Entertainment expenses are first to be cut in many people’s budgets, and while you may replace movie outings with viewings at home, your cheapest rental options depend on your film-watching habits.

Here are four things you’ll want to consider – or reconsider – when deciding whether DVD rentals by mail from Netflix (Stock Quote: NFLX) or stopping at a cheap Redbox DVD kiosk is best for you. (Or even whether Blockbuster makes the most sense, read on…)

1. The Cost

The best plan for you, cost-wise, depends on how often you rent movies. Redbox rentals cost $1 a night. The cheapest Netflix membership is $4.99, and you only get two movies per month, one at a time. If you only watch movies every now and then, Redbox is probably your cheaper option.

If you have Netflix, you’ll have to watch at least nine movies a month with the cheapest unlimited membership for it to pay off (not counting pre-paid shipping and the ability to watch movies on your computer).

2. Flexibility

Unlike Netflix, you don’t need to pay a monthly fee to use Redbox kiosks, so if you go weeks without watching movies, you don’t throw your money away on a membership you’re not using.

But since Redbox rentals are $1 per night, with every extra day you keep the movie, another $1 is billed to your credit card. (If you keep a movie for more than 25 nights, you’ve effectively paid for it, and it’s yours to keep.) With a Netflix unlimited membership, you can keep movies as long as you want without paying more than your monthly membership fee. To get a new DVD, you mail back an old rental in a pre-paid envelope.

3. Location, Location, Location

If convenience is key, your location and timing are vital. There are 15,000 Redbox locations including at certain Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT) , Walgreens (Stock Quote: WAG), McDonald’s (Stock Quote: MCD) and Albertson’s stores.

TheStreet Recommends

But if your town only has one Redbox, your options may be limited since each kiosk holds about 700 DVDs, including up to 200 new release titles. And if you’d rather walk to your mailbox instead of traveling to a store, Netflix is a better option.

4. Instant Access vs. Convenience of Home Delivery

With Netflix, however, you’ll want to plan ahead since you’ll have to wait for your DVDs to arrive in the mail. If you want a specific movie to watch over the weekend, you might have to mail your last DVD on Wednesday or Thursday, meaning you can’t use Netflix for unplanned movie watching unless you have a Netflix set-top box.

That said, with music and movies increasingly being downloaded from the Internet, DVDs are expected to go the way of the cassette tape. Unless Redbox kiosks provide downloadable movies, they could become obsolete as well.

Netflix on the other hand lets members watch select movies instantly on their computers. The “Watch Instantly” selection may be limited to the movies and TV series that Netflix is licensed to carry, but members can watch as much as they want, as often as they want.

Don't Count out Blockbuster, either
One way fierce competitor Blockbuster (Stock Quote: BBI) may have a leg up on Netflix, however, is its movie download option which lets you download a rental that you can keep for up to 30 days. However the Blockbuster memberships, which let you go to stores, have DVDs delivered by mail and download for an extra fee, are more expensive than those at Netflix, which may not be the best choice for penny pinchers cutting costs.

Related Links:

Recessionista Chronicles: Movies for Cheap

5 Cures for the Summer Vacation Blues

Are Smaller IMAX Screens Worth the Price?

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.