I have two entertainment budgets. One pays for concerts, plays, festivals and dining out. The other pays for Internet, cable TV, Netflix and Spotify.
When money gets tight, the first category is easy to cut. Just stay home! But the second? Untouchable.
Once I went through a budget crunch. I had already eliminated going out, except to free events. So I cancelled my cable TV and newspaper, and let my magazine subscriptions expire. I was now at home every night with even less to do. It was a false economy. However, I kept the Internet and have never done without it since.
But “media consumption” keeps changing, and I try to be honest with myself about what I read, listen to, and watch. Do I use what I pay for?
At our house, we pay for a media bundle that includes a land line, digital cable TV and high-speed Internet. We each have a bare-bones cell phone with a pay-as-you go plan. It’s safe to say that we get zero entertainment value from watching TV or from talking on the phone. We use our phones for emergencies and for touching base with relatives. Neither of us uses our phone for music, games, or apps (but we sometimes take a few pathetic photos). And neither of us is interested in the latest smart phones – although I did refuse to buy a flip phone last year. That would be going too far 🙂
We use the TV to watch anything other than TV shows. Rom watches free content from YouTube, Crunchyroll and Crackle, and he subscribes to Netflix and Quello. He occasionally plays MTG Online using the TV as the display. I use the TV to watch DVDs from the library and that is all. Sometimes I watch TV series on DVD such as Downton Abbey or Game of Thrones. In the past year, I have turned the TV on for actual television shows twice: once for the Superbowl and once for the Academy Awards. Obviously the cable bill can be cut!
Rom and I both use the Internet wirelessly throughout the house. Besides practical things like bill paying and email, we both have blogs that we spend a lot of our leisure time on! It would be inconceivable to do without Internet access at home.
My best option would be to drop both the cable TV and the land line. I am curiously attached to the land line, though. I like the idea that someone can call the “household” to talk to us, and leave a message that either of us can respond to, rather than making a “private” call to one or another of us. Is that weird?
The land line telephone is “powered” so if the electricity is out, we have no service.
Since the cell phone plans are so cheap, we aren’t sure if we can make and receive calls to the UK without paying a premium. Skype and FaceTime are not an option because Rom’s parents are computer-free.
So here are the monthly costs of this part of our entertainment budget:
- Current bundle: High speed Internet (no cap), digital cable, and land line $143 (competitor $146)
- Option: High speed Internet (no cap) and land line $89 (competitor $105)
- Option: High speed Internet (no cap) $70 (competitor $77)
- My cell phone: Koodo $15
- Rom’s cell phone: Rogers $20
- Netflix $8
- Quello $5
Then I have music costs. I have always been a music collector. Rom stopped buying music and switched to Spotify, paying $10/month for the ad-free version. Until recently I have insisted on owning music, either buying CDs or downloading from iTunes. Lately I have listened on Spotify first before buying, only purchasing the very rare stellar albums. I admit it, though, I am afraid the labels and artists will renegotiate their terms with Spotify and someday my favourite albums will be taken down! This year I bought 12 albums and 4 DVDs for a total of $200. I also listen to the free version of Songza a lot.
I bought two apps for my iPad last year: Stylebook and MyStuff2Pro – both for inventorying the house! – and added only free ones this year.
Rom has book costs; I make it a point not to! He downloads a lot of free and low-cost e-books but also buys a few. I tout myself as a library borrower who never buys books, but I somehow came home with 6 of them this year, for a grand total of $56.
I estimate that Rom spent $200 on books and DVDs this year. Oh, and he has 2 magazine subscriptions; let’s say $50.
Then there is gaming. Rom plays MTG about once a month for $10. We bought two board games this year, costing us $75: Pandemic and Blokus, both of which we tested out at a games cafe first, and we really like them!
My alcohol budget is almost non-existent. Two bottles of wine for book club, and two for special dinners – that’s it! – $52.30.
I haven’t spent any money on art projects, crafts, photography or home fitness this year – more’s the pity!
Let’s add up everything:
- $143 Internet/cable TV/land line
- $35 cell phones (2)
- $8 Netflix
- $5 Quello
- $10 Spotify
- $10 MTG
- $45 CD/iTunes/DVD/Books/E-Books/Magazines
- $7 games
- $5 alcohol
$268 a month, plus tax: the cost of staying home!
Liberally supplemented by library books and DVDs (hope they get Zinio soon!)
But do you think I will break down and pay $20/month for the Globe and Mail online? Never! 🙂