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?

This entry was posted in Personal Finance, Retirement, Saving Money, Work. Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. John Hendrix says:

    I watch very little TV. Recently I might watch 1 hour a week. My reason is that so much of what is offered as “entertainment” is just packaged stupidity.

    For the last several months I have been getting home late enough such that I miss Brit Hume’s “Special Report”, which I consider worth watching. If it weren’t for that my viewing hours would be a few hours a week.

  2. Gloria says:

    I was an EXTREME TV watcher (50+ hours a week) because of depression and just canceled my cable a few months ago. My television now sits in the corner of my closet. It was like losing a friend, but I instantly saved over $100/month and gained a significant amount of time for other things. I’ve found that some of that down time has replaced by the internet, but not nearly as bad as before.

    Part of my motivation for turning off the TV was this article on how bad it is for your brain.

    It is a very interesting read…

  3. kelly colgan azar says:

    I haven’t had a TV since the mid 1970’s and I’ve traveled widely, lived abroad, speak Japanese, trained in jazz dance, skate, got a Masters degree and have recently taken up wild life photography. Our lives are short. Need I say more.

  4. Michael says:

    We cut our cable (and antenna) about 6months ago. Yup… zero TV time… none at all.

    We’ve never been happier. I don’t miss it even a little bit.

    ps. if you want to ease yourself into a TV-free life, get yourself enrolled in grad school for a couple of years… you’ll better yourself and I promise TV will not be on the agenda.

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  7. Jim R. says:

    Great article. Bottom line is TV, for the most part, is nothing but empty calories for the mind. One of the biggest benefits of not watching mindless TV is no longer having to view local news, which is nothing but negative garbage that reports nothing but fires, robberies, domestic disputes, freeway accidents, and so forth.

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  11. Gunner says:

    I write a column in our local newspaper, and one of the first ones I wrote was on the subject of living TV free. It’s been 5 years with no Tv in my house, and I have missed little.

  12. Brainiac27 says:

    I find this strangely ironic to have found this on stumbleupon,the main reason I don’t have time for TV, or a life. Good article

  13. JMBIndy says:

    I have contemplated dumping satellite for some time now, but just can’t quite do it. The TV I would keep so I could watch DVD’s and the local weather, when it turns nasty in the summer.

    I try thinking of the cost savings (little over $600 a year) but just can’t bring my self to disconnect.

    Hi. My name is Jo. I’m a satellite junkie.

  14. Brian says:

    Well, I stopped watching that much television when I started my sales job. I cut down, but I think I still watch the same amount.

    It has just moved later on into the evening, because I want to work from sun up to sun down, because I am getting better a closing sales and I like making more money.

    Anyways, I don’t watch daytime tv anymore, I just watch the late night movie or not for kids/family friendly television.

    I turn it on before I go to sleep and while I eat dinner. But other than that, I’m Making deals, calling clients, or just driving to and fro.

    Say no to the tele….. sometimes

  15. Michael says:

    Not sure if this has been mentioned but another cost to factor in would be the advertising and how it makes you want things you don’t really want or need. No one is immune!

  16. wishmaster828282 says:

    TV also bombards you with propaganda and manipulative advertising and news programs. It is also designed to take your attention away from anything except tv itself.

    Basically, TV sucks your life and intelligence away and makes you co-dependent… if you watch it ALL THE TIME.

    Just watch it rarely and you are OKAY.

    You’ll notice then how manipulative the TV is.

  17. Ash says:

    I work at home half the time and would go mad without the lull of the tv nattering in the background.
    It helps the reptilian side of my brain feel that people are around and Im not so isolated.
    Classical music is nice change of pace but the tv is actually less of a distraction.
    Its all about self control.

  18. Ash says:

    Uh I mute my tv during commercials so its simple not to be bombarded by advertisers.

  19. wishmaster828282 says:

    But if you don’t have adverts to mute in the first place…
    Sorry, I work in advertising so I really just want none if it and I know their tricks… it’s like not wanting to see porn even though I can’t hear it.

