The Cost Of Watching Television

Last January, when our financial turnaround was just getting underway, we decided as a family to scale back our cable service to the basic package.  We cut out some sixty channels of programming and were reduced to local programming only.  But we did save about $35 a month in the process (the difference between expanded and basic cable).

We survived that year without expanded cable service, and only missed the channels a few times.  In fact, as the year wore on we hardly missed those channels at all. We all made sacrifices.  My wife gave up TLC and some of her favorite shows (Jon and Kate Plus 8, Little People, Big World, etc.).  My kids gave up the Disney Channel, the Cartoon Network, etc. I survived (barely) an entire college football season without ESPN, and a highly-charged presidential election without cable news.

Before long we were enjoying more quality family time, and all of us were more appreciative of the programming we did have available.  I began to watch PBS for the first time since I was a kid, discovering shows on things that interest me like gardening, travel and money management.

The original deal was to go without expanded cable for one year, which we completed in January of 2009.  After giving it some thought, we decided to sign back up for expanded cable service through our cable company.  It would increase our television entertainment bill from $12 a month to $46 a month – certainly not a trivial increase, but one we could make some room for in the budget by scaling back on our Netflix membership, and cutting a couple other categories.

Before I made the move I polled my Twitter followers (who continue to be a great source for this type of information), and found that $46/month was relatively cheap, but far from the most economical packages like the basic plan we were currently on. 

Here’s a summary of the Twitter poll statistics:

  • $57.50. Average cost reported by Twitter followers who currently pay for television programming.
  • $90.00. The most expensive package reported (satellite).
  • $14.00. The cheapest cable package reported, probably for basic cable channels.
  • $0.00. Two individuals reported that they pay nothing for television.  They have no cable or satellite service.  They both mentioned watching programs via Hulu or network websites, and one mentioned he was considering watching only the shows he liked via  I liked this a-la-cart option, myself!

In the end, we decided to turn the expanded programming back on. After a couple days of catching up with older shows, and watching a few new ones, it occurred to all of us that we were not missing much. Funny how you learn to live without something that you used to think you never could, especially when you have to.

I do not believe television is necessarily bad.  I do think the vast majority of programming is a giant time-suck, in that there are more productive things you could be doing with your limited waking hours.

But there are a few quality programs out there, and we use our cherished TiVo to record the few shows we watch regularly. This helps us watch TV shows faster while skipping past most of the commercials.  Now I just wonder how long we’ll keep the cable connected this time. With us watching fewer and fewer shows, it will be hard to justify this new, higher bill.


  1. I agree that evaluating whether or not cable TV is worth it for your family is a very smart decision. It can be quite expensive, but it can also provide a great deal of value.

    Where we live, even the very basic package cost more than $40. In the end, we decided that it was not worth the money. We put up rabbit ears and can get a few channels well enough. For everything else – iTunes, Hulu, and network sites. The thing that has surprised me the most is how little I miss our cable.

  2. I think television (even satellite TV) is one of the best entertainment bargains around. I highly suggest having a DVR – you can really make the most of your TV watching time with this. We use our DVR to record our favorite programs and classic movies (no commercials!). Whenever there is a free preview weekend of the premium movie channels we record a ton of movies…. then we when we want to watch TV, we watch what we want to watch… no mindless surfing for us! And we haven’t rented a movie or done pay per view in nearly two years! Well worth it!

  3. I agree that TV is a giant timesuck. But the internet is equally time-sucky for many people.

    I also pay nothing for TV. I mean really nothing. I don’t have a TV, so there’s zero temptation to pay for cable. We do however have a DVD player and digital projector. So we can watch movies from the library or our very small collection of DVDs.

    This has more or less been our set up for more than 10 years. It works great for us. We don’t miss TV at all. The very best tv shows seem to end up on DVD anyway. So if I want to check them out, I can. It’s of no importance to me to stay current with the best shows or movies as they are coming out. If the program is good now, it’ll be good in 18 months or whenever they get around to putting out the DVD. I’m in no hurry.

