In Home Entertainment

Media Bundle (Photo: bellaliant.net) - not my provider

Media Bundle (Photo: bellaliant.net) – not my provider

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! 🙂

34 comments

  1. Lisa

    We cut the cable cord in 2012, but I can’t seem to cut the land line even though it costs $47 per month. I really don’t enjoy speaking on a cell phone, and the land line seems so secure and reliable. We still have one wired phone in the house so if the power goes out we still have service. Our low speed (no cap) internet is $56.50 per month. You can see that your costs are looking good to me…again 🙂 The only other internet option is a medium speed hub (capped) for $110 (last time I checked)! Yep, rural living here. I do sometimes wonder if I should try one of those internet phone services, but I worry we don’t have the internet speed to reliable use it.

    We have the Zinio service at our library, but I am not really enjoying reading magazines online. Man, I am going to be left behind soon!

    • Hi Lisa, Yes, maybe I should just be grateful for the availability of high-speed Internet and living in any urban area with options. I am not sure if I will like magazines electronically either, but I will enjoy finding out!

      The one area where I feel left behind is smart phones. I really do not enjoy calling and texting people 24/7 or even being that available! Nor do I like whiling away the time playing game apps when I am waiting anywhere. But having an e-book available is a nice option!

  2. Cal

    I am not a fan of streaming music, I rarely used it because with my iPhone, I don’t pay for data so there is no point in it if I can’t listen to it in my car. Local radio selection sucks and I commute 25 miles for my job and often blends are gets static. I like trance and have a decent selection to download onto my iPhone to listen for a few days before needing to change it up. And then at home I just listen to iTunes Radio, for trance and techno now. (Yes, somewhat converted 😉 )

    I don’t watch movies but will borrow my sister’s Netflix on occasion 😉

    When I live on my own, I will see if it’s more convenient to pay for some data for my iPhone, or just pay for some wifi.

    • I haven’t tried out iTunes Radio. I hear they may add or switch to the Beats service which is more like Spotify with the ability to choose and play complete albums. I have to confess that Rom pays for Spotify, Quello and Netflix out of his personal/discretionary income so I am a freeloader 🙂 I use a cable to plug my iPod Classic into the car stereo and use the car speaker system.

      I haven’t listened to trance/techno for quite a while – back in the days of VanDyk and Oakenfold – can you recommend anything new!

      • Cal

        I just throw it on and listen. Even though I get pop ups of who’s playing–Oakenfield is still popular!–I just play it in the background while at home. BT is the one DJ I like and know by name because it also does vocals, and often mixes his stuff with New Age music. Good to meditate to 🙂

      • I will check out some BT. Nice to know the older guys are still around. Tiesto, anyone?!

  3. I had to google what Quello was! I never heard of it until now. We pay a lot… Not because we subscribe to that many services but because they’re just expensive! About $260/month just for TV/Internet/phone + 1 cellphone. Yikes. I would try to change to a better internet plan but we have unlimited cap though which works in our favour. I can never tell if my parents will use their TVPad or not to watch TV.

    • I was just thinking this morning that if the home entertainment cost was spread out over a family of 3, 4 or 5 with different interests, it wouldn’t seem so expensive (per person!) When I was helping Link get set up in their first apartment, I was amazed that all of the affordable Internet plans in the Toronto area were all capped.

  4. My family is the same with cable – my mom doesn’t watch TV, my dad streams his sports online, and my brother and I both stream/download from our laptops – so we cut the cable a few years ago. For me, having wifi and a smart phone are non-negotiable! Thankfully phone plans are cheaper in the UK 🙂
    Also I love the Pandemic board game! My friend and I discovered it at a board game cafe in Toronto last year and we spent hours playing it!

    • Yeah, Rom does grumble about the phone plans costing so much more here! When we go to a board game cafe we usually try out whatever cooperative games they have. Did you go to Snakes and Lattes? We liked it there except for the long waits for a table!

      • Yes that’s the one! I was blanking on the name earlier :p To avoid the long wait my friend and I would go earlier in the day, when it’s a lot less busy.

