iTunes? Netflix?

Neither of these really have to do with my war on clutter and rampant consumerism, but iTunes and Netflix have been under discussion.

We have been talking about whether iTunes are a need or a want.

The resolution thus far is that while it is not a “need” for me who does not own an iPod, my older children consider it a “need.” And since there is no visible clutter coming into the house from their $1 purchases, and they already own the iPods, I told them it was fine.

With one caveat, from now on they will be spending their own money on their purchases. Which really they should have been all along. But I am a big old softie, or maybe I am just too lazy to collect their money. Hard to tell.

I have a love/hate relationship with Netflix. I love that I am able to get movies and documentaries for the kids that are not available at our local store. But there is not a big convenience factor for me. I still have to drive to the post office to drop them off and pick them up, since we have no mail delivery.

We had it set up so that we could have four dvds out at any one time. But that was totally overkill. Especially since we would end up keeping all of them for weeks and weeks at a time. So I cut it down to two dvds starting February 1st. That’s $10 a month I’m not spending. And maybe it will motivate me to return the dvds that we do get more quickly.

Yeah, wishful thinking.

49 Responses to “iTunes? Netflix?”

  1. Kelly Says:

    Netflix and I have the same love hate relationship. I do use it for homeschooling it is great for that.

    Itunes is a luxury for us and if the kids want it they pay for it not me. I really have to have a good excuse for using it for myself for I do not have an ipod either.

    I love the fact that you are doing this site. It keeps me motivated.

  2. Melissa Says:

    I know I’m echoing a lot of other commenters, but thank you for sharing this. You’ve really got me thinking about my NEEDS vs my WANTS. I was looking through the Costco add last night, and considering exactly what we need in the house (formula and toilet paper) and what just looked shiny (a lot! Curse the warehouse!) We definitely must stop spending so much but clutter is a secondary consideration, and I appreciate what you have to say.

  3. Heidi Says:

    Great thoughts. I agree that netflix or are not clutter since you don’t accumulate anything at all. We have the one DVD blockbuster deal and it seems to work fine for us.

  4. Ladybug Crossing Says:

    We don’t have a video store. We don’t do netflix. I make them read or watch tv. The movies will show up on the tv eventually… oh and we don’t to ppv either. I’m cheap AND mean.

  5. Maxine Says:

    You can minimize your delivery time cost by scheduling a mail pick up online at I have done it for many packages and there is no added fee. If it is something that requires postage, you can buy and print that online as well as long as you know the weight, minimizing trips to the p.o.

  6. Mommy mommy Says:

    why don’t you get mail at your house??? I thought you were in a little town, not out in the boonies…

  7. Carolyn Says:

    We still have the 3 at a time deal going…which my husband HATES. ‘Course, he also doesn’t watch 85% of the movies that come in (occasionally he’ll ask for a certain one but those moments are few and far between…esp since he now has the whole Bourne series…he’s in hog heaven). He hates it even more when the weather turns nice because dang it…we should be outside (even though those nights the ’skeeters are like vultures…capable of swooping in and carrying off the 6 yo), enjoying the night.

    Still…the ouch factor when we DO decide to go in and rent a movie from BlockBuster…$5??? are you kidding me??? It’s not even a new movie. I”m still recovering from heart failure the last time I did that.

    So, I’m good with Netflix. Itunes? Only the 13 yo is into it. Luckily we have enough hard music on CDs from teh ’80s hair bands that he’s a happy camper (for the most part).

  8. Haley Says:

    Thank you for this post. It has reminded me that in a recent promotion I signed up for Netflix, although I already had Blockbuster online. So, now I’m paying for both and must choose. Oh, what will it be? I love living vicariously through you and this year off from spending! I am learning so many things! Thank you!

  9. steph Says:

    do any stores in your area offer the RedBox video thing? our WalMart and a few supermarkets have them. they’re $1 a night but you can always find free codes online. might be a better choice than netflix?

  10. Janssen Says:

    We finally cancelled Netflix because we just couln’t get through the movies, especially when we considered the movies we wanted to watch from friends and the library.

  11. The Simple Family Says:

    I say all are “wants.” That’s just me….I do not consider an iPod full of new songs a necessity, especially if it already has songs on it.

