The Netflix of Books…

books, budget, cable, cut expenses, DVDs, expenses, FIRE, how we win, library, netflix, savings, savings ratio

As a college senior a classmate sent me a survey for one of her business classes. As part of a group project she and her team needed to develop a business idea, vet it out with market research and develop a marketing plan. The survey asked questions about how often I read books for leisure and if I was familiar with Netflix. One of the final questions asked “would you pay for a subscription to a book rental service that functioned like Netflix?” I answered “No.” When prompted for a reason I gave a simple three word answer: “That’s the library.”

Five years later I still feel the same exact way, and fortunately so does my husband. In fact we use our library for more than just books, we use it to rent DVDs as well which is why we have cancelled our Netflix subscription.

Now we did at one time both have active Netflix subscriptions. When I was in college I had a small 13” TV and refused to pay for cable so I had a Netflix subscription, both mailed DVDs and online streaming in order. In college my focus was on studying and I only worked part-time, I didn’t see why I would spend all of my hard earned money on a cable service I would only use a few hours a week. After college I kept the subscription and continued to forgo cable. When I met Mr. Winning Williams he was using the same system. It was love at first PBS special. Fortunately we aren’t the only ones doing this, many millennials are going without traditional cable TV, however not as many can say that they don’t have a subscription service of some kind for their entertainment.

After a few years of working through our queue we had a perfected system. The day that a DVD came in we would watch and put it in the mail. This meant we got 3 DVDs a week and quickly ran through our queue. (We must have had a Netflix distribution center very close to us, because we turned around those movies quickly). We also found that we exhausted the movies and shows available online very quickly. So about two years ago we decided to cancel Netflix. Had we known House of Cards was on the horizon we may have reconsidered, but alas we did not see into the future.

Did we stop watching movies? No. Although we do try to minimize our time in front of the TV but we enjoy a good movie every once in a while. So we moved our queue over to the library. Yes, the good ole fashioned library. Our library allows us to put in an online request (much like the Netflix queue) for books, movies, and CDs and will place those items on reserve for us to pick up at our convenience. Because there are multiple branches within our county we are able to enjoy whichever books, movies or CDs we would like, the library makes everything within the system available and will transfer items between each branch as needed, all free of charge. We can put the books from our reading list on reserve and read them as they are available. This allows us to watch newly released movies without having to pay any additional fees. Amazing! And fortunately for us our library is conveniently located.

Library queue like Netflix queue

Similar to the Netflix queue we can add items to the queue and check them out as they become available.

This is one method that we have used to significantly cut our expenses towards entertainment. Because our library is funded through our property taxes, which we have to pay, we don’t have to spend additional money on our largest source of entertainment. We have enjoyed the items that we can check out and have also been able to peruse the events that are available. We’ve attended a classical music recital and a lecture from a local novelist. Our library offers yoga classes, language seminars and tax advice. All at no additional charge.

With our rekindled love of the library we were able to significantly downsize our movie and book collection. We moved into a small place at the beginning of this year (more on that later) and with a smaller space meant having to downsize. The bigger items were more obvious but when we looked at our bookshelves and our DVD rack we realized that we could make some contributions back to our library. We went through all of our DVDs and kept only the ones that we would actually watch again. Any that we had never watched before or couldn’t quite remember the plot to we watched and promptly dropped it in our donation pile. The same went for our books. We kept the ones that meant the most to us and the rest were donated. Now more people in our library system can benefit from these items and we have significantly less clutter in our home.

DVD collection

Our collection wasn’t this bad, thankfully.

Our library is also very high-tech and allows us to check out books electronically to our tablet. They can be checked out directly from the library website or from Overdrive. This means we don’t have to drive down to the library every time that we want to read a new book, we can use our fancy-dancy devices to check one out right away without having to drive to the library. Speaking of driving, for those of you with a long commute, or any commute really (we’ll address this costy item soon) you can download audio books or check our books on CD to make your drive more engaging than listening to the same songs over and over on Top 40 radio.

Not all library systems are as sophisticated and awesome as ours (big shout out to the Hillsborough County Library Cooperative!) We’ve mentioned this to other friends and they seemed confused that we used this as a method to save money because their library did have a movie rental fee. Check with your local library first, but consider reconsidering the monthly Netflix fee and try something that has been in existence for a long time. And you can get books too!!

Still not convinced that you should cancel your Netflix? Consider this:

The least expensive plan with Netflix will run you $8/month or $96/year. Most people might shrug that off and dismiss it as a small amount of money. Well, when looking to fund your retirement you will need $2,397 in additional retirement savings to continue your subscription (at the current rates) through retirement. (See how we got to this calculation?) When was the last time you had saved up $2400? How long did it take you to save that up? Still think Netflix is worth is?

So come, join us on the radical side for a moment, and consider a life without Netflix and going a little old school- at the library.

7 thoughts on “The Netflix of Books…

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