  4. Time suck, that’s all it is. And I’m as guilty as anyone. For a minute I thought you were going to somehow break down the costs of TV by how much time it can waste and the things you could be doing instead!

    One of the greatest times I ever had in my life was in Paris a few years ago. Tiny apartment, no TV, tons of books…it was awesome. Then again, it was Paris. Haven’t been able to get rid of the TV since…

  5. My husband and I went without TV (the first time) for about 4 months, back in 2004. We had never been without a TV prior to that and it was really weird at first. But after a few days we didn’t miss it and found that we had so much more time to do anything we wanted. The hardest part was deciding what to do with all that time. TV gave us an out.

    We’ve now been without TV for nearly a year and it’s really the best thing we’ve done. We still have access to the free to air stations but rarely, if ever do we turn it on. We record a couple of shows that we like and watch them when we have some spare time. We also watch movies now and again but for the most part we are enjoying a lot more quality time with each other and the family. It’s great!

  6. I used to be the world’s biggest TV junkie, and the idea of going without cable would have seemed like deciding we didn’t want to pay for water or another utility anymore. And then we moved and just never got around to getting cable. And then we moved again and decided we only needed the 7 channel package. And now, we don’t watch TV at all. We have Netflix and an Xbox and take full advantage of the watch instantly feature. We also watch a lot of shows online. And I don’t miss it at all. It’s funny how you can evolve.

  7. TV is cheap entertainment. I pay $130/month although that includes cable internet. I’m not a TV junkie, I watch 1-2 hours a day, in the background. It is far, far, far cheaper that going out every night to party, or going on a big intercontinental vacation every few weeks. TV keeps me off the streets because I know I can just sit home and be entertained without having to pay anything.

  8. This was a timely post for me to read. Next week we’re getting rid of our all-in-one telephone-internet-television package and reducing to minimum services to save a TON of money. However, not without sacrifices. We’re going to be the entire baseball season without being able to watch the Red Sox. Please tip your hat to my giving husband 🙂

  9. We’ve gotten by with rabbit ears for years! Plus, we’ve found that with the new digital signals, we get more free channels and more detailed info on the channel guides. So much programming is provided over the internet now, that I don’t miss CNBC anymore. I do miss ESPN though. ALOT. But my neighbors still get it, so I spend more time with them, building relationships and living in community.:-)

  10. I’m with Christina on this one. We have cable but no movie channels. I watch movies on demand and in exploring that option have found educational programming. I even exercise with our on demand health and fitness option. We also have high speed internet and phone service through cable.
    It’s a good option for us.

  11. I haven’t had cable in over three years, and in this area, that means no television reception at all. I still have my two televisions, but they won’t be upgraded to HD since I don’t use them for anything but watching DVDs. I keep up with the few shows I watch by viewing them on the network sites the day (or weekend)after they air. I’ve been saving a bunch of money this way!

  12. I’ve never actually had a TV so I wouldn’t know what I’m missing. I could never run successful side hustles if I spent an hour a day in front of a blinking box.

  13. I “practiced” going without TV for awhile and finally decided that I just didn’t want to go without. If I were to lose my job it would be the first thing to go but unless or until that happens, I’m keeping it!

  14. When you said you missed all the politics from the cable news stations I wished that I had given up expanded cable too! It would have saved a lot of aggravation! Thinking about it now, I just may take that challenge this year…

  15. I, like others here, use my DVR religiously. It helps me to cut out all those maddening commercial breaks (which are getting longer and longer, up to 4 minutes each almost) and watch what I want in less time. My schedule is also not ruled by when they feel like airing the shows and if I have a busy week, I can just relax and watch the shows on the weekend.

    I’m not sure how long we could go without TV. I have to watch my Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, Kitchen Nightmares, Survivorman and especially The Office! The Dirty Jobs show is a good one because it helps me to appreciate my office job even though I don’t feel great about it a lot of the time. It could be worse, I could be shoveling poo!

  16. We cut out the basic cable six months ago and haven’t missed it a bit. The kids do their homework now when they come home from school instead of watching TV. If we really want to watch some NCIS or something we go to and stream it. I will probably never have cable again and I am debt free. It’s not the money, it is just a time suck.

