Guest-writer Paul Gonzalez believes that giving up television can save you big bucks. Paul and his wife run One Year Exit Plan, which provides coaching and personal project management services to people seeking long-lasting change.

Going “NO-TV” can save you money. In our “Your Relationship with Money” workshops, we advocate living without television. There are many benefits to NO-TV. There are obvious benefits to personal growth (better self-esteem, more time for family and friends, etc). Soon, however, you’ll notice your shopping habits begin to change as well.

An hour of television carries about twenty minutes of commercials. At thirty seconds per commercial, that’s forty ads an hour. Five hours of television each day would expose you to around 250 ads.

When my wife and I got married, one of the first things we did was give away our redundant stuff: extra couches, chairs, etc. We also gave away our three TV sets. Since then, our spending has changed dramatically.

For one thing, we stopped eating crap. We stopped eating fast food. We stopped buying gadgets. We don’t drink alcohol. We are spending less money. We go out only when we feel like it. We have more friends. We enjoy living together. Things get done around the house! It’s amazing.

I’m no scientist, and I acknowledge that much of this lifestyle change may not be fully related to giving up television per se, but turning off the appliance opened more “space” in our lives to do other things. It reminds me of The Simpsons episode (ha!) where Marge bans TV in Springfield and all of a sudden the kids start playing outdoors, reading, and listening to classical music.

The purpose of television is to sell you stuff. It’s a vehicle for ads. Consider the following statistics, reported by the Media Education Foundation and the Center for Screen-Time Awareness:

  • 50% of US households have three or more TV sets
  • In the average US home, television is on for 7 hours and 40 minutes a day
  • The average American watches more than four hours of television a day
  • On Average, children in the US will spend more time this year in front of a TV (1,023 hours) than in school (900 hours)

Television is the foremost channel to consumption in our society. It is the first channel to everything that is sold in the United States. Some people complain that this country is all for sale. Perhaps those people should just turn off their television! If that’s all the reality you see, then certainly TV becomes your reality.

Television keeps us in a constant stimulus state, and in a sustained state of inadequacy and personal desire. TV fools you into entertainment but robs you of your worth. Here are some tips for turning off your television:

  • Add deliberate purpose to your actions. Television is so pervasive that it’s almost effortless to connect to it. By unplugging from TV, you will be more in charge of your time. You will be more purposeful. Want to watch the Super Bowl? The Presidential debates? The Oscars? Daytona 500? You could still watch them, even if you had no TV at home, couldn’t you? We are not advocating a total, fanatical media black-out. We know what TV is, we just choose not to “do” it.
  • Move your TV to the closet. Yes, the closet. Or cover it with a sheet. Or put something in front of it. Or unplug it from the wall. If you’re not ready to throw away your television altogether, make your TV viewing more deliberate, less effortless. Make it more difficult to watch television — erect a barrier.
  • Find a medium that is less pervasive to you than TV. Get your news from the web. Watch DVDs on your laptop. But don’t replace one tube for another. Be aware of how you spend your time when not watching television. We’re coming to a time when the gap between TV and internet may disappear. The message is the same: Beware of becoming consumed and engrossed by the online generation.
  • Experience valuable choosing in your life. We fill our lives with value-less choices: Do I watch Lost or do I watch 24? Should I TiVo Desperate Housewives now or try to download it later? Stop making these choices. Instead, choose between goofing off and getting things done. Stop choosing how to goof off. Choose amongst values-based actions that add to your life instead.

By turning off your television, your shopping patterns will change in time. You will not be facing the torrent of advertising hour after hour, nor will the TV culture be in the forefront of your mind day after day. We believe that by turning off the television, you’ll be on the path to saving more money than through any other action. NO-TV may be the first big step in breaking the cycle of consumerism in your life.

  • You’ll shop less.
  • You’ll feel better about your life.
  • You’ll be forced to take care of your children.
  • Which in turn will force you to evaluate what life choices you must make so that you’ll be better positioned to be a good parent than you are now.

If you’re mindful, and aware of your values, your life will begin to be filled with things that really matter to you.

Here are some other resources for learning how to live without television:

Thanks, Paul! I have a love-hate relationship with television. Some of my college research was into its effects on children. These effects are not good. Yet I enjoy certain shows immensely. However, I watch little broadcast TV, and rarely see ads. It’s certainly something I think about!