10 Hidden Costs People Fail to Consider

I mentioned in the previous article that I am always on the search for hidden fees since these are the ones that come back to bite people’s budget because the true cost usually was never considered. There are a surprising number of these hidden costs and a lot of the products we purchase have hidden costs that we rarely consider when we make the purchase:


When I hear most people giving a rationalization on why they should purchase a house, the argument is usually that rent and a mortgage payment are about the same. Why rent when you can spend the same amount and begin earning equity? The problem here is that a house ends up having a lot more expenses than an apartment does. A house is bigger meaning more stuff needs to be purchased, a yard needs to be taken care of, property taxes need to be paid, if the hot water heater blows, you are responsible and not the apartment manager just to name a few. That is not to say a house isn’t a good financial move, just that a lot of people buy more house than they can afford because they look only at the mortgage payment and not all the extra costs that come along with home ownership.


Most people purchase a car on the style they like and what the can afford. While the cost of the actual car is a huge upfront cost, there are a whole range of costs down the road that the purchase puts into motion. The amount spent on gas, repairs and insurance will all depend on the make and model of the car purchased, but rarely are all these “hidden costs” taken into consideration when a car is purchased.

Video Game Systems

While you often hear the complaints about the cost of new video game consoles, the console will likely be a minor cost over the entire life of the gaming system. With video games costing more than $50 a piece, the real money spent on these video game systems is on the games themselves. Think about it – what use is the game console if you don’t have a bunch of cool games to play?

Music Players

Here’s another example where the hardware will only be a fraction of the true cost over the life of the product. When you purchase that music player for $300 that holds 10,000 songs, you are thinking about the $300 you have to spend for the player at that moment, not the $10,000 it will cost to fill all the space on the player with your favorite songs. While that $10,000 may leave your pocket $1 at a time, it will still leave your bank account.

Big Screen TV

When people shell out over $1000 for the newest flat screen TV, they fail to consider all the other costs that will go with it. Is anyone really going to get a huge TV like that and not get cable service? In all likelihood it is going to be full service with lots of premium channels. Of course, the DVD player also will need to be added with all DVDs that need to be purchased to watch and it’s not long before other add on equipment and entertainment passes the cost of the TV itself.

Cell Phones

If you look strictly at the cost of a cell phone, it seems the deal of the century. In fact, you can get a cell phone for free in many areas. It isn’t the cell phone itself that will cost a lot of money, but the talk plans you will need to sign up for to use the phone. This is where the money is made by the businesses. Even if you choose an inexpensive calling plan, you’ll likely get hit with huge overage charges. Then there is the need to download ringtones and other accessories to keep the phone in style.

Printer Ink

Every wonder how printers can be so inexpensive? It’s because the company that makes the printer won’t make any money on the printer itself (in fact, they will likely lose money), but on all the ink you’ll have to buy to keep the printer running. Most people don’t realize that the $100 they lay out for a printer will cost them an additional $1500 over the next 4 years for ink to make the printer work. So the printer ends up not being quite as inexpensive as most people first believe.

Razor Cartridges

Razors are the same as the printers in the above example with their cartridges the same as the printer ink. There is a reason that razors have their own unique system and only their cartridge blades will fit their particular razor – so you have to purchase them. In fact, you can often find that a razor with a starter cartridge set is less expensive than buying the cartridges themselves and many new razor models are given away for free.

Electric Toothbrush Heads

While this isn’t going to cost you a huge amount each year, it goes to show that the concept of hidden product costs can apply to all areas of you purchasing. This is another example one where the replacement brush head for the electric toothbrush will over time eclipse the cost of the electric toothbrush itself. They now make this replacement activity more often by including systems indicating when the brush head should be replaced.

Credit Card

While this isn’t a typical example when compared to the others mentioned above, credit cards can have huge hidden costs for any person who doesn’t know how to use them correctly which ends up being a large portion of the population. It may appear to be free money (free with gift included many times), but it can cost you tens of thousands in interest charges and fees if the balance isn’t paid off in full each month. Most people don’t realize how much paying the minimum on their credit card is really costing them.

