Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck in Entertainment
Entertainment can be very expensive. Sometimes it feels like buying that new AAA game or getting everything off of your pull list every Wednesday is breaking the bank. Trust me, I’m a nerd. It’s tough.
I may be a nerd, essentially surviving on entertainment, but I am a very frugal nerd. I don’t buy very many brand new comics. Unless a new game comes out that I simply cannot live without, I’ll gladly wait a year or so for it to go on sale. I only see movies in theaters that need to be seen in theaters (i.e. big budget action movies), and even then, if I have the option to go before noon on Saturday and get that beautiful discount, you bet your sweet ass I do that. The Summer and Winter Steam Sales every year are like a more expensive version of Christmas for me. I may be a nerd, but I’m one cheap bastard of a nerd.
Several years ago, in an attempt to justify various purchases and figure out what form of entertainment my money was best spent on, I devised a system to calculate the amount of money spent on entertainment per hour. Does that sound like a lot of math? Does that sound incredibly boring, like you want to leave this article right now before you read on and fall asleep? I promise, it’s actually incredibly simple, and it’ll save you some money. If you like wasting money, by all means, click that little red X in the top right of your browser. Your loss.
Now, for those of you still here, calculating the money spent on entertainment per hour is incredibly simple: You simply divide the total price of the piece of entertainment you are investing in by the number of hours of entertainment you are expecting to get out of it. That’s it. No fancy equations, no calculus or algebra or Microsoft Excel, none of that. You just divide two numbers (yes, you can use a calculator; I’m not your 9th grade algebra teacher giving you a test) and you can see how much you’re paying per hour for that piece of entertainment.
Even though this is very simple math, it is still math, and let’s face it: people don’t like math. People hate math. People want math to burn in Hell for all eternity for making them fall asleep in third period and getting called out by the teacher in front of THE ENTIRE CLASS WHEN THE GIRL YOU HAVE A CRUSH ON IS THERE.
…Sorry, that one hit a little close to home. And I actually like math.
The point is that math is boring and can be hard to follow. The best way to illustrate math is through example, so I’m going to lay out my three favorite examples to use with Barbeau’s Irrefutable Transaction Calculator for Hobbies, or BITCH for short (eh, the name is a work in progress):
1. Buying a video game with an estimated campaign length of 12 hours priced at $60.
2. Seeing a 2 hour long movie in theaters with tickets priced at $10.
3. Buying a standard 22-24 page comic book priced at $4.
At first glance, the video game seems to be the most expensive of the three options. And it certainly is an investment; $60 is a lot of money to spend at one time on entertainment. Conversely, comic books appear to be the more economically sound option, as one book is only $4. Who doesn’t have $4 to drop every now and then? Well, this is where the BITCH method comes into play. Let’s run the calculations and see what we get (again, total price divided by number of hours of expected entertainment equals dollars spent per hour of entertainment).
1. A $60 video game divided by 12 hours of expected entertainment gives us a value of $5 per hour. Video games can be tricky when calculating the amount spent per hour, because every game is completely different. If you’re buying a massive open world game like Skyrim or Far Cry, you’re probably looking at a hell of a lot more than 12 hours, which brings the amount you’re spending per hour down even further. That’s not even taking into account the endless replayability that comes from online or local multiplayer. Prices of games can also drastically vary, depending on what you buy, when you buy it, what format you buy it in, etc. There can be a lot of different factors that affect the price or hours, and the system can be easily adjusted to reflect that.
2. Paying $10 for a movie ticket to see a 2 hour movie in theaters amounts to $5 per hour spent on the movie. This one is simple, as a movie is exactly the same every time, so there are no outside factors affecting the time. Simply look up how long the movie is, the ticket price you’ll pay at whatever theater you’ll go to, and voila. Calculated.
3. Depending on how quickly you read, a standard 22-24 page comic book will typically take 15-20 minutes to read. For the sake of this example, I’m going to assume you’re taking your time a little bit and really appreciating the art in the book, and it takes you 20 minutes to read the issue. 20 minutes is one third of an hour, so to calculate the amount spent per hour, we will divide the $4 spent on the issue by one third of an hour. This gives us a total of $12 spent per hour of entertainment. “But Jordan, that doesn’t make any sense. I only spent $4 on the comic, what do you mean I spent $12 per hour on it?” Since the comic did not take a full hour to read, the amount spent per hour was calculated by approximating the fact that you would have to read three of those comics to take up one hour of time, with each of those comics costing $4 a piece. Thus, we get $12 per hour.
When broken down using the BITCH method, it’s easy to see that buying a comic book is by far the most expensive option at $12 for one hour of entertainment. This belies the reasonable up front price of the book, as that $4 is only providing you with 20 minutes of entertainment. Assuming the factors listed above, a video game and a movie come out to the same amount spent per hour (Again, these are very specific examples and not meant to be indicative of every movie or game, these are simply figures used for the sake of an example.).
Of course various factors are going to affect the calculations. Maybe you’re going to play that game 5 times. Maybe the movie sucks and you walk out 30 minutes in. Maybe that comic you’re reading is the greatest comic you’ve ever read, and your enjoyment of it is significantly higher than a 10 hour game you just beat that was only okay. There are a lot of factors and “what-ifs” that can affect the system. It’s not perfect, it’s just meant to be a jumping off point to help you make a purchasing decision (I’m a 22 year old kid from metro Atlanta, not a Harvard professor. Sorry the BITCH method isn’t a perfect system.).
The best thing about the system is that it can be adapted to whatever form of entertainment you want. Are you buying a novel? Figure out about how long it’ll take you to read that many pages, and divide that number into the price. Are you buying tickets to an NFL game? Figure out about how long you’ll be at the game and use that. It’s a very open method that can be adapted however you like.
I hope the wordy, boring, mathematical crap I just laid out for you has taught you something about money. Saving money is a very important thing to me, so if I can help even one person save some money while still enjoying themselves, I’ll be happy. So go out into the world and put the system to use, you bargain shopper, you. And remember: don’t spend like an idiot, spend like a BITCH.