    Between movies we own and the library, we really don’t need NetFlicks, though we were just given a gift of 3 months of it for Christmas.

  12. carrie Says:

    If I had to drive to the post box, I’d be better off going to the video store! But I love my Netflix, and the 3 dvds that spend way too much time on top of my tv, waiting to be watched. And, my mailbox is across the street, so not so much of a commute.

    Now, if I could just get people to stop purchasing “movies on demand” through the cable . . . there’s a few dollars a month I’d rather see earning interest!

  13. rhonda jean Says:

    I so admire you for what you’re doing. It will be difficult but the good things are often tough. I stopped buying wants a few years ago and have made my life much better because of it. Good luck and warm wishes.

  14. Melody Says:

    I would DEFINITELY say that iTunes is a need! ;) Music is the key to my sanity (right along with food and air).

    As for Netflix, we have the Blockbuster equivalent (except they give us a free movie coupon once a month as well, and we can trade our mailed movies in at the store for another movie) but we too have the problem of even watching them! I’ve now had the same two movies for at LEAST two weeks and no telling when we will ever watch them.

  15. girlymama Says:

    I think Netflix is a total friend to those fighting clutter. NOt only do we love that we can get such a great variety of movies, but we don’t have to buy anything! We already have waaaaaaaaay too many dvds as it is. Plus Blockbuster is so expensive!
    I-Tunes have also replaced my buying cds, which fights clutter but I’m not sure I will save money in the long run, since now I’ll have to buy another i-pod when mine dies….

  16. Anastasia-Jane Says:

    We too only have a po box even though we live in a decent sized town. So, we have never netflixed and there isn’t a blockbuster here. We don’t do itunes, I guess my kids are still to young. We do however have a local video store that has what they call Kids Club. For $10 a month you can have 3 “family movies” out at a time. We joinged for a few months but I just found myself making to many trips to the video store to get new movies. So, we quit a few months ago and they haven’t really asked about it since. I think we had watched all the good movies anyway. We also do not have tv reception so I guess they have to make do with books or watch their same old movies over and over again. Oh, I do hit the $1 DVD section at Walmart. We have found some decent if somewhat old movies there and they don’t have to be returned either. It’s realy hit or miss. We just got through watching a DVD of Mr. Wizard from the 50’s. Kind of neat, the kids like it anyway!

  17. Jerri Ann Says:

    Better you than me, that’s all I can say.

  18. Jen Says:


    I am new to your blog and am thoroughly enjoying your “adventure”. My question: I have read through the archives (much of it) but I can’t find any original post on why you are going a full year with no shopping, how you intend to do it, etc. Is there something I am missing? I would love to know you r thoughts/reasoning for this. Thanks!

  19. melanie Says:

    Here ya go:
    Free and no clutter–problem solved!

  20. Gena Says:

    I love/hate Netflix as well. We are currently doing the 2 at a time version and we watch TV shows and get movies for homeschooling. As for iTunes - my girls have my mother’s credit card on file for those and they have to discuss with her how much they spend (she lives with us in an apartment in our downstairs). So, they either get her to spend the money, or they have to save to buy giftcards. I’m not giving up shopping completely, but we do NOT eat out and we’re only buying what we actually need, as in food, personal items, medicines and some clothing. I also try to buy clothing and things like that at Goodwill or other resell places.

  21. The Chatty Housewife Says:

    Not sure if someone already mentioned this in the comments, but there are a lot of them, so I didn’t read through them all.

    Netflix are/will soon be available through the internet straight to your TV/Monitor. No more packaging OR driving!

  22. Ellen Says:

    As always, I so respect what you are doing. Reading your posts keeps it all fresh in my mind. It is already the 10th and I haven’t bought a thing other than food. All thanks to you! Thank you for opening up my mind. We do Netflix but my DH & I watch a TV series almost every night (only 30 min, helps us wind down etc.) We’ve gone through all the Star Trek series, Sex in the City, and X-Files. We love it. We don’t do iTunes but our kids are still little.

    I think things may shift into ‘not buying anything you don’t need’ which, while admirable, isn’t necessarily your initial idea. You wanted to reduce clutter. Saving money wasn’t necessarily on the agenda. It’s like going on a diet - don’t be too hard on yourself right away or you may give up. You know?

