How Dumping TV Allowed Me to Quit My Job, Create an Online Business and Fund My Retirement Account

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?

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103 Responses to How Dumping TV Allowed Me to Quit My Job, Create an Online Business and Fund My Retirement Account

  1. david says:

    (this note is written with tongue in cheek) 🙂

    Your article was interesting and enlightening. However, if a person chose to not subscribe to cable TV they may then need to visit the local gin mill in order to view the Super Bowl, World Series, etc.

    This visitation could conceivably lead to heavy drinking which could lead to a DWI (DUI) arrest which could cost tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers fees, increased insurance premiums, lost work, etc. which would vastly outweigh any savings realized by not subscribing to cable TV.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am surely no advocate of cable companies, but not subscribing to cable TV is probably just not realistic. Now, if you wrote an article on saving $5.00 per day by not smoking over the next 30 years – that would be a realistic article and might even be enough impetus to get a reader, or two, to quit smoking. By the way, a pack a day is 3 times more expensive than standard cable TV so the rewards would be immeasurably greater, especially when you take into consideration improved health, increased quality of life and reduced medical costs.

  2. ben says:

    I have a love / hate relationship with my TV. I can’t seem to give it up, but I know I spend way too much time watching it. Maybe this will motivate me to cut down on the time I watch it, but I doubt it.

  3. kevin says:

    Great post. I gave up TV about a year ago and it’s amazing how much more free time you have. All those things that I thought I never had the time to do, I really did. I was just spending them in front of the TV instead of doing what I wanted.

    It’s not easy to break the habit, but you will thank yourself for doing it and be amazed at the amount of time you have each day.

  4. Dr. D says:

    In my household, we decided to rent a DVR from the cable company. Now, when we do feel like watching, we have our recorded shows to choose from. We watch what we want, when we want. And when bypassing the commercials, an hour long show is reduced to 45 minutes. It was a wise choice for us.

  5. Andrew says:

    This article is a bit misrepresentative. You don’t “save” millions by not watching TV. You’re talking about opportunity costs. It assuems that if youweren’t watching TV, you’d be doing some sort of activity that generates income.

    Well, shucks, if I quit watching TV, I could spend up to 4.5 hours more per day working! Hey, lets apply this reasoning elsewhere. How much does spending time with the kids cost me over my life? How much does sleeping cost?

    We already work 8 hours a day, and you want to add more? People need to relax. Now if they choose to do it in front of the TV, that’s just as valid as if they chose to do it by making a website, or whatever. I’d speculate that most people watch tv rather than other activities do so because they come home from work physically or mentally exhausted, incapable of doing more than being passively entertained.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for quitting TV. I haven’t had broadcast TV since my son was born. (I don’t want him to see commercials, you see.)But putting it in terms of regaining “lost” economic potential is to assume that the point of living is to produce, and it implies that any activity that doesn’t generate you an income is valueless.

  6. pfadvice says:


    I’m assuming that you failed to follow the first link to an article I wrote where I show that you can save well over $1 million over your lifetime by not watching TV without generating any additional income in the hours you don’t watch.

    I totally agree that there are more important issues than generating income. When I started this website, it wasn’t generating anything for the first 2 years or so, but I did it because it was enjoyable, fun and interesting and it was fortunate that over time it did begin to generate some money.

  7. fern says:

    Insightful article (even if not everyone is interested in making every spare moment generate income).

    TV helps me unwind at the end of the day, but i admit i watch more than i should. I rely on it much more in the winter months than summer.

  8. geof says:

    Has “being online” taken over for watching the television? It seems that the more we justify change, the more out of balance our lives become. Just my $.02

  9. Amy F. says:

    Thanks for this article. I used to be a non-TV watcher, but it has crept into my life more and more over the last few years and it is definitely a big time sucker. I’ve noticed that my evenings feel a lot shorter when I watch TV versus when I leave it off all night (but that rarely happens anymore).

