The One Hour Project: Enjoy What You Have

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This post is part of The One Hour Project, in which you can spend just one hour to put your finances in a better place without a big lifestyle change, through frugality or other financial choices.

About six months ago, my wife and I were going through our DVD collection looking for items to clean out. As we did this, we rediscovered a pretty nice little pile of about twenty five DVDs or so that we deeply enjoyed but had found their way to the recesses of our collection. Rather than watching new movies for a while, we decided to go through this pile, watching a few movies a week until we had rewatched these old favorites.

So that’s what we did for the next two months. We cuddled up on the couch and rewatched Citizen Kane, My Man Godfrey, Arsenic and Old Lace, and so on (yes, we’re both big fans of old movies). The only expense for many evenings of fun was the energy to run the DVD player and the television and the cost of many bowls of homemade popcorn.

During this period, not only did we not buy a single DVD, but we also cancelled our Netflix subscription. We realized we already had more than ample entertainment, and if we got a strong desire to watch a specific new release, we could just rent it locally. Our entertainment budget dropped significantly.

We had so much fun doing this that we’ve since done the same with our book collection, rereading a big pile of our old favorites and even “bookclubbing” a few of them, where we read the same book at roughly the same pace and talk about it. I now have a pile of about twenty five books on my nightstand just waiting to be read – and they were all found in our book collection.

This provides three separate financial benefits. First, it keeps me from buying more media – I have no reason to buy more books for enjoyment (or even get them from the library) with a pile like that on my bedside stand. Second, it increases the value of the books I already own – getting several more hours out of each one makes them a more effective purchase. Third, it provides a very inexpensive and simultaneously very fulfilling activity to fill my time – not quite free, but pretty close to it – because a big stack of books to read often encourages me to read more than I would otherwise.

Here’s what you do.

Dig into one of your media collections and pull out twenty five items that make you excited when you see them. This can be books, DVDs, videos, CDs, old magazines – whatever you have a significant collection of. You can pull out more than 25, of course, but don’t pull out the majority of the collection, either (unless you’re deeply passionate).

Then, over the next few months, spend time enjoying the items you picked out. Read those books again (or maybe for the first time). Watch those DVDs. Listen to those CDs. Reread those old magazine articles. Just enjoy this stuff you have during your ordinary leisure time.

What happens? You’re suddenly making your leisure time far less expensive than it was before, while at the same time getting serious enjoyment out of things. This means a big savings in the pocketbook without giving up the things you enjoy.

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17 thoughts on “The One Hour Project: Enjoy What You Have

  1. Citizen Kane is a simply excellent movie. Good choice on that one. Haven’t yet seen those other two movies you mentioned, though.

  2. My husband does this all the time with his vast DVD/VHS collection. I think he does it mainly so parts of his collection don’t end up in the garage sale pile next time I feel the urge to de-clutter (see recent post on de-cluttering) :) It’s cool cuz I haven’t seen them all (we’re a few years’ age difference, so he’s got several I never saw growing up). As for books, I love them, but I barely have time to read one ONCE, let alone many times. Plus, with so many around, why waste time reading something more than once?

  3. Trent,

    I like your taste in movies! You just can’t beat the classics. (The only reason we have expanded cable is because of Turner Classic Movies).

    (P.S. I teach psych clinicals at our local School of Nursing and this summer we are going to watch “Harvey” – no matter what. I’m always amazed at the number of young people who’ve never even heard of this wonderful film.)

    As the previous poster said, we can all apply the same principle to books. If you saw our one & only bookcase, you would think we never read. The truth is we read more than anyone else we know – we just let the university library store our massive collection.

  4. I just went book “shopping” at home! So much fun, especially with books packed in boxes from the move. Also, being a recovering English major, I enjoy reading books for fun, not just for class and papers!

    I still use the library and borrow, but after going through them I realized that I don’t need any new ones. Well….there is this one….but we’ll see. ;-)

  5. Further to your post, my parents live a few hours away by plane and when I get a chance to visit them I always go through their library of books: I found to books by Peter Lynch and Hagstrom’s book on Warren Buffett – I read as much as I could while I was visiting, but also had reading material for a month after I returned home.

    We often exchange DVD’s as well – as they are “lacking” in the newer titles and I am equally lacking in the classics.

    No reason you couldn’t have a movie swap event with friends every couple of months!

  6. Great idea! I rarely by DVDs because I can’t justify it — I’ll watch them once and never look at it again (with rare exception, I did buy the Lord of the Rings DVDs for $5 apiece).

