Do You Buy, Lease, or Get Free Entertainment?

woman with headphonesFor Christmas this year Kyle received an Amazon (affiliate link – thanks for using!) Kindle gift card (and the giver checked that we do in fact own a Kindle).  Receiving that gift card, as well as considering some others, made me realize that we really don’t buy media any more.  I can remember only twice in the last five years or so that we’ve bought a song, book, or movie that wasn’t a gift.


It’s not just that I’ve become really cheap or that I’ve shunned entertainment but rather that my concept of ownership has changed, as I’m sure it has for a lot of us in the post-digital revolution and internet age.  I used to want to own books and music so that I could have access to them at any moment I would like.  Now with subscription services and the internet I can pay a relatively small price to have access to a lot of media nearly whenever I like or nothing at all for a bit less convenience.  I never buy music, movies, or TV shows and I only buy books now if I want to have them for multiple future references or lending (which is rare).  I’ve literally never bought anything from iTunes and the only time I remember Kyle buying any was the few songs we didn’t yet have for our wedding reception playlist.  Kyle has stopped buying video games and now only plays free computer games.


While we don’t buy digital copies of media, we do have a subscription service (Netflix, a gift) and we get media for free from the library and over the internet.  We also pay to attend live events, but I’m not sure if those should be considered “experiences” or “leased entertainment.”  We prefer to spend on those live events than on owning our entertainment.


media by cost


Of course digital media isn’t free even if you give it from a free source, because you need the computer/console/player/TV to interact with it, so there is still an up-front investment to partake in those kinds of entertainment.  We bought a lot of those devices back when we had more subscription services, but I’m not sure that I really need more than my computer and smartphone at this point.


What entertainment do you pay for and what do you get for free?  What is your opinion of ownership of digital files?  What subscription services do you use?  Do you have any odd or off-the-beaten-path ways of getting media entertainment?


photo from Free Digital Photos


Written by

Filed under: frugality, spending · Tags: , , , , ,

25 Responses to "Do You Buy, Lease, or Get Free Entertainment?"

  1. The only one we really buy on any regular basis is movies as we’re big movie buffs. We might buy a song or a book once in a blue moon, but nothing really other than that.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..December Blog Goals Update

    1. Emily says:

      Why do you like to own movies? Instantaneous access, multiple viewings, lending…?

  2. I love Spotify–best $5/month I spend on entertainment!
    The Happy Homeowner recently posted..January 2013 Goals

    1. Emily says:

      Kyle uses the free version of Spotify – what’s the difference between free and subscribed? Limited time?

  3. My wife and I are big into movies and probably watch about 15-20 per year in the theater. I’ve personally grown away from buying the DVDs, but she still wants to. We are running out of space on our DVD cabinet!

    The one place I’ve completely done away with all spending for entertainment is music. I’ve reached a point where it’s not that important to me. There are so many free streaming options, that I haven’t actually bought music in 6 years.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..3 Ways to Save Money When Moving

    1. Emily says:

      Why does your wife want to keep buying DVDs? Do you watch the same movie multiple times or is it about having immediate access when you watch it the first time?

      I actually don’t even listen to music any longer but rather podcasts and I can get many awesome ones for free! Kyle uses free Pandora and Spotify. If I ever want to hear a certain song I just use Youtube. 🙂

      1. Mostly, she hasn’t shaken loose the collection mentality. But I’m trying! There are some movies that we watch multiple times, but that is probably about 5% of our total collection.

        I don’t listen to Podcasts as a rule, because if I’m not actively paying attention to it, I’m not hearing it. Years of living near an air force base mean that my hearing isn’t the greatest. I use Pandora and iHeartRadio for music mostly to drown out the tinnitus.
        Edward Antrobus recently posted..DirecTV Saga: Part II

        1. Emily says:

          I had a hard time mentally getting over collecting books, too, but after my parents stopped buying them for me I could see that it wasn’t sustainable!

