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Hidden Benefits of Cutting Cable or Satellite TV

many benefits of cutting cable or satellite TVIt’s been almost a year since we cancelled our satellite TV. The main reason was to save money. It cost about $70 per month,  but were almost never home to watch it. When we did, it still felt like there was nothing on, we ended up renting a movie. We decided to try three months without our satellite TV to see if we missed it. Guess what? We didn’t, and besides saving money, we have found several hidden benefits from cutting out cable or satellite TV.

The Sound of Silence

Jim and I both grew up in homes where turning the TV on and off were the first and last items of business every day. TV was always on, even if no one was watching. We got used to background noise, and it seemed kind of scary not to have some sort of show going all the time.

In all honestly, once you get used to not having Law and Order or Pawn Stars always blaring in the background, it’s much more relaxing. 

Improved Conversation

We are pretty busy with work and school activities. Many days, the only time all three of us sit down together is for dinner. We used to have some TV show going in the background. You don’t realize how much your attention goes to the TV until you don’t have it on. Now we have much better family conversation where the speaker is the only point of interest in the room.

We Have More Time

Our daughter has become an awesome reader, and she often reads, unprompted, for an hour or more  before bed. Guess what we used to do? Yep, watch TV. Now, we read books, play cards or board games, all the things we never had time for before. It’s amazing how losing TV creates so much more time. I’m not saying cutting out TV will make your child a better reader or give you extra hours in the day, but its amazing much time you can waste when a show catches your eye. 

We Have No Idea What Toys and Products are Cool

Since we are no longer bombarded with commercials, we have no clue what things we “need” to make our lives more special. Our daughter has no idea what toys are hot or what cereal is cool to eat. Her favorite is  Rice Chex. I’m sure it would be Frosted Flakes or Cocoa Krispies if we still had commercials.

For her birthday, she asked for a Frozen DVD, a jump rope, and a pair of earmuffs, which seems like an odd list. However, I know these are things she really wanted rather than just what she saw on TV. I also don’t have to see all the latest new cars with 0.9% financing or that Macy’s is having a sale this weekend. I don’t think I’d fall for a product because of a commercial, but who knows how much that affects spending?

I Can Explain Things About Life On My Own Terms

I will never forget when our daughter was almost two and we were watching some stupid reality show. The next thing we know, she’s running around saying “Dammit, Dammit, Dammit!”

I am not naive. I can’t protect my child from the real world. She might grow up swearing like a sailor, but I don’t want that to be my two year old. There are kids in her class that talk about shows that I know are violent, sexually provacative, or just plain inappropriate for first graders. I bet parents don’t even think their kids are paying attention. We didn’t before the Dammit incident.

I always want to have honest conversations and explain what certain words and situations mean. I remember thinking that kissing made you pregnant when I was a small child. I got this from Dallas and Dynasty long before it was time to talk about the birds and bees.

We Get To Choose What to Watch

If you think I’m a teetotaler who dropped TV altogether, you don’t know me very well. I love a good show or movie. I also don’t mind our daughter watching TV. I watched 3+ hours of TV a day when I was a kid. I did other things while TV was on,  but it was always on. I could probably tell you every character from Young and the Restless during the 80’s, and I still turned out OK.

The only difference now is that we choose what we want to watch and when. It doesn’t drone on and on in the background with no purpose. We pick a show when we have time, enjoy it, then turn it off. I never thought there was anything wrong with having TV on 12 hours a day, but now I know that there are better options.

We Save Lots of Money

Money is still a huge motivator to cut cable TV . We bought a year subscription to Netfix on Ebay for $53 and an antenna for $69 to watch network shows. We also have Amazon Prime to avoid Wal Mart, but it comes with lots of movies and TV shows. You can potentially have all the TV you want for under $10 a month! You can’t get ESPN, but it’s not worth an extra $50-$60 a month to us.

Why Do You Pay For TV?

If you have cable or satellite TV, is it because you have evaluated and decided that the expense adds value to your life? If so, then keep it. I’m sure I pay for things others might not see as valuable.

BUT if you are like us and have always had TV just because you grew up with it and never tried life without, I challenge you to give it up for 3 months. You can always have it installed again if you miss it.

You might find that just like satellite radio, driving a new car every few years, or buying clothes every month, things you’ve always spent money on are really not that useful long term. Finally, at 40 years old, I am much happier investing 55% of my income for better things instead of buying stuff that doesn’t really give me happiness. I only wish I’d realized that two decades ago!

Are you willing to give cable a 3 month break? Did you grow up watching too much TV?

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About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

43 comments

  1. We’ve been without cable/satellite for several years now. We initially cut to save money but found all the things you mentioned to come true as well. We are thinking about giving it a go again though, as we have found using our antennae frustrating. Plus, my two oldest kids are becoming sports fanatics and cable offers many more options in that regard. We also have more room in our budget than we did years ago to pay the monthly fee.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..Goodbye Mortgage and Lender B.O.A. Hello Baby Step 7!My Profile

    • We love our antenna, but we are out in the boonies with nothing blocking our views to the TV tower. If you have a budget and value it, I’d say go for it.

