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Netflix and Bills

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Using Services Like Netflix to Lower Your Entertainment Costs

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I am too young to remember a time when a television was a rare item in the average household. I am old enough though to remember a time when televisions had a dial that went from 1 to 9 because that was the number of channels that were available locally. You may or may not be able to relate to that image, but if you are visiting a website dedicated to personal finances (and we thank you for that by the way) you are likely old enough to have seen technology change drastically in your lifetime.

Technology has brought such a wide array of ways to enjoy television, movies and music. In my days as an employee of a local video rental store, I took a ton of pride in growing my DVD collection. I would spend thousands of dollars a year on movies, making sure I had every Stanley Kubrick film, every movie featuring Rachael Leigh Cook, and every possible version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is a collection I still stare at to this day; however I can’t actually remember the last time I watched a movie on DVD. I stare at this collection daily because they are on display in front of our treadmill in several Ikea bookcases. There is a certain irony with this positioning because while on the treadmill I am usually watching one of the movies I have on DVD, but on my tablet through Netflix. The amount of money I would have saved had technology like Netflix been available 10 years ago brings a tear to my eye (of course had this technology been available I likely would not have had a job at a video rental store).

My point is not that you should avoid spending money on purchasing your favourite titles in a hardcopy format or that you need to immediately open a Netflix account (I am certainly not a pitchman for Netflix) or even that these services are an essential part of your budget. I do believe that spending a little bit of your budget towards entertainment can be quite rewarding if you can spare it, and technology is making that much easier to do. Gone are the days when someone saying they don’t have cable initiates a parade of gasps. When someone has a cable package that they pay hundreds of dollars a month for used to fill me with jealousy, now it is more confusion…don’t you know you can get the same product for a much lower price?

A very valuable exercise is to sit down with your significant other and make a list of what you really want, instead of assuming you need the biggest (ie most expensive) package. I would strongly encourage you to do this as a couple and have an open dialog about what is important to you. In most cases, you will have a difference of opinion on what has value but as difficult as it is you need to try and see things through the other person’s eyes. Ruthlessly cutting services because they don’t have any value to you might create tension in your relationship, sticking to your assumptions that you need everything you have can be even worse because you’ll also create tension and have less money. Being open to change, and open to compromise will guide you to that sweet spot where you can both be happy with the decisions you’ve made and hopefully save a few bucks along the way. At the very least it will provide you with some research on some potential options should your financial flexibility take a turn for the worse. For me, this concept was not always welcomed with open arms. Looking back, I feel that I immediately went into defensive mode when the topic of cutting cable/entertainment costs came up.

If you are reading this article and are starting to feel the same way, I get it…I understand how you are feeling. My question would be; do you understand why you are feeling that way? I’m speaking to you through a website, I have no ability or desire to change how you spend your money. I’m not collaborating with your significant other to take something from you that you feel is important. So put down the shield for just a few minutes and put some serious thought into what you actually use on a regular basis and if there is any technology available that can provide you with those services for less money. What you want to do with the potential savings is up to you, whatever makes it easier to think this through – it doesn’t necessarily need to disappear into a savings account never to be seen again although that has some value as well. Budget shifting is usually easier than budget cutting. Do you always watch your favourite shows live, or do you PVR them? If you are okay with watching them a day after they air can you stream it online or when they come out on Netflix? Can you watch them through your providers “On Demand” feature? I would hate to give up on a few of the sports channels I watch, but as I’m writing this article I have half of the computer screen live streaming the hockey game through a feature that is included with my internet package. My TV has a bigger screen sure, but if I wasn’t multitasking you wouldn’t have the pleasure of reading this (wink).

“You’re so money and you don’t even know it!” – Trent (Vince Vaughn) Swingers

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2 comments

  1. Apathy Ends says:

    If it wasn’t for sports we probably wouldn’t have cable, I have cut it once in the past but the introductory rates got me when we moved into our new house (wild fan, FSN is hard to part with)

    We will cut eventually – probably as soon as our rates rise after the first year

    • Couple of Sense says:

      Thanks for sharing – do you have a plan in place for maintaining your ability to watch the games live without cable? There are a few streaming services that provide coverage of games but it is difficult to find one with a solid feed that isn’t riddled with malware. Obviously it is very important to do it legally as well – sports networks are harder than Metallica regarding theft. Some networks are becoming more savvy with sharing internet feeds through your cable provider (at least they have that feature here in Ontario) – I think they realize that more and more people are cutting the cord and they can either join the party or lose out of viewers/ad revenue. Another option would be to maybe split the costs with some close friends and make a regular game night – rotating who gets the package each year.

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