Many personal finance bloggers talk about how one of the best things you can do for your finances is to turn off the TV. While I agree with them, it’s not always possible to eliminate it entirely.
For instance, you might live with someone who insists on keeping it around. You might need it for work or school (seriously. I once had a roommate who was a Spanish language minor and would put on Spanish channels to practice her comprehension). You might be like my dad and use the Do-It-Yourself shows to learn how to do stuff around the house to avoid having to pay someone else to do it.
Let’s say you are in one of those circumstances. And let’s say you know the detriment that TV can have on your finances because the shows or commercials you watch make you feel inadequate or that your home is ugly or that your wardrobe is outdated or you really, really need to take that tropical vacation. And let’s say that you hate that, because of those shows and commercials, your self-esteem plummets and that makes you turn to shopping and going into debt by buying stuff to make you feel better.
How do you prevent that from happening? It may seem impossible but really, it’s not. Here’s a few ways:
- Only have one TV set. Not only does this lower the cost of your monthly bill, it makes it more difficult to watch in multiple locations. If you don’t have access to the set, you can’t turn it on and watch it. And if the person who’s insisting on keeping it is watching something you don’t like, there’s no reason to stay in the room.
- DVR. Yes, you need to pay extra for this on your bill but it makes it so you can fast forward through the commercials (you can also accomplish this by watching the shows on your computer but the shows may not be available right away and if you’re like me, there are just some shows you want to watch now). If you can’t see what they’re advertising, you can’t be tempted by it.
- Limit the channels. Movie channels are ridiculously expensive, sports packages are even more expensive than movie channels and most shows aren’t worth watching anyway. Narrow your channel choices down to the ones that you watch most frequently. This will also lower your monthly bill and it will prevent mindless flipping through the channels, landing you on ones like HGTV or the Food Network or others that encourage unnecessary spending.
- Limit your time. By limiting the time you spend watching TV, the more you limit your exposure to shows, movies and commercials. This is the most important and least expensive thing you can do.
And finally, it’s essential that you realize what you are watching is just an illusion. It is not an accurate depiction of real life. What you see is carefully constructed by costume designers, set designers, hair and makeup, and is virtually impossible to replicate (contrary to what Pinterest leads you to believe). You do not need to compete with what you see on those shows and you certainly don’t need everyting you see advertised in order to be a complete, fulfilled person.
If you can master that, you can go ahead and keep the cable. As long as it fits your budget, of course.