What’s the Hidden Cost?

What’s the Hidden Cost?

Everything has a cost. There are no exceptions. But are you aware of the hidden costs of time and energy of areas in your life? Today we will look at some places you may want to recognize and trim hidden costs.

Last month I did a spending freeze. I spent no unnecessary money, and it really opened my eyes. I had gotten in the habit of running to the store with the pretext of buying something necessary, only to come home with much more. When I did the spending freeze, I realized how much extra this was costing me in both time and energy.

I had been spending my precious free time on weekends – the only time in the week when I have larger blocks of uninterrupted time to get things done – running these shopping errands. Then when I got home, I had to unpack and put things away. Often I would find these objects when I was searching for other things, because I never integrated the items into my life – they were just sitting around. And eventually I would purge them. That is whole lot of time and energy I was giving to impulse purchases!



I’ve talked before about how you have to make sure that your ambitions are your own, and not someone else’s. I experienced this when my mother-in-law mentioned in my hearing that I am the only one of the family without a master’s degree. At that point, I thought, “maybe I should get one.” The problem with this is that an advanced degree would get me nothing in my career and would take up a lot of time and energy.

Some other times ambitions might not fit any more. Things you wanted three years ago may not be the same things that are relevant to your life today. Your time commitments, family commitments, money commitments may have all altered. Maybe running a marathon is no longer something of importance when you have two children under the age of four to care for. Maybe saving for the month long trip around the world isn’t as important as getting your child through college with as little debt as possible.

I recommend looking at these big goals at least once a year (preferably semi-annually) in order to determine if these are things you want to keep putting time and energy toward.


When people think of commitments, they think of interactions beyond work, family and home. But commitments are anything that you spend your time and energy on. This could be a home improvement project that has yet to be started (or is languishing undone). It could be a volunteer position with an organization. It could be as big as your job, your family or your home.

Everything that touches your time or energy has an energetic hidden cost. Does your job drain you so much that you have no energy left for anything else? It might be time for a change. Do you feel guilty every time you see a half-finished project that no longer claims your interest? It might be time to get rid of it (I don’t say finish, because if it had your interest, it wouldn’t be a problem!)

I recommend looking at everything that pulls at your time and energy and figure out of the cost is worth it. I do this quarterly, looking at my outstanding commitments and closing down anything that is not giving back the energy I am putting into it.


Consumption is not just about buying things. It is about anything we take into our minds, bodies and souls.

What do you buy that you don’t need or use? What do you have a stockpile of? Both of these scenarios have hidden costs in loss of discretionary money and storage.

What do you read? How much social media do you consume? How much television do you watch? The hidden costs here are the effect on your mind (FOMO, anyone?) plus time that you might want to put to a different use.

I recommend doing either a quarterly audit, or a straight out fast in the case of media, to find areas where you have excess consumption.


You might be asking why I listed expenses separate from consumption. That is because there can be hidden costs within regular expenses that you are not aware of.

Do you really use all the features you are paying for on your cell phone plan? Do you really need a home phone? Are you paying for services that you don’t use (the gym, perhaps)? Are you paying for cable channels you don’t watch?

Our recent expense audit found that we were paying for a second Amazon Prime, a television streaming service none of us watched, and a lawn fertilizer service that wasn’t effective.

I recommend checking over your expenses once a year (or more) and stop paying for things that you aren’t using.


With the holidays fast approaching, it is a good time to look at the hidden costs wrapped up in them. It is really easy to go overboard at this time of the year with gifts. But all gifts must then be stored. Gifts also come with an emotional price tag – how many things do you hang onto that you don’t use or particularly like, but keep because of the person who gave them?

The holidays can also be the trifecta of family stress. Dealing with extended families, no matter how well intentioned, can cause discomfort and exhaustion – and that is the best case scenario. Is it worth the emotional and physical cost?

As my daughter has gotten older, we have simplified our holidays. We cut back on the parties, events and other obligations. We’ve scaled back on gifts. We have developed our own simple traditions that have meaning for us. We don’t travel to see our extended families.

I recommend that you look at your holidays this year and see if there is anything that you want to simplify to cut down on the hidden costs of the celebrations.

Waiting Projects

I am a crafty person. I am always taken by cool projects as I surf the internet and wander through stores (curse you, Pinterest!) When I buy the materials for a new project, I am always swept away by the excitement, never thinking about what I have waiting for me at home. As a result, I have enough yarn and cross stitch supplies to last me years.

It isn’t just craft projects, though. It might be another hobby or books to read or movies to watch or places to visit or things to do around the house. Anything on what David Allen calls the “someday/maybe” list needs to be evaluated to see if it is something you want, or will, do.

The hidden costs in waiting projects is the mental load it puts on you. When faced with a massive list, I can’t choose. Narrow the focus, and I can make a choice and get started.

I recently asked a friend to help me purge my craft stash. She let me keep the yarn that had patterns attached. Everything else went – even the basket of dishcloth yarn (“you have enough dishcloths”) and sewing patterns (“you hate sewing. Let it go”). When we were done I was a little shell-shocked, but I now am working my craft projects instead of thinking I should do something. (Or buying more)

I recommend that you regularly spend time culling the outstanding projects. Purge the someday/maybe list. Let go of materials or books or movies. Get a friend to help if you can.


I would like to live in a world where all people are loving, helpful and supportive. Sadly, I don’t live in that world. My world is populated with humans, some of whom are loving, helpful and supportive most of the time. But there are also a lot of damaged people in the world who can suck out my energy.

The hidden costs to less-than-healthy relationships are the drag we feel emotionally and intellectually when dealing with these people. Sometimes, sadly, it is even a physical cost.

It is never easy to let a relationship go, but if it is sucking your soul out, and there is no hope of it changing, consider getting some professional help to sort through the issues and either let the relationship go, or change it so it isn’t killing you.


Everything has a cost. It may be up front, or it may be hidden. The hidden costs are the ones we need to look at to determine if something is truly worth the price.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash