5 Reasons to Cancel Cable And Stop Watching TV

Did you know that according to Nielson’s most recent study, the average American watches 4 hours and 49 minutes of TV every day?

Think about that. That’s almost 5 hours of television. Every day. It was this thought that made me change my views on TV. So what did I do?

I’m Not Crazy, But Yes, I Ditched My TV…

People can hardly believe it when I tell them I don’t have cable anymore. Besides the fact that it was eating up my life, I also realized there are plenty of ways to get cheap entertainment without a cable subscription.

“What do you mean?” they’ll ask, disbelief on their face. “You must watch Netflix then, right?”

And I shake my head. I canceled my Netflix just a few months ago. Aside from the public television station and one channel that, thankfully, allows me to watch football on Sunday, I don’t watch TV.

The reason why I cut myself off from TV is because it’s deceptively addictive. After a long day at work, it’s so tempting to just plop down and watch a show. After all, we earned it, right? We need to relax.

The problem is that I’d sit there for hours, just watching. It didn’t matter if I was really enjoying what was on. I didn’t give it much thought. I would just watch, or change the channel to find something else to watch. And before I knew it, my evening was gone.

I also cut it out of my life for another reason: my finances.

Stop and think about what that TV is doing. It’s not just taking up our time and causing us a hefty, monthly cable bill. It’s also constantly selling us stuff. A lot of stuff.

Think about all the commercials we see on TV. We see ads for the new sale at Macy’s (“Wow, 40% off! I should head over there Saturday”), ads for the new Glade candle perfect for the upcoming holiday season (“Hmmm…scented pine would be great for Thanksgiving”), and ads for that new zippy Ford everyone is so crazy about (“I wish I could afford a nice new car…maybe I can!”)

We see these things, and we want them. We see beautiful people enjoying these fantastic, new beautiful things and we feel a little less great about the things we currently own. We feel a little less satisfied with our life.

TV makes us feel chronically dissatisfied. And it encourages us to consume, consume, consume so we feel satisfied again.

What You Get If You Ditch the TV

Look, I know the thought of ditching your TV is scary. Trust me, I was there. But let me lay out what’s going to happen if you cut the cord:

1. You Save Money

You’re going to save money immediately. I was spending $40 on cable, and $10 on Netflix, every month. That’s $600 per year I’m saving just like that!

You’re also going to save much, much more than that simply because you won’t see all the new, wonderful, and expensive products that are on the tube.

This, to me, is invaluable. I’m no longer in a constant state of wanting because there’s nothing telling me what I should have or need. I’m not constantly craving that new handbag or new jacket I saw on last week’s premier of Glee.

As a result my consumption of goods has gone way down.

2. You Get Time

Time is the only thing we can’t buy. Think about how much time you’d have if you didn’t watch TV in the evening.

You’d have a TON. Again, an average of 5 hours every day.

Which leads me to #3…

3. Your Quality of Life Will Improve

With all free time on your hands, think about what you could be doing!

You could help your kids with their homework, or play games with them. You could start exercising. You could start your own business, which you’re always talking about. You could write out a list of dreams and set financial goals you’d really like to accomplish in your life, and actually do them.

I’ll give you some examples in my own life:

Since I stopped watching so much TV, I’ve started crossing off items on my “Dreams List.” I learned how to can my own food. I started a garden. I’m taking Jujitsu, a Japanese martial art. I started painting. I’m going down the list of Pulitzer Prize winning books, and reading them all.

I’m having a great time without TV in my life. I have the time to actually pursue my dreams instead of just talking about them. And as you can see, these are not “ultimate, grand, travel-around-the-world” dreams, although I’ve got plenty of those on the list. These dreams are the small but significant activities that ultimately lead to a rewarding and deeply satisfying life.

If I was spending my evening in front of the tube, I wouldn’t be doing all this fun stuff. I wouldn’t be living.

4. Your Relationships Will Improve

No TV means you have plenty of time to spend fostering relationships with your friends and family. Think of the time you could spend just talking with your spouse or partner. Talking with your kids. Going out with friends.

You know. Having fun.

5. You’ll Be Healthier

There are numerous studies out there that link television watching with obesity. The more you watch, the fatter you become.

A great study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and quoted in Psychology Today says this:

“The researchers found a significant association between the number of hours of television watched per day and body fat mass, with every extra hour/day spent watching television associated with a 2.2 pound increase in body fat.”

Of course, TV doesn’t solely make you fat. But you get less exercise, and your eating patterns change the more you watch. This is true with children as well. The more TV your kids watch, the likelier they are to be unhealthy and overweight.

