February 11, 2018
I'll never forget sitting down with my accountability partner, Loni, and putting together my budget for the first time. There were tears and embarrassment on my end, tears and encouragement from her end, because she remembered what it was like to be in my very seat. But I brought my spending habits, my bills, and my vulnerability to her and together we put together a plan for my money.
I was on board with pretty much everything she suggested, with the exception of one item.
She wanted me to cancel my Netflix subscription.
Como se what?
Ya. Breaking every millennial's heart with that one, you know? But because I was starting from the very scratch, and I needed as much space in my budget as I could get, that monthly $7.99 fee needed to go. (Ya, that was back when it was only $7.99 - the good ol' days.)
And I know that sounds a bit drastic, but I actually learned a bigger lesson from cutting out that small monthly fee than I did from having my grocery budget cut in half. Because Netflix was something that I really wanted in my life, the absence of it was felt even greater. My sweet roommate's sweet boyfriend let me bum off of his for a while, but I didn't want to do that forever. It made me work a little harder to start digging myself out of the hole I'd dove into, so that I could eventually add back in to the budget.
And even though it was only a small $8 (and hey - that adds up...$96/year), it forced me to take a good look at my spending habits and start to sift out what it was that I needed to spend my money on, what I wanted to spend my money on, and what I was just spending money on because I had money to spend.
I eventually was able to add Netflix back in to my life (happy day!) with a much deeper affection than before.
However, the moral of the story here is (don't worry - I'm not about to make you cancel your Netflix accounts), our entertainment expenses can add up and when you're trying to save your pennies and pay off debt, you need every bit of space you can get. Below is a list of ways to get your entertainment at budget-friendly prices.
This list starts with free apps and trials and ends with services that have monthly subscriptions.
1. OpenTable - OpenTable is table reservation app. They partner with thousands of restaurants in cities to make it easy for folks to book a last minute reservation (typically at restaurants that are always really busy and hard to get into.) It's completely free to use AND if you use it enough you can even get a few free meals out of the deal. For every table you book through the app, you receive 100 points. Build up 2,000 points and receive a $20 gift card to use at a restaurant that is partnered with OpenTable. 5,000 points = $50 and 10,000 = $100. Nothing easier than that!
2. Audio Books and Audible - I tend to have mad book ADD, trying to read multiple books at one time, but only having so much time in a day. One way that helps soothe my book ADD is reading physical books and listening to audio books at the same time (I mean, not at EXACTLY the same time, but you know what I mean.) I can read one book before bed and listen to the other on my way to work or when I go on a walk.
Both Audio Books and Audible are $15/month for a monthly subscription. Every month you get one book credit which allows you to download one book (so $15 a book basically.) Of course this is going to add up down the line ($180/year), but you can still enjoy some books with their free trials. They each offer a 30-day free trial (first book free), and if you have multiple email addresses (work email address, personal email address) you can get multiple trials. Two email addresses with two different audio book streaming apps = four books free!
3. MoviePass - If you're a big movie-goer and those theater tickets are adding up, MoviePass is a great, new cost effective option. For $10/month you get unlimited access to movies in theaters, which means the card pays for itself after only two movies. I'd say this is only a good option if you you're going to multiple movies in a month. I have friends that love the movie theater and go as often as they can. This card is perfect for them. I haven't bought into it quite yet because I just don't go enough so the cost benefit doesn't make sense for me, but it really is a great program for the right person.
(PS - they're doing a limited time offer of $7.95/month instead of $10/month. Jump on that!)
4. Groupon - Yes, Groupon is still around and its still the King of all things discounted. You can find discounted prices for everything from restaurants to museums to airport parking, Groupon knows no limits. It's definitely the first place you should check before booking tickets to anything.
5. Netflix and Hulu - If you ask any millennial whether or not they have cable it is highly likely the answer will be no. These days, Netflix and Hulu are what are hogging our TVs, and rightfully so. And even though using these streaming services is generally more cost effective, the subscription fees can still add up.
Nowadays, we're looking at about $10 for each of these streaming services. And if you have subscriptions to both, you're paying $20/month which doesn't feel like a lot until you realize it's $240/year. A great way to get the best of both worlds and only pay the cost of one is to share accounts with a friend or family member and you pay for one and they pay for the other (or just share one and you each only pay $5!) Netflix allows you to stream to two different devices at the same time, which is perfect. However, Hulu only allows one at a time, which means a little more coordination may need to happen with you and the person you're sharing with. But when you're trying to get yourself out of debt, saving $10 is worth a little extra coordination.
Also - sometimes you need cable TV here and there (i.e. when Alabama is playing in the College Football Playoff National Championship (Roll Tide, guys)). Services like SlingTV and PlayStation Vue typically have at least 5 day trials, so sign up, watch your game, and cancel the next day.
PS - If you do have cable and you're trying to decide what the most cost effective way to get your favorite TV entertainment might be, Cord Cutters 101 can walk you through it.
What did I miss? Do you have any other price hacks for getting all the entertainment you want?