Two years ago, I made the decision to pull the plug on my satellite subscription. I did it because I felt like a lot of my time was being squandered on worthless entertainment and I didn’t have the ability to regulate my television usage any other way. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who gets sucked in to the TV, and even if nothing “good” is on, I just sit there dumbly watching. If I turn it on for the morning news, likely it will still be on at bed time. (I work from home, so that’s entirely possible.) Combine that with a laptop computer and wireless Internet connection and you can see that I was set up for a day of sofa surfing. I finally realized that my brain was turning to mush and I wasn’t a happy person. I had to go cold turkey to get the TV monkey off my back.
In the two years since I cut the cord and got over my TV addiction, I’ve become a proponent of a TV-free existence. There are many reasons why I like the TV-free life, but one of the biggest reasons is the difference it’s made in my financial life. I knew I was saving money without TV, but I never thought about quantifying it until a friend asked me, “Well, if it’s such a wonderful life, exactly how much are you saving?” I took him up on his challenge and figured up my daily savings.
The most obvious savings: No more satellite bill. At the time I cut the cord, I was paying $55 per month, or $1.83 per day in a 30-day month, to watch TV.
Next comes the electricity cost: Using national averages, I estimate that my TV set up was using about 1200 kWh of electricity per year. Around here, electricity is about 10 cents per kWh. That’s $120/year, or $0.33 per day, in electricity that I’m saving (and I’m doing something nice for the environment).
The comes the opportunity cost: This was by far the biggest difference. When I turned off the TV, I instantly became more productive. Being self-employed, this translated directly into higher earnings. I had more time to take on projects and I was able to expand my offerings to clients by learning new things. I also turned a hobby into an additional money making venture. I looked back at my income from two years ago and compared it to my income now. I earned about $14,000 more this year than I did in the same period before I cut off the TV. That works out to about $38.36 per day. I attribute all of that increase to the fact that I had more time available and was better able to focus on my tasks without TV.
Next is insurance: When I had TV, I rarely exercised. Now I exercise almost every day. My insurance plan rewards those who engage in regular exercise with lower premiums (plus some freebie gifts for reaching certain milestones). My premiums have dropped by $150 annually, or $0.42 per day, over the same time as when I had TV. I also visit the doctor less because I’m not sick as often, saving at least two $20 copays a year ($40), or $0.11 per day.
I now do more for myself. Since I’m not in front of the TV all the time, I have time to engage in money saving projects like basic home repair, landscaping, car maintenance, sewing, etc. I wasn’t much of a DIY person before, but now I do almost everything myself. The days don’t “get away from me” like they once did. This one was hard to estimate, but I figure that all of the things I do myself add up to at least $1,000 savings per year (it’s probably more, but I estimated low for argument’s sake). That makes for about $2.74 per day in savings.
The savings from not being exposed to advertising was difficult to quantify because I’m not a huge shopper by any means and I like to think that I’m immune to most advertising. But, looking back, I know that there were some things (food, movies, electronic gadgets, etc.) that I was probably influenced to buy via TV advertising. Looking back at my spending from two years ago and comparing it to now, I spend about $4,000 less per year. Not all of that is related to the elimination of TV, but I estimate that about $300 of it can be tied directly to television advertising. That works out to about $0.82 per day that I save without TV.
There have been other savings, I’m sure, I’m just not able to quantify them. I do spend more time using coupons and pursuing bargains but since I’ve always done that, I’m not sure if I do it more now because I don’t have TV, or if that would have come about naturally as I improved my methods over time. I find that I’m happier without the depressing news and advertising that constantly made me feel “less than,” angry, and frustrated. I’m probably saving something there because when I’m happy I don’t need retail or food therapy, but I couldn’t begin to estimate it so I’ve left it out of this exercise. I read more about everything, including finance, so I’m sure I’ve learned some things that have saved me money, but I wouldn’t know where to begin to quantify that, either. I’m probably saving significantly more than what I’ve listed here, but rather than speculate too much, I’ve limited this exercise to those savings that I’m certain of.
But to answer my friend’s question, “Exactly how much are you saving?” the answer is summarized below (daily figures):
Satellite subscription: $1.83
Increased productivity: $38.36
Insurance premium: $0.42
Decreased medical copays: $0.11
Decreased exposure to advertising: $0.82
Total for a day without TV: $44.61
Total for a year (not a leap year): $16,282.65
I was surprised at the final total. When I look at these numbers, the things that jumps out at me is that I am saving almost as much in one day as I used to pay for my entire monthly satellite bill. Admittedly, the biggest improvement has been in my income, so you could argue that it’s not “savings,” it’s “earnings,” but since it came about as the direct result of no TV, I count it here. Being self employed, my income increases only when my productivity increases. I don’t get cost of living raises. Those with regular jobs will probably not see these same savings unless you use your new free time to start a business. But the other savings are within anyone’s grasp, if you cut the cord.