You Own Your Finances: How Much People Spend to Watch Movies

by David Ning on 26 October 2010 8 comments
Photo: tvol/Flickr

Many people falsely assume that living frugally means missing out. True, it takes compromise and adjustments to live simply and conservatively, but the sacrifices are often much less than what people think. Let me illustrate this point with a simple example: movie-watching options.

Movie Theaters

When I was young, I went to the cinema a ton. It just seemed like a good way to kill time. If those $50 million opening box office debuts are any indication, many Americans agree with me. But you've got to wonder, what does $10 times every other weekend add up to? It's $260 a year for 26 movies.

Discounted Movie Tickets

I've seen them at Costco, the apartment complex I used to live at offered them, and my wife's workplace also had a way to get them. It takes a little more work than going to the movie theater and just paying with your credit card, but you are saving quite a bit: $2.50 a pop in my experience. Go this route and your expenses become $195 for the same 26 movies.

On Demand TV

Nowadays, you can order movies right on your television set. The prices are around $2 a pop, so you are only paying $52 for 26 movies a year. Yes, you need to wait a few months, but do you watch movies because they are good, or do you actually watch them because they are new?

Netflix

If you watch more than a few movies a month, then movie costs can go way up. Luckily, you can subscribe to services like Netflix, and for $9, you can watch a practically unlimited amount of movies, soap operas, and other TV shows for the entire month. You can give the service a spin via those Netflix free trial coupons too, but let's not even count that, because $9 a month is still pretty good, especially considering that some people are able to use this to substitute their $70-a-month cable TV bills.

Redbox

Many grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores have these DVD kiosks where you can rent the newest movies for $1 a night. If you always return the DVD the next day, your movie-every-other-week expense drops down to $26 a year.

Free Redbox

There are actually quite a few Redbox coupon codes being circulated on the internet, like the code DVDONME, which works once for every credit card that you own. If you are diligent about finding the codes, which is easy with coupon sites these days, then your movie expenses, no matter how many movies you watch, drop down to $0 (or thereabouts).

Now you might argue that going to the movie theater is not the same as watching free movies via coupon codes, and it's not. But many people are willing to wait the few extra months if it means saving $500 a year and still be able to watch a movie once a week. $500 may not be a ton to some of you out there, but multiply that by the infinite number of spending decisions that we make, and it quickly adds up. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what's right for you, but how much you save, how much you spend, and how you run your life are personal choices that you have to live with. You may not need the money now, but you might one of these days.

Financial decisions may not be easy, but they're completely yours.

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Guest's picture
stannius

And for some of us, there is the library, which is free even without a code.

Guest's picture
Guest

Our movie theater has the first movie of the day for $6, so we'll see our movies on Saturday or Sunday morning (10-noon). It's almost getting 2 for the regular price. Plus they have rewards points, so we get free concessions sometimes and tickets.

There's also a $2 movie theater in the area, but we usually see new releases, so we've seen everything playing there. But that would really cut costs.

Guest's picture

Yes, yes, movie theaters have gotten incredibly expensive, especially now that 3d and imax movies mean even more surcharges. But many of us still are willing to pay a premium to go out to see a movie on a big screen, with big sound, and the sense of community that comes with watching movies together (also the lower-value but still exhilirating idea of seeing a movie soon after it comes out, keeping you free of spoilers).

Discounts on saving on movie tickets are great ideas (I keep my eye out for groupons that sometimes have movie ticket deals), but to say that a cheaper alternative to going to movies is renting a video is like saying a cheaper alternative to driving to visit your grandmother is to chat with her on facebook.

Guest's picture
stannius

The movie theater will never love me back, nor notice that I stopped visiting it.

Guest's picture
Angela

I've just started using the library also for movies. My library has a surprising amount of new releases. I also use redbox now because our local video store closed down. Those free codes are great. I also suggest checking out local universities and community organizations which may offer free or reduced priced film showings and you are still "going out."

Julie Rains's picture

I am a fairly recent convert to Netflix: I love having a deep selection available at my leisure. The choices at my library are slim. I sometimes enjoy going to the movies but it's rare b/c of the prices and inconvenience (having to wait in lines, adjusting to the theater's schedule, etc.)

Guest's picture
Christine

Another benefit to watching library movies is the choice of snacks! I make from-scratch popcorn for pennies, compared to what it costs in a theatre. It's fresh, delicious, perfectly buttered and salted and has none of the extra fat, calories, and chemicals of concession-stand popcorn.

Guest's picture

Regarding using the free Redbox codes, you are correct in pointing out you can use each promo code once on every credit card you own. It doesn't even have to be a "real" credit card. You can use debit cards and even those rebate cards (you know, the card they send you for a mail-in rebate where they used to send a check) as well. My issue isn't having enough cards; it is finding enough movies I'd actually want to watch to use all my cards.