You might be spending money and not know it—and that can affect your financial well-being. The culprit? Hidden expenses you’re not noticing that can add up over time.
It might seem as though a forgotten subscription renewal here and a bank fee there aren’t such a big deal. Improving your money habits, such as budgeting for the things that matter most and saving more for future goals, can positively affect many areas of your life
“One of the keys to finding happiness with money is you’ve got to stop spending on stuff you don’t really care about in life,” says Brian Ford, head of financial wellness at Truist.
If you get clear on what you value most and map your spending accordingly (also known as values-based budgeting), you might find yourself eager to uproot these hidden costs so you can get closer to living the life you want.
Subscriptions can include apps you’re paying for but no longer using, gym memberships, magazines, and digital subscriptions to websites. And with the rise of different types of subscription boxes, you could be regularly paying for boxes for anything from clothing to pet toys.
“Those are the [hidden costs] you want to look at first because they’re just going to keep hitting you monthly, quarterly, or annually,” says Ford. “Take a look at those subscriptions and say, ‘I know I signed up for that because I was really excited about it, but does it still excite me? Have I been using it? Do I still find value in it?’ Anything that’s recurring that you’re not using—or you use only because you’re paying for it—you should cut.”
Possible subscriptions you’re forgetting: computer software, diet or fitness apps, music apps, gym memberships, streaming services, data storage fees
2. Impulse purchases
That magazine at the checkout counter. The online ad that seems to know exactly which shoes you’ve been eyeing. Grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Anything you didn’t plan to buy is an impulse purchase. They may seem insignificant, but they can add up over time and may not contribute to your core values.
“Ask yourself, is this fulfilling an actual need I have?” says Bright Dickson, Truist’s resident expert on positive psychology.
Ford adds, “We need to be careful of shopping online; be mindful of how easy it is to purchase things with a single click or a swipe. Make sure that we’re allowing some time to ask, ‘Do I really value that?’”
Impulse purchases to watch out for: buying something just because it’s on sale, grocery items that are not on your list, spontaneous nights out, food delivery, in-game purchases. It’s OK to make the occasional impulse purchase, but if it becomes a regular habit it can move you further away from your goals.
You probably know that if you’re late with a credit card payment or you bounce a check, you’ll be hit with fees. But other hidden fees, such as those from your cable or internet provider, might be draining your funds. Pay attention to everyday fees like food delivery costs, as well as fees that come with big purchases, like those associated with buying a home. Plus, keep an eye out for hidden fees, such as annual account fees or transfer fees that some credit cards have.
The great news is that you can negotiate many of these fees, such as cable, car insurance, and credit card interest rates, and fees on your cellphone. Shop around for services with the lowest fees (or even better, no fees) or negotiate to get them lowered.
Fees you may be overlooking: ATM fees; bank and credit card fees fees tied to home and auto purchases; internet, phone, and cable fees; concert or movie ticket fees
Creating a budget can help you stay on top of hidden expenses because it means looking at every expense from your bank and credit card statements to see where your money’s going. You might discover hidden expenses that have been quietly draining your wallet.
One caveat: These costs aren’t always total drains. Sometimes, they contribute to your core values. Maybe that streaming service pays for some really great shows that your family watches together. It’s up to you to determine whether something is truly worth the money you’re paying for it.