First Person: The Hidden Costs That Sabotage My Budget

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Some people have a hidden budget for their bad habits. I discovered we have a hidden budget that includes the things we simply overlooked when figuring out our expenses throughout the year.

It's impossible to miss the little indulgences in the form of gourmet coffees, especially when you keep receipts and a spending diary. However, I had to become a detective to uncover some of the hidden ways we spend money.

Beyond basic cable

I budgeted $60 a month for our cable bill. But upon closer investigation I realized we were spending $60/year or $5 month on the Xbox Live subscription. It allows my family to go online to play games on the Internet and compete against people all over the world. In addition, we spend at least $10 a month on downloadable content such as music tracks for playing Rock Band or maps for first person shooters in games.

Beyond the friendly card game

My husband plays Magic the Gathering strategic card games. I budgeted $5 for his weekend game, $12 for his Tuesday night draft and $30 a month for special tournaments.

However, I did not anticipate the travel cost for playing in tournaments in other states. I also did not calculate the cost of organization. Plastic sleeves to store the cards cost $10 for 100 sleeves and it costs $10 for a binder.

Beyond the gym membership

I budgeted $73 a month for our YMCA membership, but did not foresee other expenses. I spent several hundred more on special camps, metabolism testing and special personal training sessions. I also did not realize I'd be spending more money on exercise clothing, healthy snacks from vending machine. Since the YMCA is not just right around the corner, we also have to pay high gasoline costs to drive 30 miles round trip.

Beyond the new car purchase

When we purchased our car, I thought we were getting a great deal with such low interest rates. We pay $300 a month for our car loan. However, because of the new car purchase, we decided to spend money on a Sirius radio subscription for $199 a year. We purchased music CDs and a GPS system.

Now that I've uncovered our hidden expenses, I can create a more realistic budget. Awareness is half of the battle. I figure it's smart to add 10 percent to our budget for these "hidden expenses" that I sometimes miss.


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