Friday, March 2, 2012

TV-Free for 3 Years and Counting

Have you ever wondered what you'd do with your time if you didn't have TV?  

Three years ago, I asked myself that very question.  I was in the midst of a jam-packed teaching schedule and always feeling crunched for time.  I wondered how I could squeeze more minutes in my day for exercising, reading for pleasure, catching up on classic movies, and home cooking. 

At the time, we were just like everyone else.  TV was a normal part of our schedule with few perceived negatives.  We watched everything from junk reality and reruns of 90s sitcoms to Food Network and Dirty Jobs.  We spent a not unreasonable amount of time in front of the boob tube, around 12 hours a week or 2 hours a night.   

As our cable prices and my waistline continued to climb, I thought I would try an experiment to reclaim some of that time.  After all, you can do a lot with an extra 12 hours.  So I lower our cable package down to the most basic level.  I called it The Old People's Package, only channels 1-22.

Despite more limited options, we ended up watching TV the same numbers of hours.  There were just too many good things to watch on PBS, the Discovery Channel, and FX.  So it wasn't the number of channels that was a problem - it was us.  I began to feel as if I were paying to waste my time. 

We took our experiment to the next level and temporarily ditched cable after moving into a new apartment.  We were trying to cut costs and with my growing dissatisfaction about time management, it was a good move.  We figured we'd add it back when our finances recovered.  

Little did we know it would become a permanent decision.  It was surprisingly easy and not really much of an adjustment to remove television.  It was so pleasant to have so much free time back that we just left things the way they were.   

In the three years since going TV-free, we haven't regretted our decision.  This has saved us hundreds of dollars a year (around 45 bucks a month).  Now we just pay $65 for internet and $20 for a Netflix subscription each month.

Most importantly, I cannot imagine having the time to add cable back.  It would have to cut into something else, and I certainly don't want to give up the things I've been able to add.

People are always surprised when I reveal we don't have TV.  Most of them think it's weird, a few wish they could do the same.  To be clear, we're not those people saying TV is ruining the world or anything.  It does worry me a bit how much time people devote to it, but I also feel the same way about video games and being online. 

Thumbs up if you understand the reference

It had just become a big waste of time for us.  Now whenever we stay at a hotel, TV is a special treat.  If there's a special sports game or a program like the Oscars, we just go to a friend's house and be social.    

We even recently started an $8 Hulu subscription so we can watch The Cosby Show, Mary Tyler Moore, CSI, and Community.  It's great because you can just sit down, budget your time for a few episodes, and walk away.      

Do you worry about how much time you spend watching TV or do you just love Mad Men, American Idol, and The Soup too much?    


  1. We havent had cable TV since we moved into our house 4 years ago. It started out by neccesity, 32K income for a 4 person family does not leave room for paid TV. We invested 250 for a big roof top antenna, a cable, and a signal booster. With that we get 21 channels. Including PBS, all the major networks, Qubo (cartoons for the kids), and several others we rarely if ever watch. If you divide that initial 250 by how long we've had it we have averaged $5.21 a month for our TV service.

    Not too shabby.

    1. That's one way to save money! Especially with little ones, it must also be nice having limited channels that you can keep tabs on easily.

  2. I have had rabbit ears on my TV for over 5 years now. I had to spend $40 on a digital converter box a few years back, but i love that i don't owe anyone money. I also have an android cell phone for my internet. There's an app 'pdanet' that for a one-time pmt of $17 you can hook up your phone to your computer and it'll be your internet forever. Verizon charges up the wazoo for data usage if you use your phone for this using your standard phone package plan. Totally NOT worth it to give Verizon more money than absolutely necessary...