    As usual, thank you for opening my eyes to my retail therapy addiction!!

  23. Christy Says:

    We cut netflix as soon as we found out that our library system here has TONS of movies, including new releases and TV series. I just brought home two Michael Buble cds from there tonight…instead of getting them on iTunes. I’m kind of proud of myself for thinking of that before just running straight to the computer and downloading them. I’m at the library at least once a week, so it works for me.

  24. craftythriftymama Says:

    I’d say itunes is definitely a want. I’d love to know the kids’ reasoning in justifying it as a need! But then I am one cheap and mean mommy! Now Netflix could be justified if you are saving the money on cable, etc. and getting movies instead. But have you looked at your library? Most have an extensive movie selection. Just a thought! BUT… now that I think of it, your goal is not really to save money but to avoid clutter so maybe they don’t need to be justified at all since they bring about no clutter. I guess you need to identify your goals in this endeavor! But I’m sure you already have and I’ve just missed them somewhere.

  25. Lazy Organizer Says:

    I’m slowly weaning my family off of movies. I have my husband down to about one Redbox movie every couple months now when he used to bring something home every week. Yay for me, our vcr just broke so I had to pack up all the videos and haul them to the basement. I want them out of our house all together. Bring on the dark ages!

  26. lizzie Says:

    Cancel both for a year and then reevaluate. Just do it.

  27. Jennifer Says:

    We cancelled Netflix because we have Verizon Fios in which you can download movies and TIVO stuff on HBO. It didn’t seem worth it to pay for that and have a DVD service. Plus, we don’t really rent movies all that much. When my kids were younger, I used the library a lot for DVDs. Because I was there for story time each week, it made sense to rent a movie for a week and then return it the following week at no charge. But the whole trick to that was being on a regular schedule so I didn’t forget about the DVD and pay the late fee.

  28. hollygee Says:

    iTunes comes with my Mac, but I don’t use the music store. I stream radio shows that I want to listen to while I work. So it is a necessity. Netflix is too. We live in a 320 square foot house [two adults only], we do not get broadcast television unless we pay for cable. Netflix is 80% less expensive. Library books are 100% less expensive. We make good use of both.

  29. Brigitte Says:

    Sometimes you can get videos/dvds from OTHER libraries delivered to your library, at least it’s worked for us a few times. And if you have some kind of expanded cable package, you can watch on-demand stuff, some of which is even free.

  30. TalCatt Says:

    iTunes are a necessity at my house. The kids do their chores much more conscientiously while listening to music on their iPods. To a mother with 5 kids, that is a HUGE need in my house.

    In January of last year, my whole family fasted a month of TV, computer, and video games. It was GREAT! We spent more time together talking, reading, playing board games, and such. After the fast, we limited the amount of TV, computer, and video games…A LOT. We gave up Tivo and cable a couple months later; and while there isn’t any de-cluttering value in that, it does equal BIG savings and GREAT benefits to my whole family.

  31. Tara Says:

    I have just read through your January so far. I can just say, good for you! I’d like to join you on some level, but on another level I’m pretty sure my husband would wonder what had happened to his wife and what was he supposed to do with this alien who lives here! At least I’m thinking on the purge/not replaced stuff line of thinking though. Baby steps. Baby steps.

  32. Elizabeth Says:

    To me, both are wants. As long as I have a walkman (gasp) w/fm/am radio, a car with radio, and a stereo and such indoors I will never have an IPod (or however it is spelled.)

    I get our movies at the library, and I go once a week. I don’t even have a cell phone - but think we NEED one for trips, but that is it. I never want to be a cell phone driver or speaking on a phone in public. I am 40 - so not ancient, but also refusing to be attached to stuff. (and there is a real concern about cell phone/health - cancer…)

  33. Shari Says:

    How about your library for DVD’s?
    We live in a very SMALL town, and we still have 3 libraries in this and surrounding counties with a HUGE selection of movies FOR FREE!! In fact, we just learned that the new library in the town we’re moving to next week has the biggest selection w/ the best rental terms (3/person for 2 wks each!!) Hope this helps! LOVE the no shopping idea, and am going to try it myself, along with some other friends over on my blog. Good luck, and happy not shopping!