    There are many things that I theoretically want to do with my free time when I get home each night(learn foreign languages, learn new job skills, read, write etc.) but I find that I am exhausted after getting home from my full time job and long commute, as other readers have mentioned. I don’t seem to have the energy left to do any of the things that are really important to me, and I end up watching TV. (Working full time and commuting are conscious choices I made, of course, and I accept that there are consequences to spending 60 hours a week away from home, mainly being tired.)

    Also, if you live with people who aren’t bothered by watching TV in every moment of their free time, it’s hard to avoid TV if you want to spend time with those people without going out.

    For me and others in my situation, I find that a realistic way to reduce my TV consumption so that I can do the other stuff that is important to me is to watch less on the weekends, when I actually have the energy to do other things, and the people in my home who like to watch TV all the time are sometimes out doing other things.

  10. fern says:

    When i first bought my house, i went without TV cus i felt i couldnt even afford the $15/monthly for basic cable. I missed it, cus i heard other people talking about the Seinfeld final episodes, tho of course even with basic i missed being able to see the Sopranos.

    Living alone, I especially like having the small TV in my kitchen on when i’m preparing and eating dinner to watch the news.

    Otherwise, it’s on from about 8 to 10:30 p.m. summers, maybe an extra hour int he winter when it gets dark earlier.

    It’s hard to break the habit and i don’t always feel like reading.

  11. Wanderings says:

    I need to follow this advice ~ I like the idea of actually taking the time of writing down the opportunities that are possible when you stop watching TV. I recently got rid of most cable tv (only have what’s still included with cable internet) and that’s helped ~ except I find that I am watching more shows that are just bad. Turn it off!

  12. Teri says:

    This is why I REALLY enjoy having a DVR. It has significantly cut down my tv time while being able to increase the quality of what I watch. Doesn’t take much time and effort and schedule aranging to watch my favorite shows.

    As for me if I didn’t watch TV I’d have NO down time and I find it rather cheap & enjoyable entertainment. Don’t really spend a ton of time on it. But my spouse is a huge TV/movie person. I can hardly stand to sit and watch through a movie because I find it so time-consuming. But I do notice a lot of time I used to spend doing other things now goes to TV. Certainly good points.

  13. John says:

    The picked up your story – but how can i make $1 million if I can’t watch Cramer’s Mad Money every night?!

  14. Angela says:

    I have often thought about ditching the t.v. In our home it consumes too much of our time and attention. This article gives me more incentive to scale down.

  15. rich guy says:

    Your article is full of HALF truths and OMISSIONS. Watching TV allows some people to recharge, relieve stress and be more productive in their work.

    We are well off (several million) but still watch the “free” channels and occasional DVD. No need for cable, satellite, etc. Entertainment center also serves to hold the stereo along with home videos.

    TV is not evil, like most things, it is good when used in moderation.

  16. Ross says:

    I cut TV down from 10-15 hours a week (including video games – damn GTA) to about 2 hours a week. The free time is great and really allows me to focus on developing my blog as well as having a life outside of the living room!!

    I’m still a die-hard HBO Original Series fan (almost everything!) so HBO On Demand is what usually fills up those two hours.

  17. Mitch Altman says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.

    I think the main point is that TV takes time to watch. If you could do anything at all in the whole world right now with the next 30 minutes of your life, would it be an enthusiastic: Watch TV! If not, then is there something else that you would rather do? Why not do that? If you don’t know what you what you want to do, then if you watch less TV you would have time to explore what it is you really enjoy doing. There is nothing wrong with watching TV, but there may be something you enjoy more.

    Myself, I stopped watching TV, and stopped doing lots of things in my life that I didn’t enjoy that much. That enabled me to explore what it might be that I really love to do. As it happens, there are many more things that I love to do than there is time to do it all (no matter how long I live). So, now the biggest challenge of life is choosing which of the things I love to do. Making those choices are much more rewarding for me than choosing what show to watch on TV.

