Eliminating Cable TV Saves More Than We Think

Cutting the cable TV bill to reign in your budget—you probably know all about that one, don’t you? But that’s not what I’m going to talk about. From a pure budgetary angle, sure you can save $50, $75, maybe $100 per month by eliminating your cable bill, and that can help your finances a bit. But we’re going for bigger fish here.

Not all of the costs associated with cable TV are financial. As we’ll see, they can just as easily cost us in the areas of health, career success, emotions and even our faith. All of these costs are inherent in TV in general, but are more specific to cable TV because of the multiplier affect—200 to 300 channels carry greater potential cost than having only six or seven. After all, the more channels you can watch, the more time you’re likely to spend in front of your TV.

What are those costs?

Time with the Tube

How much time do we spend watching TV? According to the A.C. Nielsen Co.,

“…the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.”

On a percentage basis, if you’re the average person who spends four hours per day watching TV, that means that about 17%–or one-sixth of your life—is being spent watching TV. But that’s not nearly the worst of it.

There are 24 hours in a day, but you probably spend eight of them sleeping—that leaves 16 of “waking time”. If you’re a working person, you probably spend another eight hours working, plus an additional two between getting ready and commuting to work. Now you’re down to just six waking hours in a typical day. If four are spent watching TV, you’ll have just two hours a day for everything else you need to accomplish in your life.

How much has TV time been expanded by having 200-300 channels to choose from? Are you addicted to television?


Cable TV has two health related risks, one of which relates to the sedentary lifestyle it encourages. Simply put, the more time you spend watching TV, the less time you’re exercising or just moving around.

According to a 2011 study released in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, people who spend excessive amounts of time in front of a screen — primarily watching TV — are more likely to die of any cause and suffer heart-related problems.

The second issue is food. Ever notice how eating and watching TV seem to go hand-in-hand? That’s not an accident. A large percentage of the commercials played on TV are pitching food, and usually the worst kind. Ads for restaurants, rich prepared foods and especially junk food make up a large chunk of the commercial blocks. The constant images can make you emotionally hungry, even though you’re not physically hungry.

This wouldn’t be so bad if you only had the 6-7 free channels on regular TV, but when you have a couple hundred to choose from—you can do the math.

The Call to Consume

Similar to the bombardment of messages related to food are the vast number of commercials in general. But let’s start by answering a basic question: what is the true purpose of a commercial? Answer: to get us to buy something we might not otherwise. Do you think that fact has an effect on your finances? The businesses behind those commercials are betting they will, so much that they’re paying millions of dollars to make them happen.

The more time we spend watching TV, the more likely we’ll be to spend money on just about anything we can imagine. Cable TV means more channels, more programs, more choices, more time in front of the tube, and most importantly—more commercials.

While you’re watching TV you’re not spending time with God.

As Christians our lives must center on our relationship with Jesus Christ. That means prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship with other believers and Kingdom work. None of that is happening while we’re watching TV! 200-plus channels of cable TV can compete with our faith walk and rob us spiritually. And not only us—the more time we spend watching TV, the less we spend building up other believers and sharing our faith with a world that needs it so desperately.

The Christian faith is also in large part, a call to resist worldliness—how great is that resistance if we’re inviting it into our homes via hundreds of TV channels?

While you’re watching TV you’re not earning more income.

Earning more money usually takes time, time to sharpen career skills, to develop new skills, or time to work a second job or side business. And while it may be self-evident that none of these will happen while we’re watching TV, we mustn’t discount the hypnotic way that TV has of keeping us from focusing on what it is we truly need to do.

TV makes life look easy, and let’s face it, easy is what we all want. It’s easier than we think to buy into TV’s easy messages when we should be doing other things that aren’t so easy. Hundreds of channels only pull us in deeper.

Emotional and Intellectual Manipulation

While we’re watching TV we’re constantly being influenced and manipulated. The more TV we watch, the greater that influence.

We can begin to believe that we don’t measure up because everyone on TV is beautiful, successful and rich—and we’re not. No one on TV seems to have any real problems, at least not any that can’t be solved by the end of the show—and we do. We can be made to feel insecure because people on TV have nicer homes, sportier cars and more hip clothes than we do.

All of this feeds insecurity. It would be bad enough if all it did was motivate us to spend money to “fix ourselves”, but that isn’t the half of it. TV can make us feel bad about being who we are, as if that isn’t good enough and that brings a host of other problems with it. Just a hunch, but I’m guessing that a lot of our bouts with insecurity, anxiety and even depression have a great, big something to do with the TV in our living rooms.

Have you ever contemplated the many ways TV—and cable TV in particular—cost us? Are there other costs you can think of? Just as important–what might you accomplish if you didn’t have cable TV? Meet us in the comments!

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  1. Nate

    Good article. Along the lines of putting our total TV watching over time into perspective (which was an eye opener for me) – if you have a newborn and carry cable at $50 per month until they are 18 and leave the house – you will have spent $10,800 on cable over those 18 years. That’s enough to put a significant dent in their college expenses!

