My husband and I own all seven seasons of the West Wing on DVD. We figured we’d start watching them from the beginning once the show was over. Yeah, that never happened. We’ve watched maybe 20 episodes, most of them after catching a repeat on TV and wanting to see the rest of that episode or the episode after it. Definitely not the best investment, although we didn’t pay for all of them. Some were gifts. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t buy them. Instead, I’d use one of these options to watch a TV show that I missed when it aired.

Watch It Online
Obviously this wasn’t an option when The West Wing started, but this is how I caught the first half of the first season of Heroes. I heard so much good talk that I watched one episode on the NBC website. One episode led to two and suddenly I’d watched all nine episodes on a tiny screen on the computer. Now Hulu makes it easy to watch almost any show online. Of course, Hulu episodes are usually only available before the DVD is released, but it’s handy for people who don’t have cable and don’t want to wait for a show to come out on DVD.

If you don’t mind paying a little bit for each episode, you can also download most shows from iTunes. I haven’t tried it, because it seems like $1.99 per episode would quickly add up to the price of a DVD set. Note: there’s another way to watch online, but I don’t support piracy.

Rent It
If you have a Blockbuster or NetFlix subscription, you can simply wait for the DVDs to come out and watch the whole season at once. Or, you could go even cheaper and see if your library has them. Rent the season for free!

Borrow It
If your library doesn’t have it, see if you’ve got any friends who are fanatics and will loan you their copies. This works especially well for sci-fi shows like Battlestar Galactica and Stargate or serial shows with tight plots like Lost or 24. Their fans are hardcore and buy the DVDs to go back and check anything they might have missed.

Sell the DVDs You Already Own
We haven’t sold the West Wing seasons we have because my husband likes to keep his DVDs, even if he doesn’t watch them. He plans to watch them “someday.” Right after he reads all those unread books and burns all those unwatched videos to DVD. If we were to sell them, we’d use eBay or Half.com where we could net anywhere between $8 and $20 per set. It’s not a lot, but it’s not nothing. If you find that your DVDs won’t sell, include them in your next garage sale or donate them to the library.

Cut the Cable Bill
Now you can effectively cut the cable bill. When TV went digital, my best friend opted not to buy the converter for her tiny analog TV. Now she just rents DVDs or watches the shows online. By cancelling cable, you’ll save yourself time (no more commercials) and money ($60+ a month). You might even be able to break the TV habit completely.

Of course, there is a downside. You won’t get to see all those new shows that flame out after just a few episodes. You also won’t get to see the new hot show the very day it airs. But really, with the age of DVRs, it’s hard to know when anyone watches anything anymore.

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