“Media” is the modern equivalent of circus, as in bread and circus. It’s primary reason is not so much to keep citizens informed as it is to keep consumers entertained; and it is doing a very good job at the latter continuously refining itself to only broadcasting proven formulas, hence all the remakes and the reason that everything looks and sounds increasingly more and more self-similar.

The biggest cost of TV is opportunity cost. I think it is safe to say that while you’re watching TV, you’re not learning anything. Nor are you changing anything: One of the main purposes of TV is to reinforce the status quo.
Disputing that, I think it is safe to say that if you’re learning something it is not going to be worthy of being your resume, there no entry for “Movies watched”. The amount of hours thus gone could have been used on something productive.
It takes about 1000 hours to render yourself competent in a given field. Competence corresponds to the “DIY level” which is a little below the level where other people would be willing to pay you. Given that the average time spent watching TV every week is about 22 hours, this means it take about a year to replace a skill you were previously paying for.

(If you are going to watch TV, as I am, try to cultivate an “I’m not really paying attention” frame of mind by doing something else simulatanously like reading a book, polishing shoes, or whatever. A secondary benefit is that I can “watch” a movie at least twice and still find it relatively fresh. This also makes ownership more worthwhile though owning media is seldom worthwhile.)

Subscriptions are the second biggest cost. Avoid subscriptions if you can. If you pay $50/month for something it requires $15000+ in investment to back this current expense. Saving $1000 each month, $15000 on the margin means a delay of financial independence by a little over a year. Putting away $250, it’s a 5 year delay! If you want to keep your subscription, know that the companies spend a large sum hooking you up and very little to keep you as a subscriber. Therefore, they are willing to go to great lengths to keep you including extending introductory rates, etc. But frankly, just cancel already.

Get a synergy effect from your internet connection. Hulu offers on demand movies and series. (Pandora offers music.) Using your computer avoids having to buy a TV and associated gadgetry. In particular it avoids using up an entire room to set up an altar. Another source of free media is the library. If you have several local branches in a city, definitely check all of them. Surprisingly the smallest branch in our city seems to have the most movies. The city one over has far more so we also have a card for them. The library selection is much larger than leading video rental stores.

Take advantage of depreciation. The trick here is to lag the newest movies, shows, etc. by 1-2 years. This delay will make the movies, etc. available on the used market, on TV, in dollar theaters, on airplanes, on the barter exchanges. If you buy a depreciated item, you will also be able to sell them again. For instance, I bought the entire series of Startrek Next Generation for about $35-$40 per season. Two years later, I sold them for about the same after watching them several times. I have also bought other series where I made a substantial profit, buying for $10 and selling for $40, crazy (Lexx).

Keeping that in mind beware of storage/holding costs. The trick here is, and this is something I have increasingly come to accept: Accumulating collections is stupid-stupid-stupid. Media, where it be movies or books take up an enormous amount of space and weight compared to how often you use it. The only books worth owning are reference books and books used for work. There are probably no movies worth hanging on to. For music, I have noticed that I rarely play any CD more than 60 times. After that it just sits there and it is time for it to go; I usually use swaptree to swap it away.

Originally posted 2009-12-13 18:17:23.