Over the last few months, my wife and I have been doing a lot of traveling by car. To help pass the time on the road, we’ve been borrowing a lot of books on tape from our local library. On our most recent trip, we finished Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol  (we weren’t big fans) and have started on Ender’s Shadow  (so far it’s been good). While both of the audiobooks cost us nothing, since they were from the library, we were able to spend hours enjoying a book (or not enjoying a book) at very little cost.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that The Lost Symbol cost over thirty dollars on unabridged audiobook from Amazon. Thirty dollars is a lot to spend on a book, audio or otherwise. I understand the reasoning, there’s a lot of production value that goes into converting a book to an audiobook (I thought it was a well done audiobook), but it’s actually quite cheap when you break it down to per hour costs of entertainment.
My closest analogy is video games. If you’re a fan of first person shooter games and own an XBox 360, chances are you’ve been playing a lot of Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 2 . I know I have… like it’s older brother, COD 4: Modern Ware, it’s a fantastic game that has some fantastic replay-ability.
On the face of it, $59.99 per game (recently MW2 was lowered to $45 ), it seems expensive right? I mean one game for over sixty dollars after taxes? Seems absurd until you start comparing it with forms of entertainment.
Here are some forms of entertainment to compare it with:
- Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol: $31.50 for 17 hours, 51 minutes, $1.76 an hour.
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2: $45, at 72 hours so far, $0.63 an hour (and lowering).
- Cable Television – $60 a month, 161.5 hours a month (according to NielsenWire ), $0.37 an hour.
- Movie – 2 hours for $10, $5 an hour
- Disney Theme Park – $79 per day, ~10 hours a day, $7.90 an hour
Renting vs. Buying Fun
Notice a theme? You’re either buying or renting entertainment. In the case of audiobooks and video games, you’re buying the entertainment and using it as long as you want. When you’re done, you can sell it or give it away for someone else to enjoy. In the case of the last three, you’re merely renting fun. You can’t sell your TV service or your movie watching experience afterwards.
When you think about it, the decision is a lot like buying or leasing a car. Do you want to buy the car, drive it incrementally for free, or do you want to lease it and effectively pay per use? With entertainment, do you want to rent fun or buy fun and enjoy it over and over? That’s why it makes so much sense to buy things like games, whether it’s video games or board games (or just a deck of cards!), if you want to maximize your entertainment dollars.
How to Maximize Entertainment Dollars
The key to maximizing your entertainment dollars is to try to borrow or buy items that provide perpetual entertainment – books and games (video or board games), rather than rent items that provide a very transient entertainment – such as events (movies, sporting events). When you spent $35 on a board game like Settlers of Catan  or Dominion , you get near limitless playability for your dollar.
Sometimes we try to maximize the fun things we can do for free, like taking a stroll in the park, but for the things we pay for, we usually don’t think about maximizing our entertainment dollars quite the same way. A $59.99 game seems expensive because you’re spending $60 all at once, but you’re really getting to enjoy it over a longer period of time.
What are your favorite ways to maximize entertainment dollars?