  2. I’m one of those people that has evaluated cable, and believe it adds value to our lives, and I’m keeping it. :) I DO however believe that we need to make a dedicated effort to get ALL of us away from the screens each day and spend time together. Whether it’s eating dinner together, or being outside now that the weather is nicer, or whatever. it’s too easy for all of us to go to our respective rooms or corners with our own screens (computers, phones, tvs, etc).

    • That’s all people need to do. Evaluate and decide. We never did that and when we did, it wasn’t worth it. I also hate having a contract with anything for a fixed time period. If I could only find a non-contract phone service that worked here, I’d cut that too.

  3. I go back and forth on this. On the one hand TV shows are what my wife and I watch when we are trying to relax after a long day. On the other hand it definitely is quite expensive when you factor in all the costs. I think I’m also a bit afraid of silence ;) I like to have the TV on while I’m working on my blog or other things.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..How to go to Vegas for Cheap – or even FreeMy Profile

    • Netflix can run all the time as well, but if you do watch your shows on paid TV, then keep it and don’t feel bad.

  4. I was a huge Young and the Restless fan when I was younger. :-) We don’t miss our cable either, Kim, in fact, I wish we’d drop Netflix too. I have to say, though, we are huge TV fans when winter comes. We’re not big on outdoor sports, so we spend lots of time indoors during the cold winter months.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..Prepping 101: Be Prepared Not Merely to Survive, but to THRIVEMy Profile

    • I know some parents who do absolutely no TV whatsoever, and I respect their choice. I also think anything you completely forbid becomes more appealing, so I want to have TV, just not all the time.

  5. I agree that it’s helpful when your kids don’t see all of those commercials! My kids never know about the “hot new toy” or anything like that.

    I also like having the TV off just so that we can spend time together. Too much noise bothers me sometimes….I’m just like my dad!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Keeping Up With the Joneses: Our Frugal Yard RemodelMy Profile

    • TV background noise does bother me quite a bit now since I’ve become desensitized. My Dad never turns the TV off!

  6. We’re back and forth on this one. We could argue that we need to have it due to our business, but I know we could much of it just off the internet. The big killer for me is sports, which we can’t get the one we want without cable. That said, we were both very limited in what we could watch as kids and have done the same thing with ours. There is just too many other things to enjoy in life as opposed to plopping them down in front of the TV for hours a day.
    John @ Sprout Wealth recently posted..Why Credit Cards are Not EvilMy Profile

    • Do you think not watching TV as a kid makes you enjoy it more now? I look back at all the shows we watched and it’s pretty sad when my afternoon was structured around Gilligan’s Island and the Love Boat reruns. My Mom still lets the grandkids watch TV all day and doesn’t think anything is wrong with that and maybe there isn’t. Just not what I want all the time.

  7. When my husband and I moved into our apartment almost 4 years ago, the cable company did not have the ONLY channel we (read: he) wanted. In protest, we said no way to cable and have been cable free since. We’ve noticed many of the same benefits you listed above. The biggest perk for us has been the push to get out of the house. So often with Cable/Satellite, its too easy to get sucked into a marathon and *poof* the day is gone! With no cable, we have to get off the couch. I think our parents love it too, because when there is something on cable we want to see, we stop by their houses for a visit. :)

    • Yes, I have wasted too many days on Law and Order or NCIS marathons. They seemed to do them on holiday weekends when I should have gotten out more. Another good reason to cut TV.

  8. I cut my cable over a year ago (or was it longer?) and never looked back. Someone gave me a roku for free and I watch Netflix and Hulu plus. I have an antenna too, but do need a new digital converter box to watch anything but NBC because my current one is stuck on that channel. Long story. I don’t miss cable one bit.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted..Budget and the Beach Turns Two!My Profile

    • I think if I had to pick one network channel, it would be NBC, but it’s nice to have a few to choose from.

  9. We also canceled our cable about a year ago and we just have Netflix now. It was such a great decision for so many reasons!
    And, yes I definitely grew up watching WAY too much television!

    • Maybe there should be a club for children who watched too many shows growing up. We could all burn a TV or something.

  10. We haven’t completely cut our cable, but we did lower our package. We are saving over $20 a month and don’t even notice it. We also have started limiting the amount of movies we watch and how much we put towards that each month as well.
    Michelle recently posted..$13,493 in April Business Income – My BEST Month yet!My Profile

    • I don’t think we would have ever cut TV as a couple without a kid. We did watch it much more when we were able to stay up past 10PM!

  11. Ha! I could tell you all of the Young and the Restless characters from the 80s too!!! My mom always had that on followed by All My Children. Anyway, we just went through the exercise of cutting cable and it has been such a great “gift” we have given ourselves not only financially but for many of the reasons that you mention. We barely have the tv on anymore, but when we do, it is “intentional” watching that we typically do as a family.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted..Music Mondays – She Works Hard for the MoneyMy Profile

    • I owe the PF community for opening my eyes. I never would have considered it otherwise. TV was just like electricity in my mind.

