Living Without TV – How Much is Watching TV Really Costing You?

“Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs.”   

-the late, great Zig Ziglar

Hey there, Ramey here coming at you with another outside-of-the-box finance article for you to enjoy. This topic has a special place in my heart as I have had an on-off relationship with TV during my adult life.  Today we will explore living without TV and how it can benefit your life.  

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Why I Decided To Be TV-free

Television is not bad in and of itself and in fact, can be a good thing in certain circumstances. Despite the good, however, today we will explore the questions “how much is watching TV really costing you and should you consider living without TV?”

Before we dig into the specifics, I want to fill you in on my own personal journey with television.  Throughout my adult life, I have been called to be TV-free.

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There is a part of me – call it intuition or my higher power – that is reaching out to me and imploring me to sell my TV and to sell my DVDs/BluRays (which is quite extensive) in order to be more open to something bigger and better.  As of this writing, I have sold my TV and plan to live without the brain-drain which television seemingly has for myself and many other individuals along the way.


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Living Without TV: The Struggle is Real

However, to get to this point of being TV-free was not easy.  There were many times during this journey where I would want to sell my TV and live the TV-free lifestyle but the rationalizations kept on coming:

“How will I be able to watch college or NBA basketball now?”

“What if I have a friend over and they want to watch a movie?”

“I can just keep my television and limit my viewing of TV shows.”  

“I don’t want to be that weird guy without TV.”

“Well my roommate won’t like that I have sold my TV.  I better keep it.”

“Think of all the TV shows that I will be missing!”  

It was when I really got honest with myself and understood that I was emotionally attached to television and my TV shows that I saw the struggle that I was in: TV is not real life but my mind/spirit had started to make it so.  

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Kudos to the TV and media empires for making a device and content that feels so real that when I spend a few hours glued to the television in the confines of my own home that I am tricked into thinking that I am experiencing socializing and real-life experiences.  The way I am able to distinguish that television is not real life is the feeling of loneliness and sadness after a few hours of binge-watching a new TV show.

I couldn’t let this stand.  I wouldn’t let this stand.


My Simple Solution?

I took the plunge right where it would do the deepest, quickest work: I sold my TV.  The Blu-rays and DVD selling will come later. I anticipate that the selling of the Blu-rays and DVDs might be more challenging as these will include shows that I have thoroughly enjoyed and in some cases, I have become emotionally attached to the storylines and the characters in those shows.

But alas, I must and will move forward.  For me, it comes down to the fact that I consider being TV-free and living life as real as possible as a part of my value system.  I am finding that when I am counter to my value system, life becomes challenging and confusing. However, when I am in line with my value system, life is easier, becomes clearer, and that the ‘next step’ begins to reveal itself to me.  

To Give Up or To Not Give Up TV?

Should you consider living without TV as well?  This choice is up to each individual or family and something for you to weigh intently.  I will weigh in on the progress of my TV-free journey in the months ahead. For now, here are some things to consider when you are next watching TV:

1. Sunk Costs

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If we decide to watch TV, you must realize that each hour you spend watching TV is an hour that could be spent elsewhere. In finance lingo, these are sunk costs; in this case, the time that you spend in front of the television is ‘sunk’ and not returnable.  Think for a moment what else you could be doing besides watching TV – you could be building a business, learning a new skill, reading a book, hanging out with friends. TV is something that shuts down your brain and you become a ‘zombie’ of sorts. There is a reason why they call it ‘the boob-tube’ and ‘vegging-out’ in front of the television.


2. TV simulates but is not life

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I love a good movie once in a while, especially in the Sci-Fi genre.  But I have to remind myself that TV is not real life. These people on the screen are real people, but not in the true sense of the word.  These characters do not exist and the emotional templates of the characters do not exist. Everything is fake and a suspension of reality.

Now, I’m not a miser; I can suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy a great movie.  With that being said, I have been guilty of making a movie or a TV show more than what it is; it is easy to become emotionally attached to the shows we watch and in fact, turn them into more than just an entertaining small screen show.  For myself, I came to a point of realizing there was more to life than being in front of a television screen and that living without TV would bring so many benefits.

