Why I ditched cable TV

According to the NY Times, Americans spent about 34 hours a week watching TV in 2010. That’s nearly 5 hours a day. It’s becoming more common to watch TV on computers, handheld devices and video game consoles. So while you may not spend 5 hours in front of an actual TV, chances are you’re watching more than you realize.

Television is a form of passive media. There isn’t much required on your part other than to sit there and take it in. You’re not required to turn a page or pause for a second to think. You’re not required to actually do anything. The news anchors analyze the facts and do the thinking for you. The television stars entertain you without a grain of input from you.

People often argue that after a hard day at work they deserve to watch a little TV when they get home. The problem, though, stems from sitting mindlessly for hours in front of the TV at the expense of important family relationships or taking care of housework that needs done.

Watching TV for long periods of time has been linked with higher rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other serious chronic health conditions. Eating in front of the TV can cause you to eat more than you intended because you’re focused on the show rather than taking time to enjoy each bite.

Cost is another factor. It’s not uncommon for a cable package to cost $100 or more each month. When you add in extras like movie channels or sport packages, that cost can quickly grow. Cable companies like to offer bundles which include TV, internet and phone service to make it appear you are getting a better price for TV, when really you’re paying a higher total cost than buying only what you need. Does anyone really use a home phone anymore?

When we moved recently, I discovered a little trick that is saving me about $20 a month. Since I only subscribe to internet service from my local cable company, I assumed we wouldn’t get any channels on the TV. However, I found that by connecting my TV to the cable jack I’m able to pick up several local broadcast channels for free! Most newer TVs have digital antennas, allowing you to skip the bunny ears. Ironically, the signal for these channels is actually better than what you get with paid service because the signal isn’t compressed.

To satisfy your TV and movie fix, why not try a less expensive alternative? Netflix offers instant streaming for $8 a month, with DVDs by mail for $8 more. Hulu Plus also offers streaming of movies and TV shows for $8 a month. Amazon Prime has unlimited streaming for a $79 yearly membership, which includes free 2-day shipping on most Amazon.com orders. For a quicker fix, Blockbuster Express and Redbox  have kiosks in convenient locations like grocery stores or drug stores.

When looking for entertainment or news coverage, try engaging in more active media, such as books, newspapers or the internet. This allows you to actively pick and choose your content rather than have cable channels dump it in your lap. If you’re looking for a way to clear your mind after a rough day, why not take a 30 minute walk or a short nap?

So why did I ditch cable TV? I ditched cable to improve my health. I ditched cable to eliminate one of my monthly bills. In short, I ditched cable to free up my time and money to spend on other, more important aspects of my life.

Five hours a day is a lot of time. I challenge you to spend one hour each day that you would have spent watching TV doing something to improve yourself or your situation.

What do you think?

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