Last Word

Again, I know the thought of ditching your TV can be a scary thing. The thought of your home devoid of sound and stimulation can be a bit intimidating. And not watching TV is definitely outside the norm of our society.

But if you stick it out, your life will improve without TV. You’ll fill that time with relationships and intriguing activities that will add depth and richness to your life. Instead of talking about something you saw on TV, you can talk about something you actually did.

Trust me, it’s great fun.

What do you think about ditching your TV? Have any of you taken the leap?

  • JN

    I do not own a TV and an interesting thing I have noticed is that people who have TVs and watch them a lot spend a good portion of their time together TALKING about what they saw on TV or in movies. It seems to me that if the average American already wastes 4:49 a day watching it that they wouldn’t waste another hour or two talking about it. But they do.

    TV completely dominates the culture of America and in a lot of cases it controls how people think (because they choose to let it).

    I think the country would be a lot better off in a myriad of ways if they would keep the TV off a whole lot more.

    • Ginny

      I believe you 110%!!!
      You don’t need another thing to complicate your life even further. There is alot of technology out there, not all of it is always the best for us. You just get caught up in it like a bug stuck in a spiders web. We have not subscribed to cable for about 5 years now and we are perfectly happy with using an antenna when we do want to watch tv. I think it is better for the kids also, there is too much influential stuff on cable for kids these days. When I was younger, for example; Cartoon network showed nice and classic cartoons, now you have to watch out for racist stuff and crude, nasty behaviors. They don’t think about what they are teaching kids and then parents wonder where their bad habits come from.
      DITCH CABLE!!!
      I am not saying completely stop watching tv, just think about what they show today an how it was not appropriate content 10 years ago.
      We only have an antenna and we get plenty of channels and less infomercials! =)

      • Adeline531

        I lost mu=y job last September and still have my Cable. Will probably ditch it next week – do I eat or watch cable for $87 a month – that that does NOT include the movie channels.

  • Christine

    Bravo! I stopped watching tv a very long time ago because the content was so pathetically lame for the most part and the constant commercials were enough to drive me insane! As soon as I stopped watching it a funny thing happened, I started to actually think more intelligently and had a feeling of freedom of thought that was very liberating, much like you describe in your great article. I did not cancel cable because my husband used to watch it but now he is on the same page, so to speak, and we just recently cancelled it. We keep the tv set for movie night which we do once a week and we choose them according to their artistic merit. When I tell people that I don’t watch tv they are astonished and can’t quite understand it. I tell them it’s toxic to the brain and you don’t realize it until you stop watching it and rediscover the world around us. And the commercials!! My God! If one watches them critically, one sees that it’s not so much the actual product that they’re selling so much as happiness. The subliminal message is “buy this and you’ll be happy!” Well, I am so very happy that I don’t watch the “idiot box” any more and most likely never will again. Thank you for the great piece!

  • Heather Levin

    @JN- I know, I’ve experienced the same thing. It’s also a bit strange…sometimes when my husband and I tell people we don’t watch TV, they get angry or defensive. This happened just last week even. I think people, deep down, know they shouldn’t watch so much TV. And I agree with you; I think many people would be far happier if they unplugged.

    @Christine- I hear you! Now that I don’t watch TV when it is on, at a restaurant or friend’s house, it drives me insane, especially the loud commercials. It’s amazing to me that, now I’m disconnected, it stands out so much. The TV really does sound like a squawkbox when you stop watching it regularly. I even find myself getting grumpy and irritated when I have to listen to it (especially network TV, not public television) for any length of time.

    Thanks to both of you for writing in!

  • http://www.rabbitfunds.com [email protected]

    Great article. We sold our TV about a year ago and have loved it! I can’t say enough good things about not owning a TV. We still watch some shows, via Hulu, but we are much more selective about what we watch now. When we owned a TV, I found myself surfing out of boredom and watching whatever, low quality programming was on. Now, my life is free of that garbage. Love it!

  • Megan

    So true about TV! I haven’t gone all the way and totally ditched (still have Netflix), but since May when I cut the cable cord, I’ve watched so much less TV and completely agree on how not seeing commercials affects your spending.

  • Christine

    Amen to you all!

  • http://cootiehog.com Jaynee

    Well, I’m going to say that I don’t plan on getting rid of TV any time soon. I enjoy TV, and I’m not going to feel ashamed about that. I also enjoy playing with my kids, surfing the net, reading (and attending a neighborhood book club), hanging out with friends, going to festivals on the weekend and various other non-TV activities. I only watch TV after my kids have gone to bed for the night, which is around 8:30 p.m.