  4. eemusings says:

    I don’t pay for books (library) or music (streamed). We do pay for movies (cinema or on TV … though I think the age of the physical DVD is well and truly over).
    eemusings recently posted..Fitting travel into your life plan

    1. Emily says:

      I guess it depends on how fast the big companies are able to compromise on streaming situations with regard to royalties and advertising. We use Netflix streaming basically every day and our Netflix DVD rentals have really slowed – but that’s because we like instant gratification, not that the selection is amazing. We received a BluRay player for Christmas and I have qualms about keeping it as I think/hope streaming will really take over in the next couple years.

  5. Ross says:

    I’ve always had a strange relationship with song downloads. Growing up in the Napster era, it doesn’t seem right to pay for songs, since they were so easily illegally downloaded. It’s a weird moral issue for me because I know it’s someone else’s property, but for some reason I feel like it should be free. Luckily, Pandora stepped in to give me limitless free music provided I don’t care exactly what order it’s play in!

    1. Emily says:

      I used to download illegally too when I was in high school and I did peer file sharing in college, but since then I haven’t downloaded for free anything that normally would be paid for. I just became less interested in music! I’m thankful that Kyle is satisfied with free Pandora/Spotify because he listens to music all day long.

  6. I buy a few albums from iTunes every year for music, but most of what I listen to is podcast or audiobook. We donate to NPR and a couple of the specific NPR podcasts, but is that charity or paying for media? =)

    As for books, I am a huge library junkie and really only buy 1 book/yr. Mr. PoP on the other hand will usually buy half a dozen or more because he tends not to read straight through. But, they’re usually Kindle books that are out of copyright and cheap.

    What you didn’t include on your media list that we pay for a regular subscription every month is the news. We pay for 1 online news source that lives behind a paywall. We also buy the local Sunday paper in physical form every weekend. Together, the news is easily our most expensive media spending.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..He Said, She Said: Expensive Hobby Or Male Bonding?

    1. Emily says:

      Kyle and I have asked ourselves, too, if donations to NPR are “charitable” and should come out of our “charitable giving” budget. He thinks not because it’s a way of paying for a service I use, I think it is because all non-profit donations should fall into that category.

      It is annoying to have to return books to the library partially read – that happens to me often. If I decide a book is worth returning to I’ll ask for it as a gift or use book-specific gift cards to buy it.

      Good point about leaving off news, which is definitely “entertainment.” I forgot some people pay for news! We’ve never gotten a paper and just read free online news sources.

  7. If you can get it for free, then why should you pay? We do not have a cable subscription but we are subscribed with Netflix. However, we also borrow DVDs from the library. My friends and I share our eBooks. Most of them were downloaded from the internet… for free! 🙂
    Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey recently posted..How Diabetics Can Get Life Insurance

    1. Emily says:

      What are the comparative advantages of Netflix DVD service vs. getting DVDs from the library? Do you lend ebooks though your Kindles or do you just send each other the files manually?

  8. We buy netflix, but everything else we get as gifts or for free (legally!)
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..If you were stranded on desert island…

  9. I pretty much only do free entertainment at this point. For a while we paid for netflix and hulu+ but they didnt feel worth it. Now I mainly watch free things online or go to the library.
    Fig (Figuring Money Out) recently posted..Career Aspirations and Decisions

    1. Emily says:

      What do you like to watch online for free? We like Hulu, certainly, but still spend a lot of time on Netflix. 🙂

  10. […] @ Evolving Personal Finance writes Do You Buy, Lease, or Get Free Entertainment? – We virtually never buy media any longer but get most of it for free. What do you splurge on […]

  11. Spathi Captain Anonymous says:

    I have probably a somewhat self-contradictory stance when it comes to paying for entertainment. I’ll try to write it out maybe to clear it up for myself also.

