Netflix has a slew of subscription plans. Their bottom tier is $8.99/mo for 1-disc-at-a-time but unlimited discs throughout the month (this is what I use). This means that I can only have one Netflix DVD in my home at a time, however I can rent an unlimited amount of DVDs every month. The 2-discs-at-a-time plan is $13.99 and 3-discs is $16.99. With all of these plans, you can also stream Netflix Instant Watch movies & television shows without any extra charge; this is included in every unlimited plan.
Netflix DVDs have a 1 day turn-around. If I mail out my postage-paid DVD on Monday, the distribution center receives it on Tuesday and immediately sends out the next DVD in my queue, which I will receive on Wednesday. If you want to watch something in between those days, you can use Netflix Instant Watch.
Netflix Instant Watch has a smaller selection of movies & television programming available for instant viewing. You don’t have to wait to get the disc in the mail, you can watch it right on your computer or tv. There are more older movies than new, although there is quite a bit of new television programming. Due to licensing issues, some titles will expire but Netflix gives you a warning about this on their site.
Watching Instant Watch movies is easy! Just navigate to Netflix.com, find an Instant Watch title, then click the blue “Play” button and it will start playing right in your browser.
You can also view Instant Watch titles on your home television such as using the Roku, a Netflix-ready television, a Netflix-ready blu-ray player, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.
Combining DVDs and Instant Watch programming, I have rented 416 movies/tv shows from Netflix since 2006. Over the course of those four years, I have spent $462 on Netflix. In comparison, renting the same amount of movies from a video rental store at, let’s say, an average of $2/movie excluding late fees, would have cost $832. So, for flat comparison, that puts Netflix at a four-year savings of $370; about $90/year.
Now, I realize that this type of comparison is a little silly because there are many movies/tv shows that I watched on Instant Watch but probably wouldn’t have rented. For example, I doubt I ever would have rented Dexter. I didn’t think I’d like the show at all, but since it is available on Instant Watch and I’m, technically, already paying for it, I decided to give it a shot. Well, I’m glad I did because it is a great show. But if it weren’t on Instant Watch, I never would have seen it and I definitely wouldn’t have paid to rent it (nope, not even $2).
According to the site FeedFlix.com, factoring in how often I return discs and the amount of Instant Watch programs I view, my current Netflix usage averages to $0.15/rental! That’s because almost every single night I watch something on Instant Watch, whether it’s a movie or a television episode. This is definitely not practical with a rental store and is much more customized than cable (I choose exactly what I want to see and do not have to sit through commercials).
However, I feel that Netflix is more than just a video rental replacement. Subscribing to Netflix can save you money in other areas as well.
1. Netflix as Cable Replacement
With Instant Watch, you can watch your favorite shows without that expensive premium cable package.
If you currently have a premium cable package, let’s estimate that you pay $129/mo for HBO, Showtime, Starz & Cinemax instead of the normal monthly rate of $62.75 for basic cable (without any promotions). Those premium cable channels are costing you an extra extra $67/month; $804/year. Just to watch True Blood and Dexter. I pay $115/year for Netflix. I can watch True Blood and Dexter. Granted, I either have to wait until the day after the episode (as is the case with some shows like Leverage) or wait until the end of the season. But considering the savings, it might not hurt to wait (and that way you can watch several episodes in a row too).
You can even go one step further and get rid of cable completely in lieu of Netflix. Netflix offers thousands of television shows on DVD. Even better they offer many via Instant Watch as well.
Selected programming from the following networks can be watched instantly: A&E, ABC, BBC, CBS, Comedy Central, CW/WB, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel, Fox, HBO, History Channel, LOGO, NBC, Nickelodeon, PBS, Sci-Fi Channel, Showtime, and TLC.
I discovered Lost and got caught up with Sex and the City thanks to Netflix. I also discovered Dexter, Everest: Beyond the Limit, Man Vs. Food, and watch random South Park episodes through Instant Watch. I no longer have cable tv because Netflix provides enough of my tv/movie entertainment for much cheaper than my cable bill.
2. Stay in with Instant Watch
If you use one of the various methods of watching Instant Watch programming on your television, then you have a good cheap alternative to going out with friends. Just invite them over to watch a movie. Since there are thousands of movies available to watch, surely you will all be able to find a movie that you agree on. I bet if you went out to a bar instead of watching a movie with friends, you’d spend at least $9.
I received a Roku for Christmas a year ago and use it all the time! I have definitely gotten $100 out of the little box. Being able to watch streaming movies on my television means that I don’t need cable (saving me $200/year), I go out to the movies less (saving me $100/year), I invite friends over more (saving me $150/year) and I can still watch what I want when I want.
3. Try It Before You Buy It
I mentioned in my Guide to Working out that using Netflix’s Instant Watch fitness programs is a cheap alternative to purchasing workout videos. Well, Netflix DVDs themselves are great for this too. Renting a DVD and trying the workout for a week or two will give you a good idea if it will work for you or not. If after a few works outs, you just don’t like it, then simply return the disc. You just saved yourself $15. If you try it out and do like it, then go ahead and make your well-informed purchase.
4. Buy Less DVDs
Many of the DVDs I already own are available for me to watch on Instant Watch. In fact, there are times I’ll just watch the Instant Watch version rather than digging through my DVD collection. If I get an urge to watch a particular movie that’s not available instantly, I can just put it at the top of my DVD queue and will have it in two days. Waiting two days to save $10 shouldn’t be too difficult. How often do you re-watch the movies you own anyway?
5. Get More Value Out Of Your Gaming Console.
If you’re dropping $2-300 for a Playstation 3 or an Xbox 360, why not turn it into even more of a media center. Both of these consoles (and the Wii in the spring) allow you to browse Netflix and watch an Instant Watch movie right on your tv. Also, for the PS3 owners, take advantage of your blu-ray player by renting more blu-rays for only an extra $1 (depending on your plan).
Do you use Netflix to save in a way I haven’t mentioned? Share it in a