    One of the things I love to do is invent. And by not watching TV I have many more hours per day to invent, and as a result, 3 years ago I invented TV-B-Gone, a device that turns off TVs in public places. It really works, but my main thought with this device was to give people an opportunity to think about TV and its effects on their lives. As a result of TV-B-Gone’s popularity, it makes me enough money to live the life I want to live, working on what I love. I feel very fortunate.

    I couldn’t have done this if I had spent my time watching TV.

    Not all that long ago TVs were just ON, without much thought, and with almost no debate. I’m glad to see that some folks are debating the merits and demerits of TV (or at least thinking about it).

    We all have to make choices about what we do with the time in our lives. Please make those choices well.

  18. pfadvice says:

    rich guy says: Your article is full of HALF truths and OMISSIONS.

    Not sure if you are referring to this blog or my article on TheStreet. This blog post is personal experience, so I’m not sure how it can be full of “half truths and omissions.” TheStreet article simply shows that watching TV can have a huge impact on your finances.

    Nowhere did I say TV was evil or that people shouldn’t watch it (in fact, I state that I still do watch it on occasion). These articles were simply to get people thinking about how much TV they watch and if they could be spending their time in better ways.

  19. quattrogrip says:

    My family is one in the tiny fraction of TV-less households. Your article was interesting not in its validation of our choice (but thanks anyways), but in the additional financial benefits that I had not considered. So, I thought some more about the secondary financial effects of being TV-free, for the consideration of anyone considering the move.

    1. You will have a newspaper subscription (or two or three) — subtract this expense from your expected windfall. By the way, NYT and WSJ are as expensive as cable!!

    2. You read more books too. Another expense, but shop wisely for used books and use the library. Subtract from your savings again.

    3. Your kids will read and speak earlier (what else do they have to do??). Leverage that academic head start and they may qualify for scholarships when they reach college age. Ka-ching!!

  20. Gemariah says:

    This is a great article. I have few friends that watch tv, otherwise I’d email it to all of them. My time in front of the tv is going down all the time.

    Thankfully I’m not average. Commercials don’t influence me to buy. I spend it on my part time video production business. My basic cable is under $10.00 and no games or pay per view.

    This should be mandatory reading for anyone over the age of 14. Mandatory every few weeks until practise and use are one.

    Thanks for putting laziness in terms most can relate to.

  21. Matt says:

    Great article! I’ve been thinking lately about all the time that we (my wife and I) spend in front of the TV – I never think it’s all that much but over the course of a month I think you’re dead on the money – it’s more than I would like to admit.

    As I was reading your article the idea of the PVR popped up – if there are a bunch of shows that you do like to watch, get a PVR and record them. That way you can cut through commercials which are about 25% of programming. That little bit alone can get you about 8 hours a week (a full work day)

  22. k9kare says:

    thanx for the TV info — we don’t watch tv—we don’t smoke, we don’t spend other than our bills, rent (want to rent, only 475. very nice, likes pets) utilities, food and car payment and we still don’t have any money. Why? very conservitave spenders, if we spend… credit cards either.

    Why are we still broke? Make $30k ish a year.

  23. Carol says:

    If I lived alone the TV would be turned on about 8:00 pm until 11:ish to watch the news and Jay Leno, but I live with my husband and adult son. They love to watch Fox News and other shows like that. I watch CSI and crochet most of the times the tv is on but I agree people spend too much time on tv, blogs, and games. BTW, with our frugal ways (which included cable) my husband was able to retire at 55 but I am still working because of the cost of insurance.

  24. Simone says:

    I agree with you that if you don’t watch TV you don’t spend the money on Cable. The same applies to quit smoking, or not spending 100$ per weekend in drinks at bars. But saying that you would save millions of dollars because you could spend the average 4.5h a day working on your own business is not true.
    Usually people watch TV at night, in the evenings. They cannot work 8h x day, go back home, do houseworks, cook, stay with the kids and then work other 4.5h.
    Why not sleeping only 4h instead of 8h? You could have spend these 4h more per day building a new business.

