We debated about subscribing to Netflix for many of the last several years. I always pushed back because I thought we didn't need it and it would be an unnecessary expense. I'm pretty tightwad on the whole, and subscribing to a DVD rental service seemed extravagant. Of course, when we first talked about it (probably in 2004), we had cable. Cable paired with a 2-channel TiVo provided us with a nearly infinite supply of quality programs to watch.
Then once we moved down to California, we didn't even have a TV for the first year. But when my father gave us one, we were able to borrow from a large DVD library he had, so I again successfully argued against Netflix.
Our recent move to Redwood City, and our purchase of a new TV, brought up the question again and I finally relented. Netflix has a free trial and I figured it was worth a try. Well, I'm glad we tried it. Cable, back when we had it in the early 2000s, was typically more than $50/month. (I couldn't even get a quote at the Comcast website without entering personal information I didn't want to enter.) In my experience, they set a low advertised rate, but then they charge you $5 here and $10 there for premium channels—the ones you'd actually want—so you end up spending far more than their advertised rate. The Netflix membership we signed up for is $18.56/month (includes taxes). (We signed up for two disks in transit $13 and the $3 Blue Ray disk upgrade.)
Since one of the activities we enjoy is watching movies, I think the money we are spending on Netflix is well-justified, especially when compared to cable. And with their huge instant download library, there are so many great programs to watch. While we also incurred the additional expense of a Roku Digital Video Player, we could have just hooked up a computer to the TV. We decided the convenience of the player was worth the extra $124 one-time expense.
Of course, we're not watching the latest episode of those hot new TV programs (like Glee and Dollhouse), but we don't care about that. We are more than happy to catch last season's episodes. Now I'm wondering if we'll ever subscribe to cable again...probably not. We've even decided to get rid of our old TiVo because we just don't have need to store it anymore...
Another thrifty benefit of Netflix has been our total lack of desire to buy new DVDs. When we went to Fry's this weekend, we weren't even tempted. We are more than happy to rent programs, or download them, from Netflix. And of the dozens of movies we've watched over the last month, there are only two that we might buy, if we find the right deal. In the old days, we might have bought a dozen movies on a shopping trip and then decide to just keep a few of them to watch again. I shutter to think of how much money we blew on entertainment back in Oregon.
The worst thing about Netflix, in my opinion, is the unlimited nature of the offerings. It's a bit like going to a buffet: you've paid for your dinner and now you're tempted to eat as much as you can, to get your money's worth. There's a lot of good programs to tempt us to use up our discretionary time.