How to Keep TV from Stealing Your Money and Your Life

TV is costing us all a lot of time and money. Is it worth it?

I recently signed back up with cable TV service. As regular readers know, I’ve been without paid TV service for over a year now. I canceled my Dish Network last fall while competing in the FNBO Direct Pay Yourself First Challenge. There were several reasons I canceled. But the main two were cost and time. It just wasn’t worth paying for something that I wasn’t watching that much of anyway.

As I mentioned, when I canceled I had service with Dish Network. This time around I chose Time Warner because I wanted TV service without a contract. Something Dish was unable to do. Also Time Warner ended up giving me a sweet deal on a cable / internet bundle. We’d been having trouble with ATT internet, so I decided it was a good move. Another reason I chose Time Warner is because ATT never got around to installing uVerse in my neighborhood. You could have had me, ATT!

Cancel TVAnyway, I have mixed feelings about this recent retreat back into the world of paid TV. The past few days have been good in that I’ve been able to catch up on shows that I’ve been missing. Not to mention watch most of the season-opening NFL games. I’ve really enjoyed it.

But I’ve also seen some negatives, in that other areas of my life begin to take a back seat when cable TV is around: family time, exercise, sleep, and blogging, to name a few.

I’ll discuss one of those briefly. Building this blog wasn’t easy. I didn’t do it by sitting in front of the TV every night for the past year watching reruns of Dog the Bounty Hunter. I’ve been hard at work on this site. And having no TV helped me make that happen.

That’s not meant to disparage anyone that watches TV every night (or Dog). It’s just a testimony that you can do something else with your time, make some extra money, and still find time with a little bit of TV. I also said that to motivate myself to not get caught up in too much TV, lest this blog’s content suffer.

So as a nice reminder to you and I, I thought I’d put together a quick guide to keep TV from stealing our money and our lives:

Just Say No

Consider going cold turkey with the paid tube. There’s plenty of TV available over the air for free that will keep you busy for an hour a day (a good limit). You can even watch some shows online. Mrs. PT and I got by using these two methods. You didn’t think I was going to totally let my newly purchased flat screen TV go to waste, did you?

Going without paid service is not for everyone. But if you want to watch less TV and get more done, this is a good compromise. Or, you could make bold move and remove all the TVs from your house. Simply force yourself to spend time doing other things.

Get a DVR

If you’re not into going without TV, then consider a DVR. The Digital Video Recorder (DVR) or Tivo is one of favorite inventions of the last decade. Watch only the shows you want to watch, when you want to watch them, and skip all the commercials. It’s really how TV was meant to be watched. If you’re going to have TV, this for me, is a must have. A huge time saver.

Drop the Extras

While you’re signing up for DVR, make sure you not paying for some other services that you aren’t using? Are you even watching all those premium channels? If not, call up your service provider and have them removed.

Threaten to Cancel or Change Service

If you’re going to keep your service, make sure you’re getting the best deal you can. The cost of TV service varies greatly from person to person. It’s likely the only thing stopping you from getting a lower monthly TV bill is you calling in and asking for it. Scan your local paper or look in your junk mail for a competing TV service offer. With that in hand, call up your current provider and discuss getting a better deal. Be nice and simply ask for a better monthly fee that can compete. They’ll do a lot to keep you on as a customer.

Combine Services

One area of savings that’s often overlooked is the bundling of services. Having your phone, internet, and TV all with one provider can help save a nice amount each month.

Set Limits

Lastly, set limits for yourself on the amount of TV you watch each day. This is especially important if you have kids. Life’s best enjoyed when we keep things in moderation. And TV is no exception. As a family, decide on a good limit (1 hour is enough to help you veg out for a bit). More importantly, find something else to do with your time: read, talk, walk, organize, build something, write, create, etc… Having something to fill the void is what’s going to keep you tuned into life and tuned out on TV.

Is TV stealing your time and money? Let me hear from you in the comments below…

Photo by bdunnette

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Last Edited: September 21, 2009 @ 5:16 pm
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a husband and father of two. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

Comments

  1. I have also mixed feeling about watching TV.

    While it is a big money and time consumer, it also allows to turn my brain off and relax.

    You sometimes need to find a balance where you are allowed to spend time on “useless” activities. It is good to avoid burnouts ;-)

    I actually watch TV through TIVO in order to avoid commercials and save times (it takes only 40 minutes to watch a 1hour show :-D).

    one thing is for sure, I won’t stop watching hockey!

  2. I love my paid TV however I know that too much paid TV is just plain unproductive. I limit myself
    during the week to 1-2 hours a night max. Weekends
    probably spend more time on it but only because of the sport. It definitely helps me unwind during the week after work. I suggest that you only start to watch TV after all jobs are done. I stick to this and my TV time is like my reward

  3. Do what I did and get one of the home brewed solutions. It may sound super nerdy but there are so many options out there for free TV alternatives that its ridicules to be paying anything for TV, in my opinion. Now with Boxee.tv released this past Monday, you can get even more free TV in more convenient ways..

    http://www.pffirewall.com/moneysaving/ditch-cable-bill/

  4. I recently wrote on my blog about how my wife and I haven’t paid for cable TV since we’ve been married, and then went on to talk about how we were able to get all the shows we wanted for free by streaming them to our Xbox. Well, a few weeks after I wrote that we bought a new 50″ plasma TV and my wife insisted that we get cable tv. So we did. *sigh. On a positive note we were able to get a great deal on our cable package, and get a ton of free extras by doing a little bit of homework, and ordering our package through the cable company’s online chat – instead of through their website or by phone (where they woudldn’t give us any extras). In any event, if you do get cable or satellite, do your homework, and push to get the extras for free or reduced. More often than not they’ll give it to you – even if you have to try a few times.

  5. I canceled TV service about 4 months back and have never been happier or more productive. Sure, it’s nice to have it and nice to lay around watching it… but at the end of the day, it is a waste of time and money.

  6. I gave up TV service about a month ago when my television died. It is now working again and I am debating whether to get the paid service reinstated.

    I have become more productive and more social without the TV but I do miss an evening watching a film or having it on when crafting. I find that watching programs on my laptop actually demands more of my attention then having it on a bigger screen.

    Has anyone else found that people think you are strange when you tell that you don’t have TV? I have been told that I am brave.

  7. One thing you don’t mention is how many networks are now offering full episodes onine – go to usa.com, cbs.com, syfy.com…you get the idea — they all tend to show their shows online. For free. With a whole lot FEWER commercials, usually. Sites such as hulu.com and fancast.com link to tons of online shows, both current and “classic” tv. If you already have a decently powered computer with a tv size screen and newer video board — “older” can mean buffering Sloooowdown headaches — you’re set. (Or a digital TV to hook the computer to – yes, you can do that. Get tutorials online or bribe a geek friend!)

    We dumped the Comcast last month, saving us $85+/month – All of our favorite shows are available to us to watch online, sometimes a week lagging behind the broadcast dates, but most we can watch online the day after they’d air on cable. We have “rabbit ears” to pick up crystal clear digital broadcast stations locally, so seriously not a sacrifice!