    I love TV. I have certain shows that I love watching. My Tivo is always full because that’s largely how I watch – I record things, and then watching them later so I can fast-forward through the commercials. If someone asks me if I’ve “seen that commercial” my answer, 9x out of 10, is NO. The only time I see commercials is when I watch live tv, which is very rare, and I normally get up and go do something for 2 minutes until the show comes back on if I’m watching something live.

    As for cost, we have only the basic channels – no premium channels, and we have Netflix which allows us to do streaming through our Wii console to watch movies.

    As I said, I love TV and always have. I don’t plan on unplugging.

  • http://www.mightybargainhunter.com mbhunter

    Our five-year-old watches PBS, but that’s about the extent of TV that we watch. My wife and I rarely watch any. We have to have basic cable for our internet service anyway.

    As for movies, we have a few but don’t have Netflix. I like owning the DVDs (and the ability to resell them) rather than buying in to rent them.

  • http://stretchyourdollarwaukesha.wordpress.com/ Skirnir Hamilton

    I have to say I have not run into any negative reactions, but I don’t generally say I ditched TV. We canceled cable and watch what we want on hulu (which I rarely do anymore), and then we pay download what is not on hulu that we want. Imagine how many seasons of tv you can own, with that $50 a month you are spending on cable? Do you really watch that many shows not on normal tv channels? Our answer was no. We found that we were only watching two regular shows on cable, so why pay $50 per month? Have we watched regular tv in the past month? The occasional news, is about it. So, not really. In the end, we did wind up nearly ditching the tv. It is now a monitor for our mac mini which runs the online hulu content, etc. and the playstation for gaming.

  • http://www.howisavemoney.net Lulu

    I have been seven months TV-sober (hee hee) and I love it. I use Hulu to get the shows that I want to see and watch ‘tv’ on my own time instead of being chained to the cable company’s programming schedule. I have become a little more productive I think now that I watch less tv.

  • Heather Levin

    Wow, thanks so much to all of you for writing in! This post has sparked a really great discussion. I love it!

    First, to @Jaynee, please don’t think I was pointing fingers at people who do like to watch TV. I certainly didn’t mean it to come off that way, if I did! I know TV can be a relaxing, and even educational, activity. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and offering a different viewpoint!

    @mbhunter- Watching movies you’ve already seen and appreciate is good entertainment, and we do the same!

  • Wolf

    You know the big switch is coming. TV is dead. I just returned from Europe and my friends who want to watch load it on their laptop with USB converters/tuners and an antenna. Record it and the show is stored on the computer. You can pipe it to your big screen but most people don’t bother with that either. It just seems that the bottom fell out from the entire TV industry over there.
    I will be ditching cable as soon as I can but need to figure out how to get just fast internet WITHOUT the other pieces of the bundle. The cable companies have seen the writing on the wall. And we are winning!

  • http://stretchyourdollarwaukesha.wordpress.com/ Skirnir Hamilton

    We have our internet provided by the cable company but have no cable tv service. But it might only be possible because we were cable tv customers when we subscribed to cable internet. Not sure though. We are through time Warmer cable/Earthlink.

  • Wolf

    yes, thanks – we are with RCN and I believe that in order to get the best internet only services you need to use FIOS. Very complicated (almost a day!) to get it set up but at least you can opt for internet only .

  • Heather Levin

    @Wolf- The companies def. try to “sell” you TV. I have internet only through AT&T and every time I call for something, the rep always tries to upsell me the TV/phone package. They always seem shocked when I tell them I don’t watch TV except for what comes in on my bunny ears! But if you stand firm and be diplomatic, you can get a good price (I’m paying $15/mo. for high speed internet). Good luck!

  • http://www.CancelCableTV.com opsmgr

    It’s gratifying to see so many former cableholics are ending their enslavement to cable television. This is becoming a national trend for those who realize that it makes very little since to pay so much for something so expensive that often offers very little quality content.

  • jj

    I really like television, but have decided to cancel it as I cannot stand the commercials here in the US anymore. They are too dumb, and there is simply too many of them. Tried to record all the shows I watch and fast forward the commercials, but I could do nothing but pressing the remote controls.

    So now I am just using the internet to stream whetever I am watching. And to get rid of a lot of the commercials, I am using a proxy server to stream content from europe where commercials are limited (compared to here) and do not interrupt the shows as often.

  • http://onairfree.tv Dr. TV

    By the way, the average household pays more than $100/mo on Cable TV, rental movies and DVDs. If you look at those costs over 10 years it is nearly $20,000. Cable TV subscriptions are rising faster than a Pillsbury Dough Boy. I have friends who pay more than $200/mo for Cable TV. That is a college education in 20 years.

