Skip to main content

Six Things Price Tags Don't Tell You

For every purchase, there may be as many as six related costs you may not have considered.

Price is only one of many costs you pay when making a purchase.

Focusing on price alone can end up costing a lot of money. Value shoppers know that. The average consumer doesn't. Here are six other related expenses you may never have thought about:

Future direct costs: Many items come with direct costs made after the purchase. A car is a perfect example. To use it, you need gas, of course. If you buy a car with good gas mileage, you will pay less for this direct cost.

Future direct costs can also be found on smaller items. Razors need replacement blades. Electric toothbrushes require new heads. Computer printers don't work without ink. Once you decide which brand and model you want for these products, in many cases you are stuck with that company's replacement parts at whatever price they may be.

Future indirect costs: In the car example above, if you buy a red, sporty model, an indirect cost may be getting more traffic tickets because it stands out. This, in turn, may raise insurance rates. Note that indirect future costs are more difficult to anticipate, but, with a little thought, some of the possibilities can be considered.

Replacement costs: Most products have an estimated life, and it's important to know that. If you buy gardening tools that will last one season, how do they compare with others that are more expensive but will last for 10 seasons? It's the same with clothes.

Cost of obtaining: When people shop online, they realize there will be a shipping fee. But brick-and-mortar stores carry additional costs, too. Now that gas is no longer cheap, it costs a lot to travel to different stores to compare prices. Even driving farther to save a few cents on gas defeats its own purpose.

Time: Often left out of the cost equation is time. The more you value your time, the higher this cost can be. For example, if you are painting your house, paint brushes are going to be a lot less expensive than a power sprayer. Then again, a power sprayer significantly cuts the time it takes to paint a house, so its overall value may be much higher.

Purchase method: This one should be obvious, but the reason people get into credit card debt is because they don't realize that buying something with money they have is a lot less expensive than purchasing it with money they don't have. That $500 couch paid for with cash is $500. The same couch paid for with a credit card carrying 20% interest can total more than $950 if only the minimum payments are made.

While you probably don't have the time to go through all these costs with every purchase, it makes sense to step back and consider them with expensive items. By understanding that the cost of the things you purchase is rarely limited to the price marked on the tag, you put yourself in a position to spend your money wisely.