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By Julia Glum
November 14, 2019
Online streaming company Netflix starts in Germany
picture alliance—picture alliance via Getty Image

All those Lizzie McGuire episodes, Marvel films and old DCOMs available on Disney+ may be tempting, but do you really need another streaming subscription?

And more importantly — can you afford one?

MarketWatch wants to help you find those answers. The financial site recently created a calculator that determines exactly how much the average cord-cutter will pay for streaming services in his or her lifetime (or, at least, over the next 50 years). It also calculates how much a subscriber could earn if they invested that money instead.

Fair warning: The results may dampen your enthusiasm.

Streaming subscriptions quickly add up. Disney+, for example, is $6.99 a month, though it'll reach a lifetime cost of $7,095 when adjusted for inflation. The basic version of Netflix, now $8.99 a month, will likely cost a hefty $9,124 over the next five decades. YouTube TV, at $49.99 a month, will eat up $50,737 by 2069.

Of course, it's rare to find someone who only has one subscription. According to a 2019 survey by Deloitte Insights, the average American subscriber pays for three video services, and the MarketWatch calculator accounts for this. You can price out various combinations of services — like how Hulu, Sling TV Orange and Amazon Prime will cost a consumer $40,578 in lifetime streaming costs.

MarketWatch's tool isn't the only calculator out there, but it sets itself apart by identifying the "true" cost of streaming subscriptions, as well. Using a 6% rate of return, the calculator adds up how much you could earn by investing the money spent on subscriptions in the S&P 500. For Disney+ alone, it's a whopping $32,282.

With numbers like that — and the ongoing crackdown on password-sharing — you might be better off just reading a book.

Then again, subscribing to one or even a few streaming services is still generally much cheaper than cable. After all the fees are added in, the average monthly cable bill is a whopping $217.42, according to Consumer Reports. That shakes out to a lifetime cost of about $220,000 after inflation and a "true" cost of more than $1 million if you'd invested that money instead of paying monthly bills to Comcast or Verizon.