    Agree with you on most things but no TV? Please! I need to watch the Nightly News and there are lots of shows on broadcast TV (ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC) that I do like to watch. Addictive, yes but controllable. Good TV and there seems like a lot of TV today is pretty darn good is a great mental break. Cheaper than booze or therapy for sure.

    What kills me are commercials. An hour show can be watched in 40 minutes. 33% of your time is wasted. Sure you can record and hit fast forward but in reality, it is hard to do all of the time.

    I would rather figure out ways to become more selective and efficient in watching TV. I went Digital TV and bought an Elgato EyeTV box that allows me to schedule unlimited number of shows to be recorded. With the scroll bar, I can zoom through commercials in milliseconds.

    I call this On Air FREE TV. The only cost is an antenna ($50) and an EyeTV for $99. If you don’t wish to watch, then just keep them for a rainy day.

  • Richard

    In March 2010, we got rid of one of Comcast’s “value packages” (what a joke) and reduced to basic cable. We’ve saved $1,000 and will let the $70 monthly savings pile up month after month, year after year. You’d be surprised at how well you can get along without things you don’t really need. Keep paying for things like premium cable TV and you’re likely to end up broke at age 50 and perhaps destitute at age 60.

    Why let Comcast bleed you dry with increase after increase after increase? Stop it today. We did a year ago and are very happy we did.

    You don’t lose a $1 million simply by misplacing it. You lose it $50 at a time. Cable is one of the greatest wastes of money there is.

  • John P

    I canceled satellite a few weeks ago. I just found I wasn’t watching enough and was increasingly annoyed by all the television graphics during shows. I also really had only a handful shows I *really* looked forward to. How many shows do you watch just because it’s on your DVR, but you really wouldn’t miss it?
    I now watch everything via Netflix DVD+streaming + free hulu + network websites. I bought an indoor antenna and get 25 HD channels FREE.
    I love getting shows on DVD via Netflix. Now I can watch and entire season in just a few days rather waiting week to week. Heck, with the $70 I save per month, I can BUY a couple seasons of shows per month.
    It’s a personal choice, however. I’m single, no kids, and loathe sports. It wasn’t even that I couldn’t afford the satellite, I just didn’t think it was WORTH it.
    Best of luck to all those with and without cable. Do what you enjoy and that’s worth it to YOU. :)

  • lou

    I’ve ditched the cable, but not tv. Over the air free broadcasting gives a better HD picture, actually, that is not compressed like cable. So you get a program guide OTA.
    Am watching fewer stations with commercials. Just got disgusted with what the article says, too much selling of stuff I don’t want, certainly don’t need!

    Most of what I watch now is public tv. My favorite program is Masterpiece. Am cultivating a British accent to go with my tea :)

    • Heatherllevin

      Lou, public TV is so underrated! We love watching public TV as well (with our rabbit ears finely tuned, of course!) Our favorite is Antiques Roadshow.

  • Shulk

    The only thing I mainly use my HDTV for is to mostly play videogames and occasionally watch movies. Cable tv is the essence of complete bullshit selling you things you don’t need. Sure I’m a gamer but I also have priorities as a college student Living out on his own. There are times I’d love to spend 6 hours a day playing videogames but that can cut into my daily meditation of 1 hour and my responsibilities.

  • http://ecofrugality.blogspot.com/ Amy Livingston

    I’m going to quibble with you over this. First of all, not everyone who watches TV is watching it for 5 hours a day. My husband and I watch about 10 hours per week as a way to spend time together and unwind for an hour or two before bed. This is not time we would otherwise be devoting to gardening or exercise or taking classes or starting important projects. It’s down time – something that we all need sometimes and shouldn’t feel apologetic about. If we weren’t watching TV, we’d be frittering away those hours on the Internet or reading books. There’s nothing wrong with those activities either, but watching TV is something we can do together, and that bonding time is also important to us. I don’t consider it a waste at all.

    Second, not everyone who watches TV is spending $600 a year on it. We watch shows for free on network TV (yes, you can still do that); we borrow DVDs from the library; we watch a variety of videos on YouTube; and we have a subscription to Hulu that I pay for with survey credits, so it doesn’t cost us anything. We don’t pay for cable, but we never lack for visual entertainment.

    My attitude to TV is kind of the same as my attitude toward desserts. A steady diet of desserts and nothing else definitely isn’t healthy, but that doesn’t mean the only alternative is to cut them out altogether. If you find you can’t control your sugar cravings unless you go cold turkey, okay, do whatever works for you – but if you can enjoy desserts from time to time while still eating plenty of fruits and veggies and other stuff that’s good for you, why not go ahead and enjoy yourself?