Cable vs. Buying DVDs vs. Renting DVDs

I’ll admit to loving movies and certain TV series. As a result, I buy a lot of DVD’s. Someone once told me that I was wasting my money on all those DVD’s, since I could rent them for free or watch the same movies on cable. I didn’t think it was a waste of money, but I decided to crunch some numbers to see if I was better off buying, renting, or getting cable again.

We used to have cable with a package of movie channels and it cost us $70 per month, or $840 a year. However, there were only a few channels on cable that I watched regularly and I thought the rest was junk. I was also sick of all the advertising that was rotting my brain and tricking me into buying things


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19 Responses to Cable vs. Buying DVDs vs. Renting DVDs

  1. Traciatim says:

    If you are going to buy them anyway, why not just team up with someone and join columbia house? You can alternate signing each other up to get more bonus DVDs. The trick is to make a chart of all the DVD’s listed by price and make sure you get your ‘free’ ones that are not 19.95 (or whatever their cut off is to be eligible to finish the program). All your free ones should be the more expensive ones, and all your purchased ones should be exactly at the cut off to finish their lock in plan.

    My spouse and I used to do this a while back and it worked really well for us.

  2. Annie Jones says:

    I agree that cable is a waste of money, and I can see how buying movies might make sense to some people, but Netflix is what seems to work best for us.

    To begin with, we rarely want to watch a movie more than once, so buying them doesn’t make sense for us.

    Especially in the summer, we’re hard-pressed to find time to watch a full-length movie, but we can usually work in an hour-long episode of a TV series. Netflix has lots of those to choose from.

    We’ve never felt any pressure to watch Netflix discs quickly. We’ve kept some for up to a month at a time and watched them when we could fit them into our schedule. Also, we don’t mind waiting a few weeks to see a new release. If by chance there IS something we just can’t wait to see, we can usually get it from Redbox for $1.

  3. Monkey Mama says:

    WE use Netflix and we buy.

    I agree on some level. I am more a Netflix gal. I rarely watch a movie more than once. My spouse loves to buy movies. It’s interesting because he does not buy them used and I am not sure why. But he only buys them on sale or with gift cards, etc. I’d be surprised if we paid more per movie than you do. My spouse watches them over and over and he has a large movie screen to boot.

  4. Ken says:

    Hulu and Boxee are helping to make internet viewing of Movies online and free!!

  5. Jennifer says:

    @ Ken: You raise a good point. I should have mentioned the option to view programming online as another way to get cheap programming. However, living in the boonies means I can’t get decent high speed internet that will support that method, so it didn’t even occur to me. It’s just not an option out here, no mater how much I beg. But if you can get it, I’m jealous.

  6. I also use Hulu for my TV shows and only buy movies when i get Best Buy Gift Cards (i seem to get them often). This makes me decide if a movie is worth it more than anything else. I rent other movies from Blockbuster as it is cheaper than netflix, etc for me.

  7. Patricia says:

    I’m really lucky that we have a library down the street from us that has a pretty good selection of movies. But I’m sure that won’t always be the case, as I’m sure we’ll move some day. I appreciate this analysis of buying movies vs netflix. The only thing that would make me nervous about buying all the movies is what happens when DVD’s become obsolete like VHS and cassette tapes? I’d hate to have to try to sell them all or worse be stuck with them all when my dvd player breaks one day and I can’t fix it or run to the store to buy a new one. Although I guess with sites like Ebay you’d probably always be able to find a player. So maybe not such a huge worry. Anyway, interesting thoughts.

  8. Jean says:

    I get movies from the local library.
    While some libraries loan them out for free, mine charges $1.00 per movie – I get to keep them for a week.
    My libary is part of the county system that includes about 10 others. If I can’t find the movie I want, all I have to do is request it, and they will get it from one of the other libraries in the system and call me when it’s available.

  9. Anne says:

    I’m one of the lucky ones who has both Redbox (very recent) and a movie-lending (for free) library system. We hadn’t spent a dime on movies for a while, I suspect the Redbox will change that, but it’s still a lot better paying $1 (if you can get it back responsibly) than $4.50 at Blockbuster!

  10. Gail says:

    We buy DVD and VHS when we find them at yard sales and library sales, sometimes we get videos for 50 cents a piece. We don’t feel like it is a big loss then if we don’t like it. My hubby loves to watch his favorites over and over again and we aren’t up to going to movies, so our collection of movies is a very cheap source of entertainment. Our son keeps track of newer DVDs and buys them for us for birthdays and Christmas and he likes to spend time with us watching them. I can’t imagine turning over $840 a year to watch cable TV! We maybe spend $50-75 tops on movies during the year and we can sit in our favorite chairs with our favorite cheap snacks to watch them.

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  12. Cindy M says:

    Jennifer, check out I have been using this site for a few years now and can stream-watch the latest movies usually without a hitch on line, and I have no objection to watching movies on my PC screen. It looks fully legal. Not perfect, but I no longer even bother to go to the library when I want to watch a new movie. There are many other sites out there where you can watch a movie or TV series you haven’t seen before.

    I have to have high-speed internet for my work but have not had cable TV for years. Lord knows I would not pay to see a movie any more unless it’s super cheap. I used to collect VHS tapes and some DVD’s but quit ages ago.

  13. TravelGargoyle says:

    Have you ever heard of something called a Public Library? You can borrow them there, at no charge.

  14. Shane says:

    I solve the “Netflix Pressure” problem by opening the envelope, ripping a copy of the movie into my Media PC, and then dropping it back in the mail.

    I rarely have a movie at home for more than a day.

    The newest releases do have protection on them that prevents a digital copy from being made. I’m sure I could overcome it if I wanted but if they put copy protection on I just leave it be. In those cases I keep the disk till I watch it, then send it back. I average 18 movies a month on my 3-at-a-time plan. Or just about $1 per DVD exactly.

    I have heard that Netflix will “throttle” users to prevent them from getting too many movies each month, but I theorize I haven’t had a problem with that because only a small fraction of my queue is new releases. I doubt Netflix would let me get 18 new releases a month as they surely cost the company far more to license.

    Some may look down upon this practice. I am ok with it. I’m not selling bootlegs. Content producers are getting paid the substantial “rental rate” fees they charge Netflix. Artists are being paid. Netflix s being paid. And I have the flexibility of watching when I like, where I like, and how I like.

  15. ron melquist says:

    Great article. I always had a hunch that was the case but your logical analysis and numbers confirmed it for me. One pro about buying dvds is that you may sell your dvds when you are done viewing them. Sites like second spin and will buy your items in bulk.

  16. cheeseball says:

    #15- ron:
    i agree with your point in considering trade in value of a dvd when you buy it. Thats often a forgot part of the equation when measuring the value in buying dvds. But note columbia house dvds (and other clubs) generally have no trade in value when you sell at places like mx123. They require a upc number

  17. cheeseball says:

    #14 – shane: what you are suggesting is illegal. You may justify it however you like in your head but there is not getting around the fact it is illegal. If you dont own the disc you can’t have a backup copy.

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  19. tina benez says:

    I like buying them cause I watch them over and over;> And when friends come over we pick out one to watch, they’re right at hand;) Also I own many hard to find classics, some only still on vhs. Its all good, what ever works for u:>

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