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Do Cable and TV Cost More Than We Think?

by The Happy Rock on July 17, 2007

Here are the highlights of some research to add some discussion to the cable canceling experiment.

I found a great website called Trash Your TV. It is your one stop shopping experience for anyone thinking of canceling cable or getting rid of their TV. TV viewing stats, success stories, effects of TV articles, and much more.

Let’s start with some eye opening stats about the about some real costs of watching TV:

  • Nielsen Media Research Inc. reports that the ‘average person’ watches TV for 4 hours and 35 minutes every day. Furthermore, the average household has a TV playing for 8 hours 14 minutes every day.
  • That 5 1/2 days a month watching TV, 69 days a year, and about 13 or so years for an average life span. Even if I watch half that amount in a week, WOW!
  • Exposing children to all that TV can affect the wallet by the Nag Factor. Marketers seek to brand your children and make them discontented. All that TV time could result in viewing as much as 30,000 commercials a year, which in turn influenced an estimated $300 billion in sales or $4,000 per pestering child a year in 2001.
  • Number of hours of TV watched yearly by Americans: ~250 billion
  • Assuming an average US wage of $7/hour that equates to S1.75 trillion dollars
  • Average US cable bill in 2005 was $43.04. $783 for the primary TV in their home, and $176 on accessories. $22 billion total on TVs in 2006. Source
  • A multitude of studies that link TV watching to obesity and weight gain. Cut out some TV and lose weight.
  • Television viewing has been linked to ADHD.
  • The American parent spends 38 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.
  • Children view on average 16,000 television murders before age 18.

These facts don’t even include other factors like opportunity cost, decreased energy, decreased brain activity, and peer pressure. Some of those time and money statistics are staggering.

kids_boob_tube.jpgMike @ Prosperous Land left a good comment in the cancel cable and save post that linked to a recent article on The Street : How to Earn $1 Million by Not Watching TV.

One thing I found interesting was a recent study found that it would take $1,000,000 for white people to not watch TV for the rest of their lives. Second, although I am not sure I can vouch for the reality of his numbers, he argues that if you ditch the TV at age 25 and “instead invested this money and received a return of 8% compounded annually over 45 years until you’re 70 years old, you would have more than $3.7 million in your account.”

I think that little fact sheet may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the drawbacks of cable and TV. Sure those numbers look a little high, but even if they are half or a quarter that much, isn’t that a lot? I’m not saying that there aren’t any benefits, but I am becoming hard pressed to find them at this point in my life. The more I think about it, the truth is I really don’t want to look back in 20 years and realize how much TV and cable really cost me. How much is it costing you?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

beth July 18, 2007 at 1:36 pm

I like the article, though he made some major assumptions, such as a dvd player would cost several hundred dollars. As if! I know I’m not typical, but I’ve been using a hand-me-down 13-inch tv for the last 8 years, and got a 100-dollar dvd player as a gift. I just now went crazy (crazy!) and bought a 27-inch tv and a stand to put it on – the tv was $75 (from a coworker, with a free vcr thrown in) and the stand was $10 (from Craigslist). I’ve never paid for cable tv, don’t use a dvr of any sort, and get movies free from the library rather than use netflix.

Still, I don’t really use my tv. I got the new big one a week ago and have watched one movie on it. It’s currently plugged into a power strip that is switched off.

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TheHappyRock July 18, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Beth, I would say that you are no where near ‘normal’. I mean that in a good way. Buying things used, and getting things free, no cable, wow a rebel. I like it. I bet your life is much better for it!

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saving advice July 23, 2007 at 9:27 am

Thank you for the mention of my article (written for TheStreet). I think most people would be surprised at how much TV actually costs them if they went through and ran the numbers. I also don’t think that all TV is bad, but I do think that everyone tends to watch some TV not because it’s good and educational, but because they get lazy (don’t we all?) and if you can learn not to watch that TV, then your finances will look much better.

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The Happy Rock July 23, 2007 at 1:14 pm

I am with you, I think I would be some what horrified at the amount of TV I have watched over my life(especially as a teen). And I agree not all TV is bad, moderation is good though.

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Meghan Kelly January 22, 2008 at 5:22 pm

I really don’t know if I could actually cancel my Time Warner Cable and stop watching TV! In this day and age it would take a strong person to not watch tv for a year let alone the rest of your life. But, again, it is just my opinion.

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The Happy Rock January 25, 2008 at 4:19 pm

@Meghan Kelly – I agree it can be daunting in the beginning. If you are truly interested, I would suggest trying a few small experiments. Start with 24 hours, and see how it feels. Eventually do a week and then 30 days, and look at the benefits. If it is truly a positive change, it will be easy to find the motivation to figure out how to succeed.

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