A Question of Worth

Towards the end of each month, I sit down with my spreadsheet. I take my current bank balance and put it in one column. In the next column I put deposits and in the third column I put withdrawls. In the final column I have it calculate my bank balance after considering all three of those factors.

Living, for now at least, on a fixed income I do this to keep an active eye on my balance throughout the month to make sure nothing goes wrong. I regularly double check things against my online bank statement to make sure things stay in order. Essentially, this is my version of balancing a checkbook.

But aside from monitoring money going in and coming out, I do this for a second reason. Putting the numbers in every month allows me to ask myself if something has been worth another month’s subscription after my useage the previous month.

For example, when I enter in the $8.47 payment to NetFlix I ask myself if I thought I got my $8.47 worth of NetFlix in the previous month. If I don’t feel like I did, I might unsubscribe for awhile. I am always evaluating whether or not something is worth it to me. It occurs to me that the way people determine worth is going to be different and even how I determine worth is going to be different for each service. I’ll show you what I mean in this post. The table I come up with excludes things like my rent and cable TV payments because I need a place to live and access to the Internet. Although if I got rid of Internet access, I could get rid of everything else on this list and save a lot of money…I’d also bore myself to death.

The table also doesn’t include irregular expenses like food. I obviously have to consider food and other household items when making a budget. However, I never spend the same amount on those items. If I buy a bag of dogfood in late July, I might not need to buy another one until the Middle of September. My acid reflux pills are not a monthly expense either since I get more than a month’s supply at once.
Those types of expenses get put into the withdrawls column as they are made. This table just looks at the things that I can say that I know how much I’m going to pay and have the option of getting out of if I wish. Essentially, everything listed here would fall under the general category of entertainment expense.


CASEY’S REGULAR MONTHLY EXPENSES

Service Cost Billing Cycle
SiriusXM Radio $27.33 Monthly
Audible.com Platnum Membership $22.95 Monthly
PWTorch VIP $18.50 Every 3 Months
Caravan to Midnight $15 Every Three Months
Wrestling Observer/Figure 4 Weekly Subscription $10.99 Monthly
WWE Network $10.59 Monthly
UFC Fight Pass $9.99 Monthly
Netflix $8.47 Monthly
Hulu $7.99 Monthly
Art Bell’s ‘Midnight in the Desert’ $5 Monthly
iTunes Match $24.99 Yearly (April)

There you have the basic list I work off every month. It is current as of August 2015. If I had written this post last month, Caravan to Midnight and a Torch subscription would not have been included and a $9.99 Kindle Unlimited subscription would have been listed.
I actually signed up for the Torch because of their summer sale. They offered one month for $1 which is $9 off of the regular monthly price. You could also get $9 off of a 3 month or 1 year subscription. So I elected for 3 months and when this bill comes around in November I’ll have to decide if I want to pay $27.50 every three months going forward.
In the case of both Netflix and Art Bell’s ‘Midnight in the Desert’ if I am deciding whether or not to cancel my subscription there is another factor to consider. If I unsubscribe to either and come back a month or 2 later, it will be at a higher price. Starting on Aug. 20 a subscription to ‘Midnight in the Desert’ will cost $7.99 a month but those of us who signed up when it is only $5 will be locked in at that price as long as we remain current.

I think this is an interesting list. As I mentioned, I had Kindle Unlimited for a few months but dropped it after my subscription ran out on August 2. The decision was an easy one. I was in a Reading Slump and if I couldn’t be bothered to read stuff already in my library it did not make sense to pay $10 next month to not feel like reading other books. Kindle Unlimited could easily find its way back on this list a month or two from now.

That is what I am talking about when I ask myself if something is worth paying for but there are other factors as well. This list might be smaller in November/December when it is time to do Christmas shopping. In that case I might put a number of those listed items on hold. In May when I don’t need to buy any gifts, it could go up.
I looked long and hard at this list recently because my dog needs her shots and I needed to account for that as well. While the WWE Network appears on this list, I didn’t subscribe in July and got August for free. If I were so inclined I could get the WWE Network for free basically every month simply by signing up with a new email address. Lots of people do this, actually. Keep that in mind when those network numbers are released.

