Be Aware of Things with Strings

When buying things, we often forget to account for the cost of associated items and services when figuring out whether or not we can afford the original item. This is especially true for big-ticket items like houses and cars, but it can happen with smaller purchases too.

For example, you might buy a cell phone and sign up for a reasonable plan. But before you know it, you decide on things like additional minutes, text messaging, and a data plan. What starts out as a reasonable cost can quickly spiral into a $100 or more each month.

Or take computers. You might think of a computer as a one-time cost, but pretty soon you’ll need to upgrade it. You might want a larger monitor, a printer, an ergonomic keyboard, and then a new desk to put everything on. Then there’s all the software and the upgrades for that. Let’s not forget internet access as well. Hey, maybe you’ll bundle in a better cable package while you’re at it.

The same thing can happen with hobbies. My painting class is a good example of that. (Now I know why original oil painting are so horrifically expensive.) There are the classes themselves, the brushes (which can run from $6-$22 each — for the cheaper kinds!), the paints, the canvas, the gesso, etc. It’s just awfully easy to spend more than I originally thought I might.

It pays to be aware of the associated costs when planning things out. I suspect that this is how many folks first get into debt.

I know it’s when the debt really piled on for myself & my ex. We bought a condo that was cheaper than our rent (even including the association fee) but forgot that we would need to pay for things like repairs, blinds and light fixtures, at a minimum. And then other things quickly piled on (new paint, tile, ceiling fans, some decor, etc.) Had we thought about those other costs up front we might have either bought somewhere a little cheaper instead, or else waited on many of the repairs and improvements.

It’s just too easy to get sucked in to thinking that you “have” to do certain things just because you’ve bought an item. So be aware of things with strings. Make sure that YOU remain in charge of the item or hobby, as opposed to the item beginning to own you.


  • I keep the “string” costs in mind, but they can be killers anyway. Our new bedroom set and Tempurpedic cost nearly $6000 last year…these are things we probably would not have bought if we didn’t own our own home. Apartments feel temporary, so we hardly spend anything on extras when we lived in them…

  • Yeah, there’s something about a house that seems to inspire massive spending on extras.