  5. Megyn

    I love your break down! For our household, we have Netflix ($8.65/mo), cell phones ($55/mo for 2 lines with unlimited talk & text), internet ($31/mo), Redbox (maybe $2/mo avg.), beer ($30ish/mo…only hubby drinks it!), and that’s about it! My mom shares her HBO GO and my sister shares her Hulu Plus, so that helps a lot. I’m hoping to get a Roku 2 or 3 for the holidays, so we can get the free PBS channels. I’d like to say we spend more on entertainment outside of the home, but we really rarely go anywhere unless invited. Our biggest “entertainment” expense at the moment is our 6 yr old’s Tumbling & Trampoline class ($70/mo). It’s pricey, but worth it since we were able to finally find a sport he was interested in 🙂

  6. Gam Kau

    No tv/cable for us, but internet is non-negotiable. We, too, still have a landline, I think it’s required with the internet service, but there really isn’t any reason for it. Our phones are pay-as-you-go. I piggyback on a family’s netflix account occasionally. Try to use the library, but will still occasionally purchase books (2nd hand if possible). A book, the internet, a fire, some good food and I’m pretty much content. 🙂

  7. This was a great read for me! We are cheap and have a rule of 3 subscriptions total for our home. Right now we have Netflix, Photoshop, and Amazon prime. My husband really wants to cancel prime next year if we keep Netflix. I’m really torn, because I love movies and both Netflix and prime have great pros and cons.

    • Hi Michele, We don’t have Amazon Prime movies in Canada yet (we can’t get music downloads from them either, only Kindle books). You raised a good point about software and storage – we don’t yet pay for any software subscriptions such as Microsoft 360 or for any cloud storage, but I’m sure that day will come. You have a lot of self-discipline to stick to a Rule of 3!

  8. Holly

    We have an outrageously expensive cable package which serves as my husband’s lifeline to the outside world when he is at home vs. being in the hospital. It is $200 a month and I have no clue what it includes other than it is high-def TV and movies channels. I rarely watch anything except a football game here and there or an episode of an HBO show with my husband once in a blue moon. Internet is another $32, through my employer and the cable company, but I know I can do better if I find time to have them bundle it into our cable service vs. being separate. I pay $99 a month for a gym membership and $6 monthly for Nook magazine subscriptions.

    We have not had a land line for 10 years and I just don’t see the point. Both my husband and I have iPhones, and I carry one kid on my plan, while my husband rides as a second line on another kid’s plan. Our personal costs net out to about $40 a month each for these after I deduct the $$ I receive from work for carrying my own phone vs. having one from there. I use some apps on my phone and also have my work and personal email easily accessible there, so I like that. I use the camera and upload to Shutterfly daily.

    As for other entertainment, we rarely eat out these days, and when I order in it is out of necessity and I count it against my food/grocery budget allotment. Wine (and a little liquor) is part of the grocery budget, not the entertainment expense.

    I think I could go without a shower before I could go without the internet, haha.

    • Oh yeah, I am seriously Internet addicted!

      It’s great that your employer subsidizes your Internet and phone a little. My employer doesn’t do that – they provide a cell phone and pay for it – but a no-frills non-smart phone with no apps, so usually you have your own smart phone as well!. Fortunately I’m not in a position that requires a work phone.

      How do you like Nook?

      I could get a local gym membership for about $50 a month and I think about it but have never taken the plunge!

      Last year I was seriously tempted to add HBO to our cable package but it is only available bundled with a few movie channels for $20/month so I didn’t. Therefore I haven’t seen Season 4 of Game of Thrones!

  9. We cut the landline cord 6 years agos and haven’t looked by since. I prefer to get my media digitally as well so if a song really moves me, I buy it on itunes. We used to have Netflix for the kids but just cancelled that for a cable promo that included some decent family channels.

    It’s really amazing how the world of media consumption has changed

    • Hi Yetunde, I don’t suppose there’s any reason to guess “where it will end up” because it will just keep changing. The biggest difference I notice is that people used to want the latest movies and music; now they just browse for whatever is available that catches their eye.