    • [email protected]

      Hi Nate–And the $10,800 is just the obvious part. No telling how much the problems caused to your child will be over that time. Every hour camped in front of a TV is conditioning him or her to be a consumer–and that’s the most expensive cost of all.

  2. jbledsoejr

    Great post! I totally agree with your points. Our family has gone without cable TV for several years now and the rewards are tremendous…like you said obvious monetary savings, but there are so many other things. Time to read together vs. watch TV, time to spend in conversation with your family vs. time talking to the TV (you know many of us do), time to work on your dreams vs. “living” the dreams of fictional characters (or in today’s world reality TV “characters”).

    This post is a great read worthy of sharing.

    • [email protected]

      Thanks, jbledsejr–I think you’re onto something with time together. We don’t always realize how much TV conditions us to function as individuals who don’t need real people. TV becomes our “family”, and it works in some perverse way because people on TV are closer to perfect than real ones are, they usually don’t hurt us, and we can aspire to be like them. But as you said, they aren’t real so it’s like chasing a fantasy. That sounds awfully close to TV being a narcotic, and maybe that’s the point.

  3. Kacie

    If I cut my cable (it’s on the lowest plan right now) then my internet bill will go UP, resulting in a net increase. Ugh!

    • [email protected]

      Hi Kacie–That’s the problem with “bundling”. Yes it saves you money overall, but it also creates complications because the whole point of it, from the providers standpoint, is to keep us locked in the package. It’s hard not to bundle with cable and internet, but we should avoid it at all costs.

      We have cable and internet bundled, but we’ve refused to add our cell phones into the bundle for exactly that reason.

  4. sokun

    Great post, i definitely agree

  5. My Financial Life Coach

    Great article. We got rid of cable 23 years ago which was 3 years before having our first child. I did find myself watching way too much TV and not doing what was important in my life. It can still be a problem with “on-air” TV like I have today.

    Why is it we can find the time to watch others pursue their dreams on shows like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, etc.; but we can’t find the time to take a class or read a book on how to pursue our own dreams? Is it a lack of will? Fear of failure? Procrastination?

    Shut if off and get working on whatever the Creator has put on your heart to do.

    Great post!

    Bryan Cooper

    • [email protected]

      Ooooohhhh Bryan, that was BRILLIANT!!! It gets to the very heart of the problem. We’re watching people pursue their passions and trying to “feel it” through them. If this would inspire us it might be constructive, but in the way TV works and how we process it, we don’t see the 100s or 1000s of hours of preparation that goes into it. We come away thinking we’ve witnessed another rags-to-riches story!

      One of the advantages of the people who are actually pursuing their dreams is precisely that they don’t spend dozens of hours watching TV every week. They’re using that time to accomplish. That’s what’s lost on the viewer!

  6. My Financial Life Coach


    You are correct on your tithing comment. The average cable bill I see is around $140 and the giving (tithing is 10%) is typically between $20-100 per month. Most of the folks really do want to give more and they do feel bad about not giving more. Something else that I see on a regular basis is those who give to church have a significantly higher success rate digging out of debt. The amount of income has NOTHING to do with it.

    Bryan Cooper

  7. San S

    This really sums up for me why we don’t have cable…it’s like hopping on someone else’s train (of thought!) and letting them take me wherever they want…no, thank you! and if I really want a TV fix, there’s always Hulu on the web…but I’d rather blog.

    • [email protected]

      “…it’s like hopping on someone else’s train (of thought!) and letting them take me wherever they want…”–very well put San! Few people acknowledge the “mind control” factor with TV, and that’s exactly what it is. That’s how they get us to buy what we wouldn’t if left to our own devices.

  8. ST from Lansdowne,PA

    I moved to a new place in 2006 and left the TV behind.
    My co-workers do not understand but I used to spend up to 6 hours/day watching TV.
    I now spend it with Mom (80+yo), friends and new hobbies (knitting, reading or listening to books and music).
    I do watch DVDs on a DVD player – no TV.
    I pray on this every time I walk into an electronic store. I see the TVs but I walk away. It takes 1 day at a time.
    It is nice to know that I am not alone.

    • [email protected]

      Hi ST–You’re hitting on something we may be glossing over here, and that’s that giving up TV/Cable TV isn’t always easy. It’s so a part of our culture that to some degree you’re out of the mainstream if you don’t watch regularly. My hat is off to you.

      But the use of DVD’s means you’re exposed to less commercial bombardment and you get to watch exactly and precisely what you want, rather than what TV stations are throwing at you. This by itself is a huge advantage.

      Spend the time with your Mom, your friends and your hobbies as you’re doing–all are what life is really about. A life of vicarious experience through TV programs and characters aren’t! You’ll remember your personal experiences for the rest of your life–the TV programs will be forgotten.

  9. Denzyl

    Instead of cable, we subscribe to Hulu and Netflix streaming. So when we watch tv, it’s on our time and not the networks time. And at $7.99 each per month, it’s a great deal.

  10. LeAnn

    Great article…..less tv would definately mean a better looking yard and home around my place! Food for though! 🙂