  17. We didn’t get cable when we moved in because 1)we couldn’t afford it, and 2)I work from home and didn’t want the temptation. It’s been almost 2 years and we don’t miss it at all, although I will admit that I’m going a bit stir-crazy this winter. It’s been a long, cold winter!

    I do watch CSI on while I’m exercising. It’s free, and there are a lot less commercials. Basic cable around here is over $40 a month, and it’s just not worth it because it’s only local channels.

  18. Sweet, my twitter response came in as the highest! 🙂

    We have few options. We live WAY out in the country and can’t even get HD programming through comcast, yet they would charge the same amount. And since we live on the very fringe of over the air antenna reception, getting locals via antenna all depends on the weather and what way the wind is blowing.

    But I have no quibbles about paying 89/month. It sucks, but living so far in the middle of nowhere means we spend all our time at home anyway. We’d spend more than that on gas just driving into town to catch a movie a couple times a month.

  19. We are about to move and we have decided to live without cable or satellite, however I have to say the five basic British channels are very good. I shall miss Bloomberg – whose British financial news is always ahead of the BBC or ITV channels – and TV5, the French channel.

    We have to pay the TV licence fee to the BBC which is $160 per annum and everyone who has a television has to pay it. There are also some very good radio stations with plays, serials, current affairs and comedies.

    We don’t and never have had a television set in the bedroom, our children only got one after they were 16 and bought them themselves!

    The internet is getting better and better for television programmes, so I think we will manage quite well.

  20. This is a great post considering how much of what we pay for to watch on TV is now available for free online.

    Just the other day I had a lengthy layover in an airport and watched three one-hour shows on my laptop that I knew were being recorded on our DVR back home. Definitely caught my attention and had me wondering if paying for Satellite is still worth it?

  21. I am one of the, presumably, few who are in the $0.00 category. I have an antenna on my tv and watch only the local stations. With this new DTV service, it’s as good of quality as cable. No, you don’t get TLC or History Channel, but you save tons of money.

    However, I do understand comments like #9 above and can see how it can definately be worthwhile for some to pay for tv. Just not for my family. I enjoy having the extra money and I can use the internet to catch missed programs.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents.

  22. We had been paying $35/month for satellite, but signed up last year for the government’s DTV coupons. So we took the coupons to the local store that had DTV converters on sale for the coupon amount making them free. We brought home our free DTV boxes and hooked them up to the indoor antennas that came with the TVs and… wow! The pictures were as good as satellite – much better than cable – and we got 20 free channels. (The local broadcasters that had one channel on analog TV each have several on DTV so there may be the network show on 2.1, a movie on 2.2, and a public service show on 2.3.) We missed a few channels – for a few weeks. But we didn’t miss them enough to keep paying $420 per year.

  23. We recently dropped our Cable provider and went with DishNetwork. We signed up for the lowest-level all-HD service and gave up zero channels we cared about. We now have 4 TV’s hooked up, two of which have DVR service, and the all-in monthly cost is just $48 (NOT a promotional rate).

    When we signed up we thought we were going to be giving up FoxNews, but decided it was worth the sacrifice to drop $50/month off our bill. About a week after we had Dish installed FoxNews started coming in.

    We couldn’t be happier.

  24. I wish people would realize how easy it is to watch everything online. And you aren’t limited to your tiny laptop screen! I hooked an old computer up to a big screen LCD and watch away. Anything I want. I do fancast and hulu and all the goodies. There is no need for cable.

  25. I’ve been without TV for most of my adult life. It is my opinion that media influence is mostly negative, especially commercials. TV promotes the lowest common denominator theory of human devolvement. Very little in the media is real or truthfully reflects reality. It seems to me that some people (I call them the “herd”) forget that one simple salient point. When used as simple entertainment, the media is just that; but when watched incessantly and believed implicitly it becomes a strong form of propaganda for consumerism.

  26. Our cable bill is $54 a month with taxes and all of that.

    We watch very little TV, and I am very particular about the shows that the kids DO watch. We do enjoy the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and PBS. The kids of course like Cartoon Network–but then again, they watch only a few shows.

