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 I didn’t need. Since a la carte programming isn’t an option, I cancelled the cable and pocketed the $840 per year. Actually, it’s probably more than that once you factor in all the crap I’m no longer buying because of the advertising, but that’s another story.
I then joined Netflix and experimented with a bunch of packages ranging from $10/month to $30/month. I was able to watch a lot of videos that way, but I always felt pressed for time, as though I had to watch everything super fast and send it back in order to get my money out of the deal. It got to be kind of stressful. Even on the smaller packages I found that I didn’t always have time to watch something and the longer it languished on my coffee table, the more I felt I was wasting my money. It further annoyed me that I would sometimes have to wait weeks for a new release. I like to watch things on my own schedule and when I’m in the mood to see it.
Once I got rid of Netflix, the only option left to me was to purchase DVD’s. I thought that it would be prohibitively expensive, but it turns out to be the most economical solution for us. I figured it up once and I determined that my average cost per DVD was about $6. Because I buy used, on sale, and ask for DVD’s (or gift cards to Amazon) for most gift giving occasions, my overall cost per DVD is quite low. For what it costs for my husband and I to watch one movie in a theater (about $20, not including food) or to rent from Netflix for a month, I can buy three DVD’s and watch them over and over and on my schedule, then sell them when I’m done with them. If I get just $3 a piece when I sell, I’ve reduced my purchase price by half. If I choose to keep them, I have a library of entertainment that rivals anything I could find on cable.
For the $840 I was paying for cable per year, I can buy about 140 DVD’s. That’s not quite three DVD’s per week. And most weeks I don’t buy any, so I’m coming out far ahead of the cost of cable. Even if I factor in TV series or box sets which tend to be more expensive, the cost is still offset by the number of weeks in which I purchase no DVD’s.
Obviously buying DVD’s could break me pretty quickly if I didn’t employ some cost cutting measures to achieve that $6 per DVD average. Here are some ways I keep my costs low:
Buying used is a great money saver: Sites like Amazon, SecondSpin.com, and others have huge selections of used titles. You can also find used DVD’s in good condition at yard sales and flea markets. Used DVD’s can also be found at Blockbuster or other rental stores. When they clean out their inventory, they frequently sell their extra copies. Many of my DVD’s were purchased used for a fraction of the new cost, reducing my expenses considerably.
Buy on sale: If there’s a new title you must have, buy it the week it is released on DVD. That is when the prices are lowest and there are potentially other offers (like BOGO or extra merchandise) associated with the title to entice buyers. I also watch for 2/$20 or 5/$30 sales and so on and use those sales to really stock my collection.
Sell what you no longer want: One of the advantages to owning is that when you get tired of it, you can sell a title and use the proceeds to buy another. I rarely sell because I only buy what I know I’ll watch repeatedly, but the option is there.
Use coupons: It sounds strange, but there are coupons available for DVD’s. Since the economy has tanked, Disney has been putting out coupons for their new releases. I often find coupons around the holidays in magazines like Entertainment Weekly. Sometimes there are even DVD coupons in the Sunday paper.
Rebates: Many movies (particularly kid’s titles) have rebates attached. You usually have to buy the movie and then a food item. If the food item is something you’ll eat anyway, do the rebate.
Find free DVD’s: Sometimes when I go out for my walk I’ll see DVD’s stacked by the trash cans for pickup (why people throw them away is beyond me, but they do). I go through and take what I want. Friends also know I like movies so when they de-clutter they sometimes offer their old stuff to me for free.
Check the bargain bin: Many stores like Best Buy, WalMart and Target have “bargain” DVD sections. Usually $5 or less, these DVD’s are older titles or overstocks. There are probably a lot in there that you don’t want, but sometimes you find a gem.
For me, buying is the best way to go. The assumption that buying DVD’s is always more expensive than renting or cable simply does not apply to me. Your circumstances might be different and I encourage you to crunch the numbers for yourself before deciding on an entertainment strategy. I might change my opinion if two factors were different. First, we don’t have a rental store or a RedBox anywhere near us (we live in the boonies) so it’s a big pain to trek there and back and costs me more in gas than the movie. If I had a rental place nearby I might buy fewer DVD’s because it would be a way for me to get the movies I want and to only check them out when I can watch them. It would eliminate the guilt of a service like Netflix where the monthly fee is charged whether I have time to watch anything or not. Second, we do not have a library system that lends movies (if you do, I’m jealous). I would probably buy fewer DVD’s if I could borrow them for free any time I wanted. However, since that’s not an option, buying is the most economical of the choices available to me and I work to keep my costs as low as possible. As a bonus, I have a great library of entertainment available to me anytime I want to use it and I don’t have to suffer through the ads or cable outages.