financial discussions with the girl next door

Netflix April 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — girlnextdoorfinance @ 7:08 am

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently down-graded my Netflix subscription. I work in Res Life, and last year during the school year I had quite a bit of free time during the days. Most of my job duties are in the evenings and weekend. I also knew I would be working for 5 weeks at summer camp over the summer for some extra cash, but I’d have a few weeks off work at the beginning and end of summer. I don’t have a TV, so I rarely watch television shows. In April of last year I decided to sign up for Netflix since I can watch DVDs on my laptop. I figured that having movies from Netflix would give me something to do during my “free time” during the days, and during my weeks off in the summer. I enrolled in the $13.99, 2-at-a-time unlimited plan.

I was right – I watched a TON of movies during the first few months that I had Netflix. Most of them were foreign films, documentaries, or indies, which aren’t carried at most local video rental places. To me, the wide variety more than justified the price I was paying. In the first month alone, I watched 7 movies, 3 of which were foreign films and 2 of which were indies, and none of which I would have had access to otherwise, without buying them online.

During the fall semester I continued to watch an average of 2 to 3 movies per month. I know I’ve mentioned that I’m applying for graduate school but I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that I’m taking 2 undergrad courses per semester in the meantime. In the fall I began taking upper-level undergrad classes. While they aren’t overwhelming, they do take a bit more of my free time (which was previously spent watching movies from Netflix). I also started doing volunteer work in December. Paying $13.99 to watch just 2 or 3 movies per month didn’t bother me, because it also keeps me from spending money on various forms of entertainment elsewhere. Since I started paying for Netflix last April, I have been to the movie theater once with friends (as a social event, not because I cared about the movie) and two or three times on dates (when the other person chooses what we do). I’ve also rented movies once or twice (again, if someone I’m dating wants to watch something). I haven’t bought DVDs. So I’ve always figured that the savings is more than what I’m spending on Netflix, even if I’m not actually watching a ton of movies.

This semester, I just don’t have time for Netflix. Between work, volunteering, classes, and trying to have a little bit of a social life, I have watched a total of 3 Netflix movies: Season 1 of The Big Bang Theory, which I could have found online for free but rented from Netflix because it was easier. I finished the season in mid-January. I had one movie from mid-January until mid-March, and finally sent it back unwatched because I don’t ever have 2 whole hours of free time to watch a movie. I had a second movie from the end of January until the time I downgraded my subscription (I also sent it back unwatched). The type of movies I rent from Netflix (documentaries and independent movies, primarily) tend to be longer than the standard 80-90 minutes for blockbuster films, and since the new year started I just don’t have time for that! I didn’t watch either of those movies I had from January until early March, I ended up sending them each back and requesting a comedy that I thought would be shorter. It’s not shorter, and I’ve had it for almost a month.

So I didn’t mind at all to downgrade my Netflix to the most basic plan, $4.99 per month for one-at-a-time, maximum 2 per month. I haven’t watched more than 2 movies in one month since January anyway, so at least now I’ll be paying $9 per month less for it. And I think this will provide a nicer balance between the benefits (access to non-mainstream movies, and saving by not spending much otherwise on DVDs/movie theaters since I tell myself I can rent it from Netflix someday) and the costs (like the fact that I don’t have much time to actually watch movies).

Do you use Netflix? Do you feel like it (or any other form of entertainment that has a monthly fee) is worth it? What criteria do you use for determining value of such a subscription?


One Response to “Netflix”

  1. Nathan Says:

    I completely understand why you chose to downgrade your Netflix instead of cancel it completely. I always try to think rationally and not promise myself I’ll spend $0 on entertainment or something for the next week/month. A great example is food: I think it’s well worth it to splurge an extra $5-15 at the grocery store and enjoy a treat several times than to go out to a restaurant, where the bill will be at least twice as much and feed you only one time. I’m all about value.

    My monthly entertainment subscription fee is ZUNE, from Microsoft. I highly endorse it! I’ve only met one other person in the world with a Zune mp3 player, and that really makes me sad, (imagine knowing only one other person with an iPod) but anyway, for $14.99/month I can download anything I want from the Zune Marketplace, which is just like the iTunes Store. I listen to music literally all the time and this enables me to legally and inexpensively download new releases (automatically!) and basically anything I can imagine. The catch is the day I stop subscribing, about 99% of my music library evaporates because the music files are protected, but I don’t plan on doing that. (You can share the subscription on three computers, so if you have roommates or close friends, it’s down to $5/month!) For anyone that buys at least 10 CD’s or 180 iTunes songs a year, you’ll receive far more value with a Zune subscription. Sorry for sounding like a commercial but I really value this service; there’s just no alternative that’s as inexpensive and convenient.

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