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Frugal Friday Week 15

The Netflix vs Redbox Edition.

One of the ways people have been trying to save without sacrificing too much is to cut back on entertainment a bit. On cable, either eliminating premium channels or going to a basic lineup from extended. Also cutting back on the movie nights out, whether as a couple, or a family, it really can add up.

One alternative for your movie addition is Netflix. They offer a number of plans ranging from $4.99/mo for the “1 DVD at a time, 2 per month” to $8.99/mo for “1 DVD at a time, exchange as often as you wish”, up to the $16.99 three at a time plan. All but the cheapest plan offers unlimited streaming to your Mac, PC, or TiVo of a limited selection of older movies (typically not the new releases.) You choose your titles on line and as soon as you return one the next one in queue is sent to. Most areas are in a one business day turnaround, which is very convenient.

Another alternative is the Redbox. These DVD dispensers look like a soda vending machine and are starting to appear in supermarkets, drug stores and other shopping areas. The deal is pretty simple, you rent a movie for $1 per day. Rent today and the DVD is due back tomorrow by 9pm. If you don’t return it, it’s an extra $1 per day until the total is $25 at which point you bought it for good. If you don’t wish to browse the selections at the store, you can go online, choose a video, and see the closest box to you that has it. You then can reserve it online and are charged from that time. The DVD can be returned to any location, so maybe you picked it up on the way home from work Friday and on Saturday return it at the supermarket box.

This choice is personal, it really depends on your lifestyle, number of family members, etc. The break even on the $8.99 plan is 9 rentals per month, but the ease of dropping the DVD in a mailbox vs the Redbox location shouldn’t be overlooked. While I might pick up the movie at a regular supermarket visit, it may still need to go back on a special trip. Round trip to the supermarket for me is nearly a half gallon of gas, so my math should include that expense somewhere. So there’s no clear winner, although Redbox favors the casual viewer and Netflix the Movie fan.

I’d be negligent if I didn’t remind readers that most local public libraries also lend DVDs. Our system has 35 libraries which allow you to reserve a DVD or book online and it will transfer to your local branch when it becomes available. Not bad for free.

If you’re not looking movies but just TV, Tom Drake wrote an article How to watch free TV and cheap TV in Canada. His advice makes sense in the states as well.
Happy viewing,

  • Mom August 28, 2009, 11:20 am

    I love Redbox. When we move to Colorado I will have to find new Redbox locations. I hope it isn’t too difficult.

    As for cable – we’ve been without TV reception for almost 7 years now. We don’t miss it at all. I have a DVD / VCR player for the kids. They only get to watch whatever I happen to buy or rent. It’s really useful for controlling what they are exposed to.

  • Andy Hough August 28, 2009, 2:37 pm

    We use both. I like Netflix because it has a much wider variety of movies and TV series. Redbox is great because I’m able to rent the movies for free by using promo codes. I haven’t paid for a Redbox rental in months and I usually rent two or three movies a month from them. We also live less than a five minute walk from the nearest Redbox which makes rental and return very convenient. Between these two movie services we have all the movies we care to watch.

  • *lynne* August 28, 2009, 3:46 pm

    My hubby and I currently use a mix of all three resources 🙂

    We’ve occasionally used RedBox during the 1st Monday of the month free (and there were some other 1-day free promotions a while back) promotions — we have yet to pay to use this service 🙂 I find it useful for getting the recently-released DVDs which on Netflix might take a long while before there’s a change in the “Very Long Wait” availability message: Watchmen, for example, we watched soon after its release courtesy of RedBox.

    Netflix has that delivered to your mailbox convenience… but both require a special trip out in the end — whether to the grocery store or a postbox. We’ve cut down our subscription to 1-at-a-time-unlimited. We no longer need the 3-at-a-time what with library rentals and Comcast’s On Demand 🙂

    We’ve noticed that the library’s drawback is majorly-damaged discs! 🙁

  • Elliot Booker April 12, 2010, 12:18 pm

    I love using redbox. But, I have found a kiosk that is locally owned and operated.

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