Five years ago, we decided to shut off the satellite television service we had subscribed to for over ten years.
When people find out we don’t have television service, most are aghast. They can’t imagine life without American Idol, Two and Half Men, Judge Judy, or True Blood. They look at me like I belong to some strange religious cult or have a sub-zero IQ. But what they don’t know is that shutting off the TV has enriched out lives – and it’s saved us enough money to pay for a Caribbean cruise.
We were paying $49 a month for DirecTV access, and on average, we watched about 2 hours of TV a day, mostly at bedtime. That equates about $0.80 an hour for entertainment, which isn’t a bad price, but…
Why we Pulled the Plug
While watching TV was an affordable activity, we found that those two hours were often spent vegetating instead of interacting; talking at the TV instead of with each other; flipping channels through mindless junk instead of enriching our lives. I also noticed that my kids were imitating things they saw on TV, which told me they were indeed using the TV as a source of “valuable” information. (Do you really want your kids modeling Sponge Bob or Charlie Sheen?) We began to rethink our priorities as a family, and decided that even though the price was right, television wasn’t the best option for our family.
Trading TV for Life
Beyond the social and relational benefits of shutting off the TV, we found that an extra $50 a month can really add up over the years. With the money that we would have normally spent on satellite TV, we took a very nice two week family vacation this spring that included a Caribbean cruise with our best friends. It was the vacation of a lifetime with more priceless memories than I could ever have hoped for.
Instead of watching dolphins on the Discovery Channel, my kids were swimming in the ocean with them. They made friends on the ship with children from France, Germany, Spain, and Australia. They saw musicals, magic shows, comedies, and professional dance troupes. We spent time watching the waves, the sunset, and each other. When our friends and neighbors back home were dealing with a foot-and-a-half of snow and sleet (for the sixth week in a row), we were laughing about getting sand in our bodily crevices and enjoying blue skies and crystal clear waters filled with tropical fish. We all agreed it was more than a fair trade for a few mind-numbing hours in front of the tube.
While we no longer watch network TV, we do still purchase an occasional DVD and check out videos from the local library network. We watch clips of popular TV shows on YouTube and occasionally gather with friends to watch a big premiere movie or series on television. This compromise ensures that people indeed don’t mistake my kids for Amish and they don’t lack the cultural aspects that TV watching provides. We get some downtime in small doses without the temptation to watch for hours on end. It makes for a nice balance.
We’re already planning our next family vacation funded with our anti-TV money – a week-long stint lounging in a six-bedroom beach house with friends, where the homeowner will no doubt foot the bill for the cable TV (not that we’ll spend much time watching it.)
Sometimes, giving up the good stuff in life for the best stuff really is a worthwhile goal. What could you do with the money you normally send to your cable company or satellite provider in a year’s time?
Have you thought about this? Perhaps you should!
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