    Also, I DO understand not wanting to feel isolated but guess what? There are ~5 billion people on this planet so I don’t need a TV to make my life even more crowed. I guess my scope of reality is that broad.

  20. wishmaster828282 says:

    I guess once you realize the truth about TV then relying on it is like trying to be an adolescent once you are an adult.

    I hope that makes enough sense for you all.

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  23. Tania says:


    I found your article informative and interesting. I have been trying to cut down On TV myself. I work part time and go to university. I am on Holidays right now and I feel myself drifting towards the TV. The funny thing is I have now gotten to the point I don’t even enjoy watching it anymore, I love watching movies but not sitcoms, talkshows ect.
    I really want to do other things such as dancing (I have always loved dancing, yoga, redecorating my bedroom and so on, but sometimes when I am in the middle of these activities I get either bored or really down and I feel like I need to go and sit in front of the TV…what should I do when that happens?I also feel like when I am doing something other than watching TV why should I bother? I am not going to like it in the end anyway. I know That this seems irrational but in the moment it feels very real. I was wondering if you have any techniques I could use to stem these feelings?

  24. pfadvice says:

    There isn’t an answer that fits for everyone and you will have to find what works for you. The easiest step is to get rid of your TV — then it’s no longer an issue. Most people aren’t willing to do that which means you need to break yourself from the habit. That means finding something else to occupy time when you are bored or combining the two – why not do your stretches while watching TV and only watch TV when you are doing them. You’ll have to experiment to find a solution for yourself.

  25. wu woo says:

    I did this too; I gave away my TV 4 years ago and have so much time that I went back to school (university). Good job. Now if we can only get more people to stop watching TV — it is a mind-sucking, energy-sapping, electricity-using, cataract-forming mesmerizing waste of time. Good riddance to TV.

  26. Joyce says:

    I turned of my tv cable system about a month ago and gave my TV and 95% of my DVDs and VHS tapes to a ministry, where they can put them to good use. I did buy a DVD player so I can watch it sometimes. And I go to movie theaters on weekends. I must be going through TV withdrawal, because I’m still clinging to a movies in that way. But the time I am saving is amazing and I go to bed earlier because I’m not falling asleep in front of the tv. I like what you said about advertising though. When I’m not exposed to all the stuff they want me to buy, I won’t know it’s missing in my life. Thanks for a good website.

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  29. R L says:

    Thank god. I finished college, bought a house, and for the last 25 years i’ve been a slave to TV. My wife is addicted, considers it ‘family’ time, and will watch 5 shows religiously with her whole family. Survivor, American Idol, Lost, Great Race (whatever it is), Desperate House Wives, and whatever TV show is on after that. Usually Everyone Loves Raymond, Friends, or whatever else. I hate it. I hate TV. When i enter a room i become aware of my mind going soft, and i could be drooling but it sucks all my motivation to leave away. I live upstairs now and since i moved into my house i stopped watching TV. Not totally thanks to Hulu (jerks!) but am now reading, studying, and do things to expand my mind. I started a start-up too, am working for clients, and in general am living the same experience as yourself. I am so glad i found your article. I feel ‘not alone’ anymore doing what i’ve been doing.

    Cheers. Here’s to your continued success.

  30. Truth says:

    “…but not subscribing to cable TV is probably just not realistic.”

    David – this is why TV will never die because people like you feel this way and honestly, some of us need people like you because you people are the ones that will work for those of us that didn’t waste our time watching TV. I haven’t owned a TV in over 7 years and NEVER miss it.

    Instead I spend my time educating myself in the financial aspect, ready for retirement in about 20 years, not even affected by the recession and enjoy not playing the rat race that people like you do. IF I watch any TV at someone else’s house, I always watch Discovery channel and nothing else.

    I’ll be sure to contact you when I need a employee – afterall, with all the TV you are watching, surely you know we are in a recession and jobs are not plentiful.

  31. Harris says:

    I think the only significant point the article makes is that isolating yourself from advertising has large financial benefits. The figure it cites for the cost of spending extra due to advertising is three times the amount spent on games, cable, movies, and electricity combined. It also cites a rather high interest rate (8%) and uses an inflated value for electricity cost. It furthermore includes the cost of games, which I hold to be irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Finally, it assumes you buy a rather expensive plan.

