The term “invisible expenses” is being used more and more, but do you really know what it means? What do invisible expenses encompass and how do you identify them?
Invisible expenses are costs you realize after it’s too late, usually at the end of a month when you balance your budget, or when you say to yourself: “Where on earth did all my money go?”.
Usually you know exactly how much expenses are in your life, like your rent, internet, you can probably give an estimate of your weekly groceries, etc. But sometimes, you easily lose sight of things you are buying that are adding up quick, and aren’t budgeted for.
According to PayPlan, a debt advice firm, over 50% of our spending goes unchecked, and 33% of shoppers routinely spend money on low-value items that can add up, like chewing gum at the check-out country.
It’s clear the having a budget isn’t always enough. Although budgets capture rough estimates, or expected expenses like your mortgage or rent, what most people fail to take into consideration is the little expenses that incur monthly that can add up to significant amounts.
Here are some tips to help ensure you keep your wallet in check from those invisible expenses.
Check everything twice
Double-check all your outgoing expenses, and look for additionals ways you can save money. For example, take a look at your car expenses. Is it a used car? Is it possible that it’s using more fuel, oil, or has needed a ton of additional work because it is older? Maybe it makes more sense in the long run to sell it now, and purchase something newer to avoid those added expenses of small (or big) repairs.
The same goes for other aspects of your life. When you take a look at where your money is going and evaluate if there’s ways you can cut costs in the long run, you’ll begin to see an increase in your bank account like you never did before.
Create a list of essential products and services
Identifying invisible expenses can be easier than you think. List out all your essential expenses, as well as everything you have bought or spent money on in the month. Once you have the list, take a look at what can be eliminated. By putting your expenses and spending habits on paper, you’ll see a better perspective of where you tend to overspend.
For example, maybe you realize you spend over $50 a month on your morning coffee, or that you exceed your budget most months on entertainment. Taking a moment to regroup on where you can cut costs will help you be more conscious when you are out and about spending money like it’s a bottomless pit.
Another good way to cut costs is to be aware of the things you are getting rid of when you are decluttering or spring cleaning. It can even be valuable to make a list of food you throw out because it passes its expiry date before you eat it. With that list(s), calculate how much you spent on all of those items. Try to be as accurate as possible with the cost, and once you price each item you got or are getting rid of, add it all together. This number could be shocking to you. This exercise isn’t to make you feel bad, it’s to give yourself information and make you more aware of your spending habits, the things you are over buying, and the money you are wasting, to make you more aware down the road.
Ask yourself: “Do you really need this?”
Getting yourself into the habit of checking the usefulness of the things you’re spending your money on is a great lesson in saving money. It can easily happen that you buy things that you don’t actually need, or you spend money for emotional reasons or on services or work that doesn’t need doing. By stopping and thinking before every purchase, and asking yourself: “Do I really need this?” you’ll already begin to identify how many things you spend money on that you don’t need to be.
Another good practice is when you want to purchase something like for example, a new outfit, leave the store instead of buying it right away and think about it. If you are still non-stop thinking about it a week later, figure out what other expenses you could cut that month to have the money for it, however, often you will forget about it, or realize you don’t need it.
A good practice into reprogramming your mind into buying less, is to really understand how your brain actually works when it comes to spending. It may or may not be surprising to you that stores employ all kinds of tricks to get you to spend money, through psychological tricks, product placement, etc. Here are some things you may have not known that your brain has been playing into:
Stores use colour to make products attractive and eye-catching. They’ll also use colour or pricing labels. For example, red stands out and seems more urgent to a shopper, that’s why it’s commonly the colour used for sale signage and advertising. When you spot red while shopping, stop and remember what they’re trying to do to trick your brain. You don’t need to buy something just because it’s on sale.
Stores will purposely force you to walk around stuff you don’t need to find stuff you are actually shopping for. Think of Ikea for example, you have to walk through the entire store in order to get where you actually want to go. Have a list of what you need before you go into a store, and stick to it.
The touch factor
A store will place items they want to sell in easy to reach locations that encourage shoppers to touch them. Avoid the temptation! As soon as you pick something up, you’re more likely to throw it into your cart, because your brain suddenly takes ownership of it. Don’t pick anything up to help save useless purchasing.
