A lot of other personal finance blogs have covered this and although it seems like prying a bottle of water away from a man dying of thirst… a lot of people do seem to be giving up TV.
Roughly twelve years ago now (good God that “old” thing is starting to happen ) I decided to stop watching TV. I was quite young at the time and I made the decision not out of any desire to pay off my mortgage quicker (mainly because I didn’t have one at that point) but more so because it just drove me bat shit crazy. With each 30 minute show there was always the three breaks of ~2 minutes of ads. These ads were your typical ads and unfortunately (or fortunately) back then we didn’t have DVR’s to easily skip them with. So I was forced to endure them and as a rational personality type they rarely made any sense to me. Sure, I might be vaguely interested in whatever product they were trying to sell… but that was FAR outweighed by the fact that the entire premise of the ad was either stupid, shockingly transparent or in a lot of cases a flat out lie.
Now I can’t specifically remember which exact ads these were but even today when I have a TV physically forced onto me at various locations (believe it or not the most common place is work) I still see them. The McDonald’s ad with the pristine shaped burger that looks NOTHING like what you would be handed in an actual McDonald’s store. Lies. The car commercial that touts their car as being the only one that has been made with aerodynamics in mind. Stupid. Or, more recently, virtually any political campaign type ad that just stinks of scare mongering tactics and severely misleading information. Transparent. They single handily turned me off regular broadcast TV for good. I couldn’t take the ads anymore so I stopped watching TV and instead viewed my content online. This was limiting and cut down on a lot of my TV time however there were no ads and for a time it wasn’t so bad. But then Big Brother came out and with it, a whole onslaught of “reality TV” was born. Whilst I’m aware many people find these shows interesting (obviously as otherwise they wouldn’t be still pumping it out a decade later) I am not one of those people. So I stopped watching virtually all TV shows with the exception of a very select few. This typically involved watching a full seasons worth of a TV show in one go and then not watching anything for a while, or watching the 2-3 episodes that would come out each week and that was all however as time passed shows were cancelled… others turned to repetitive drivel and others still I simply lost interest in.
Eventually I just stopped watching it all together. Nothing online. Nothing on broadcast TV. Not even movies anymore. Well… maybe 3-4 movies a year on date night . But for the most part now I no longer watch ANY television shows or movies and to be honest? I really just don’t have time for television anymore! There’s books to read, errands to run, websites with awesome tips/stories/theories/research to read, personal projects to complete, people to spend time with, puppies to play with and more (including this website). And so without really even noticing it or forcefully restricting myself I’ve cut myself off from pretty much all mainstream media. I consider the main three sources to be TV, radio and Newspapers/websites. I do admit though that I occasionally glaze over The Age’s website headlines to see what’s happening in the world however seeing as 99% of their pieces never seem to have any actual facts in them (or if they do they’re facts that come from severely biased institutions) I don’t take much notice. More importantly I can easily ignore the ads on websites which is really what this post is all about.
Why No TV?
TV can be funny, relaxing, enjoyable… so why would I recommend you cut it off completely? There are two main reasons:
- Ads and their influence
- Time wasting
The first reason most people agree on, which is that ads are annoying but hey? You’ve got that cool new DVR and you always skip the ads right? Well even at 4x speed they’re STILL making a subconscious impact on your brain and I’m yet to see anyone fast forward through a radio ad yet. I cannot even begin to go into the psychological aspects of advertising as it’s FAR outside the scope this article. However let me just say that companies the world over have spent (likely by now) trillions on research and advertising and it works. The two companies that sell the most amount of mobile phones, Samsung and Apple, advertise like crazy (coincidence?). Samsung alone spent over $4 billion on just advertising in 2012 and in a quote from this article it clearly shows what I’m talking about.
The result has been a dramatic shift in the way consumers view Samsung products, and the South Korean company is now the top smartphone vendor in the world.
Ads are engineered to make us buy things. It’s that simple and whilst I’m sure “everyone knows this” people still listen/watch ads all day long thinking for some reason that they’re immune to it. Well I’m afraid you’re not. Each time you see an ad for McDonald’s or that shiny car or gadget it not only likely makes you want to buy it, it reminds you that it’s there TO buy. What’s the latest car out by Toyota? I’ve got NO idea. What’s the coolest shirt or gadget or TV show or restaurant? I have NO idea. Why? Because I sidestep ads altogether and you should too by cutting out TV. Whilst I can’t do a calculation on how much exactly it will save you, I can be assured it WILL save you money.
The second reason is that TV wastes your time (and makes you fat/unfit). Sure, you might not listen to the radio or watch ANY TV ads but you should still stop watching TV. You might download your TV shows from the Internet and just watch them on your PC (meaning you don’t even see fast forwarded ads) but you should still stop watching TV. It’s a hard habit to break and is best done over a year or more but when you stop watching TV for 4 hours every night you suddenly… have 4 hours to spare!