  32. Chris Curtis says:

    I gave up TV 7 years ago when I noticed my two young children arguing about what to watch. It took us months to get the aholes at direct TV to cancel our account. I have NOT missed it a bit. I now watch less than 10 hours of TV a year. I DON’T feel like I’m missing anything. Actually, I feel I have so much more time to do fun and productive things.

  33. shazia says:

    yes u are right i have same problem of watching TV now i will try to get rid of all that.Thank u it’s really very inspiring.

  34. Meh_Gerbil says:

    I wouldn’t have 8hrs. a night to play World Of Warcraft if I had the TV on all the time.

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  36. Psycho says:

    So, by your logic, if I gave up TV and decided to read a book, how much would I have to pay per hour to read? Or wait, how much do I pay myself to browse the internet? What do I do if I DON’T have cable or if I’m just playing on the Wii or Playstation?

    While your logic is enlightening, it falters on itself. If a person is dedicated enough to designing a website, learning guitar, or whatever, they’ll do it regardless of what’s on TV.

    I think you’re overshadowing dedication with an unjustifiable philosophy.

  37. richard says:

    I find most TV content to be lowest common denominator stuff. (reality shows and makeovers)
    So I only watch 3 or 4 shows on a weekly basis, and the gaps are filled by listening to the radio whilst getting on with other fulfilling stuff.

  38. Kelly says:

    For those of you who aren’t keen to this idea, think of it as cutting back on something that is basically a waste of time. No one is saying to stop watching TV altogether, but to realize how much time you do spend in front of it. I realized one day how much time I was spending in front of the TV and how many other things were not getting done. I now have two shows that I watch. One on Sunday night and one on Tuesday and Wednesday. I also watch an occasional movie for relaxation. But my life is no longer centered around the Television. With all the extra time I have been able to pursue my passions; things I had forgotten that I enjoyed since I was younger. I play football with my son or practice catch with my girls. There was a time when they would beg me to come outside and play with them, but there were always movies or shows that I “couldn’t miss”. :-) I realized, and not too late, that I “do” have time. This isn’t a cure-all for life’s little problems. This is just a tiny step in the direction to self-fulfillment. Smile and stay positive :)

  39. Jason says:


  40. Berry says:

    The article doesn’t address the sort of compromise that I’ve arrived at: working while you watch. At the present time, aside from movies on DVD, there is very little on the screen that I watch to the exclusion of everything else. I can generally work on my writing, my website, and other art projects while keeping the tube on…although I must admit it’s much less feasible for recording music.

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  45. lagirl310 says:

    I’ve been struggling with stress, depression, anxiety, alcoholism and gambling problems. Amidst all of this I found myself hiding behind the bottle and my tv. When my cable was recently turned off due to lack of payment I freaked out and that’s when I knew I had a problem. I’m writing about in hopes that it will be good therapy. I’ve decided to stop watching all together for at least six months to see how if might affect my shattered life.

  46. no name says:

    Great article. TV really is all consuming. It’s great how you moved toward doing something productive with your time.

  47. Robert says:

    I’ve recently quit smoking for good. It has been a struggle to quit smoking for many years, and now I feel that I have actually done it. It wasn’t easy.

    For years I’ve recognized how TV is killing me similarly to cigarettes. I’ve been trying to quit TV again, and holy smokes is it ever hard!

    First of all, I’m battling my wife – I’d love to cancel cable… guess here stance on the issue.

    Second of all, I find my anxiety levels around missing “my shows” is absurdly high.

    I am contemplating and currently building my courage to quit cold turkey for the rest of this season. Not even a single show.

    Objectively I realize that how the stories of the shows end is actually completely inconsequential to me in my life… but it *feels* like it is important.

    Wish me luck. I hope that it’ll be easier than getting over nicotine.

    Next project = weight.

  48. adam says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how much time most people spend in front of their tv, computer, or even phone. All 3 devices were meant for entertainment, but also productivity.

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