Newspapers: utility or entertainment?

Are newspapers and magazines more of a utility or merely entertainment? Naturally, the answer depends upon whom you ask (and which publications you’re referring to).

I ask because I’ve been using a nifty online personal finance tool called Mint that allows you to quickly categorize your spending. Newspaper subscriptions (I have two) go under Entertainment. Cable TV and Internet, meanwhile, go under Bills & Utilities.

Here’s the full breakdown …

Bills & Utilities: Home Phone, Internet, Mobile Phone, Television, Utilities.

Entertainment: Amusement, Arts, Music, Movies & DVD, Newspapers & Magazines.

It’s a subtle difference, but I think an important one. A utility is something nearly indispensable, while entertainment is totally optional. Maybe 5-10 years ago, it was the other way around. But now, if you’re executing a “cost-reduction plan” at home (and who isn’t in this economy?), you’re much more likely to discontinue newspapers and magazines than cable or internet. (Personally, I think the most optional item on the list is the home phone. What a waste!)

The folks at Mint appear to have their head on straight, too, since the Food & Dining category also features subcategories for Alcohol & Bars and Fast Food. So there’s no hiding your from your dark side under something general like “Restaurants.”

And there’s an entire category for Kids. So they know where the bulk of my budget goes every month.

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