For reasons that will become pretty obvious once September arrives, I will want to have some more extra cash on hand. So a couple of these might get put on hold to allow for that.

Now we’ll take each one of these and look at how I might figure out if it is worth it.


SIRIUSXM SATELLITE RADIO

SiriusXM Satellite Radio is easily the most expensive thing on this list on both a monthly and yearly basis. It is also the one that sees the most frequent increases in price. This one is the one I always think hardest about each month. I don’t listen to it on a daily basis but sometimes I can binge listen for hours. I especially find this nice to have if I am awake through the night. Listening to 60s on 6 while working gives me a lot of joy although I freely admit I could make an iTunes Radio station and get the same effect.
What helps the case for keeping the service is the ability to listen to out of market sporting events. I can listen to the Raiders, Lakers, Braves and Avalanche (my 4 favorite teams) whenever I want. This is a big plus for me since it means I don’t have to invest in services like MLB.tv and NBA League Pass both of which I have subscribed to in the past.
Unfortunately, while I have considered canceling my subscription altogether or going with an online only subscription I’ve never done it. The biggest advantage this one has is that I’ve been paying for it for so long I’m just used to it by now. Another advantage is that when I do get heavy use out of this I tend to be in a better mood, none of the other forms of entertainment on this list impact my mood in such a positive way.

Is SiriusXM worth it to me? I’m not going to lie, it’s worth is always questionable at best.


AUDIBLE.COM PLATINUM SUBSCRIPTION

With this I get two book credits every month. Having an active membership also gives me access to sales that might not be available to nonmembers. They have a gold membership for $14.95 which would give me access to one book credit a month. I find $11.47 each for 2 credits to be a much better value than $14.95 for a single credit, especially when looking at how much most of their books cost if I’m paying in cash instead of with a credit.
The worth of this one is always easy. It is always worth it to me. I never really have trouble finding books that I want to read either new releases or stuff I might have missed when it originally came out. Audible also has good customer service and some pretty sweet bargains. The ability to buy extra credits is also quite helpful at times.

Is Audible Platinum Monthly Membership worth it to me? The worth is not in question. Even in my July reading slump three out of the four books I finished were ones I bought from Audible in the month of July. Two were the books I bought with my regular credits and the third book was on sale.
If for some reason I had to get rid of everything else on this list and could save only one, this is always the one that I would want to keep.


WRESTLING OBSERVER/FIGURE 4 WEEKLY

Paying $10.99 a month for this website gives me access to the weekly Wrestling Observer and Figure 4 Newsletters as well as to all available back issues. It also gives me access to all of the new audio shows as well as the complete show archive.
I mostly subscribe to the audio. I often just read parts of the Observer each week unless I know there is a story I am particularly interested in such as an obituary. I stopped reading Figure 4 so long ago that I can’t even remember the last time I read it regularly.
I listen to most of the audio content every week, especially Wrestling Observer Radio and the Tuesday Bryan and Vinny show. I am also a fan of Bryan’s ‘After Dark’ program and so being able to access those archives is great. I can’t forget to mention my main man Karl Stern and his ‘Classic Wrestling Audio Show’ which is so great I’d pay for that one all by itself.

Is my subscription to Wrestling Observer/Figure 4 Weekly worth it? I’ve been a subscriber since 2005 only taking off a month here and there. I feel like I get my money’s worth just from the audio. I subscribe to a lot of podcasts and I don’t always listen to each show’s new episode. But I come the closest with this site’s content so I would say that makes it worth it.


WWE NETWORK SUBSCRIPTION

You would think that I would judge this one and UFC Fight Pass in a similar manner but actually I judge them in complete opposite ways.
I don’t watch a lot of the live stream of the WWE Network. I don’t always watch the monthly big shows. I’ll watch the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania for sure, probably SummerSlam and everything else it will just depend on how interested I am in seeing what is advertised or any surprises I am made aware of in advance.
I subscribe to the WWE Network purely for the old material such as WCW Monday Nitro and Prime Time Wrestling.

