On Father’s Day, I thought it would be the thing to do to eat hamburgers and see a movie with the kids and wife. There’s one place I like to go for burgers, so that was the easy choice to make. The movie, however, was another matter. So many choices. Which to see? It so happened that two movies that I was interested in seeing were in theaters that weekend. One was a new release, in theaters for only a short time. The other had been in theaters a couple months and had found its way to the second-run discount theaters (which used to be called “dollar theaters”). Which to see?
I thought of “The Richest Man in Babylon“, in which wealthy Arkad speaks about the many things that we won’t be able to do:
“… consider them but a part of that great multitude of desires that must go unsatisfied and regret them not.”
Arkad is making the point that there are an infinite number of things we might like to do, but we will never have the time, the appetite, the stamina, and (not to mention) the money to do them all. We need to make choices. The smart thing to do is find things that are equally enjoyable. Things that provide equal amounts of utility as economists say. Then choose the one that’s least expensive — especially if it’s free.
It’s fun to see the just-premiered movie. But when you think about it, a movie that’s been in theaters for a few months is just as new to you if you haven’t seen it yet. I spend a lot of time watching movies that are new to me but were made before I was born. That recent Father’s Day, it seemed that both movies were likely equally enjoyable. Pay more than $10 per person to see a movie just because it’s new? Not me. Why not see the movie at the discount theater and save over $6 per ticket? And that’s what we did. (And we enjoyed “The Jungle Book” very much. Maybe we’ll see “Finding Dori” when it’s at the second-run theater.)
Board games are a very low-cost form of entertainment.
Years ago, I got the classic “Battleship” game at the local Goodwill for $2. My kids must have played it at least 100 times when they were young. A penny per person for each time they played. Compare that to the cost of going to the movies.
When my daughter went to college, she found some friends who liked to play board games. She learned of a game called “Settlers of Catan”. Because other people had purchased the other games that she’d played, she decided she would like to treat the group to the “Settlers of Catan” game. She asked if I’d get it for her for Christmas. It cost about $40 (after a coupon discount). Later I asked her about it and she told me her group had played it at least a few dozen times. Even without buying from Goodwill, it was still a great value. Assuming it takes 4 people a couple hours to play one game, that’s less than 20¢ for each person’s hour of play. And that’s just while she was in college. She still has the game, even after she’s graduated and started her first job in the big city. The only thing that’s a better value than that is a walk in the park.
If you have memories from before the 2000s, you might remember when “videos” meant “videotapes”, usually in VHS format. (“Betamax” was the other format, but it was the loser in the videotape format war.) Despite being replaced by the DVD, there are still huge numbers of movies and other forms of fine video entertainment available on VHS tape. Today they are available at bargain prices. You can find them at Goodwill stores and other thrift shops, library book sales, yard sales, and the like. Ebay and Craigslist also. Many of these tapes have never been viewed and are still in their original shrink wrap. Others, though unwrapped, are in perfect or near-perfect condition. Look at the the plastic cassette and label. The less worn and handled they look, the more likely the tape is in good-or-better condition and will play perfectly. If the exterior of the cassette is very worn, scratched, or dirty, then it’s probably seen better days, and there’s a good chance the tape has been played many times and may be worn out to the point of being unwatchable.
Many manufacturers make DVD-VHS combo players that can play both DVDs and VHS tapes. I find it’s worth having one so I can take advantage of the current buyer’s market in VHS tapes. They often sell for $1 each or even less. I can’t count how many movies I have watched and enjoyed on VHS. In retail stores, there might be a few DVDs that cost $1, but they are old out-of-copyright second- and third-rate movies and television shows of the lowest quality. Or they might be good movies that are out of copyright, but the DVD has been produced from an inferior copy of the original, maybe a tape that was created for television 30 years ago, badly cropped and edited for commercials. The VHS tapes of yesteryear, on the other hand, are major motion pictures, Academy-award winners, things a movie-buff would really want to see. Sure, a DVD will produce a better picture, but there a lots of movies I’m just not willing to spend $15 or more to see. Pre-recorded VHS tapes are a very affordable alternative to DVDs.