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Television Costs Much More Than $85/Month

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I enjoy being frugal. That is to say, I enjoy being frugal in the aspects of my life that don’t add substantial value. For instance, in my opinion, cable television is a waste of money. It sucks me into mindlessly watching trash television that adds little to no value to my life. In fact, I’d argue that it actually detracts value by stealing away precious time that could have been spent doing what I love most, i.e., spending time with family and friends, reading about interesting topics, exercising, or creating new content for readers.

With time being our most precious asset, I would argue that having cable TV costs you much more than the ridiculous $85/month price tag. Now, that’s not to say I don’t splurge on an occasional movie night with the family. However, when doing so, what I watch is on my terms and comes at a cost of $10.99/month through Netflix. (Learn more about how tracking your spending each month can make you rich from this post.)

Direct Financial Costs- $8,000:

Let’s do a more in-depth analysis of the direct financial costs associated with cable TV. Factoring an $85 dollars/month cost for cable, the average person will spend $1020/year. Let’s face it, this number is actually lower than what many people pay considering the temptation of adding on that HBO package to watch Game of Thrones for another $14.99/month.

That’s $10,200 over the next decade. Considering the average American lives to be 79 and likely starts paying for his or her cable at 21, this bill will set us back nearly $60,000 over the course of a lifetime, not accounting for inflation and investment opportunity loss.

Looking at my own situation, I haven’t had cable since 2012. That means 7 years without

cable. I have, however, paid for Netflix. Therefore, I have saved roughly $74 each month compared to the average American, while still being able to watch exactly what I want. This has saved me $6216 in total since I decided to ditch this unnecessary bill. If this money was invested in an low-cost, index mutual fund, factoring a 6% return, the savings would come to $7,900. Roughly an $8,000 savings from sacrificing essentially nothing.

Indirect Financial Costs:

The most valuable asset we lose from cable TV is time. A U.S. consumer report revealed that the average American spent 3 hours and 58 minutes per day watching television in 2017. [1] This is equal to 35.5 hours/wk and roughly 77 days per year (or 1846 hours).

Once again going back to our 10,000-hour rule needed to master a subject, this means that the time saved from watching television will allow you to master a new subject roughly every 5.5 years. If learning about new topics isn’t your thing, that is still 1846 hours per year that could have been spent developing new and deeper relationships with the ones you care for most.

There is also a tremendous opportunity loss that exists had this time been spent working on a new side hustle, writing that book you’ve been thinking about, volunteering in the community or getting fit. If just one hour of TV time is replaced with one hour of gym time each day, I’d imagine that most Americans would avoid gaining the 1 pound per year, after the age of 25, that we often read about. As an added bonus, this will reduce our risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, degenerative disc disease, etc, which drains our bank accounts, our energy, and shaves years off our life.

TV is a "Soft Addiction"

The other subtle loss that we experience, but perhaps the most important, is the opportunity to know ourselves better. TV falls under a category that was coined by Dr. Judith Wright, a pioneer in social and emotional intelligence, as a “Soft Addiction.” [2] It is something that we mindlessly turn to when looking to numb our emotions rather than deal directly with those uncomfortable feelings like hurt, anger, and sadness.

TV helps to distract our minds so we can avoid our own pain. Feeling sad, turn on the TV until the emotion goes away. Anger, TV. Fear, TV. You catch the drift. The problem is, our unfinished business which is the underlying cause of these feelings does not go away. Instead, it builds up inside of us leading to a greater sense of unease, anxiety, and depression.

Whenever you find yourself reaching for that remote, develop the habit of asking, “Why am I doing this? Am I trying to blunt an emotion (learn more about owning your emotions here)? Am I avoiding that critical task on my to-do-list? Could this time be better spent doing something else?”

The intention of this post isn’t to make you stop watching television, it’s to be more conscious about what you choose to watch, why you choose to watch it, and what you are willing to pay in order to have that privilege.



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