    In the past, when we lived in a very rural area of the country, we’ve gone without cable without too much hardship. We spent a lot more time at the library I have to say in those days.

    I wonder if the small amount of shows we do watch justifies the bill every month. We often talk of this.

    We are looking into a FIOS option that just came into our neighborhood–phone, cable and internet for $99 a month. I want to read the fine print to see what that REALLY means though. And, do we have to sign a contract for so many months to get that price?

  27. To those who are tooting the horn of online viewing, sure it is easy to watch shows online at Hulu and the like, but having just performed a quick search on those sites for full episodes of the even just the shows I listed above, it appears that they only have excerpts not full episodes. It would appear that they only serve full episodes of shows from providers they perhaps have partnered with or have agreements with. Which means that one can only watch the mainstream drivel that is served from CBS, NBC, ABC and MTV. Talk about brain rot. No thanks.

  28. I keep cable because my favorite channels are Create, a PBS channel with only gardening, cooking, and travel shows (check to see if you get it in your area) and the Hallmark Channel, which has wonderful movies. These are quiet-level shows, and Create runs without commercials except promos at the end of the half-hours. Worth far more than their cost for the value of never wishing to go out and spend double-digits for a single current movie.

  29. What little bit of television my family watches is online these days. While we do have rabbit ears for the actual TV, most of the time we watch our favorite network programs on their own websites. There are very few commercials, and I can watch at my own pace. We even do this with out favorites from Sci Fi. Another free service with reruns, and full episode TV, is We even found a few Iron Chef America episodes there. There are other options. We do not watch much at all, but we do have a choice when we want it. Even my teenager prefers surfing Youtube, and listening to/watching music videos, to watching TV these days. Netflix is the best choice for movies.

  30. I could definitely live with just local programming. In fact, I could probably get by just fine without TV at all. But my fiance is a TV and movie junkie, so it’s one thing we splurge on. Between our billions of channels, premium channels and DVR, we’re at $100 a month. But we’ve cut back in other places to make up for that ridiculous cost.

  31. I’m amazed that after a year without, and realizing you made better use of your time, and had quality time together as a family, that you were sucked back in….am sure you’ll see the light again! It’s a money drain and a time waster. I’ve not had a tv at all for years….and don’t even notice its absence….I read, walk, craft, knit, garden…so many other wonderful things to do!

  32. @Pebbledash: Your sentiments have been echoed in a number of emails I’ve received today from readers who were surprised that I was “sucked back in.”

    I shared the cable story in the interest of full-disclosure, pointing out that the cable experiment was over and we decided as a family to turn it back on. As others have done, we’ve made room in our budget for the $35 increase by reducing our Netflix membership, and a number of other entertainment-related expenses (which were virtually non-existent to begin with). As a family of four, we could easily spend more than $35 viewing one movie at the theater, so staying in and watching television is a bargain to us.

  33. Goodness. Looking at the comments here, it appears that I am one of the few that doesn’t have a blog. It’s nice to know that I’m not mainstream. 🙂

  34. i don’t pay for tv but i do watch a lot online. it’s a much better experience as you can fast forward and there are minimal ads. tv guide has a great online video index that includes hulu and all the network sites. i love it…

  35. When my wife and I decided she would be staying at home with our daughter the first thing to go was some cable options.

    We cut about 100 channels, showtime and even cut back on our internet download speed. All in all those cuts saved us about $60 a month.

    We still have basic cable, HBO and about 200 channels.

  36. If it wasn’t for my wife, I would cancel my satellite television. I can catch up on a few of the programs via the internet, and can get news stories and Dave Ramsey there also. So, we cut back by no eating out in restaurants and not going to movies…that was our compromise.