    The books are a different story — I have a large book collection and probably could find several books I haven’t read yet or others I need to reread.

  7. I love the sentiment in the headline of this post — it’s a great way to look at things. Although, I’ll stick with Netflix & the library since I only have 3 movies total. (The Red Violin is my favorite.)

  8. I too have never seen the point of collecting DVDs since I rarely watch a movie more than once. And for the few that I do, I just get them from NetFlix. At $11 a month, the service is way more than your money’s worth – I have watched a max of about 5-6 movies a week once when I was sick. Plus their collection can’t be beat.

  9. The same approach works well for clothes, too. Most people wear less than one third of what’s in their closet, so when you need something, it’s fun and frugal to “go shopping” in your own home before hitting the mall.

  10. This is OT, but in an earlier post, you recommended the book, “How to Cook Anything.” My copy arrived last week, and it’s terrific! I’m only moderately interested in cooking, but appreciate fresh, simple, healthy meals. This book covers EVERYTHING and is not condescending to non-foodies like me. Thanks!

  11. This is a great one to combine with the previous post. As I went through my bookshelves to get rid of things, I came across a lot of things that I remember being really good, but I’m not sure I still want to keep them. I’m reading my way through those, and deciding after I’ve reread them. I’m doing the same thing with my DVD collection.

  12. I understand that a good percentage of the population seemingly just buys DVD’s randomly and ends up with these big collections that they never watch and it makes sense to liquidate them.

    At one point a few years ago, I did sell about 1/3 of my collection on amazon.com to make some money and I just sincerely regret that because I often want to watch those films and now they’re gone and I either have to Netflix them again or buy them again. It wasn’t worth it.

    That said, I am getting tired of these posts that seemingly treat having a DVD collection as a bad thing. I own about 150 individual movies and about 20 boxed sets of TV shows. I also have NetFlix and TiVo and I also check out movies from my local library. While I am working on my financial situation, I don’t look at my DVD collection as this horrible thing to be raided for a few hundred bucks in cash. There isn’t a single DVD I own that I haven’t watched at least twice and wouldn’t watch again. I don’t buy movies unless I already love them. I actually get joy from just looking at the neat shelves of cases. Maybe I am just weird.

  13. I inherited a huge VHS collection from some friends who moved. We occasionally watch these but not too often. I think we will take your suggestion and watch them over the winter.

  14. I know what you mean about the books. I stumbled upon this idea by going through my home library for books to give to an orphanage. Now, I have around 30 books sitting on my nightstand, and I’m so excited about reading them!

    And it’s really true how this lowers normal spending on books. If I see a book I want, I’ll think of my nightstand and the desire for a new book just goes away.

  15. @wendy: I agree. We have several hundred well loved discs that we enjoy watching whenever we feel like a movie. We have been buying them since 99 or so. Back then they were almost giving them away. 3 for $1 sales, most were under $10 with our average price for all being right about $10 each.

  16. My friend gave me her collection of videotapes, about 250 in all! I watched almost all of them, saved the ones I really loved,(Jazz, Baseball and The Civil War by Ken Burns, New York by Ric Burns, some John Ford movies, some David Lean movies etc) then passed on the rest to a nearby senior citizen’s home. They were thrilled to get all these tapes for their library. The lady who took the tapes at the home then gave me a coupon for $25 that she wasn’t going to use at the Smart and Final stores. We had a regular Pay It Forward going on!! The library here lets us check out 5 DVDs at a time, and an unlimited amount of tapes. It currently has a collection of about 8,000 DVDs, so that’s good! By the way, the 1978 ( 1979?) version of The Thirty Nine Steps is cracking good, and you can hardly find it anywhere. I haven’t yet. Cheers!

  17. I love reading my books and will often re-read my favorites. I wanted to downsize, so a few months ago I started going through my books, movies and CDs to see what I could get rid of. I found a fun way to get rid of them and get something “new” in the process. I just swap them now for ones that I want on swaptree. It’s free except for the cost of shipping, which is usually only about $2.50. So you can get something “new” and get rid of something you don’t want for very little. You can trade books, CDs, DVDs, and games and you can trade one of any of these for one of any others. It’s pretty cool. The other good thing about this is that you are reusing, which is recycling and saving things from just being thrown away.

    We gave away our TV and I have never missed it in the past 3 years. There are so many other fun things to do but I do like to watch movies once in a while. We just watch them on our computer. If there’s one we want to get that we don’t have, we go to the neighbors first. They have a ton of movies that they’re always willing to lend. If they don’t have what we want, we can download it from Amazon and have access to it anywhere without having the extra clutter.

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