You've probably noticed that movie prices aren't cheap these days. Taking my family of four to go see Frozen, for example, cost us $110: $20 each for the tickets, purchased ahead of time with all of the associated "convenience fees;" another $25 for movie snacks, and then we had to pay for parking. Each month when I look at my family's budget and our expense categories, "entertainment and media" is always significantly high -- usually on the level of around $1,000.
Of course, this is entertainment and media for the entire family, not just for the two little girls who are currently arguing over who gets to be Elsa and who gets to be Anna as they act out Frozen in the living room. This $1,000 monthly cost includes our movie tickets -- we usually see two movies a month -- as well as our monthly TV and cable bill, our HBO package (Daddy likes Game of Thrones), our Netflix package (Mommy likes Orange is the New Black), our smartphone data, our home internet, and the extra money I sometimes throw at Candy Crush just so I can get a few more lives.
Some months it includes music albums I buy for the girls, music I buy for myself, On Demand video costs for that one movie we all want to watch but isn't available anywhere else, and all of the other bits and pieces of entertainment that individually only cost $1.99 each but add up quickly.
So this year, I vowed to cut back our entertainment/media package to a more manageable amount.
I started with the budgeting theory of "finding big wins." I read about this strategy on Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You To Be Rich, where he writes "focus on the five big things, not the 50 little things." In short, I had focus my savings strategy on cutting down my big expenses, not the tiny On Demand rental costs or Candy Crush purchases. (I also have to make fewer Candy Crush purchases, but, as Ramit notes, you'll always save more money if you work on reducing a big expense first.)
I started with our media package. We've got Verizon, so I started looking for ways to cut back on our monthly TV/cable/internet/phone/media bill. This page has a few of the Verizon promos that I found, and by using these promos to cut back on our monthly costs, I achieved my first "big win." The second "big win" had to be our movie-going habit itself. Our family loves movies, and we love going to the theater. It's a chance for my little girls to show off their best behavior, and we all like talking about the movie on the drive home. However, movie costs are ridiculously expensive -- as USA Today notes, costs get higher every year, and special add-ons like 3D movies or IMAX movies only drive up the price even more.
So: can we cut our movie habit down to one movie a month, or one movie every six weeks? It's going to be hard, but I think it has to be done. That's my second "big win." I was going to say the third big win would be our On Demand habit, but this creates a problem: if we aren't seeing new releases in the theaters, we're going to want to watch them On Demand, since they'll show up there faster than they will on Netflix. So I left it in, and decided that my third big win would be something much more personal.
Yes, dear readers, I deleted Candy Crush.
How do your family's media spending habits stack up? Do you want to cut back on your entertainment and media purchases in 2014? Let us know!
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