  37. Ellen-we get create now that we have our digital converter box, plus a bunch more channels, it’s like cable to me!

  38. We have never had cable or satellite, only 4 local channels off the rabbit ears. With the digital switch (that hasn’t happened yet) we had to get a new antenna and it didn’t work. We have been without TV for 2 months and would not go back to even 4 channels. We watch a few things online and some movies, but mainly we read and do outside stuff. We homeschool and work from home, so no time anyway. TV is definitely not worth the money to us! Think of all the things you could be doing with that money and time. Don’t watch other peoples lives. Go live your own!!:)


  39. We canceled cable when we got our digital converter box and never looked back! (Well, we did a quick check with the company to make sure that we wouldn’t pay more total for internet alone.)

    Now our tv signal is better quality (weird). It hasn’t really changed our viewing habits, though hulu has made a pleasant difference. We can now stretch our shows across the week and onto weekends.

  40. @DavidK — between all the resources that are available out there online you can find your shows. Easy.

    I also splurge on Netflix for the watch instantly option. I just got done watching survivorman last night via Netflix. Netflix watch it now is the best thing ever invented. I’m not limited to a TV that has a DVR. I just hook up my laptop to the big screen LCD of whatever room I happen to be in and watch away. I’ll probably slowly migrate my used computers to each have it’s own dedicated TV. That way I can stream movies, TV and music — have your heard of That is the best thing for music listening. Create your own radio station! I stream that through the big media speakers and get great sound and no ads! Love it.

    @Ellen: CreateTV is available as an HD channel over the air for free. I watch that one usually while I am making dinner. Love that channel.

  41. The cost of whatever cable TV package one has is relevant to one’s lifestyle–and what you can, and cannot get elsewhere. And how much you value what you want. (I don’t think everything should be free, especially quality NON-REALITY scripted programming and documentary-style stuff.)

    Rabbit ears are not an option here in NYC. (I’ve got one of the new converter boxes and someone lent me an antennae. Tried and got nothing but ONE channel. This whole conversion thing is just a great way for more people to be forced into cable. Far as I know, the most basic package is still close to $35, which is too high.)

    We’d love to NOT pay a cent for broadcast TV, but you have to look beyond the old way of how we evaluate what we watch. Most of our family now catches up on regular broadcast programming online (We have lives and no DVR, which we won’t pay extra for.) at our convenience.

    We still get the extended cable precisely for the things we love and can’t get elsewhere or online: Discovery, TLC, HGTV and about 12 other cable channels we do watch regularly.

    We reviewed the channels we watch and compared them to how Time Warner (the only one we can get here) provides them. Clever company. They split it up so well that you basically have to get the extended package to get anything worthwhile (again, from our perspective). There’s next to nothing, literally, in the basic package. We wouldn’t even be watching those channels!

    What we need is to be able to buy the programming we want at more affordable prices. I don’t mind paying for exceptional content I can’t get elsewhere. (We love a certain political cable show for example and our neighbors tape it for us, since we would not pay extra for four shows a month.) But the cable companies just rip us off. Especially with the taxes and add-on fees (We HAVE to pay for a Time Warner box, even though we could buy it ourselves. There are now currently lawsuits around the country about this because the cable firms are making a fortune on these fees.)

    The other aspect of TV is the entertainment value per viewing. Given what it costs to go out to the theater, the movies or a concert here in the city, this is cheap. (Not, however, a substitute for it, although PBS does bring Great Performances to TV.)

    Do people spend too much time watching? Depends. Who actually sits and watches. Most of us, most of the time, are doing something else (surfing online, cooking prep, cleaning, reading, doing paperwork).

    FYI: We also do a lot of reading in our household, so TV watching doesn’t have to be either/or.

    Perhaps if TV watching and sharing our thoughts with say our coworkers wasn’t such a bonding thing, we might all give it up.

  42. We decided to go without cable last year and we have been without it about a year and a half now. I thought our 3 kids would freak. Amazingly, they didn’t miss it at all. When the Olympics were about to come on my husband bought an antenna that goes on top of the roof and with that we get 7 channels which include shows like The Office, The Bachelor and kids tv until 11:00 a.m.

  43. I tend to agree with you. We thought about getting rid of the TV, but instead decided to switch to a basic cable package. Our cable is bundled in with our Internet; when we switched to basic cable, the cost of the bundle went down by almost $100!

