Owning versus streaming, my personal choice. White text on blue and pink background

Physical Media Versus Streaming: My Personal Choice

Streaming has made it easy to “set it and forget it”. Similar to cable, you just watch or listen to what you have access to and move around as necessary. Owning physical media means you can control the access, but it’s much more methodical.

Both have their purpose and the benefit in our current climate is you can choose one or the other or both. A conspiracy theorist would say you need to own physical in case streaming ever goes away or the title you want is no longer available. The likelihood of the biggest companies in the world discontinuing a video service, like Amazon or Apple, is so imperceptibly low it’s not worth the stress.

Yet, for me, the biggest benefit of owning media is that exact aspect. You get to own it. It’s not a license agreement and not subject to business decisions between studio and distribution.

My stance

I am a hoarder, but not so much because I think it’s going away. More so because I’m a financial disaster-prepper. I want to own my stuff because there have been several times where I can’t afford to keep a streaming service or even access to the internet.

Entering the workplace just before the recession, so many friends and family are just now getting back on their feet and feeling stable again. I don’t want to ever put my family in that same scenario which doesn’t take a recession. Being in my mid-30’s I see friends who are losing significant parts of their life due to a divorce or illness. There’s being financially responsible in how you spend your money on a daily basis and then there’s preparing for a rainy day.

The key to managing personal finances when you are already on an extremely tight budget is finding ways to spend your money effectively. Paying $13 per month for Netflix for 6 months then cancelling and losing access to the entire library is low value. High value is using that $78 to purchase items you know you’ll have for years and years.

A constant struggle finding budget buys that are still good quality. So many items that are cheap are also poor quality and in the end you spend more money re-purchasing when it breaks.

There is a cost to watching video. Not just the streaming service, but also the gear needed to do it. You need a screen, a player, internet and the subscription. If any one of those things goes away the whole stack is useless. That’s another reason I like owning a physical copy. If I lose the internet due to cost, DVDs and a cheap DVD player is way cheaper than the internet and streaming service.

Streaming, and really all subscription services, fall into this bucket for me. Essentially renting TV shows, movies, music and audiobooks is equal to renting furniture or leasing a car. It might be cheaper in the beginning but the long-tail cost to ownership is significantly higher.

Final thoughts

The key with being tight on money and on a hardcore budget is being able to feel like you still have access to what’s popular, without actually having it. When you are carefully watching every expense and trimming as much as you can, it’s easy to feel like you’re not in sync with society. This feeling can make you think there’s something wrong with you and your life.

When I would cancel a $10/month subscription I always felt ashamed. How could I not afford even something that was this cheap? But I was being unfair to myself. The reason I was making the decision to trim a subscription was because it was more important to my family that I had that money for something else and not Netflix or HBO. I need to spend my money efficiently and effectively.

It’s much more effective for me to spend money on the things I can own that I can use again and again without additional costs. I shouldn’t let other people or myself be shamed based on unwritten society assumptions. Cancel Netflix, use the lowest tier internet, buy old consoles instead of the latest and greatest. You’re doing it because it’s the responsible thing to do and there’s absolutely no shame in that.

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