Scents and sounds
Classic, upbeat tunes are common in stores. The upbeat music makes you happy and excited, as well as makes you feel comfortable. Stores will also use pleasant smells to put your mind at ease. Afterall, they don’t want you to leave the store because you’re stressed out. A happy, comfortable mind at ease can be dangerous to your wallet. The unfortunate part is the only way to avoid this is to just be conscious of it, or shop online.
Track your expenses
Unless you track your expenses, it can be impossible to find the invisible costs that are burning a hole in your wallet. Tracking expenses can be a daunting task, but there are a ton of budgeting apps out there that can make it more seamless. If you are serious about finding places in your spending habits you can save, you shouldn’t have a problem sticking to tracking your expenses, but like anything, it takes a few weeks of doing it consistently to develop the habit.
The process of tracking your expenses can be made easier if you use cashless payment methods, especially since you can just hook them up to budgeting apps that do the work for you. After a few months of tracking expenses, you’ll be able to have a better picture of the costs you should avoid. For example, when you see the amount of money you spend on eating out every week, it’ll be eye opening and make you more conscious of meal prepping or cutting back.
When you track your expenses, make sure to also double-check everything. You can identify repeat expenses that aren’t supposed to be recurring as much. A good example is getting your car repaired. Although this expense is usually occasional, if you look at the money you are spending on it over the timespan of a few months, you may realize you are putting a lot more money into the car than it is worth. Even though buying a new car seems irresponsible, in the long run, it can actually save you money, so it would be considered responsible money spending.
After tracking your expenses for awhile, you’ll know where your money is going. It’s easier to cut the costs that you are overspending on, or unnecessary expenses when you can see a line list of where your money is going outside of your regular, consistent expenses like your rent/mortgage. Focus on striking a balance. You don’t want to completely eliminate the things from your life you enjoy, but you should just be aware of ways you’re aimlessly spending money, and think of ways to replace those costs with cheaper, more inexpensive options. For example, instead of ordering take out or eating out four dinners a week with friends, invite your friends over for a potluck, or offer to make dinner for them at home.
Sometimes putting out more money for a product or service at first could actually mean saving more money in the long run. It may seem counterintuitive, but let us tell you why it can actually be good (in some instances).
Let’s start with an example, say if you want to buy a new furnace which can be a large investment. You have the option to choose the cheapest model, or you could opt for a more efficient model that could save you money on your monthly bills and last longer. Although the more expensive model will require you to take out a loan, in the long run, it’ll prevent you from paying more monthly, and having to replace it again sooner. Plus, easy payday loans from GoDay exist for a reason.
Another option for learning to spend more intelligently is to write down everything you spend on an app like Mint to help manage your monthly budget. We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again, but writing things down will help create that habit of being more careful with your money.
Invisible expenses can add up quickly without you even knowing. You could be looking at your bank statement each month thinking: “How do I not have more in my bank account?”. The biggest thing anyone can do to get in control of their finances is to really take a harder look of where their money is going and being more conscious of their spending habits. It’s easy to swipe your card here and there on small expenses, and not realize how much those add up to. Being in control means that you are aware of each item or thing you spend your cash on, and you know where you can cut ties and save.
Here are few additional tips we’ll leave you with to save money:
- Create a savings plan within your budget to save for the things in your life that are important like that dream trip on your bucket list, that new car or house, or your retirement.
- Decide on your priorities by laying it all out on the table and identifying the things you can’t live without.
- Set things automatic by automatically withdrawing money from your pay to go into your savings accounts so you aren’t spending your extra cash on things that aren’t important.
- If you’re spending a lot of money eating out, set a goal for yourself to start cooking at home more and packing your lunches. If you really struggle with eating out for lunch while at work, or grabbing that mid-day coffee or snack, leave your bank cards at home!
- Look for discounts and ways to eliminate unnecessary expenses. For example, call your cell phone provider and see how frequently you’re actually using all the add-ons you’re paying for.
What are your biggest savings tips?