  34. Lisa Says:

    I have Netflix. Cancelled it once but renewed right away the next month. I usually don’t get new releases, but series and documentaries — things like that we can watch together as a family. We don’t have cable, get three channels and only two of them come in very well. I like it that way. When I had satellite I spent waaay too much time watching VH1 and E. I refuse to do itunes — I will not be a slave to proprietary software. I get all my mp3’s at a place where they are 10 cents each. That makes me really happy. I put $20 in an account there over a year ago and still have most of it left. I download obscure music though too, not the usual top 20. We don’t have a public library where I live — can you believe it? So free movies/cds aren’t on the list for us.

    I admit that it is hard to not buy things I don’t need. Sometimes I have to sit on my hands so to speak. My brother came by with his new iphone a week or so ago and I was all “oooh! A SPARKLY!” It’s taken a lot of hand-sitting to not go out and get one of those. Even though I know I think it would be cool for about a week and then I would be worried about losing it as I lose phones all the time.

    I had the sticker shock epiphany at Target after the holidays too. I mean did I really need those round rocks to put in a vase? When I could have gone outside and gotten regular rocks? But they were so round and smooth and shiny. . .. .

  35. crockpot lady Says:

    my husband was given an IPod from a client at work. We filled it with songs from the cds we already own.
    I don’t like any of that new-fangled music anyway. lol

  36. Penelope Anne Says:

    You know you bring about the perfect example of how one person sees something as a “need” while another sees it as a “want”….we’ve been discussing this alot with the boys working on Personal Management for Scouts.
    Definitely make them pay for their Itunes, and good for you on cutting down on the Netflix.

  37. Jenni Says:

    I’m thinking about canceling NetFlix at my house. Really, we don’t get much use from it because the movies sit around FOREVER. Plus, the grocery store that I go to has a movie rental place in it and their rentals are about $2 for 2 nights for new releases!

  38. Amy Says:

    We get our movies from the library, but I think it depends on your library if that is worth the effort or not. The system in our area is like going to Blockbuster so I feel like we get our movie fix, but our library only charges $.25 per day.

    Don’t know if you live anywhere near a Redbox, but those are super affordable and they run codes every Monday for a free movie. That has saved us a lot too.

  39. Marsha Says:

    I’m sort of anti-Ipod, so I can’t comment on that.

    As for netflix, I like it. I can’t return in my own mailbox, either, although they do get delivered to me. We get two at a time and I am always fighting my urge to get three. For now, two gives me space to desire something and, since I am convinced that fulfilling all of one’s desires is a bad thing, I’m trying to hang on to that feeling.

    Every now and again I feel like I will cancel Netflix altogther, but then I remember that our library charges $3 for a movie and only allows 2 day borrowing with no renewal and a $1.50/day late fee. Since we try to not go out on random errands more than once every 7/10 days, that system quickly priced itself out of contention. Netflix it is.

  40. nashvegas Says:

    Since you’ve admitted your goal is to reduce clutter, and you’re not doing this out of financial need, I don’t think iTunes would be considered a luxury.
    And it could work as a good way to teach the kids some budgeting tricks - they can save their money for (or get as gifts) iTunes gift cards. When you’re signed onto your iTunes account, it tells you up at the top how much credit you have, so they can learn to budget their music purchases, knowing that when the number goes down to zero, it’s gone.
    I just got my first iPod for Christmas, and I’m actually doing this myself. More than one person has warned me that iTunes is like crack, and you’ll nickel and dime yourself into the poorhouse if you’re not careful!!
    I’ve never done Netflix, so I can’t help you there.

  41. Tara Says:

    I am a huge fan of both Netflix and iTunes. And it is interesting that you mentioned this in your column today, because I was pondering the same question that you posed: need or want?

    In my house, iTunes is almost an essential. My daughter and I listen to music almost constantly, and our current tunes list becomes tired after a while. But I have noticed that the number of tunes she adds to the cart grows every month. If this is something she really “needs”, then I need to be a more diligent parent and have her pay for her choices.

