You’re probably familiar with the concept of fasting when it comes to food.
The idea is that for a desired period of time, we either completely stop consuming food, or restrict the foods that we do consume.
But one of the ways that Val and I have saved significant amounts of money over the years is by taking the fasting concept and applying it to another, often equally over-consumed indulgence…
TV is Expensive
In our entire lives, we’ve never paid a dime for cable TV, and we grew up in the age of Cable TV – the O.G. TV subscription model.
Pretty much everyone we know grew up with Cable TV in their home, so naturally, when starting out on their own, Cable TV was a “necessary” expense that most people accepted.
So how crazy is it that my wife and I both grew up in households that never had Cable TV?
And then, when we got married, we didn’t immediately sign up to get Cable TV. (Not because we didn’t want to, but because we were, you know, broke! )
In our first few years of marriage, while we worked hard to get a handle on our debt, we went without paying for TV.
And the habit of NOT paying for a TV subscription service stuck.
To this day we’ve never had a Cable TV subscription service, and by the looks of the industry, we never will.
How Much Money Did We Save
I wish I had kept track of the numbers, but in those early years, we weren’t thinking about saving money or reaching FI or early retirement.
We were just trying to figure out how to eat.
But it’s not hard to make a reasonably educated guess.
Let’s assume we had a cable package that cost $100 a month. Assuming we paid that every month for the past 20 years, that’s $24,000!!
That sounds insane, but we can certainly make it sound insane-er.
If we had taken that $100 per month and invested it in our Roth IRA’s at 7% compounded annually.
Good thing Cable TV packages never cost more than $100 a month, right?
But Wait! It’s Even Worse.
Besides the pure monetary cost, the problem with television is that we’re spending a much more valuable asset than just money.
We’re spending our time.
Time is a resource that none of us can make more of. Every second we spend is gone forever.
And every moment we spend in front of our TV is a moment we can’t be doing something more healthy or more valuable or more gratifying.
I know. Television shows and movies are super gratifying in the moment. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
But what if instead of turning our brains off every night in front of the TV, we turned our brains on to something with more staying power?
Intermittent TV Fasting
One way that Val and I have remained casual TV viewers at best is by occasionally instituting a “No TV” month.
For the entire month, we would leave the TV off.
That may sound easy enough, but it can be more difficult than you might think.
A TV provides both visual and audio stimulation that is noticeably absent when removed. For people who are used to having those senses triggered at all times, often just having the TV on as background noise, suddenly having them stopped can be quite jarring.
It was for us.
Pulling the Plug
Before our kids came along to provide their own constant visual and audio stimulation (we’re set for life now!), turning the TV off created a strange silence.
Val and I could fill that silence with conversation, which was fantastic, but was also slightly awkward because sitting in a silent living room and talking just wasn’t our norm.
But eventually, we became accustomed to the new routine. After a few days, it even started to feel a bit normal to eat dinner, then head to the couch to chat.
Soon we would find other pursuits to enjoy. This was a great time to play guitar and sing and write songs.
We would often spend the time getting caught up on all those “to-do” items that we just never had time to get to.
We discovered we were so much more productive when we had 2 extra hours every night to spend on much more valuable things.
It was incredibly refreshing to realize how much more we could really accomplish – and how much more valuable those accomplishments were – by simply reclaiming our time in the evening and on weekends from the TV.
Easing Back In
When our 30-day TV fast was over, we discovered it was a bit awkward to turn the TV on again.
It was no longer possible to be blissfully ignorant of just how much time we were wasting.
After 30 days of living a more healthy and productive life, going back to vegging on the couch didn’t feel as good as when we were numb to it. We couldn’t help but think of all the things we could, and probably should, be doing instead.
And often we would find ourselves choosing to do something other than turn on the TV.
We recognized that our lives were richer and more fulfilling when we were pursuing and accomplishing things that were important to us.
Conclusion – Skip the Commercials, And the Show
We never kicked our TV out the door entirely, but over the years we’ve recognized that we just don’t watch that much TV.
Forcing ourselves to spend extended durations without TV created space for us to discover so many more enriching and valuable ways to spend our time.
While we can momentarily stop spending money, we simply haven’t been given the opportunity to ever stop spending our time.
Our only option is to spend it wisely.
What would you do if you spent a month without TV? What’s on your to-do list that you just never have any time for? What if watching less TV earned you $50,000? Would that be worth it?