    Given that we work hard and are trying to avoid expenses like going out to eat, sometimes it’s nice to have the television there when we just want to hang out and relax.

  44. We don’t have a television, and the only cable we have is for the internet.

    In addition to the cost of the service, you have to consider the opportunity lost when watching TV. For me, I’d rather spend time with family, on hobbies, exercising or writing online to build long-term residual income.

  45. Jason, I have been following your posts for a few months now and as an outsider looking in, it kind of seems like you may be on a financial diet vice a financial lifestyle change. Did you catch Dr. Phil yesterday, it was a great show about a very committed frugal family. Red Box offers a great alternative to renting movies, $1.

    I have enjoyed your emails very much 🙂

  46. Well, I work from home about 2-3 hours a day, and my husband is currently unemployed. So having cable has been a lifesaver.

    The funny thing is, I had stopped watching most daytime shows (mainly, I watched reruns of Law & Order, Judging Amy, etc) and kept the TV switched off all day. But with my husband home, we do watch a lot more TV even in the afternoons.

    We have the second-to-lowest package ($54 after tax) available on Dish, because I adamantly refused to give up my Comedy Central and Discovery/History channels. That also included 2 DVRs, which has been great, since we tend to have time conflicts otherwise.

    We’ve discussed watching shows online from time to time, but it just wouldn’t work for us. We both like to dink around on the Internet while watching TV. We’re fidgety.

    That said, I really should give Hulu a proper try before casting it off as a no-go.

    Still, I wonder how much we’d miss out on, programming wise, because we weren’t watching TV and seeing ads for it. Strange reasoning, but it’s how we find out our favorite comics are going to have specials on Comedy Central, which new shows are of any interest to us, etc.

    I suppose it’s all food for thought.

  47. It’s nice to see the bad guy win once in a while.
    Three cheers for wasting time & money!!!


    My family switched to rabbit ears in 2001 and we don’t miss cable at all. Whenever we start to think we do, we spend a holiday with family are quickly reminded that we aren’t missing anything.

    We might come back if they ever offer an “ala cart” service (pick your own channels). But I’m not holding my breath for that day to come.

  48. Most of the shows I watch are on regular television (besides sports), and I can get the rest on youtube.

    Does anyone else always scan through the movie channels just to find movies you’ve already seen? I personally can’t pass on any old Nicholas Cage movies (Rock, Face/Off, Con-Air).

  49. We spend about $75 a month on our DirecTV package – we have the ‘expanded’ lineup of channels plus the Starz/Encore movie channels, DVR service, and I have a sports channel that shows English Premier League soccer which I am a big fan of from my time overseas. I’m not going to be able to see English soccer on the broadcast networks anytime soon. It is a big part of our entertainment – like others, we don’t spend that much in other areas like going out to eat. To us, it’s worth it.

    Like someone else mentioned, I’d LOVE to be able to subscribe per channel, ala carte.

  50. We’ve been on the free-TV only plan for about a month now. And we do not miss the $52.98/month payment at all. If we catch our shows while they’re on, great! If not, we watch them on Hulu or the network sites. We still have our TV to watch movies and play Wii, but I’ll never go back to paying for TV channels ever again!

  51. My wife and I are going on our 6th year without cable or Direct TV. You really have no idea how much time is wasted sitting in front of the TV watching a show that holds absolutely no value.

    Now, if we go out of town and stay at a hotel, it’s a treat to have all the cable channels.

    One thing is for sure, though, I ALWAYS change the channel if John and Kate Plus 8 is on!

  52. @Jerret: “One thing is for sure, though, I ALWAYS change the channel if John and Kate Plus 8 is on!”

    I’m with you on that one! I can’t stand the show, and my wife has been turned off by the mom’s attitude. I think it’s safe to say this one is coming off the season pass list of our TiVo.

  53. I pay $4.99 per month (plus tax, so actually $5.35) for DishNetwork – basic. We get the basics (NBD, CBS, ABS, Fox, PBS, Documentary, and some useless channels, plus every month they throw us a couple bones by giving us a few teaser channels (we’ve had Nat’l Geo, FoxNews, Science, G4, History, etc.).

