There aren’t a ton of things I’m genuinely proud of. There is the time I played Super Mario Bros. from World 1-1 through 8-4 completely. There is the time I thwarted a robbery attempt by completely misunderstanding the would-be robber. Oh yeah, and the time I ate an entire large pizza by myself. But, perhaps my proudest moment was when I convinced my DVD-buying obsessed cousin to never buy another DVD again. (Note to self: do more pride-worthy things in your life.)
To fully appreciate the genius of this, moment you have to understand my cousin. Let’s call him Ryan (name changed to protect the guilty). Ryan bought a lot of DVDs. He had a master’s degree in film and to him, watching movies was not only entertainment, it was job security. As a result of his prodigious movie-viewing habit, he naturally bought a lot of movies. I mean a LOT. And as one would expect, because he bought a lot of movies he was very proud of himself anytime he got a deal. He would stalk used DVD sales at video rental stores and would proudly announce to anyone willing to listen that he was able to get three movies for $20.
And just like anyone with a large movie collection, a lot of his movies sat on his shelf unwatched. Actually, more accurately, many times, he would watch the movie once and put it away, never to be seen again. His collection was probably about 80% of these one-and-done movies. But, in his mind, it didn’t matter. He was able to get a movie for five dollars; that was a great deal, right? . . . Right?
Now, one day as Ryan and I were coincidentally driving to a movie theater, I casually mentioned that I had recently watched my copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark for the fourth time and I’d finally got my money’s worth from that particular DVD.
“What do you mean,” Ryan asked inquisitively.
“Well, I bought the DVD for $15 and if I had rented it at Blockbuster it would have been $3.99 per rental. Therefore, until I watched it for the fourth time, it would have been cheaper to rent the movie rather than purchase it. After the third viewing, it’s money in the bank. I win!”
“So you’re telling me, unless you’re going to watch a movie more than three times, you don’t purchase it?” Ryan inquired, the wheels obviously turning in his head.
“Exactly,” I replied, “otherwise you’re merely throwing money away. And, let’s face it, Harrison Ford has enough money. He doesn’t need mine too!” And that was it. That was the apex of my most proud moment. You see, Ryan had never thought of the economics of his DVD purchasing. He never did the math. He never realized just how much money he was throwing away on DVDs he might never watch again. Since that day, Ryan has told me on more than one occasion that he just can’t make himself buy another DVD. He just can’t justify it.
My conversation with Ryan took place in the early 2000s. Today, it is even more difficult to economically justify buying a DVD. Think of all the ways you can obtain a movie to watch. You can get it on Netflix, you can rent it at Redbox for a dollar a day, you can borrow it from the library. Each of these services makes it harder and harder to justify buying a DVD.
So, when does it make economic sense to buy a movie? That totally depends. Consider the following criteria:
1) How much do you like the move? We watch movies we love more than movies we merely like. If you think you’ll watch a movie enough to justify the cost go ahead and pull the trigger on buying it. Remember, the cheaper the movie costs, the fewer times you have to watch it to economically justify its purchase.
2) Is the movie for your kids? Kids watch the same movie 4 million times in a row without getting bored. Growing up, my brother watched The Little Mermaid until he literally wore out the video cassette (remember those?) Usually, if the movie is for your kids, they will watch it enough to justify the purchase.
3) Do you subscribe to Netflix? Netflix turns the DVD-purchasing math from fifth grade level to the level of theoretical calculus. Keep in mind that the number of movies per month you watch using the Netflix service will alter when it makes sense to purchase a DVD. Just remember to ask yourself if it’s worth buying the movie or would you rather just throw it in your Netflix queue again when the urge hits.
4) Let loose. While keeping in mind the economics of shopping can save you money, sometimes being so analytical takes all the fun out of retail therapy. It’s okay to simply buy something sometimes because you want to. Just don’t make a habit of it.
So, are you convinced? What other items are more economically rented rather than purchased? Sound off below.
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