Whenever I tell people about the family activities I’ve talked about over the last week – art projects, lots of reading, making your own crayons, and so on – they usually end up asking “where do you find the time for all of this stuff?”
Our secret is a simple one: we drastically minimize television time.
In our house, there is a simple “no television” rule from Monday to Friday between the time the children get up and the time they go to bed. The television does not turn on during that time.
On the weekends, we watch roughly one hour of television as a family per day (unless our oldest son gets up really early, goes downstairs, and sneaks in a superhero show).
In the evenings, after the kids are in bed and the chores are done, Sarah and I might watch a movie or a television show without commercials, but quite often we just skip that as well and go to bed, or we might play a board game or work on our individual hobbies.
That’s it. That’s all the time spent in our house watching television as a family. We own exactly one television, and it’s not on the main floor of our home where most of our family time is spent.
Don’t get me wrong – we’re not necessarily opposed to television. We just realize that there are a lot of costs involved in watching.
First of all, there’s the electricity. CNet estimates that a television in use uses about 100 watts, and my Kill-A-Watt meter says that our television uses about 4 watts when on standby mode. I couldn’t find statistics when it comes to cable or satellite boxes, but my Kill-A-Watt meter estimates that our cable box uses about 100 watts, too. If you have other components – stereo sound, video game consoles, etc. – the cost only goes up. The nationwide average is about $0.12 per kilowatt hour, so if you watch television an average of three hours a day and own a satellite or cable box, $10 a month is vanishing right before your eyes.
There’s also the programming bill. Cable packages vary, but they’re at least $40 a month and can range well over $100 per month. Netflix is another $9 per month. Hulu Plus is another $9 per month.
Those costs really add up. You’re talking well over a thousand dollars a year just to keep the television on and with cable programming. Add on top of that the eventual replacement costs for televisions and batteries for the remote control…. you’re starting to get the idea. Television is an expensive proposition.
There’s also the cost in terms of time spent watching television. Every hour you spend watching television is an hour not engaged in something else. If you’re watching three hours of television a day yet feel guilty about the things you’re not getting done, trim away some of that television viewing. If you’re watching something awful on television and wonder why you’re watching it, turn it off and do something else.
On top of that, television programming is laden with product promotion. I’m not just talking about commercials, I’m talking about product placement within the programming. Normal programs include zoom-ins on product labels and decals all the time, subtly sliding buying preferences to you right inside the shows.
Turn the television off. Consider disconnecting your cable box and stopping that subscription. You’ll be amazed at the money you save and the extra time you have.
This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.