Going Ad-less: Turning off the Media

There are few sources of information these days that do not come riddled with advertising, or at least with a list of generous corporate sponsors. To escape the constant bombardment of “buy this” “recognize my name” and “we’re so cool” I decided to take some drastic steps. As a result, I have noticed an improvement in my general consumer satisfaction.

No matter how little you see advertising, you are affected. Periodic changes in your habits can call attention to your weaknesses. If you know where you are weak, you can strengthen your personal frugality skills and make better, more informed decisions. To understand your spending habits, you have to understand why you spend, and rating your responses to advertising is a good indicator for those reasons.

My experiment looked something like this:

  • I turned off my satellite TV service and instead I buy my television shows on DVD, sans commercials.
  • I subscribed via RSS feed to my local television news and newspapers. I get the articles, or the gist of them, without all the advertising of reading them on the sites’ pages or getting the news via traditional methods — broadcast and print.
  • I ended my magazine subscriptions.
  • I stopped websurfing.
  • I turned off the radio.
  • I didn’t decide to stay home, so I still get the bombardment of billboards, light displays, and letter boards on my way to work or school.
  • I didn’t stop my mail and I get plenty of junk mail, coupons, and other ads in the mail box.

The results have been:

  • I miss movie releases. I don’t want to go to movies in the theater to see movies that I can borrow or buy on video later.
  • I don’t feel the need to upgrade. Not only do I only research something to buy when I find the need for it, I find no fault, nothing outdated, about the things I own.
  • I really don’t feel behind the times. You’d think that without my consciousness being smothered with the latest fashion trends that I’d feel ignorant of what’s new and happenin’. Quite the contrary, the news feeds I’ve found cover quite adequately the things in general society that I deem important.
  • I don’t know about sales. This is great because, again, I’m happy with the things I have and can employ my normal frugal shopping techniques for anything I may need.
  • I don’t know how much the economy is taking advantage of me. You know, my insurance company isn’t over charging, my life insurance coverage is sufficient for economic changes, I’m not reminded to be worried about social security, and my interest rates are fine.
  • Politics don’t anger me. I follow through the news, I read the speeches, and I participate in debates in online forums to learn from others. I miss the poorly-edited clips that make people look bad, the wicked attack ads, and the doomsday voice telling me who is clearly the better choice. In fact, this year I feel most informed of any election year.
  • I don’t end up on random websites. No slogans with website addresses stick in my head, no errant clicks take me to glaring ads, and no pop-ups. I stay with my news feed page, my forum, and the places I write.

I have found myself restless when visiting friends and commercials pop up between show clips, and therefore, my tendency to ignore ads is greater. I always prided myself in my general knowledge about the methods and effects of advertising, but just making a habit of ignoring them has reduced their overall effect on me. It’s humbling to know that even the most careful parts of me are susceptible to a clever commercial, and my new practices have helped reduce even further the eager consumer of my psyche. I have found some simple changes to reduce ad-intake. Through these, I found fitting habits, advertising strategies that make me vulnerable, and new ways to make finances more comfortable.

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5 Responses to Going Ad-less: Turning off the Media

  1. nanamom says:

    I have taken similiar steps years ago and I find that I spend less as well. I enjoy the movies more (we do use netflix and the local library to get a variety) Any previews that make us want to see a movie are generally already out on DVD so it works. I live in a small town so there is little shopping available so that cuts down on it as well. Actually took the no TV steps to keep the kids from seeing garbage and have never had time to surf so didn’t even realize that would be a problem. Until I read this I didn’t think much of the financial “fruits” (although I did realize I spent less)

  2. Christina says:

    My path has been different, yet with similar results. I stopped watching television because I believed that “typical” Americans managed their money and careers so well to have all of the goods and lifestyle depicted, and I knew I’d never measure up to that, so why expose myself to the pain?

    Exceptions were “Jeopardy!” and PBS cartoons. My son watched a half-hour cartoon show on PBS daily and was accused of watching too much television, as he was eager to play the themed games and fantasies his peers who watched more television introduced to him. His exposure to corporate branding was ample, despite the lack of exposure to commercial network television. At the age of four he accompanied us to a sponsored community festival and shouted out the company names of the logos he recognized: companies that employed mom and dad, or provided audio-video plug-ins for PCs. The plus side is that he yells “THIS IS BORING!” at commercials that screen before first-run movies.

    I rent DVDs, or download them if they have never been released on DVD or VHS in my country.
    I turned off my satellite TV service and instead I buy my television shows on DVD, sans commercials.

    I should follow Ann Hartter’s example and use RSS feeds.

    I didn’t end my magazine subscriptions, but they’ve changed to non-commercial journals I can’t get at the library.

    I should stop websurfing. I went without for two weeks on vacation and my mind had a tranquil time.

    I still listen to the radio, but community-supported and listener-powered stations, which I do support for less than the cost of cable television.

    Years ago I did call the OPT OUT number to get out of direct mail solicitations, but as a homeowner, small business owner, or former magazine subscriber or charity contributor there’s no way to completely cut the mail I do get out of my life.

  3. Jay Gatsby says:

    Closest I’ve come is to not have cable television for the past 17 years. I figured that at an average of $40/month in my area (over time), I’ve saved $8,160. Invested in a CD at an average of 5%, that comes out to $12,820. I also get my television shows and movies through Netflix, and occasionally the library.

    I occasionally watch broadcast television, but I haven’t upgraded any of my televisions in 7 years. I recently obtained two digital converter boxes, and have a great picture essentially still for free. True, there is advertising on broadcast television, but for the most part I watch PBS and only 1 or 2 normal shows — if I even have time.

    In the end, I’ve trained myself to tune out television commercials and advertising in general. My life is pretty simple, with most of my energy spent on my career, the gym and my family. This is as it should be….

  4. Cindy M says:

    Glad to see this article. I haven’t had cable TV in years and truly never missed it. No local newspapers (can view on line) or magazines for years now, either. I’ve hit thrift stores for clothing and shoes for years now and have saved a bundle. I no longer bother with coupons and always buy house brands when I do hit a grocery. Works great for me and I’m very contented with my choice to turn off the advertising media. If you’re smart enough to kill the constant bombardment of things you “gotta have,” it’s like a weight lifted. You really don’t have to do what everybody else does and can still be very inventive and happy.

  5. Kristian says:

    Once upon a time I worked in a newsstand, with cnn headline news playing on one tv and cable sports on the other. With over 2,000 titles of magizines and newspapers from all over the country and world I was quite bombarded by media. During this time there was OJ, Tanya Harding and many other examples of ickyness.
    I am pleased to say that I too have turned off my TV and while I took about 10 years off from reading newspapers I now read the local daily. There is still plenty of junk and some really bad ‘journalisim’ but at least its not on a 30 minute loop and once I put it dowm for the day I don’t see the same stories presented 2,000 different ways.
    I think I’m happier these days.

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