Monday, August 1, 2011

Fixed Income Living: Cost vs Reward

This past Sunday, my 22 year old and I went to the movies.  We opted to see "Cowboy's and Aliens".  It was a spur of the minute decision go to out to the theater, with the 103 temperature being the primary catalyst. Poor planning and the heat had eliminated many if not most of our normal Sunday pursuits.

As a person on a fixed income, my goal in general to avoid spending money unless I get a large reward in return. The Tightwad Gazette refers to this as the wow factor.  I'm sure every one's wow factors differ.

Now, 24 hours after seeing the above mentioned movie, it was a perfect example of way to little entertainment value for way too much money.  While the movie was enjoyable, the cost for that movie in terms of value was off the charts.  In other words, at almost thirty dollars for less than two hours of entertainment, and snacks, the return on investment was very low. 

Now, some might say that this was a one time event, and to relax and enjoy the film, rather than obsess over the cost. That's just what we did at the time, and as I mentioned earlier, the movie was nice, while not exceptional (in my humble opinion). But that same thirty dollars could have gotten me many nights of movie and high grade snacks on my comfy couch at home. Even if you only figure three movies and attendant snacks, I doubt that the movie experience was worth three times the cost.  A little planning while I was on vacation would have given me netflix movies and a well stocked fridge.

Everyone has different wows and needs. The important thing is to acknowledge them.  In my case I am absolutely unwilling to spend money on weekly dining out at places like the Outback or Macaroni Grill. On the other hand once or twice a year I am willing to spend a large amount at the best restaurant in town. Not only will I get big value for big money, but the memory will last me for awhile. I certainly have my own entertainment needs and desires. I've recently seen the revival of Guys and Dolls, as well as the final Harry Potter in 3D (a movie meant to be seen in a really, really big theater). 

Most of the time I have a good handle on what is worth (for me) to spending money on and what is not.  Like everyone else, sometimes life gets in the way.  When that happens (just like this weekend) I enjoy myself, and then remind myself that next time I'll be much more content with a visit to red box, my gourmet popcorn seasonings, wine and a comfy couch.  I can have everything I want, after all. Just not all at once.

Oh, and anyone who wants to give me some rain, or take away a couple degrees of heat, please be my guest.


  1. I did the same thing on Sunday. I took my grandson to see Captain America. Over $30 by the time we were done! And this for a matinee! We walked over and forgot to bring water bottles. $5.25 for a small bottle of water......times 2, plus the popcorn and cost of admission. No wonder I never go to the movies anymore......and the movie wasn't that good. He liked it but he's 11.....sigh

  2. We went yesterday. It is just too hot to not go! We only spent 14.00 - but even that was a shock. We only go to the movies about once every other month. Besides the expense- it is almost 30 minutes from door to theater!
    Anyway- when we are home- we can pause for a potty break ---lol.

  3. I never eat or drink at the movies. Nor do I do that at home watching a movie. I can't understand why people do that? When you go to a live performance it's forbidden to eat while the actors are on stage.

    And honestly, most movies are 2 hours. You can't go without bottled water or a snack for 2 hours? Plus, most movie theaters, by law, must have a water fountain.

    If you had eliminated the snacks and drinks, the price of the movie alone would have been sufficient.

    Just sayin'

  4. Sorry Morrison, but for me food and the movie go hand in hand. Had I watched the movie at home it would have been kettlecorn, a bite of dark chocolate and wine. Being from Washington DC, I've also spent many a spring summer and fall at wolf trap theater and the like, seing live performances of ballet while having a picnic. That said, we did not eat during guys and dolls last week.

  5. JBO - I agree about the heat. WE are fortunate that we have a theater five minutes away-if I had to drive half an hour my resolve might have been different. As I tol morrison, I could have saved money buying just the ticket, but for us popcorn falls in the "movie necessity" department and as such we budget for it. Of course we wont even discuss where that day fell on my 1700 calorie lifestyle-good thing Im swimming for an hour daily.

  6. We've pretty much given up on doing weekend movies .. we are fortunate that we have a couple of theaters that offer $5 tickets during the week.


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