and are able to plan ahead.

photo by: 401(K) 2013
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Kara Schulte

About Kara Schulte

Kara Schulte, MA, is a current AFC candidate as an AFCPE intern. Kara holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Campbell University and a master's degree in human services from Liberty University. She is a proud military spouse and soon-to-be mom for the first time. After working in the banking industry for several years, she noticed a strong need for financial education for consumers. Through her education and background, Kara strives to help those in need achieve financial stability.