We’ll Soon Be Bumping Up Our Netflix Plan

I’ve been a subscriber of Netflix for almost seven years.  I have gone through multiple plans and have rented over 600 movies in the seven years.  I actually am nerdy enough to where I keep track of my cost per rental, and as of August 2009 (last time I updated the numbers), I was running about $2.16 per movie.  I think that’s pretty good.

Back in my single days, especially when I was traveling, I was on a 3-discs-out-at-a-time plan.  I made great use of it.  As time has gone on, as we bought a bigger house, found new hobbies as a married couple, and began our family with the birth of Baby Beagle, I have lowered the plan a few times, to where I’m now on the most basic plan. We get one movie at a time for two rentals a month.  That works out to $2.50 per movie.  Right now, that’s been pretty good though there have been times that I would have liked more movies.

One of the things that Netflix started doing over the past year or two is streaming their movies to ‘Netflix ready’ devices.  The biggest of those was the Playstation 3 and the XBOX 360.  Various other devices, such as specific Blu-Ray players and devices designed only for Netflix streaming, exist as well.

I didn’t own any of those devices but thought it would be cool.

Now, I will have that chance.  We purchased a Nintendo Wii last year, and Netflix announced that they will begin support of streaming to the Wii beginning this spring.  All you need is a Wii that is connected to the Internet via wireless.  That’s the first thing I did with the Wii after plugging it in, so as soon as Netflix gets the partnership going, we’ll be good to go.  All they do is send you a disc that you pop into the Wii, and it will add a ‘Channel’ that will link up with your Netflix account, and we’ll be on our way!

That will make it a lot easier for us to watch and rent movies.  Though they only stream about 20% of their catalog, I know that there are plenty of movies that we could watch.  If we bump up to the minimum plan to support streaming videos, and watch two per month that way (in addition to two on DVDs), we’ll break even.  I don’t think we’ll have a problem with that because my wife and I have gotten into the habit of watching a movie on Saturday nights.  Right now, we watch two per month with Netflix, and we’ll spend the other two movies either watching a movie we own or trying to find one with our On Demand package or on Starz, both of which are included in our cable package.  Still, those two features only give us about 100 movies to choose from where the Netflix option will give us 17,000.

We’ve been talking about bumping the plan back up anyways.  Once they activate this option, this is a no-brainer.

I’m a big fan of Netflix and have always been.  Prior to that, I had used Blockbuster stores, which had high prices and horrible customer service.  Netflix has used technology over and over again to create new opportunities and ways for customers to experience movies.  They were the first to deliver DVDs to you via mailbox, and they were the first to then stream videos on a widespread basis.  They have said that over the next 10-20 years, they expect the DVD in the mail aspect to disappear altogether.  By then, who knows what else they’ll have come up with?

Chances are, I’ll be subscribing and will still be a satisfied customer!

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Haiti Relief: Use Charity Navigator Before Donating

By now everybody has surely heard of the massive devastation in Haiti as a result of Tuesday’s earthquake.  The scenes there are horrific, and I’m sure one of the first questions that many are asking are how they can help.

Charities and organizations will surely be jumping in to provide relief, medicine, food, shelter, and whatever else that they can to the people who are suffering as a result of this disaster.  These charities and organizations will need help in the form of donations.

Unfortunately, there will most likely be scams that pop up as well.  Get-rich-quick folks will set up shop collecting money that they claim will go toward the relief efforts, but unfortunately will just go into someone’s pocket.

Try to avoid these.

My suggestion is to use the website Charity Navigator.  This is a website that rates charities based on standard critieria.  You can see how charities perform in terms of actually giving back the money that they receive in donations to people in need.  This has been rated a valuable tool by multiple reputable organizations, and helps weed out charities that actually help from those that help only after those involved get their pockets lined.

A couple of quick tips before donating.

1) Try to pick three or four star charities.  These are the most highly rated, meaning that your dollars will end up where they say, and not covering advertising costs, paying high salaries, or other costs not associated with providing reliefs.

2) Follow the link from their website to the charity website.  Many scammers will set up a website that looks exactly like the actual website, and even create URLs that are close to where many people will not notice the difference.  Make sure you end up on the actual page of the charity.

3) Give generously.  Things are still being discovered, but from the pictures, reports, and first-hand accounts, it sounds like this could be one of the largest tragedies on the planet in decades.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those suffering due to this awful tragedy.

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Net Worth Review: January 2010

Here goes the first Net Worth update of the new year!

Overall, we saw a modest increase which is a good start to the year.  I think this year will be quieter than last as I expect the stock market (and hopefully the real estate market) to settle down.

Assets:

  •  Property – Zillow and CyberHomes estimates both went down again, but I didn’t ‘accept’ their percentage decline, as I had previously felt that they were overvaluing the house, and reduced their estimates.  They seem to have finally gotten the estimates more close to reality, so I cut out some of the reduction that I used on top of their values.  I think my number is pretty close based on activity I’ve been seeing in our neighborhood for similar type properties. 
  • Autos – I’ve seen a couple of blogs note the same thing that we discovered: Kelly Blue Book (which I use as the basis for our auto values) does a pretty substantial drop of car values from one calendar to the next.  A 2006 car that we own went down nearly 10% according to them. 
  • Investment Accounts – We saw a modest 3% gain for the month, which I’m happy with any time!
  • Cash – Cash decreased somewhat but this was expected, as the majority of the decline came from paying for our Christmas gifts with money that we’d chunked away throughout the year for that specific purpose.
  • Retirement – Our retirement account went up slightly under 3%.   

Debt:

  • Property – We made our standard mortgage payment.
  • Student loans – Minimum payments here for the month as has been the usual lately.
  • Credit cards – We carry no credit card balances!
  • Auto – We’ve paid off both cars outright so we have no auto loans!

I’m happy with the monthly progress that we made.  We hit another ‘all time high’ when you look at all aspects of our net worth that exclude our home.  We also hit another ‘all time’ high in retirement savings.  This is also the fourth straight month that we’ve had a gain in our net worth, and this is the first time since Nov 2006 – Feb 2007 that we’ve seen four consecutive positive months.  That’s a win in my book!   I once had a period of seventeen straight months with positive gains, so we have a long way to go to break that record, but I’m happy with the four months for now!

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Christmas 2009 Is In The Books

Christmas is always a great time of year and this year was no exception with the addition of Baby Beagle to the fray.  He made it a lot of fun even though he really had no idea what was going on.  Still, when we took him to see Santa, he gave Santa one look and then broke into the biggest smile, which won over Santa and everybody else that was in the area.

This past season, we created a budget and we also used money towards Christmas that we had started saving back in January.  I contributed an equal amount every month that was ‘earmarked’ for Christmas gifts.  In the past, we always paid our Christmas bills off, but we could handle a bigger bump in expenses for the month because both my wife and I were working.  Now that my wife is staying at home with Baby Beagle, we have less wiggle room for big fluctuations in our monthly spending, so the monthly contributions worked great.

I’m happy to report that, in addition to Christmas being over at our house (the decorations came down this past weekend), we have paid everything off.

How’d we do?

Pretty good!

We had crafted a budget prior to Christmas, and the overall number that we spent was pretty close.  There are always a few tweaks here and there but in the end, the final numbers came out to the amount we had budgeted.  This meant that we had enough in our ‘gift’ fund to cover the payments in full.

And, I was pleased to see that our payments to our credit card to cover the costs cleared last night.  Even though we always pay everything off, both my wife and I do most of our Christmas shopping on credit cards, simply so we can earn the 1-2% cashback rewards from our Citi Dividend Platinum cards. 

So, Christmas in officially in the books and I am very pleased!

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