Frugal Living 

Are You Maximizing Netflix?

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We don’t use Netflix because we don’t watch a lot of movies but a lot of our friends do. One of the things I notice quite a bit, and something that my friends freely admit, is that my friends don’t watch a lot of movies either and they will have the same movies for weeks at a time.

I recognize that Netflix isn’t about watching as many movies as you can. Part of Netflix’s appeal is in their extensive library of movies, movies you would never be able to find in a Blockbuster store like indies and foreign films. However, if you’re one of the Netflix subscribers who is really into the cost benefit analysis game, there’s a website called FeedFlix that will do all that for you without any additional help. You don’t have to sign up or anything, you just have to paste in one of your RSS feeds into their box and a wealth of personalized usage information appears.

I don’t have a Netflix account so couldn’t run myself but I asked my friend Jeremy at for one of his feeds and he obliged, here’s his usage:
Feedflix Netflix Usage

According to Feedflix, Jeremy holds DVDs for about 5-6 days and each rental costs about $3.96, which puts him in the 67th percentile. Since the data only seems to find December, there isn’t much historical data to play with but if you’ve had it for quite some time then you might be able to see some trends. You might even want to pause Netflix during those slower periods.

Some caveats about Feedflix:

  • It seems to be a bit inaccurate, Jeremy said that his wife easily returns more than 1 DVD a week and that they’ve had service for longer than December, which is the only month that appears.
  • It doesn’t take into account movies you watch streaming across the web, which is how Jeremy watches most of his movies. (through his XBox 360).

Give it a whirl, let me know what you think!

{ 14 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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14 Responses to “Are You Maximizing Netflix?”

  1. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for the mention. Actually, it looks like they have updated the data quite a bit, and after running it again, our stats are much more accurate. We’ve returned almost 450 movies since 2004. Hard telling how many have been streamed online.

    But our bottom line now says: Your cost/DVD rental is $2.12 Your cost/movie (including Instant Watch) is $1.0

  2. We used to take forever to return movies and I advocated cancelling Netflix since we weren’t getting eough value out of it. But then we got a Roku (a little box you can hook up to your tv to stream movies from your Netflix cue) and since then our cost per disc (we watch a lot of tv series with multiple discs) has plummeted. It cost $100 as an initial outlay, but that will amortize very quickly at the rate we’re going.

  3. Ben says:

    Average of 14 days for me. Still beats all those late fees I used to pay.

  4. Peter says:

    I just tried this and it says:

    Your cost/DVD rental is $1.87

    so not too bad. Like Jeremy, we watch a lot of movies via the xbox 360 though, that’s the way of the future!

  5. Stephen says:

    It seems like a big leap of faith to give a group like FeedFlix access to your account. Wouldn’t they have a lot of information on you that is quite valuable to retailers? Wouldn’t Amazon love to know how much Sci-fi I watch or that I have kids that like Disney movies.

  6. Glenn Lasher says:

    I do have an optimization, though I haven’t been applying metrics to determine how well I’m doing.

    In a nutshell, I have observed that when the envelopes arrive, they may have any of several different return addresses on them. Most come from Albany, NY (which is the next city east of where I live), but others may come from Binghamton, NY or Worcester, MA, and in two particularly degenerate cases, one came from somewhere in VA, and another came from Seattle, WA.

    My optimization is this: I get two movies at a time, and send them back two at a time (you can put two discs in one envelope, according to the legend on the back of the tyvek sleeves they come in). By doing this, I end up with a sufficient surplus of envelopes that I can discard any that don’t say Albany on them.

    Having done that, I reduce the shipping time from my house to Netflix, thereby reducing the turnaround time.

  7. thomas says:

    I have netflix and just reduced my number of movies at a time based on my usage. I’ve been getting less in the mail, as I’ve held on to dvds longer. I’ve also increased my streaming through my xbox and computer. Netflix is a great service for those that take advantage of all their benefits.

    Great trick by Glenn. Of course, you have to be careful that they always mark the 2nd dvd. it’s happened before. I usually write “2 dvds” on the sleeve to be safe.

  8. carla says:

    We have it set to three movies a week and I think that’s too much. I don’t watch that many movies, but my fiancée loves the idea of having it anyway.

  9. Karen says:

    Another beni with netflix (if you get 3 dvd’s) is the on-demand movies. We just got a new laptop and we like to watch old movies instantly. The video stream is very good quality. The movies are older and not always the blockbusters, but we always find something interesting. Our kids watch a lot of the classics on their laptops. Not to mention the summer we O.D.’d on Alfred Hitchcock movies. My kids had a new appreciation for M.Night Shymolon (sp?) after that.

  10. david says:

    We are on the 1 at a time $9 plan, and return about 3 a month on average, so it’s about $3 a movie. Cheaper than our local rental place, and we can watch movies online too. Quite a steal, really.

  11. Cathy Quik says:

    Ha ha! I love your trick Glen! I think it is pretty funny/awesome that Netflix efficiency optimization software exists 🙂

    By the way, I’m new on the blog block, thought I’d just say hello to introduce myself 🙂 Hopefully I’ll be back here often!

  12. Webomatica says:

    Obviously the trick is to be dilligent about not holding onto the mailed movies too long. But we recently got the Netflix / Roku box – it’s a really good deal – 99 bucks and it’s all the movies you can watch without the wait for the mail. Suddenly our 2 discs a month netflix account is the best deal going.

  13. T. says:

    You can suspend your Netflix account for 7 to 90 days at a time [Main Page->Your Account -> Put membership on hold]. There are no charges for the time your membership is on hold. You have to return the movies you have and you can’t watch online/streaming, but everything else is the same.

    So if you find you don’t have time to watch movies, or you don’t watch in the summer, or during March Madness or whatever, suspend your account and save the money!

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