Is a subscription to the WWE Network worth it to me? This is not always clear cut. I could have the WWE Network for a month, go the first 30 days without watching it once, have a friend over on the last day of the month and binge watch some Nitro and feel like I got my money’s worth.
Yet, I also get frustrated because of the way that people get around paying for the service month to month and by the fact that WWE did all of this stuff to try and get new sign ups but offered no extra thanks to those of us who signed up on day #1. If I were to rank all of these services on a “worth it to me scale” WWE Network would land squarely in the middle.
I run hot and cold with this one. I don’t watch the same number of hours per month. Some months I watch a lot and some months I watch little. In May I didn’t watch anything for the first time since subscribing to the network. Not having access to it in July ther were times when I wish I had it there to open up and watch but I managed to survive.


UFC FIGHT PASS

This one is different from not just the WWE Network but also from every other service on my list. Practically every other service I base my decision on the next month on how much I used it last month. UFC Fight Pass is different because I try to decide whether or not to pay this month based on what is coming up next.
Unlike with the WWE Network, I don’t spend a lot of time watching old fights on Fight Pass. I watch mainly for the live shows and the prelim fights that make it. So I subscribe based on whether or not this month has a show or some fights that I want to see.

Is UFC Fight Pass worth it to me? I like having access to this one but all things considered this is the one that is easiest for me to put on hold. It is a good price and thanks to not being charged sales tax is cheaper than the WWE Network. But I’m also not as big a UFC fan as I am a wrestling fan and not as big a fan as I was a few years ago. So if I need or want an extra $10 next month this one is going to be the first to get the axe.


AMAZON’S KINDLE UNLIMITED

After subscribing a few months, I stepped away this month in part because I didn’t read a lot at all last month and none of what I read to conclusion came from my Kindle Unlimited subscription. So this will be more of a look at what might get me to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited again in the future.

What would make Kindle Unlimited worth it? This one will largely depend on how I feel at the time. Since I am a little OCD about bills I like to sign up for all of my subscriptions at close to the first of the month if not on the exact day. This way all of these are addressed and I don’t have to worry about them again until the first of the next month.
So as September 1 gets closer if I am reading a lot and on a good run of reading or feeling adventurous I might sign up for Kindle Unlimited again. The value I put into having Kindle Unlimited has less to do with the service it offers than it does with how I’m feeling about the activity of reading which it is supposed to enhance.


NETFLIX AND HULU

I’m grouping these two together because they are pretty close n price and provide the same type of service. If Netflix didn’t charge salestax or if Hulu did then I would pay the exact same for each service.

Are Netflix and Hulu worth it to me? These two fall in to a category that I like to call paying for security. They are both so inexpensive that I find I get my money’s worth simply by knowing that they are around and available should I get bored with something else.
I don’t necessarily have to watch any programming on Netflix or Hulu within a given month to feel like it was worth while. These are the only two services on my list where I can say that. As much as I love audible, if I didn’t listen to a single audiobook in August I would feel a bit like I had wasted my money. If I don’t watch Hulu this month I won’t respond with that same kind of reaction.


ART BELL’S ‘MIDNIGHT IN THE DESERT’

I subscribed to this on July 1 with Art’s return set for July 20. This gives me access to the show on demand which is nice since I don’t always want to listen live. As I write this, Art is on live and I could hear him for free but I’m not listening.
I also can access the worm hole through which I could contact Art if I wished. A nice feature but not one I am likely to access anytime soon.

Is ‘Midnight in the Desert’ worth it to me? I don’t listen to the show every night. I have no interest in open lines shows and there are guests that I can take or leave. But since the $5 a month cost is so low that it is possible for me to feel as though I got my money’s worth from one great interview.
This has already happened. I thought Art’s second show with guest Charles Faddis was so good that it was worth the $5 by itself. I’ll probably keep this one going for as long as I can because even canceling for a month would result in my subscription cost going up to $7.99 when I came back. I could see a time where new subscriptions would cost $10 or more and here I’d still be paying my $5.


ITUNES MATCH

I only have to determine the worth of this product once a year but I can already tell you that when April 1 comes around next year I will happily pay another $24.99 plus tax.

