[Each Monday for the next couple months, I’m going through many of the ways to save money. Read the whole Save Money series.]
I’m opening up the Save Money series with some tips on common forms of entertainment: television, movies, music, and books.
- Television – Most people pay some kind of monthly subscription for television. We are no different from the norm. We even pay for a package that includes a high-definition DVR and HBO (it was cheaper with the HBO included – odd but true). This is one area where we splurge since it saves costs in other areas. If you don’t watch a lot of television one way to save money is to cut your cable tv completely (figuratively of course). Another option is to call up their cable company and threaten to cancel to get a discount. I don’t like to give an empty threat and the satellite options aren’t very good for us.
- Movie Theaters – With Comcast OnDemand shows saved on DVR, and free HBO, my wife and I almost never go to the movies. We’ve seen 3-4 in the three and a half years that we’ve known each other. We did notice at Costco you could get discounted movie tickets with no blackouts or exceptions. We’ll likely grab a couple of passes to keep around the home. Of course not going to movies also means that we don’t spend money on overpriced candy or popcorn.
- Movie Rentals – Many people have a subscription service like Netflix or rent movies at Blockbuster for $3 or $4 a piece. We can substitute television like the movie theaters in many cases. In the rare case, we hear about a fabulous movie on DVD, we take advantage of the DVD Play at the local Safeway, which has $1.50 rentals for one day. We wish there was a local Redbox so that it would be just $1.
- Music – Pandora fulfills most of my everyday music needs. I supplement it with free radio. I also have many CDs that I converted to MP3s from my college days when I wasn’t as frugal. In retrospect, I was fairly frugal. I used those BMG offers of 10 for the price of 1 with only limited required future purchases. When I did make a future purchase, I made sure that it was a monthly buy one get two free. By the time I was done buying my 5 required CDs, I ended up paying around $115 for around 20-25 CDs – not a horrible price considering what Tower Records charged.
- Books – My wife likes romance novels (and recommends Review Romance Novel as a great blog if you are like-minded). I don’t know what kind of romance she see in me, but that’s a different story. I like business books. We find that we can get both types of books and more from PaperBackSwap.com. You offer up some books that you are willing to trade and in return, you get to borrow books from other people. The sender pays the shipping and gets reviewed. You earn credits by either making books available or lending books out. You spend credit every time that you request a book be sent to you. I was able to pick up Dave Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People for free, but will have to send out a book at the cost of a $2-3 in the near future. That’s still cheaper than buying the book myself – a lot cheaper. Another great option is your local library. We prefer PaperBackSwap since we aren’t sure if we are going to finish a book 3 months from now.
Please add your own suggestions in the comments.
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As for the cable bill: I used to feel the same as you about idle threats – what if they take me up on it? Then I called my cable company and spoke to a nice lady in sales and just asked her if I was eligible for any promotions. She said yes and applied a discount to my account. It’s worth a call.
For DVDs and books, I like going the half.com route instead of netflix or blockbuster or paperbackswap or the bookstore.
If you want to see or read something, buy it cheaply and used on half.com. Keep it and use it as long as you want to. When done, sell it on half.com. You might break even, you’ll most likely sell for only $1-5 less than what you paid, or, you might even occasionally sell it for more than what you paid.
This works especially well for DVD box sets such as a TV series on DVD. Keep it as long as you like. No need to return it within a couple days like you would with Blockbuster or the grocery store.
This is much much cheaper than Netflix. If you’re like me, netflix discs often sit there for weeks before being watched. Netflix ends up being an unnecessary expense since you can almost break even with half.com. However if you’re a really heavy viewer/renter, Netflix might be just right for you. For me it wasn’t worth it.
Half.com works well for books. They are usually very very cheap on there, as many people try to unload books they’re done with. High supply. Easier perhaps than dealing with credits and the like using an outfit like paperbackswap or bookmooch.
The other great thing about Half.com is that pretty much everything is available always. That’s definitely not the case at Blockbuster or paperbackswap.
No late fees with half.com.
Since things have started to go nuts with what’s available for TV-on-DVD sets, I’ve pretty lost the need for cable TV as well. I always have a backlog of TV on DVD sets to catch up on.
Also, for books, consider Alibris.com. You can find some great deals there sometimes. My dad also has a wishlist there so that when special occasions come up we can get a reasonably priced book for him.
You save a whole lot more money downloading your favorite TV shows, movies, or music over the net. Once the industry realizes they can no longer charge for these products they will go to an advertised service or sink.
Lazy Man says
Anonymous, the legality of that is still in question. I’m not a lawyer, but I think it might be illegal, so I’m not going to recommend it.
swaptree.com is another service similar to paperbackswap but not limited to books. great way to save money on more recent dvd’s, music and games. some TV stations even show episodes on their websites if you don’t own a TV or missed an episode.
@story: I did the same thing by calling up my Cable TV and internet provider and asked for any promotions. They reduced my monthly bill by like $20 and gave me a one time $50 credit. I was shocked at how easy it was. Like you said, it’s worth a try.
D. Jones says
I really dig Swaptree.com
Most of the major networks put their most popular shows on their own websites for free. There’s usually a delay from when it airs, and they usually only keep a few episodes at a time, but it is both legal and free. Check it out sometime.