    Last year Netflix was a necessity. We did not have television feed in our house (no channels), but rented movies on a very regular basis. I loved it! We maintained that lifestyle for almost 4 years. However, bowing to pressure from my daughter I finally agreed to get Dish. (And honestly… after 4 years of 7+ movies and documentaries a week you feel as if you have seen it all.) Now we never watch movies, so Netflix has become a want, not a need.

    With either one, I guess I could spend my $ on worse things. At least I am not brining a lot of DVDs and CDs into my house that will eventually clutter my shelves. Can’t name the last time I watched any of the 100+ movies sitting in my cabinet. Trying to remind myself why I own them again… ???

  42. Kate Says:

    I agree completely with nashvegas—the goal is to reduce clutter and STUFF. An iPod with three songs on it takes up exactly as much space as an iPod with 700 songs on it. The kids are buying their own songs with their own money (teaches budgeting!). I also feel like it’d be an unnecessarily harder year if you cut out those music purchases. I mean, these kids are teenagers (or near teenagers) and they’re doing this whole reduce clutter/nothing that’s a not a NEED thing in good spirits, but I think if you also cut out new music the whole project would lose luster much more quickly.

  43. redb Says:

    I found you through The Simple Family and have to say you (and her) are really inspiring to me. I went into Walmart yesterday for three things and actually walked out with three things.

    I only recently read someones comment (can’t remember where) on getting CD’s from the library to put on your ipod and could have smacked myself. I’m at the library all the time and never thought of this. I’ve put six new CD’s on my ipod this week alone! Plus if I want to try someone new and find I don’t like them? Delete with no guilt!

    I don’t use Netflix I use Greencine (more eclectic selection) and Hollywood video for new releases but am totally ok with this since we de-cluttered our tv bill by cancelling all our pay channels (HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Showtime, Encore, because yeah, we needed all those.)

  44. Canwemakeit? Says:

    We have been having the same conversation about Netflix. I think that reducing it is a good middle ground . At least for us we are not doing this to the crazy extreme. Some entertainment is good for you.

  45. Stephanie Says:

    We just canceled netflix yesterday, but it was to save money, not to de-clutter.

    We just figured we can watch movies on TV or from our own already purchased collection of DVDs that is taking up three shelves in my family room.

  46. Lisa @domestic accident Says:

    Where do you all live so that you have libraries with dvd’s to be borrowed? Apparently, such technology hasn’t reached the frozen tundra. A library with current movies and documentaries? Definitely a want for me!

  47. jody Says:

    Hmm. You could get the Netflix via your ‘puter and just plug it into the TV and have instant view! We did that while living in the trailer.

    Music, for me, would be part of homeschooling with the Arts. I just love it, and find it so good for the soul. Tell them they have to download one classical piece each month. :*)

  48. Angie Says:

    To me, these are both wants. Just because something is something we really enjoy, I don’t think it makes it a need. If the only goal is reducing clutter, then these are not items that clutter. However, I still think they are categorized more appropriately as wants instead of needs.

    I definitely know that I save money using iTunes to buy music over what I used to buy. I have had an iPod for a little over a year, and love it. I just bought a bunch of music not too long ago, but that was because I received $35 in iTunes gift cards for Christmas. What a treat!

    We are on the one movie at a time from Netflix plan (with unlimited per month, but just the one at a time). This is plenty for us. There is a super quick turn around time, so it’s all good. :) We only rent movies for us (hubby & I) from Netflix. Kids movies we only borrow from the library, which we can do five DVDs at a time, and are able to keep them for a week. Love it!

  49. LDH Says:

    depends on your intention…are you looking at needs and wants to save money or to reduce clutter? Netflix and Itunes are wants if you are focused on saving money, but not necessarily if you are looking to reduce clutter, as they don’t cause clutter. Seems your intention is more about clutter reduction, so I would say that while they are both wants, they are acceptable. Consider too that music/movies are more an experiential kind of thing, not a tangible piece of matter. so if you’re willing to spend money on experiences at the acquariam, why not the experience of music or movie? Depends too on music consumption habits. I tend to be an obsessor, so when I download something, I listen to it a lot, for years, even. Others tend to download tons of stuff and only listen once or twice. But if you download a song and enjoy it repeatedly for years, like I do, that’s one of the best investments you’ll get for a dollar, right? Something that will last longer than the stuff they have in the target dollar bin, true?

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