Updated on 02.20.07

Cash That Just Gathers Dust: A Technique For Paring Down Your Media Collection

Trent Hamm

When I was spending money like it was water, I was buying about ten CDs and DVDs a week. I was a media addict, buying all kinds of music and movies without knowing much about them at all – following off-the-cuff recommendations and “trendy” sites like Pitchfork Media.

While I did discover a lot of things that are very dear to my heart now (for example, the greatest album ever recorded), most of the stuff I bought turned out to be utter rubbish that I really didn’t like all that much, with varying degrees of like and dislike among them.

Eventually, I reached financial meltdown and I found myself staring at a mountain of CDs and DVDs that were basically signs of my frivolous spending, but as I went through them, I had a difficult time deciding which ones to sell and which ones to keep. So I developed a plan that has worked amazingly well for me, and it might help you to figure things out, too.

First, I divided my collection into two, with one “collection” starting out completely empty. I did this with both my DVD and CD collection, of course.

Then, for the next six months whenever I watched a DVD or listened to a CD, I put that one into the formerly empty collection. It became clear after a while that the “new” collection was full of things that I actually enjoyed, and the ones left behind were the ones that I didn’t enjoy.

When the six month mark came up, I went through the remaining DVDs and CDs, saved just a few of them, and sold the rest. There were a few items that I didn’t want to part with for sentimental and child-related reasons, and there were more than a few that my wife refused to get rid of, but when the first purge occurred, I sold off more than half of my DVD collection and a good-sized portion of my music collection.

Then, I started over. This enables me to filter out anything new that I’ve purchased that is really unnecessary, as well as find any borderline rubbish that I watched a time or two but really have no interest in seeing or listening to anymore.

This technique made it easy for me to determine which portion of my music and video collection that I could liquidate without a change to my lifestyle and by investing the proceeds, I took assets that were just sitting there and slowly losing value and turned them into an asset that just sits there and gains in value. Not to mention the storage space that I freed up.

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  1. CyberCelt says:

    Hi! Just roaming around the blogosphere and saw you had moved.

    I hate to admit it, but I still have vinyl albums and cassette tapes. I listen to the tapes, but not the albums. I keep thinking I will donate them to the Smithsonian one day.

  2. Moneywalks says:

    I know what you mean. I must have spent over 2g on dvds alone.

  3. Instead of selling you could use something like PeerFlix to trade them for yet more movies. If some are tough sellers, perhaps trading will save you money by eliminating future movie and music purchases.

  4. bjk says:

    Better yet, get a library card and enjoy free reign on a never ending bounty of media. I took out 16 CD’s tonight, brought them home, and am burning them as I type. I’m starting to gather quite a large and unique ‘library’ of mp3’s. The same works for DVD’s , it’s just difficult to find the latest & greatest.

  5. I’m just in the process of doing the same type of media cull to myself and I was hoping you could give me some advice.

    Where did you sell these items? eBay? Craigslist? Local used cd/dvd store? Pawn shop?

    I’m looking at selling probably 50 dvds and about 200 cds (albeit without jewel cases 99% of the time) and differences of even fifty cents on each can add up (to the tune of $125, with the above numbers).


  6. Sam says:

    Being a poor college student, I have decided to digitize my entire media library. I’m in the procees of selling my CD’s and will move on to the DVD’s after I finish ripping them all to my external HD. I’m also interested in how you sold your CD’s. I’ve sold a few to friends and have put the rest on craigslist, but the going has been slow. I’m dreading putting them up individually on eBay and most CD stores around here will only give me in-store credit (not helpful when trying to reduce spending on media).

  7. Ed says:

    CDs and DVDs are one of the worst selling items on eBay (or local sites like craigslist). So, it makes more sense to STOP BUYING THEM. I try to only buy CDs or DVDs that I know I will listen to or watch time and time again. Not to mention…where do you store thousands of DVDs and CDs? I have more problems with storage space than with saving money.
    I have finally decided that I don’t need another whatever it is because I’ll have to find some place to put it.

  8. Liz says:

    Whenever you feel the urge to buy a CD, consult the All-Music Guide first (www.allmusic.com). This media database – which also has movie and games databases, too, by the way – is probably the most thorough music reference source out there. I have used it for years, both online and in print, and I’ve built my fairly sizeable music collection simply by using the info on that database. It’s immensely helpful in allowing you to focus on the best choice of recording for a particular artist, whether it’s a main album or a compilation.

    I got an iPod for Christmas and I put my entire CD music collection on it. But I do have a few cassettes and a boatlaod of vinyl, so lately my game has been to borrow those from the library and put those on my iPod as well. Saves me from having to buy them over again! Eventually, I may get rid of my CD collection altogether – haven’t thought about how yet – but for now, that’s what I’m doing.

  9. James Grabowski says:

    I strongly suggest using Amazon to sell unwanted media. I had one extra large brown paper paint dropcloth that I use to wrap the box like a christmas present, secure all edges with packing tape, and use the USPS media mail. I have sold about 20 items in the last 11 days for a profit of $250. Even ten year old textbooks are selling at close to the original purchase price due to the inflated prices of new textbooks over the years. I linked my payments to an online savings account (ING), and am enjoying the extra space on my book shelves!

  10. 44dad says:

    Great advice – I noticed several DVDs and CDs on my shelf this week that are so dusty you can’t read the label. Even if I only get a few bucks for them – it’s more money to achieve my financial goals and less crap taking up space on my shelf !
    I need to listen to more music. I actually have the “greatest album ever recorded” in mp3 format and I have never sat down to listen to it ! I am going to treat myself this weekend.
    Thanks for the tips.
    444 Dad

  11. ChrisD says:

    I think one problem with digital music is a) the legal situation and b) the file format. In the UK ripping your own music to your own computer is technically illegal. My understanding is that your right to own the music resides in the physical CD, which you need to keep (like a vampires’ box of earth that at least you don’t have to carry around). Maybe it’s a silly reason to keep hold of stuff, but given a proposed law that would make it legal to cease your laptop at an airport and search it for illegal music (!!!) I have decided to keep the physical CDs.
    Secondly what if your hard drive crashes? Make sure you keep back ups. What if there is a new file format (mp4s?) that takes up more space (which is getting ever cheaper) that stores more info. You might want to rerip your CDs. And given that apple tunes songs can only be kept on 5 computers and relies on an online list, that keeps a record of what you own and what computers you have approved… I’d rather stick to CDs which I can lend and copy to as many computers as I want.

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