Netflix or Blockbuster Total Access? That is the question. Or is it? A new question has emerged in the land of frugal movie watchers. Are online DVD rental services actually costing more than traditional movie rental services?
If you include late fees from brick and mortar movie renters it probably isn’t even close, but let’s assume you are a good renter and return those movies well before midnight the day they are due. Many local movie rental stores now offer 5/$5 deals, like the one mentioned in Debt Defier’s post at The Happy Rock (via MSN Smart Spending). Debt Defier recently canceled his Netflix plan after analyzing his rental history of the previous months. Turns out he spent $100 watching 10 movies–that’s $10 a movie!
What is the Lesson Here?
Besides the lesson that often times you can go broke trying to be frugal, there is a lesson in breaking down expenses to individual units. How much is a “cheap” subscription service really costing you per item of enjoyment? Would it be cheaper to watch less movies, and buy the ones you really want via eBay? Maybe.
The lesson from an online DVD rental perspective is that if you are going to sign up for either Netflix or Blockbuster’s Total Access plan, you better be prepared to watch a lot of movies to get your money’s worth. That’s not a problem in our household, because we cut back to basic cable some months ago and find most television program boring.
One of the benefits of the Blockbuster Total Access plan is that you can return movies to the local store and check out a new one, limiting the wait time to turn around movies. For every movie you rent each month you are effectively driving down your per movie costs. Netflix has started offering movies on demand, a feature that allows you to download movies to your computer as part of your membership. With this feature, the only additional wait time is the amount of time it takes your internet connection to download the large files.
Online movie rentals can be a frugal entertainment option, but as Debt Defier found out, you certainly have to keep close tabs on your expenses, all the way down to each DVD rented. For some, the compulsion to get the most out of the deal could lead to increased movie/television viewing, which could be detrimental in other ways. My advice? Give one of the services a try, and if you find yourself not taking advantage of the memberships, cancel it or put it on hold for a while.