How Pulling the TV Plug Led to a Tropical Vacation

by Jamie Simmerman · 14 comments

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.

Finding Balance
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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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Elisabeth says:

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    and make it important. More people must check this out and understand this side of the story.

    I was surprised you aren’t more popular because you definitely have the

  • Financial Independence says:

    We do not have television service either. I personally stop watching it regularly about 10 years ago, but we were particularly
    adamant not to watch, when the baby arrived. So many of them are spending hours in front of television.

    Albeit we do have TV sets – to watch movie or cartoon. But it is not the $50 you paying, it is rather time you are wasting.
    So we play, read instead and talk.

    To swim with the dolphin is an expensive hobby ; -) Not having TV makes you closer, but you have to stop watching it at least for a year, to get on a dolphin.

  • subhorup dasgupta says:

    I have a fat DTH subscription, but i have achieved something similar with my newspaper and journal subscriptions. I have got rid of all the business papers that I would take, and though it might not make a big dent in my monthly budget, it is starting to add up across the months. Never though of putting it together the way this post made me think. Nice.

  • Jules says:

    We have a bundled internet-TV-phone service. But for me, living abroad, it’s more about having something that’s in English every now and then (I’m a Criminal Minds addict). Even though I’m now conversant in Dutch, American TV is infinitely better than most things here, and it’s a nice way to celebrate Wednesdays 🙂

    • Jean says:

      I know what you mean. When my dad was stationed in Germany for a year, I had to watch most of my favorite shows in German, and while I learnt the language within the first month of my stay there, it never seemed quite the same to watch those shows! Now, thanks to the internet, you can follow a lot of your favorite shows no matter where you are, as well as be able to choose when you want to watch them instead of scheduling your daily life around catching a favorite TV show.


  • Marbella says:

    You do not need television. There are TV channels that have made us dependent on them. Most people’s lives are controlled by the TV times. Throw out the TV and build your own life as you decide over and not the TV channels with their soap operas and other crap.

  • indio says:

    My friends are always telling me that they think I don’t sleep. They cant imagine that I can get so much done in a day. When I point out that I don’t lose 2-3 hours day watching mindless TV, they begin to think about how much viewing time they have. When you hear the quotes that the average person watches 4 hours or more a day, it really makes you wonder what happens to their productivity.

  • Herbert says:

    ME TOO!!!! My neighbors were secretly laughing at my 3 small tabletop type antennae, wired in series, and set on my roof. When the first one who saw the perfect, high definition, FREE local TV signal reception on my TV, and then learned of the myriad of internet opportunities available to watch online, he cancelled his cable, also. In our area, Comcast has the worst reputation imaginable when it comes to service, and the sats are not much better. We are thinking of getting together to mount a larger rig, in effect creating our own private cable, in order to pull in some additional channels. We’ll be living in tall cotton, with the extra bucks to boot.

  • KM says:

    Definitely agree. I will never go back to watching TV again for the same reasons you mentioned: cost, wasted time, and the annoyance of commercials. I watch a few shows on Hulu and the like, but usually those are watched while doing something else (like cooking) so I am not just a vegetable in front of the screen.

  • Jean says:

    Great story, Jamie. It is really amazing how the savings add up, don’t they? Families have become really disconnected ever since cable TV started really. Some member of the house would always be on the tube watching whatever was on. Nowadays, you can follow most of your favorite program online anyway so a lot of people are curtailing their TV subscriptions too.


  • Ryan says:

    I cancelled my Comcast TV service over 2 years ago, upgraded my internet speed, and mounted an antenna on my roof to pull in all the network channels in full High Definition.
    With the internet I’m able to watch any cable show that interests me soon after it airs (Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc).
    I’m saving over $100 per month and have not missed any of my favorite shows. And yes……in the spirit of this article, the $1200 per year has been put towards vacations with the family. Tuscany in 2012!!

  • Nora says:

    You are not alone. We haven’t had a T.V. in years. We are released from the noisy commercials and are blissfully are unaware of what we are supposed to need, need, need right now, now, now. Television is a total waste of life. It is our society’s version of “soma”, as in Brave New World.

  • khatlady says:

    I do not have satellite or cable tv either. Just a small rabbit ear receiver. I can get the local stations and PBS. Anything else I can easily get elsewhere.

    Plus, missing American Idol? How do people watch that show and others like that? You couldn’t pay me to watch those.

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