Showing posts with label Netflix. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Netflix. Show all posts

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March Frugal Action Item: Rein In Entertainment Spending

Time for another Frugal Action Item. In January we started out with an easy once-and-done switch from standard to compact fluorescent bulbs. Not too taxing and no discipline required once you make the change. Last month's Item was a lot more challenging. I asked you to both acquire new kitchen skills and change dining out habits. In March I'm shooting for something in between in terms of how much effort you'll need to put out. You don't need to learn a new skill, but you will need to make some changes in your routine.

The Frugal Action Item for March is still going to be a tough sell for some folks, which is why I am encouraging you to look at this as a one-month experiment. So here it is: Just for this month, use your local library instead of buying any books, magazines, instead of paying for another month of Netflix, cable tv, or heaven forbid, actual movie theater tickets. I know, I know, I can hear the moans and protests already. That's why I want you to treat this as an experiment.

Put your Netflix or Blockbuster account on hold, put the next book you simply must have on a wishlist instead of on your credit card. Get thee to thine local library. Look over the dvds they have available for the borrowing - completely free! Remember that dvds are heavily borrowed, so what you see available at any given time is only a fraction of the library's holdings. This is doubly true on Fridays and Saturdays. Browse the bookshelves and learn how to use the library to your own advantage. Examine their computer system. Ask questions. Find out about the process for putting in a hold for popular movies that are checked out when you look for them. You probably won't need to wait too much longer than you do for hot titles from Netflix. Learn how your library handles inter-library loans or purchase requests. What your library doesn't have in its own collection, it can probably borrow - just for you - from hundreds of other libraries. A little patience may save you a small bundle of cash.

If you miss the big screen experience, well, make your night at home with the movies special. Make yourself a killer bowl of popcorn, and cozy up with a loved one for some frugal together time.

I'm asking you to give this challenge a fair shake. You can always go back to your usual routine after a trial month if you and your family totally hate it. But pursue the experiment at least that long before you make up your mind. A lot of times we dismiss a change that makes sense because it means a disruption of our routine. Yes, getting to the library once a week may be new to us. But it may also easily save us $20 or more each month, and become something that we look forward to, if we only give it a chance. Consider the differences in the library experience versus the movie theater or bookshop experience. Is paying for a novel and having it around the house really so much better than reading it once and returning it to the library? Is taking in a flick at the theater with a whale sized portion of stale popcorn really worth $12, as opposed to watching a movie in your pjs at home? Your tax dollars are paying to support your local library, so you may as well benefit from it.

Alternative Action Item: If you don't have cable, a Netflix account, or you live so remotely that it's a 45-minute drive to the library in a direction you rarely go, I instead challenge you to have friends or family over for a cheap entertainment night of board game or card playing. If there are kids involved, give them an age-appropriate jigsaw puzzle to work on.

New to these monthly Action Items? Catch up with more here:

January: Compact Fluorescent Bulbs & Hot Water Pipe Insulation
February: Kitchen Competence
April: Go Paper-less
May: Solar Dryer
June: Raise the Deductible on Your Auto Insurance
July: Stay Cool Without Touching that Thermostat
August: Repair It!
September: Insulate
October: Preventative Health Care
November: Frugal Holiday Wish List
December: Plan Next Year's Garden

Monday, November 5, 2007

Why My Netflix Account Is On Hold - Indefinitely

Convenience is the main factor for many Netflix members, I suspect. I used to have a Netflix account. I liked the fact that the dvds showed up in my mailbox and had postage paid returns. I go to my mailbox everyday anyway, so the added effort was minimal. Lack of late fees was great too. The other main advantage was the queue. I just selected a slew of movies that interested me and sat back as they came to me, a few at a time. I didn't have to remember a list on my way to the video store, or wade through what was available at any given time.

Even when I had a membership though, I started to become annoyed by the fact that they wouldn't ship out on a Saturday, which limited the number of movies I could get per week, even if I were disciplined about watching and returning my movies quickly.

When frugality became a part of my life, I cut back on the number of rentals from Netflix at a given time, to save a little money. Pretty quickly though, I put my account on indefinite hold and started getting my movies from the library for free. With each movie I got from the library, my Netflix queue shrank. It's true that every once in a while I get hit with a late fee, which racks up at the rate of $1 per day for dvds. (Late fees on books are much cheaper.) But so far, I've paid about $3 in late fees in almost a year of borrowing dvds, and I'm happy for the local library to get a little cash out of me.

Two other things make getting dvds out of the library the way to go, in my opinion. Firstly, my library allows patrons to keep a list of books, cds, and dvds on their server that can be accessed either from home or while at the library. This pretty much replaces the Netflix queue. Secondly, whatever dvds are not in my library's collection can be requested through inter-library loan. So far I've only struck out completely on one dvd. That's a pretty good success rate, I think. And it's all free if I'm reasonably organized.

Once again, the two virtues of patience and planning in advance make the virtue of frugality no hardship at all.