3. You could be working out

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Sitting down in general is not healthy for a person.  In fact, many consider it the ‘new smoking’.  This axiom could go double for television in that not only is someone sitting down for long periods of time, but the brain is also disengaging and in most instances, not learning anything in return.  

It has been shown that watching TV creates a sort of ‘sleep’ mode in the brain which helps to cause the lethargic and tired feelings apparent after a day of TV viewing. Contrast this to the state of exercising – taking a walk, running, biking, lifting, etc.  Not only would one gain energy and vibrancy, but you could argue finances would be improved as well through better health, less doctor’s visits, less illness, etc.

4. You could be building your passive income sources

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Similar to ‘sunk costs’, TV watching is time that you will never get back. Unless you are a supreme multi-tasker (which I don’t recommend), watching TV will not pay any real dividends to you.

Instead of watching television, you might consider earning side income to invest in passive income sources.  Or you could spend time learning a new skill that will benefit you down the road. I recently began learning how to work with SQL databases as it is something I have wanted to learn. This is not easy to do but well worth it.  My career will certainly benefit due to the time I spend putting learning a new skill above television viewing.  

5. TV is not an investment that is income-generating

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Life is not all about income generation but when I looked at the time I spent on television, all I was becoming was a ‘bot’ of sorts, being programmed by TV advertisers on a daily basis to think, feel, and act how they wanted me to.  

The programming was subtle, always beneath the surface and subliminal. If I could give voice to what I heard it would go something like this: “you are a consumer, we are the producers. You are to sit back and passively live life, earning that paycheck every two weeks and spending it on what we tell you to.”  

When this proclivity toward being a reactionary victim was being pounded into my head after each show I watched, I soon decided that I wanted to live a different style of life. I am a creator and a producer, despite what television tries to tell me.  Actively living without TV helps me to realize this fact more and more.  

And Did You Know…


6. Some studies have shown that watching TV can decrease your lifespan

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I was amazed to read two facts about TV watching:

1) The average American watches five hours of television/day according to The New York Times post

2) Every hour of watching television decreases your lifespan by 22 minutes.

You can read more about this fascinating study here. Take these two factors combined with one another and individuals are willingly shortening their overall live span by nearly 2 hours each and every day. This stat alone is one that completely boggles my mind and ultimately had me questioning the time that I spent in front of a television.

It became very difficult for me to watch TV shows when calculating in my head, “This hour of TV watching just cost me 22 minutes of my life.”  With this as motivation, living without TV became much more of a reality than a dream.  

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How Much TV is Really Costing You?

Ok, so now that we have a few things for you to keep in mind while watching television, let’s get down to some ‘nuts and bolts’ numbers.  I’ll consider that if you’re reading this, you’re not the average American. While five hours daily in front of the television does not appeal to you, let’s meet in the middle and say you watch 2 hours a TV per day, every day.  Here are what the numbers come down to:

Income You Can Earn if you gave up 2 hrs of TV/day

So if you took all that time and put it into a side hustle that netted you $15/hr, you would have an extra $8k in yearly income.  What could you do with that $8k? I know I could think of a few good uses:

Let’s take this one step further.  Let’s say you took the extra $7,560 and invested it in a savings account or into dividend stocks.  How much would you have to gain? Using a simplified model, we see the following:

What if you took that $7,560 and saved/invested it instead?

As we can see from our model above, if you were to take that nearly $7.6k and put it into a money market account paying 1.6% interest, you would have an extra $121.93/yr.  If you bought dividends, you would potentially have an extra $289.44/yr.

Summary: Living Without TV

After seeing some cold, hard numbers, now is the time to really ask yourself, “How much is TV really costing me and can I make the change to living without TV?”

If that is what you truly want, I’m confident that you can go TV-free today.  However, even if you decide to keep TV as a part of your life instead of going without, perhaps this article has reminded you to become much more mindful around how much you decide to watch the ‘boob-tube’.  

Upwards and Onwards to Financial Freedom!

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