This just goes to show that being able to think through what other costs come with your purchases can go a long way to keeping your budget healthy. If you aren’t able to spot these hidden costs, you may find your finances in a lot worse shape than you ever expected.

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12 Responses to 10 Hidden Costs People Fail to Consider

  1. davis says:

    I can’t believe how much I spend on printer ink every year. It’s the biggest scam out there!

  2. Wendy says:

    Lots of good things to think about here…my husband is an avid gamer and he recently spent some time trying to find ways around the associated expenses. As with DVDs, you can sign up for a rental program that cuts the cost dramatically. He also trades in his used games to Blockbuster and was able to (along with a gift certificate) purchase the X-box 360 for about $40.The other cool thing I noticed is that when he is playing ‘live’ on X-box, he can talk to our friends internationally for free (well, I guess that would be the cost of the headset…).

  3. samerwriter says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your comment on houses and cars. Another significant hidden cost for cars is the resale value. I’ve seen 10-year-old Honda Civics selling for $8000, while a 10-year-old Dodge sells for $3000. And for at least the first year of home ownership I easily doubled my mortgage payment buying “necessary” home ownership items.

    Regarding printers, I now only buy laser printers. I don’t care much about color printing, and I print seldom enough that when I had an inkjet the heads were always dried and clogged by the time I needed to use it. What a waste.

    I disagree with your comment on music players. A music player that holds 10,000 songs can easily be filled from one’s own CD collection. There’s no need to buy $10,000 worth of music to fill it.

  4. Max says:

    I’ve yet to meet a person who would drop ten large on music at iTunes. Come on, nobody’s THAT honest.

  5. makingitbig says:

    When it comes to electronics — specifically HDTVs — don’t forget about wires and cables. They may not sound like much, but money of the newer TVs don’t come with the necessary high-def cables.

  6. Getting To Enough says:

    I agree about the comment on the house. I think an even bigger cost than the upkeep though is the standard of living for which it sets us up.

    What I mean is that what we consider to be “enough” is based a lot on our peers and neighbors. For example, the type of car we drive or the types of vacations we go to or the furniture we have. There really is something about “keeping up with the Jones'” even if it’s subconscious. So, moving to a bigger/nicer home because the mortgage is affordable could cost more money in the end due to lifestyle expenses.

  7. nick says:

    PC vs Software. Being a techie, I am running Linux. So I never spend a dime on 90% of the software on my machine, but I guess for most of the regular folks, the ratio of the free software on their Windows probably is much lower. With a decent PC costing below 1K, how much did you spend on software, and software upgrades?

  8. Susan says:

    So glad you brought this up…cell phones have become a necessary evil (?)
    I’m considering telepathy, much cheaper.

  9. Gary says:

    razor blades last a lot longer if you don’t use shaving cream, but use shaving soap (or regular soap) instead. i’ve been using shaving soap and the same razor blade for 6 months and it still cuts fine.

  10. Aimee says:

    Printer ink is one that no one thinks of! We actually found that it is cheaper to get a new printer (comes with ink) each time than to buy the replacement ink for our printer. We get the replacement ink to cut down on waste, but the pricing is just so far off!

  11. Brandon says:

    The only way to avoid “extra” charges is to be aware of what you are buying. The average person does not know how many minutes they talk on the cellphone. The sales person can only estimate. When it comes to updates, the critical ones are free. Software functionality, phone performance etc. The rest is just vanity. Most people want a deal and get the cheap pricing.

    Do you negotiate at Target on price?
    I don’t think so. Your lucky your buying a cellphone.

    Do you buy a car one week on a plan and get a better deal on a more expensive one and expect an upgrade for free. I don’t think so.

    Cellphones are mini-computers and NOT a home phone. Wait till there are NO sales people and you will be hollering over the lack of service!!

    People want to buy things cheap and they forget that a cellphone is an expensive piece of technology. Try to buy one direct from the manufacturer adn you will see what they really cost without a contract or rebate.

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