We all do it. Who hasn’t come home from a hard day of work, plopped down in front of the TV and zoned out? We use the TV as a babysitter, a relaxation center, and an instant cure for boredom, but do we ever add up the hidden costs?
It may sound lame or even unthinkable (TV is sacred, right?), but going without TV can not only save you a boatload of money on cable bills, it can improve your mental well-being, your health, and even your relationships. Here’s why:
The Cable Bills The average American cable bill is $80/month. That’s $960 per year and $59,520 in a lifetime (assuming you live to 80). This doesn’t take inflation into account, which, according to my infallible math, would be around $10 bazillion (give or take a few bazillion).
Electricity Let’s say you have the TV on for four hours a day and your TV uses 210 watts (the average) and you pay 12¢ a kWh (the average); that’s $37 a year or $2479 in a lifetime. Now multiply that by the number of TVs you have in your house (and add inflation). It’s not a huge expense, but it’s helpful to count the cost.
Commercials The programs you like only exist for those 8 minutes of commercials per 30 minutes of show. It’s become the truest American art form; the advertisers can, in 30 seconds, convince us that what we have isn’t good enough, make us feel guilty, and tell us that what they are selling will make us better, happier, and more productive. The ad men are now even using physiological triggers to make us buy; using imagery and ideas that release the chemical oxytocin in our brains, making us even more susceptible. And don’t think you can just skip the commercial breaks and be safe. The advertising is deftly weaved into almost every show on TV (with the possible exception of NOVA).
Communication Television is passive entertainment so, as you stare at the TV with your family, you are missing out on real communication, bonding and connection. This is not to say that some TV can raise issues worth talking about, but the likelihood for it is diminished as you replace meaningful family time with “stare-at-the-screen-like-vegetables” time.
Stress Sometimes the TV is used as a stress reliever, but when the escapism gets out of hand, we risk not taking care of responsibilities that we should be handling; leading to more stress and guilt. Over time, elevated stress leads to health issues.
Unhealthy Dinners Oftentimes, we eschew a healthy dinner and replace it with something quick as we gather around the blue hue. The costs add up, not only financially, but also in our guts.
Obesity No one would argue that television is an active endeavor. It’s one of the big reasons for the obesity epidemic effecting us and, more importantly, our kids. The health costs from this are staggering.
It may seem overwhelming to give up TV entirely, so start with being more aware and cutting back. Watch for our next entry where we’ll give some great alternatives to TV and tips on how to ween off of it.