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By Julia Glum
November 14, 2019
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.