What’s Your Entertainment Cost By The Hour?

I know we all wish this wasn’t true, but the sad reality is that we all have to spend money. First, you have to spend money on housing. Next you need to spend money on food, although becoming a Breatharian sounds pretty appealing. From what I understand, the only downside is death, but think of all the time and money you’d save by not eating! But what about entertainment?

The Price of Entertainment

You could argue that entertainment is not a need, but what’s the point of living if you can’t have fun? Besides, I’m not sure if humans could survive without entertainment. We as a species need some form or social interaction. However, not all forms of entertainment are created equal, as some cost a lot more than others. Below is a list of various entertainment options, along with the hourly cost for each to make the comparisons fair.

In this analysis, I assume everybody already has a TV and a computer, so there’s no additional cost to purchase either of these. I also don’t include the additional cost of parking or babysitting since some people may use public transportation and for those of you lucky enough, you don’t need a babysitter.

Video games

When I talk about video games, I refer to console games. Yes, you can play games on your PC and you can play on your phone, but the cost of both these options can vary wildly. On your phone, you can spend a boatload on in-game credits. For PC games, some people may decide to splurge on gaming PCs, which can cost thousands more than a regular PC.

Right now, you can buy a brand new Xbox One for $230, or a PlayStation 4 for $400, with one game included. A good game will provide ~100 hours of playing time, from start to finish. So for an Xbox, you’re spending $2.30/hr for entertainment, or $4.00/hr for a PlayStation 4.

$2-4/hr doesn’t seem bad, but it gets easier cheaper with subsequent games. The next game you buy will cost $50-60 and the console is considered a sunk cost. Assuming 100 hours of playing time again, you’re only spending $0.50-0.60/hr for entertainment for each subsequent game.

Cable TV

The average American watches 5 hours of TV per day. That’s actually insane. I have no idea how people can possibly have that much free time. If you assume the average person sleeps 8 hours per day and works another 8 hours, that only leaves 3 hours for commuting, eating, showering etc. if you’re watching TV for the remaining 5 hours. The average must be biased by a few people that sit at home and watch TV all day, unless they’re combining TV with other things. If you’re combining TV with work, please let me know if your company is hiring.

If you are able to watch 5 hours a day, maybe you should try to find a side gig or think about going back to school?

I still think that number is way too high, but let’s run the analysis with that number. The average cable bill in the US is $100/month. With 150 hours of entertainment (5 hours per day x 30 days), that’s $0.67 for each hour of entertainment. Not bad!


Back in 2015, the average Netflix user watched just over 90 minutes of Netflix per day. At $11/month (a cheaper option at $8/month is available, but who wants to watch non-HD content?), this is one of the cheapest monthly entertainment options out there. This works out to $0.24/hour, or less than half the price of cable!

Note, if you include the time spent “chilling”, Netflix may come in under $0.20/hour!


I don’t know anybody who considers going to the gym a form of entertainment, but they supposedly exist. So this analysis is really more of a theoretical exercise than a real-world one. According to this site, the average gym membership costs between $20-50/month. Let’s use the midpoint of $35.

Now, the average American goes to the gym… never. Or 0 hours per month. I know many of you have gym memberships but never go. $35 divided by 0 equals infinity. The hourly cost of going to the gym is infinite. Not only are you not getting in shape, but you’re wasting money for the potential you may step foot in a gym one day.

Entertainment option
This looks like an interesting entertainment option. But if one of them is paying the other, it could get expensive.

Movies Theaters

They say the only two sure things in life are death and taxes. You can add movie ticket price inflation to the list. I remember back in the day when movie tickets only cost $5! Now, the average movie ticket price is $9. That may seem cheap if you live in a big city though. In NYC, you’re paying closer to $14.

Most movies last around 2 hours, so you’re paying about $4.50/hr to watch a movie in a theater. This is a lot more expensive compared to cable TV or Netflix.


I’ve written about MoviePass before.  The new pricing charges $7.95/month, with a $19.95 processing fee, if you pay annually. If you amortize the processing fee, you’re paying $9.61 a month. Technically, you can go watch a movie every single day in a month with this pass. If you assume every movie is 2 hours long, you’re paying $0.16/hr for entertainment! That’s cheaper than Netflix!!!

Of course, most people won’t go every single day, unless you’re unemployed, or really, really love movies. I’m guessing most people with MoviePass will go 1-2 times per week, or 4-8 times a month. If you fall into this range, you’re paying $0.60-1.20/hr to watch movies. Although not the cheapest form of entertainment, that’s pretty good considering you’d pay $4.50/hr at full price.

Movie Rentals

Rental prices vary depending on the movie, but you can usually get one for under $4, or $2/hour. If you need to pay for parking or babysitting, this a much cheaper option than going to the movies. Also, all the prices for the other categories is on a per-person basis. Technically, you can invite 20 people over to watch the same movie, although it may get a little cramped. In that case, you would be paying $0.10/hr for entertainment, the cheapest option on the list!

Another alternative would be borrowing DVDs from the library, for free. I’m not sure about the selection, but it’s hard to beat free!

NFL Tickets

According to this article, the average cost of a regular season NFL ticket is $93! Again, this analysis doesn’t include parking, food or souvenirs. The average seats probably aren’t even that great, so if you want good seats, you’re going to be paying a lot more.
I don’t have to tell you that watching an NFL game live is never going to be considered a frugal option. However, I’ve been to a few games and it is a great experience. If you haven’t been, it’s something you should do at least once in your life. Even if you don’t like football. And this doesn’t apply to just football. You should experience any live sporting event at least once.
On an hourly basis, you’re paying $31/hr to watch a football game, or over 100x more expensive than Netflix.

Playing Outside

Anybody under 30 has probably never heard of this before, like a corded phone or a typewriter. But way back in the day, people used to actually go outside to play. Sounds crazy, huh?
For the ability to get some fresh air and exercise, you’ll pay the princely fee of… $0/hr. Wait, is that right?


So there you have it. Netflix is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment out there. So are video games, once you’ve taken the hit from buying the console. I’ve talked about cutting the cord in the past, but if you watch 5 hours of TV per day, it’s actually a pretty cheap form of entertainment.
Movie theaters can get pretty expensive, unless you use MoviePass, and live sporting events are potential budget-breakers. And of course, if you want to save a lot money, you can just go outside to play.
Entertainment Option Price ($/hr)
Video Games (Console Purchase) $2-4
Video Games (Game Only) $0.50-0.60
Cable TV $0.67
Netflix $0.24
Gym Infinity
Movie Theater $4.50
MoviePass $0.16-1.20
NFL $31
Playing Outside $0


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