  25. pfadvice says:

    I agree with you that if you don’t watch TV you don’t spend the money on Cable. The same applies to quit smoking, or not spending 100$ per weekend in drinks at bars. But saying that you would save millions of dollars because you could spend the average 4.5h a day working on your own business is not true.

    I never said that you had to spend the time building a business to earn $1 million – please read the article linked in the post as that will explain. I merely said that was what I decided to do with my time.

    Usually people watch TV at night, in the evenings. They cannot work 8h x day, go back home, do houseworks, cook, stay with the kids and then work other 4.5h.

    Why not? They are watching TV for 4.5 hours. They can choose to do something else during that time.

    I’m not advocating that everyone should work another 4.5 hours a day. I chose to do so because I found something that I truly enjoyed doing, but I don’t expect everyone to do it. But that 4.5 hours (at least a part of it)can probably be used more constructively than sitting in front of the TV and there are plenty of other ways to relax other than watching TV.

    And as I have stated, I still do watch TV from time to time, but have found that while I once thought that I had to have my TV, I have found that I usually have a lot of other things I can do that I enjoy more, am more productive when doing them, and still feel just as relaxed.

    Why not sleeping only 4h instead of 8h? You could have spend these 4h more per day building a new business

    I would consider 4.5 hours of watching TV discretionary time while I would not consider it true of sleeping. Just my opinion…

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  27. Rich says:

    I try to minimise my use of TV. Have given it up entirely sometimes, other times taped shows and watched them at convenient times without the advertisements.
    Currently I’m watching 8 hours a week, but am always doing something while I watch- ironing, working out, sorting clothes etc.
    I have become quite time efficient and now I have had to look for further time savings by doing two things at once wherever possible.
    For example my podiatrist prescribed arch-strengthening exercises that I can do while seated at my desk at work (or on the toilet!)

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  30. David says:

    It’s all about the opportunity costs.

  31. Pietro says:

    I don’t have television. When I moved out of my mother house I did not buy a television, and from that moment I now nearly never watch television.

    Some time ago, in Italy, where I come from, I met a person, who is now a good friend of mine. When I told him I was going to go to Jena (Germany) for work, he described me for hours the Jena industries and the importance it had in the world war. I thought I randomly found his zone of expertise. I was wrong, he was that knowlegeble about most subjects. It was weird. Eventually I asked him, how do you know all those things? His answer was: I don’t look at television. I read instead. It came out that he grew up in a house where everybody was looking at tv for many hours a day, and as a reaction he stopped very soon, and now he is practically a living encyclopedia.

    What I find instead missing in your post is:
    a) when people look at television they go into alpha waves. And they relax. Sure they can do other things in those hours, but not all make them relax. So although they have more time, it is somehow bounded to do relaxing things.
    b) Right now television is going down… but internet is going up. I find myself not watching any television, which I still don’t have. But I find myself passing hours in fron of internet. Which can at times an enriching experience. But not necessarily, and not always.
    So while is is fairly easy to cut television it is harder to cut on internet because we need internet for work and for many activities. And then it becomes easy to kid yourself.
    For example I now passed some 40 minutes reading your article, and the comments.
    Was it worth my time?
    And then I spent some time to write a thoughtful comment.
    Was it worth my time?
    Was it worth yours to read it?

  32. liner says:

    Your article cracked me up! I’ve lived my entire life without TV – I’m not sure I could afford to have one. Really, I just don’t know what life is like WITH one.

    A friend of mine who is more concerned about me living without TV than I am, forwarded your article to me.

    I enjoyed the different aspects of life that you covered – I have not seen any articles that actually cover the costs of the TV stand, games, etc added into the equation.

    I am in the process of closing a business venture that was not profitable … that section of the article made me laugh out loud. I’m currently looking at a few new ventures in life… TV not being one of them.

  33. Nancy says:

    When I divorced 9 years ago, I cut expenses by turning off my cable. At the time, my children were 6 and 4 years old. I recovered financially, but found that we just simply didn’t need cable TV, nor did we really have time for it.

