A blog about spending wisely in your twenties, with advice on everything from cooking to saving money on gas; how to teach yourself to save money instead of spending it, traveling without breaking the bank, and much more.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

An Argument For VHS

The losers of the format wars can be some of the biggest winners when it comes to saving your money. If you can get over the thrill of purchasing a movie the second it's released on the latest format, you can end up with a great collection. I know that there are video-philes out there who swear by DVD and the idea of watching a VHS makes them twitch. To that I say, get over it. If you've got the money to afford your fine tastes, go ahead and indulge in new release High-Def (or is it Blue Ray now?) movies for $14.99 a pop- but if you just want to watch a movie without spending a ton of money, then outdated media may be for you.

VHS is the most obvious choice. You can pick up a VCR for well under $10 at a Goodwill (or free on craigslist) and videocassettes are cheap as heck at thrift shops and yard sales. If you've got a particular movie in mind, look it up on Amazon, ebay, or half.com. Chances are, you'll find what you're looking for for 99 cents or less. Finding even a used DVD priced that low is pretty rare, unless the movie was godawful.

A second option that doesn't even occur to most people is Laserdisc. For just under a decade Laserdisc was the wave of the future, before folks realized the disc didn't have to be nearly so big and moved on to DVD. Laserdiscs tend to be even cheaper than VHS when purchased at a thrift shop, though they might run you a little more online. The disadvantage to Laserdisc is that there are fewer of them, and you can't really find anything released post-2002 (at the latest).

Buying your movies used and on outdated formats can save you a ton of money. Having a dual VCR/DVD player makes life in our house pretty great. We can buy loads of movies on VHS for $1 or less to keep, and we rent our TV shows (or movies too new for outdated formats) on DVD from Netflix.

While rows and rows of shiny DVDs look great, too often a $14.99 DVD gets watched once and then lives on a shelf for years. If you've got piles and piles of DVDs, I encourage you give them an honest look-through. How many of them have you played more than once in the past six months? I'll bet anyone between the ages of 18-30 has a huge pile of movies and music they're not watching. If you made a list and researched how much your unwatched movies and un-listened to CDs sell for online, I'll bet you could make a nice chunk of change. Why hang onto items you're not using when you could turn them into money that will earn interest? Why not sell your DVDs that can be replaced with an older format and chuck the difference into savings (or at your credit card debt)? Why not just buy a movie on VHS at Goodwill or half.com in the first place? You can watch it over and over again, and it won't lose nearly as much value as a DVD.

Now, I know there are people who will say "But Margaret! You plebe! DVDs have better picture clarity and sound and omg it is ALWAYS better!" and they're correct. Owning movies you really love and will watch semi-often on DVD can have lasting value. There are about 50 to 100 movies that I'd love to own on DVD one day, but for now I'm perfectly happy to rent them or watch them on VHS or Laserdisc. If you really Only Want DVDs Ever (or if a movie you adore is too new to have ever been released on VHS), please- at least have the patience to buy them used.

Ten new DVDs a year will cost you about $149.90 (assuming you're paying an average of $14.99 for them). Ten used DVDs (assuming they're about $7.99 on average) will run you $79.90. Ten movies on VHS will run you $20 tops, probably less. That's $59.90 - $129.90 a year in potential savings. Personally, I'd rather just rent 2+ DVDs a week from Netflix for about $1.12 or less each over the course of a year than have unwatched movies on any format just sitting around. But I've totally got the original Star Wars Trilogy (box set!) taking up space. It was $2 at a yard sale (that's for all three), and you never know when it might be time for a Star Wars fix. If I watch any one of them just once a year, it'll cost me just 66 cents per viewing. If I'd bought it on DVD when it was finally released and watched any one of the set once a year, it'd run me about $17.33 per viewing. Consider the cost of a movie in viewings per year. Whip out that cell phone calculator and tell me if it's really worth it to purchase a DVD you'll watch maybe twice. That's [Price of DVD] / [Estimated Viewings per Year] = Cost Per Viewing.

You can probably think of something better to do with that money.

As with everything else you might decide you Must Have, consider your bottom line. What's more important to you? Saving money for a trip/apartment deposit/house/car/wedding/safety net/debt reduction or being able to see every single pore on Christian Bale's face?


Anonymous said...

Whatever... My DVD copy of "Reindeer Games" was free...

Hava said...

I heartily agree with this post. I will keep my VHS player as long as it still plays my tapes.