    Honestly, even though we only pay about $60 per year, I’d just as soon not even have a TV in the house. So far, that’s an argument I haven’t won…

  54. I have a satellite package and it costs $100 per month but split it with a roommate so the costs come down the programming still high. I enjoy watching sporting events at home opposed to at a bar so I figure I save money that way.

  55. I think I would miss the History Chanel and the many PBS (other than KQED) the most, but I know I can live without it. I dont watch regular TV showes. My partner watches much more TV than I ever can given he works from home and I cant justify not getting things done around the house, working out, working on my business, dealing with health matters, etc just to watch TV after working 45 hours a week outside the home. I may watch about 1 hour a week so it would be up to him to get rid of it.

    I admit, I did watch a lot of TV in 2008 between the election and Olympics and I don’t regret it (especially the election).

  56. Are you gonna do an article on the Cost of having a kid or are the numbers too scary for you?

  57. @Saver Queen,

    I’d watch out where you brag about that. It is illegal to download episodes that have not been distributed using legal means (DVR, DVD, VHS, etc). It violates US copyright law (and copyright law in a number of other countries) and a number of people have been prosecuted successfully for doing it.

    Personally, I’m not saying “don’t do it”, only just watch who you tell. 🙂

  58. We recently gave up an expensive Satellite TV package and don’t miss it at all. However, we still enjoy watching TV (we do watch less now). Here’s what we did:

    1. Bought an antenna that gets us PBS and like two other channels. So we get local news and traffic plus some educational cartoons. $30 once

    2. Signed up for Netflix to get movies and, more importantly, take advantage of their Watch Now queue. $13.99 a month

    3. Purchased PlayOn software which allows us to access the Netflix instant queue, Hulu, YouTube, and others on our PS3 (which we already owned). We could do the same by hooking up our laptop directly to the TV and using it as a monitor, so this was a splurge. $30 once

    4. Get lots of movies and TV shows through the library. This is great for seasons of TV because you get all the disks at once in stead of one or two at a time as with Netflix. Free

    We don’t miss our over $100 a month expenditure at all.

    Total cost: $60 once and $14 a month.

  59. We got rid of cable about a year ago and don’t miss it. Granted, we got Netflix and the Roku watch instantly player, so it’s not like we’re TV free, but we save about $45 a month. And like I read somewhere else, instead of spending my weekends watching someone else do home improvement on HGTV, I’m actually out doing home improvement!

  60. It’s not having/not having TV that makes you connect with your family, participate in your community, read books, save money, etc. – you can have it all if you are in control of your actions and finances. Sure there are tradeoffs, but this is no different than other tradeoffs that people willingly make.
    The cable/uncabled TV doesn’t make you watch it anymore than the cigarette ‘makes’ you smoke it, nor the food ‘makes’ you eat it.
    While giving up TV is an option for some, we find that a terrific local library cable (TV internet) works for us. Then again, we actively use both, so it’s not a waste of money.
    We don’t go to movies, don’t rent movies, don’t really go out as much as we’d like anyway (due to demanding work schedules that often result in giving tickets away/at cost to friends or canceling dinner reservations).
    Then again, we just paid off the house and the cars- even with the upgrade to the DVR, we still are significantly increasing our $ diverted from mortgage/car payments into savings/investments.
    This may be a ‘waste of money’ to some, but we don’t spend money on MANY other things that others regard as essentials (disposable diapers (you HAVE to be kidding!!), designer things, dinners out nightly, video rentals, gym memberships, PPV, video consoles & games, etc.)
    We live in an area with TERRIBLE antenna reception, and we need a robust internet connection anyway (for work downloads, not videos).
    Sure, we could watch more online, but have found many programs are just excerpts, not the entire program, and huddling around the laptop perched on a lap for a cozy evening isn’t always practical for more than 2 people.
    We have found that the combination of a terrific local library, DVR, and OnDemand allows us to pick-&-choose information at times when we’re available- it’s a combination that works for us.
    Since we don’t go to the movies on a routine basis, the free movies available on demand work for us. Sure they’re not THE most current, but we don’t have to pay $ for transportation/tickets/concessions to then deal with people yakking in the movie theatre, either. Besides: there’s enough discussion online that you can still get the ‘gist’ of most popular movies/events without actually seeing them anyway, so you can still be culturally relevant (ha!).
    The ExerciseTV option (included in the cable cost- not PPV) offers MANY exercise options that change monthly (so we dropped the gym memberships as a result).
    We’re currently enjoying the U2 concerts (anywhere from 7-120 minutes in length) that are currently included in the service, too. Clearly not as terrific as the actual experience, but far more convenient (given work demands) and likely less expensive, too given concert ticket prices (even if you’re available at the given time).
    Not for everyone, but not everyone is in our position, either- works for us.

