The Best Way to Watch Movies Without Paying a Fortune

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About two years ago, I decided to leave Netflix. There were a lot of reasons, but the big one was their decision to split their streaming video and their DVD service. My daughter, who was addicted to "Phineas and Ferb," was foursquare in favor of the streaming service. I, on the other hand, was unimpressed with the offerings but liked the DVDs by mail.

Keeping both streaming and DVDs, unfortunately, would have doubled our monthly Netflix bill. Add in the fact that the streaming in our building was insanely slow, and the upshot was that my wife and I decided that we could come up with about a billion better ways to spend our money -- and at least three or four better ways to watch movies and TV shows.

The first thing we did was sign up for Amazon Prime. For $79 per year -- about $5 per year less than Netflix's basic streaming service -- it lets users stream unlimited movies and TV shows. Beyond that, though, it also includes free two-day shipping on Amazon orders and allows users to borrow Kindle books for no additional cost. Perhaps most important, Amazon's streaming service offers every "Phineas and Ferb" episode at speeds a lot faster than Netflix (at least in our apartment).

Streaming is all well and good, but what about the films I wanted to watch that aren't available through either Amazon or Netflix? After a search of the available options, I decided to go with Blockbuster, which has a DVD delivery service that is roughly comparable to what Netflix used to offer. The difference is that it costs $10 per month -- about $2 more than Netflix used to charge -- and only gives me one DVD at a time. On the other hand, the selection is incredible, the service is convenient, and I haven't had any problems.

Of course, Netflix will still mail you DVDs. The only problem is, you have to get the streaming service as well, and the two combined services would run me $16 per month. Put in context, that's a little bit less than my total monthly payment for Amazon Prime and Blockbuster. And Netflix doesn't give me free shipping on Amazon orders or free loans of Kindle books. With those two options, I estimate that Amazon Prime is saving my wife and me at least $10 per month.

There are trade-offs, of course. We can't watch Netflix's original series House of Cards, which I'm told is brilliant. And, when Netflix releases its new episodes of Arrested Development, we won't be able to watch them, either. If they ever come out on video, perhaps we'll get them from Amazon -- along with free second-day shipping.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.