Is iTunes Match worth it to me? The first time I was able to recover my music library after iTunes itself caused it to disappear because of my access to iTunes Match, I determined that it was worth it. I like being able to access all of my music on my iPad, iPod or iPhone without having any of it stored on my device directly. I am one of those people who likes to use as little storage space as I can.


TOO SOON TO TELL

I didn’t specifically talk about ‘Caravan to Midnight’ or ‘PWTorch’ because this is my first month with ‘Caravan’ and my first month in quite some time with the Torch. I can’t even compare my feelings about the two with one another.
The Torch is going to be similar in value to me as the Wrestling Observer. At least in so far as I will judge the worth of it based mostly on audio content. I like some of the Torch’s audio content but can do without a lot of it as well. Paying every 3 months means I pay slightly less for it than I do for Observer over that same time. That is more of an interesting fact than a contributing factor. I’m just a larger fan of Observer’s content. That doesn’t mean I will not renew my subscription to the Torch in November it just means that it being $3.50 less isn’t going to make that much of a difference. I won’t be making my decision on the Torch based on how much use I’m getting out of the Observer.

As for ‘Caravan to Midnight’ this one is going to be a lot like ‘Midnight in the Desert’. I won’t listen every night and will almost never listen live. The cost of my subscription is $15 every three months which is the exact same as paying $5/month for a subscription to Art.
‘Caravan’ has a more extensive archive being up since early 2014. I’m not as likely to go back through the archives and listen to a lot of shows though it is nice to know that I can. It is also guest dependent as there are some people or topics I’m just not going to have much of an interest in. Still, I have enjoyed the show so far. I consider it and ‘Midnight in the Desert’ to be what I call fringe radio. They would be classified by most as being Paranormal Radio but I don’t like the term.
Eventually, I will write a post going into greater detail why I like this type of radio and how I got interested in it in the first place.

Anyway, there is a summary of my entertainment lifestyle and the value that I put on things. What I discovered while thinking about this post is just how fluid the concept of worth is to me. The WWE and UFC provide similar services but I look at them in completely different ways.
I could use a service like SiriusXM for hours a day multiple times per month and not use Hulu at all during the same month but still feel better about the latter purchase than the former.

I think this is a good exercise for me to engage in because it serves as a reminder to me of what exactly I value and why. I don’t like to waste money, even if I had billions of dollars I wouldn’t like to waste money that is just the way I was raised and I am convinced part of that is in my nature as instinct. So any of these services as fond as I might be of them, if they make me feel like I’ve wasted my money I will cut them.

My current value scale would look like this:


CASEY’S WORTH IT RANKINGS

  1. Audible
  2. Wrestling Observer
  3. Caravan to Midnight
  4. Midnight in the Desert
  5. Netflix
  6. Hulu
  7. Pro Wrestling Torch
  8. WWE Network
  9. UFC Fight Pass
  10. SiriusXM Satellite Radio
  11. Kindle Unlimited

I went with ‘Caravan’ over ‘Midnight’ because while they are generally equal products and I am entertained by both, ‘Caravan’ does have more extensive archives which will make the key difference for a little while.
I went with Netflix over Hulu for one reason. Netflix is commercial free and commercial free is always going to be better than limited commercials. Hulu might be more worth it to me later when the new fall season arrives and shows are made available for viewing the next day. That just goes to show how fluid all of this really is.
If you looked at my rankings in January WWE Network might be second because of the Royal Rumble.

Why did I really write this? I didn’t write it to show you all of the different forms of entertainment I enjoy. I didn’t write this to give you a glimpse into how I spend my money. Even though the topic itself is about how I determine whether or not it is worth paying for another cycle of service, I didn’t really write this for that reason either.
Mostly I wrote it so that people could get a look at how I think about things in general. I wanted you to see how my decision making processes work. It won’t really matter to me what strangers think about how I reach the conclusions I reach on a question such as value/worth but for some reason I like letting people see that side of myself. So was this post worth writing? Absolutely!

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2 thoughts on “A Question of Worth

  1. Pingback: Thursday Ramblings: I Got My Nickel Back!!! | Random Catastrophe

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