  61. My biggest money sucker is entertainment and it always has been. I just know that if I did not have True Blood, Big Love, or Bill Maher to watch some evenings I would be out at the theatre, the opera, or a concert. THAT would be expensive. I read a huge amount already so cable TV is a two or three nights a week vice. Premium cable channels don’t have commercials either. Cable TV saves me money IMO and it is also prime time for cuddling with hubby.

  62. #67 – I totally agree! We already do a lot of reading, outdoor activities, etc and if we didn’t have TV (even my hour a week or so) I would be spending much more money elsewhere.

    I guess it really depends on your lifestyle: if you rarely spend time with family, read, etc yet you watch 4 hours of TV a day – that’s a problem.

  63. Basic cable ($10/month) plus Amazon Unbox to buy commercial-free episodes of shows like Psych which are pushed down to my Tivo.

    Much cheaper than paying $60/month for analog extended basic (digital packages even more expensive)

  64. We gave up television programming entirely about three years ago and have had no regrets. We still have a DVD player and watch what we want to watch when we want to watch it. And what most people don’t realize is that you can rent movies for free from the local public library. And not just educational movies, either. In fact, just last night we watched the newer “Twilight” movie.

  65. Just wanted to say thanks for this useful article. I had read that TV in the States didn’t come cheap, and so I was looking for numbers to back it up – it’s certainly true. In the UK people are always complaining about the licence fee (£142.50/year, or about $19 USD per month) – but with that and a freeview/freesat box you get a basic digital/sattelite service with quite a few channels for no extra monthly payment. Certainly seems like we’re getting a good deal here!

  66. I too am one of the $0.00 category people. I used to pay approximately $75 per month for supposed 100 channels. Sure there was 100 channels. I doubt I felt programming was worth watching on anymore than maybe 25 of them, if that many. Not only that, I’m sure that everyone who has cable or satellite Tv had one more complaint which I always had. The same thing is played over and over, did I mention over again. I can go to hula and click on the exact same movie 10 times per month, basically giving me the same results as watching cable, and not costing me a dime. Truth is, if you are a movie fan, you can with little effort watch a DIFFERENT movie 365 days of the year at no cost on the internet. After realizing this a few months back I decided to write a website for watching TV on the internet. Here’s the link if anyone is interested….

    OnlineTVez is just one of thousands of places to watch movies, catch up TV shows, classic TV, music video. It’s all out there for the taking and it’s absolutely free. If you run across TV websites that want money for TV players or access, just go on to another website. You do not have to purchase software to watch TV on the internet, don’t think you do. The only real requirements are a fairly fast computer with memory and a fast internet connection. There will be plugins your browser will need to play the videos but these are easily obtained and again free.

    More and more people everyday are saying NO to paying the cable or satellite companies for their reruns and channels that few actually want to watch. You may be next….

  67. Agreed with most of the comments here. Watch it online for free (tons of sites). We stopped the cable b/c we were mad at the company for messing up our bills. Never did get back to it. Missed it for about a month, then nothing for a long time. Suddenly missed it again about 2 years later, but after watching stuff on my mom’s satellite we realized we hadn’t missed much (tv doesn’t change nearly as much as we thought, tons of re-runs), and what is new is crap at best. Find what you like online for free