Welcome to the Sidebar’s advice column, where ring-bearers, ring-makers, and ringwraiths alike sit down for a chat with our very own Muffle.  Her advice might be bad, but hey, at least someone’s listening.  Today we’re talking about how much is too much for on-demand entertainment.

Hi Muffle,

I have a mundane monetary question for you: At what point are you spending too much on streaming services? Currently, I subscribe to Spotify, Hulu (with ads), Amazon Prime, WWE Network (I am 12) and FilmStruck (Netflix for artsy movies). I’m considering adding YouTube TV ($35 per month) so I can catch live sports. This would bring my total streaming expenditure close to $100 per month. I can cover that pretty comfortably as I otherwise live well within my means. I get pretty good use out of each service, but $100/month just seems excessive when I consider it. What do you think?


Mike Teavee

Well, Mike — can I call you Mike? — you certainly aren’t alone in asking this question.  As megacompanies like Disney start their own streaming services in an attempt to ride Netflix’s coattails, it looks like we’re going to have to face this question more and more frequently.  As you’re now seeing, the cumulative cost quickly becomes comparable to (and greater than?) what we paid back when all we had was good mediocre, old-fashioned cable.

If I were An Old, this is where I would tell you that all this need for instant gratification (along with that dang avocado toast) is another symptom of the moral disease of the Entitlement Generation, and it’s why you’ll never retire and why Buffalo Wild Wings is going out of business and why no one uses paper napkins anymore, gosh darn it.

Lucky for you, I’m only a crotchety old lady in my preference for dry British comedies (which I stream from Netflix and Amazon Prime).

Instead, I’ll ask you a question: what are these services worth to you?  Do you get $100 worth of enjoyment out of them each month?  Would you get more pleasure (long-term) from socking away that extra $100 toward retirement (though you can probably skip this question; at this rate, none of us are going to make it to retirement anyway)? Is any one service not carrying its weight compared to the others?  Can you get the same or similar content elsewhere for less?

The answer here may well be that you totally get $100 worth o’ fun out of your streaming services every month.  It sounds like you have eclectic tastes that probably aren’t adequately being sated by more traditional media, and that’s fucking awesome.  Part of living in the information age is being able to expand our interests and our information consumption way beyond the boundaries of what previous generations had access to, and if you’re actually getting the most from those opportunities, then hell yeah it’s worth a hundo a month.  If any service is more “eh” than “wow,” trim the fat and enjoy your lean cut of sweet, sweet streaming goodness.

That being said, if you want to make sure you’re being financially responsible about this, put a reminder in your calendar to actually sit down and tally what you’re currently spending on stuff like this every six months or so.  Your letter proves you’re already thinking about this in the right way, but little additions can sneak in and quickly build into a big, honkin’ waste of money.  It’s like any little luxury: A cup of Premium Barista-Ground French Press Fair Trade Single Source Coffee™ on its own is cheap; a cup a day is a fiscal disaster.  So long as you’re getting what you want out of your subscriptions, though, don’t let The Olds tell you how much is too much; they already ruined avocado toast.

Snark and tipples,


Got a question for Muffle? Send it to mufflemayi@gmail.com.