You can spend 30 minutes playing around with your mortgage planning spreadsheet (hey, it’s fun for me!). You could actually talk to your spouse/family. You can play with the dog, go for a sunset walk, have an early night with a 8 hour sleep, go late night shopping, start playing a team sport, bake a cake, write a blog, research a topic on the Internet, read a book… I could go on for a fair while here. The point is, virtually ALL of these things contribute something positive to your life EXCEPT watching TV. Sure it’s relaxing but it also makes you lethargic and if you’re at a desk job all day too, sitting down for ANOTHER 4 hours every day really isn’t the best thing for you. It also stops you from learning and taking action in your life. Over the past 3+ years of our life I’ve been progressively decluttering our house. This is quite a lengthy process of finding, sorting, documenting, posting, selling, shipping or giving away or (if worse comes to worse) throwing out various things. I wouldn’t have been able to do most of it if I’d been staring at the idiot box 4 hours a day.
One of the most important things you can do over the course of your life to save money is learn. Learn how to fix that kitchen sink that’s leaking instead of calling a plumber and paying $150. Learn how to grow your own vegetables. Learn how to eat properly, how to cook properly instead of going out to dinner twice a week. Learn how to negotiate, how to interview well or how to play a sport*. Cutting off TV completely frees up hours of time every night that you’re going to use for many different thing and some of that should be to learn. You don’t have to go back to Uni part time or anything… but maybe commit to 20 minutes of learning a new language each night. Or reading 10 pages of whatever book you reading at the moment. Just like battling your mortgage, small (and big) efforts multiplied over consistent times add up significantly and eventually your goals in life will start toppling one after the other as you work through them.
*If you’re wondering how learning to play a sport saves you money it’s a long term thing. If you learn to play indoor soccer and then get better and better at it over 10 years that’s 10 years’ worth of exercise that contributes to you being healthier and fitter preventing injuries, obesity and other severe medical conditions in the future.
As I initially said, turning off the TV for good isn’t something most people warm up to easily. They’ll act like you’re taking away their water supply or something, which in turn should really tell you something’s a bit off shouldn’t it? If we can’t entertain ourselves for a couple of hours each day without being bombarded with a variety of different wavelength photons what has our world come to!? As my Mum always used to say (assumingly to shut me up) – “only unintelligent people can’t entertain themselves”. So instead of going cold turkey why not do intentionally what I did unintentionally. Slowly pair down your television watching over a few months or even years and slowly wean yourself off of it completely.
- Start out by choosing 5-10 core TV shows that you CAN’T live without and only watch those 5-10 TV shows when a new episode comes out
- After you’re used to this routine (typically this takes about 1-3 months) pair down the number further, limiting it to only 3
- Finally, cut them all off completely
After each step you should be increasing your other activities to compensate for the free time you’re gaining. You don’t want to feel “bored” as otherwise you’ll be drawn back into your habit of TV watching. It’s also important to setup a “trigger point” that stops you from automatically just turning on the TV without thinking. Something like a note sticky taped to the TV remote saying “No TV!”. This way when you subconsciously pick up the remote to watch TV, you’re reminded about trying to stop watching TV and you can put the remote back down and go do another task.
After a good period of time (say 6 months) you should be able to go a full week without watching or even caring about what’s on television. You can also simultaneously tune out from the radio by hooking up your music player to the car or making a few music CD’s. All up it should sufficiently isolate you from the vast majority of mass media to the point where when you DO come into contact with it… it will likely stick out like a sore thumb and make you just stare in awe at how stupid and annoying it all is. This is at least what I do. You might also start to notice when other people around you sink into watching TV like it’s something that’s OK. If you really look closely it’s almost as if they’re willingly plugging themselves back into the Matrix every day. Staring like zombies at the glowing, bouncing photons.
Less TV vs No TV
Americans apparently watch on average 2.8 hours of TV a day. Now I’m sure Australia really isn’t that far off as I’ve been to both countries a number of times and TV’s, ads and so on are just as prevalent in both. So I’d like to point out one last benefit people often miss.
Paying down that mortgage superfast. The main unseen benefit with cutting off TV that many don’t see is that you are almost completely removed from advertisements. Permanently. Ads aren’t just in between the TV shows anymore, they’re in every movie and TV show out there. From the fancy Nokia phone the leading actor just pulled out to call the president with to the car they blew up whilst driving it into a 7-Eleven. Product placement is everywhere and it’s just as effective as a direct ad, otherwise they again wouldn’t be spending billions on it. Cutting off TV completely not only stops you from being bombarded with ads, it stops you from even KNOWING about the products and the companies. Tune off the radio, get Ad Block for the ads on the web and you will start to forget about it all over time. This is an important distinction between watching LESS TV and cutting it off completely as it removes the want entirely instead of just lessening it. If you don’t know about the new Tesla Model S then you won’t ever want to buy it will you? If there’s something you REALLY desire you are likely to find some way of getting it, the best way to win at this game is to deny it battle.
Over time and unknown to you, not watching any TV will make you richer and richer allowing you to pay off your mortgage faster and faster. It will also make you fitter, healthier, have a better quality of life, possibly save your marriage, give you more appreciation of your world and very importantly, make you a MORE interesting person. This is because people who don’t spend 4 hours a day watching TV do something else with that time… and more often than not it turns out to be interesting to other people.
Kill that mortgage. Cut that TV.