When people ask me what was the best decision I made when I decided to create this website, they are often surprised when I tell them that it was my decision to quit watching TV. There is no doubt that TV costs people far more financially than they believe. For most people, TV is a habit that costs in excess of $1 million over a lifetime, or the equivalent of a healthy retirement account. For me, had I continued to watch TV over the past five years, in addition to the monetary aspects, it would have been the difference of working in a job I didn’t like and having my dream job working for myself for which there is no way to set a price.
I made a conscious choice about five years ago to drastically reduce the amount of TV I watch. The average person now watches 4.5 hours of TV a day. While my watching habits weren’t quite that bad, I did find out I was watching about three hours a day, far more than I thought at the time. I made the conscious decision to take those three hours and devote them to creating a website with a friend of mine. Over the first three years I used the time I had been watching TV to help create and build our websites while still working full time in another job.
It’s amazing the amount you can accomplish when you find an extra 3,285 hours to work on something you enjoy doing rather than vegging in front of the TV. Those hours helped us create a small network of websites and blogs which allowed both of us to quit our jobs and work on them full time a couple of years ago.
If you want to know why you don’t have enough money, the first question to ask yourself is how much time do you spend watching TV? It’s probably a lot more than you ever realised. While most people focus on the cost of cable when they think of the price of watching TV, I would argue that a far more costly aspect is the opportunity cost — the things you could be doing during the time that you’re actually watching TV.
To put it into perspective, if you watch an average of 31.5 hours of TV each week (which the average person in the US does) and you value your time at minimum wage of $5.85 an hour, you are spending nearly $800 a month ($798.53) to watch TV. That comes to nearly $10,000 ($9582.30) a year. I would imagine that most people reading this value their time well above minimum wage, so the cost is likely several times that number. When you look at it from that perspective, watching TV is an extremely expensive and financial draining habit to have.
I’m not arguing that everyone should give up TV completely and I even watch a bit of TV on occasion. What I am arguing is that you should greatly reduce the amount you watch so that you only watch programs that you believe are worth more than other things you could be doing during that time.
This is the way that I set up my system to bring my TV watching down from 3 hours a day to less than 3 hours a week:
Decide on an hour allowance: Decide on a weekly hour allowance that each family member has to watch TV at no cost. If you watch a lot of TV as I did in the beginning, you might want to reduce the amount just a bit to began and then reevaluate and reduce more as time goes on. For example, set the amount at 20 hours per week for the first month, reduce it to 15 hours a week the next month and so on. This will force you to pick the shows that you really want to watch versus simply sitting in front of the TV because it’s easier than doing something else.
Decide on any exempt shows: There may be few shows that you feel are educational and want to encourage yourself and your other family members to watch. You can designate these shows as exempt and they will not count toward the weekly free hours you have. These should be shows that the entire family wants to watch together and not shows that only one or two individuals want to watch.
Decide what your time is worth: Take some time to calculate how much you your time is worth. Whatever you decide your hourly rate is worth, that is how much you must pay to watch each hour of TV over your allotted weekly free hours with the money going toward your savings.
This can be an excellent financial lesson for kids to determine their hourly worth as friends of mine with kids who adopted this strategy found out. If the kids set their worth too low in an attempt to watch TV on the cheap, you can hire them to do projects around the house for that same. low rate. On the other hand, if they demand too much money to do jobs that you want them to do, they won’t be able to afford to watch any additional TV over their allotted hours.
Create a list of alternative activities: What you’ll likely find is that many times the reason that you were flopping in front of the TV was because you hadn’t thought through other things that you needed to do. If you take the time to create a list of the things that need to be done around the house, you’ll find that much more of your time is occupied while at home and you won’t find yourself drifting toward the TV as much.
Start new projects: Begin a new project or side business to fill up the extra time. If you start doing something that you truly enjoy, you will find that you will want to spend your time doing that instead of watching TV. These activities may end up producing enough money to let you do them full time as was the case with me.
By doing these five steps you will find that weaning yourself from the TV will be much easier than you ever thought. You’ll also find that when you aren’t spending so much time in front of the TV, your productivity will skyrocket and many of the financial problems that you have been having will begin to resolve themselves. In the scheme of things, what would you rather have — a nice fat retirement account, or the faded memory of watching some TV sitcom?