      PS – Does your library website have TumbleBooks for kids? Not sure if this link will work but it’s an online picture book selection: http://www.tumblebooks.com/library/asp/home_tumblebooks.asp

  10. Fiona

    Oh no – feedreader fail! I was wondering why all my blogs went ‘silent’ this week. Now I’m checking them individually and finding updates 😦

    Haha – I will also not break down and pay the online newspaper cost, even though I desperately want it.

    Gosh, the prices add up when you look at it like that, as “the cost of staying in.” Our costs are almost identical to yours. However currently, we are not able to take landline out – you *have* to have it to get internet. Frustrating.

    I never watch TV either but my husband desperately wanted cable back when we cut it for a year, so we got it to keep up with his sports. And we have alcohol costs, a regular Friday night drink purchase.

    Just yesterday our school signed all staff up with a link of some kind to the local library system, so as soon as our cards are through we will get Zinio. I am excited!

    • Lucky you re: Zinio! I am looking forward to trying it.

      Someday I may break down and subscribe to the newspaper online. I do read it every day.

      It’s a good thing there are no extra costs for blogging and blog reading!

  11. We pay £5.99 for unlimited DVD rental through Amazon, £56 for cable + sports – we DVR most of our shows – we also pay £130 annually for the NFL Gamepass that M watches on the ipad. Books are a mixture of downloads and actual – perhaps £10 a month on average. Music is a rare purchase.
    We have to pay for a land line (£15.40 a month) to get our unlimited Internet package (currently discounted to £10 a month from £20 – it’s a work expense anyway so we’re lucky). I can’t imagine being without the Internet and it would be the last thing to go if needed!
    I also have an iphone which is now entering it’s fourth year. I’m paying £15 a month for an unlimited text/internet SIM only deal, which I’m hoping to reduce very soon. I send a lot of texts so this is a good deal for me.

    We would happily switch to a Roku/Hulu type service if not for the sports, but for now we’re staying as we are.

    • It’s hard to compare prices but the mobile phone plans in the UK are mostly cheaper. When I visited the UK in Sept, a pound was $1.85 so that puts the cable/sports fee in perspective. I think any services that people actually enjoy and use are fine, but no one should be like me and pay for a cable package they don’t even watch! Always assumed I couldn’t drop it because then the remaining parts of the bundle would cost more, but I have found that is not true.

  12. We havent had a land line or cable in ages and that has saved us A LOT of money. Currently we only have two cell phones ($60 total), internet $38, and Netflix $8 and that is the extent of our entertainment/media budget. I love watching TV which is free with our over the air antenna and I also love readings (free e books from our library) while hubby watches movies on Netflix and plays free online poker. Guess it doesnt take much to entertain us!
    p.s. Even if Roms parents don’t have computers, check into Skype’s international calling plan. I think it is only a few dollars a month to call from your computer to their land line phone.

  13. You’re right, it’s much easier to cut back on going out. And tickets to shows can add up quick, while the TV bill stays the same and seems much more reasonable.

    I haven’t listened to Tiesto in years – must dig out my old ipod!

    I could easily drop our cable service (and I did cancel it both times hubby was deployed) but Mr. G enjoys being able to DVR his shows and watch sports. Internet + TV is $100/month. (We skipped out on the landline option and rely on our cell phones.) Thankfully he agreed to go 100% free with our other media, so we check out books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs from the library, and rarely buy any (only bought 1 DVD this year, and it was a gift).

    • Your costs seem pretty reasonable, unless you have premium cell phone plans. I have nothing against costly plans as long as they are used 🙂 If you don’t use your iPod any more, what is your preferred way of listening to music?

      • I use my computer or my husband’s ipod, haha. My old ipod was originally formatted to be used with a PC and I could never figure out how to update it (without clearing all of the songs off) so I don’t use it as frequently. I go through phases where I’m in the mood for my old tunes but I haven’t used it since the summer.

      • I am not using my iPod much these days either; mostly turning to Spotify.

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