    My children had their fair share of video games and Veggie Tales videos to watch, but they found themselves immersed in other activities – music, sports, playing endlessly in the yard with the neighbors (who joined with me and turned off their cable), and, of course, their favorite past-time of pestering one another into frenzies. 🙂

    Eventually I got a pair of rabbit ears that picked up the 3 local channels – enough to get the local news and a few football games. Unfortunately, free programming is the pits, so we watch very few shows even at their current ages of 14 and 16. This was a sacrifice in that I am an Alabama graduate. To give up the ability to watch the Crimson Tide play was almost unbearable. But trips to Tuscaloosa turned out to be a lot more fun than sitting in front of the tube anyway.

    One more thing, you missed the most important gain from turning off the tube – incredible relationships with your children! We don’t have a million dollars in the bank, but we do have millions of memories from all we have done together as a family. There is no greater asset than teenager children who love and respect their parents, who enjoy their friends and enjoy life.
    They are far from perfect, but without a tube in front of their faces, they are incredibly fun! God blessed my poor financial situation years ago and gave me riches beyond what I could have ever imagined! Have a wonderful day.

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  35. Richard says:

    We have a TiVo. I initially feared it would result in more TV watching in the household. What I find is the opposite. I TiVo any show in which I’m interested.

    When I do watch a show, I fast-forward the commercials – so an hour show takes about 41 minutes and a 1/2 hour show about 19 minutes.

    The larger time savings come when I find the “stress” of the, “Oh no, I’m going to miss my favorite show!” worry has gone away. I know I’ve got it all recorded, so I can watch when I want.

    I go about doing the things I need or want to do (especially family time) and watch the shows when I can get to them. I find that AT LEAST 1/2 of the time I don’t watch, lose interest, and just delete the show.

    It’s a nearly painless way to ween yourself off the boob tube!

  36. Great post.

    Another suggestion: Give it up for a week. Promise yourself not to watch for and write down all the things you were able to do during the week. Once you see how your time might be spent, you will be motivated to scale back your watching time.

  37. JS says:

    I would love to watch some tv. However, I have a job and a 2 year old. How most people even find time to watch tv is beyond me.

  38. dela says:

    I watch 1 to 2 hours per week tops. It’s not that I hate it, it’s that it’s so powerful, when it’s on in a room it totally absorbs my attention. Kinda funny how you can care more about the outcome of the stories of someone’s fictitious life than you do about your own… storytelling can be that powerful. Yet, I don’t feel guilty about it when I am obsessed with a novel… somehow if you’re reading it’s not a waste of time.

    “Television is disgrace
    Life you get old, it’s the race,
    Can you break out,
    Can you break out,
    Will you live at your own pace?”

    – System of a Down

  39. brad says:

    Also remember that when you watch TV, you watch a lot of commercials, which make you spend more money.

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  43. Henrik says:

    Sperb article, thanks. Very similar (in quality) to those of Steve Pavlina.

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  45. Sam says:

    For the people that say that watching TV is just something to do because you are tired, I understand. Of coure work drains us all, so I know what you mean. You don’t have to go out and make money after work ends (heck no, FREE time is supposed to be there to rest after a hard days work and life is not all work). I only agree to this article to the point that so many people wish they had time for other things like spending time with friends and family, reading, watching sunsets, going to the beach, doing some hobby they love ect. yet they don’t get around to it because they are tired. If you come home and do the hobbies, it would be just as refreshing as watching TV so watching TV is really no excuse. Chatting with a friend doesn’t take that much energy and gives so much more.

    Oh, as an aside, I’ve heard that taking a mid-day nap and reguarly exercising as well as doing nothing for the first hour or so after returning from work makes a person feel less tired after work and have enough energy to do things.

  46. Leo says:

    TV is the best invention after the wheel, and BTW I work while watching

  47. Nelson says:

    What is TV?

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  49. Ray says:

    In life you are either costing your self money or making it. Get away from the TV, it’s costing you money!!

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