    What even should cost money in an ideal society? Clearly at least resources are finite, so it seems reasonable that anything that uses up resources should in most cases cost money or be limited in some other way because it does diminish the pool of resources available and we want to discourage wasteful usage of resources. This shouldn’t mean that everything goes into the hands of the mine or whatever owners, unless the mines are also the property of the state (which in this thought model of an “ideal society” we assume to be benevolent), but even making available the finite resources should be discouraged, maybe by the way of taxes, because availability courages usage.

    Then there are other forms of negative externalities like hazards to the public or ecosystem’s health that should also be discouraged, possibly again by the way of Pigovian taxes. I might be able to justify some other forms of usage of money but these are probably the two big ones.

    Where does entertainment fit into all of this? Well, if it’s a physical copy, it’s reasonable to have it cost money, but in the digital format its negative externalities are miniscule. It also can be duplicated “endlessly”, so it’s not like we are tapping into a pool of some finite resource. Well, if we want to be precise even electricity and computers require some resources for most people but how do you think people would spend their day if it weren’t for free (gratis) digital entertainment? A lot of activities require a lot more resources so it’s unlikely the supposed alternative is better, so it makes sense to COURAGE usage of digital entertainment, by the way of having it be free of charge.

    Now, how do we do that? In our capitalist economy it seems unlikely to completely happen, but we can at least try to make it more viable. First of all we need to make sure that the artists have bread on their table. This can be done in a lot of ways but my favourite is basic income, which I could debate a lot but that’s not really the topic of this post. Another thing we can do is stop paying for our entertainment and instead encourage other ways of thinking like “make entertainment because you like it” or “make entertainment because you want to entertain”. Now, this might affect the quality of entertainment negatively because good entertainment also often costs a lot so it’s not a perfect solution, but to me at least it seems we already have lifetimes’ worth of quality entertainment.

    Also I want to point out I don’t consider it unethical to donate money even for something that “should” come for free of charge since it doesn’t encourage making it cost for everyone, and because it doesn’t promote the “making it just because of the money” type of thinking I despise about our current society.

    Now, I understand if my viewpoint is radically different from the majority’s since I already have a taste of the type of society I’ve been describing. I only hope that my kind of thinking could become more prevalent, and it might since more and more people are demanding a basic income. Then they might experience the kind of life I live and become less money-oriented. That’s my hope, at least.

    1. Emily says:

      While I agree with you about the benefits of digital entertainment, as someone who creates digital products (informational, not entertainment, but similar) I have to say that I think it’s unrealistic to expect quality entertainment to be created for free. I chose my work because I enjoy it, but I can’t sustain it without earning money as well. Basic income is a very interesting idea, but that level alone won’t be attractive to people with ambition or lifestyle desires. Quality work SHOULD be rewarded monetarily. Knowing that people are going to be paid for their work, entertainment (or information) that is “free” to the consumer is being paid for in some other way that might be distasteful or objectionable, such as covert advertising.

      1. Spathi Captain Anonymous says:

        Mostly I’m just disappointed at how money-centered our world is. You talk of ambition, but couldn’t that desire also be satisfied by how many people consume the entertainment produced? That’s a reward in my eyes, just not a monetary one. I don’t understand why the carrot would HAVE TO be one of the monetary sort (after basic necessities have been met).

        And there’s got to be a point where enough money is enough, like if those “lifestyle desires” mean a new car every year. We can’t all live like that on the only Earth we have. Okay, that’s probably not what you are suggesting either, but I’m not exactly expecting much results toward my suggestions in the very near future.

        I’m not in favour of “distasteful or objectionable” sources of income, either. It’s unlikely those would be approved any more in the future, either, but without an economic safety net people might resort to such ways. Possibly with one as well, since people don’t often act very logically (income after a certain point barely increases happiness at all). Really what is needed is a value shift.

        You’re not the first one to disagree, and honestly I’m not even sure myself. I’m also a content creator but only at a hobby-level (or hobbies, since I don’t even specialize on one type), but I’m striving to better my skills at the university. I already get enough to live from my government so that’s bound to skew my perspective, whether for good or bad.

Leave a Reply


CommentLuv badge