  12. We’ve never had cable tv, but even with regular over the air tv, I sometimes find that it’s on just as background noise. I’ve made an effort to try to cut that out and do something more productive. Plus with a little one in the house, we’re trying to cut down on “screen time.”
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted..Are You Suffering From Technology Overload?My Profile

    • The little ones really do pick up more than you give them credit for. We do sometimes watch a show together in the evening, but I’m really glad we are trying to break the TV on all the time cycle.

  13. I gave it up and I really do not miss it. At first it was hard but then I preferred the extra money it left me with every month. I actually prefer the free channels, all my fave programmes come on them.
    Debt Busting Chick recently posted..Blog Lovin SundaysMy Profile

  14. I’ve been really tempted to cut our TV service before, but I think there would be a mutiny in the house if that happened. The costs have really gotten out of control for a month of service. I keep waiting for the day when Apple TV or Google TV will let you get all your local channels and then you can just stream everything.
    MMD recently posted..Niche Website Update 17 – How I Went From Spot 500 to 14 in the Google Search Ranks!My Profile

    • The bow tie antenna works like a charm for network and after the initial cost, it’s free until it breaks. We just hooked in into the old satellite wires and it has been wonderful.

  15. I definitely grew up watching way too much TV. These days, I don’t really watch much. Ana and I got rid of all the expensive channels about 2 years ago and slowly downgraded to all online watching. I think it’s great! I save money and like you said…conversation between us has gotten much better! Thanks for the great read!
    Josh R @ CNA recently posted..Budgets = Happiness (Science Says So)My Profile

  16. We do still have cable. I never really thought much about it until I started blogging and saw how many people were cutting the cord. Right now, we’re keeping it. We can afford it and my husband likes watching sports. Since he lives with three girls, I figure I owe him that much. :) I do try to minimize how much time the girls watch it as I absolutely do agree that TV can easily overtake our lives if we let it!
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..Fear or Joy: How Do You View Money?My Profile

    • Jim was a real holdout for a long time, but decided to go for it, and he really didn’t miss it. In all honestly, her rarely sits down and watches a whole game or match of anything. He mostly looked at the highlights, which he does online now.

  17. This is the one expense I’ve been going back and forth on. Right now we have a nice deal under a contract but in October that will be over and I know I don’t want to pay more than what I’m paying now. We love watching movies at home and some of the shows on cable so I will consider keeping it for the right price. I definitely have all the info ready in case I have to cut the cord and go with an antenna.
    Raquel@Practical Cents recently posted..May Progress Report and $883 in Monthly SavingsMy Profile

  18. I am SO ready to just go to a TV antenna. We are close enough to most stations, it would not take much. I think we still want a DVD, maybe a TIVO, which would allow watching TV without commercials.

    I got rid of the phone, and went to cell and magic jack. The next is the TV. By the end of Summer, we will have it gone.
    No Nonsense Landlord recently posted..Guest Post: How Effective Tenant Screening Can Lead to Higher ProfitabilityMy Profile

  19. So true! We cut out cable a few years ago and I haven’t even thought about some of these benefits. The main thing for us is the time. Now that we have organized our life around not watching TV, I don’t see how people find the time. Especially considering how much time some people spend watching it!
    Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog recently posted..Where is Your Money Really Going When You Donate to Charities?My Profile

  20. I love being cable free! We have two antennas and they give us great channels and we only had to pay for them once. $30 each! TV doesn’t dictate what we do. We only watch when we want to unwind, but I have found myself to be more productive.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..I Am Offering a New Service – Technical Blog ManagementMy Profile

  21. I grew up really disliking TV; my mom and brother were big tv people and the sound always drove me crazy when I didn’t want to watch something myself.

    I’ve never had cable; I owned a TV for a few years but haven’t had one since, I don’t know, around 2009ish. I use my laptop to stream Netflix, watch DVDs, and I also subscribe to mlbtv for around $125 a season so I can watch baseball. (It is an absolutely incredible service if you’re a baseball fan, and super cheap for what you get.)

  22. I cancelled my cable service around two years ago now. When I realized the majority of the shows I enjoy watching are free with an HDTV antenna I decided I wasn’t going to pay for something anymore that I could get for free. I live nearly 50 miles from the closest broadcast tower, so I purchased a to add to my antenna and now I pick up a 25 channels with it. Anything I can’t pick up is available on Netflix or Hulu. I would recommend cutting the cord to anyone – I’m not missing any of my shows… and it’s free.

  23. I cut the cable for the summer and have already started to notice how much more time I have for exercise. And even if its not exercise I find myself getting outdoors more and off the couch. Aside from saving $70 per month this is one of the biggest side benefits that I did not expect
    Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet recently posted..Teaching Kids About Money: Ages 7-8My Profile

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