1000 Extra Hours a Year; Our life without cable TV

A little more than a year ago, I sat down on the couch ready to watch a Penn State football game; a luxury that I had not yet enjoyed yet that fall.  I grabbed a beer and plopped down, only to get the “fuzzy snow” when I turned on the set…qwshhhhhhhhhh.  I immediately blamed that darn cable company, as we frequently have disruptions in our internet service due to poor connections, etc…

Joe: “Maria, the cable is out again!”

Maria “I know, I canceled it”.

Joe: “WHAT?!?!  When did you do that??”

Maria: “About 3 months ago”

Hmmm…well, I guess I couldn’t argue with that.  Really, we had often lamented on the poor value proposition that our cable subscription offered.  When we were first married, our cable bill was something like $120, including the full digital HD package, 300+ channels, FiOS connections, etc, etc….  That all sounded great, but there was “never anything on”, and when there was, it was always on the same 3-4 channels.  Was that really worth $1,500 a year?  Eventually, we downgraded to a smaller package with less channels as a way to save money.  As a result, we spent a little less time watching TV, as some of the channels we liked to watch were no longer available.  We were still spending exhorbanant amounts of time in front of the tube though, especially during the days of “Lost” and “CSI: Special Victims Unit”.  I can remember many days when we burned 3 hours or more in front of the TV.  To think back on that now is an unthinkable waste of time, but I guess we “didn’t have anything better to do” (despite feeling “really busy”…turns out we had no idea what that meant yet).

As we moved “out into the country”, started having kids, and began dabbling in homesteading, we watched less and less TV, simply because we had less spare time to do so.  Finally during a monthly budget review, we were looking at ways to save a little money, saw our TV bill and thought…”Huh…I can’t remember the last time I watched TV.  Why are we paying for that again?”  The seed was planted, and eventually, Maria pulled the trigger and began our life without cable TV.

With the boys getting older and more independent, we are again finding ourselves with more time on our hands.  Not having cable has given us the opportunity to use our time differently, and more productively.  So, what have we done with that time?

  • Read a book – whether you choose a relaxing fiction, an enlightening non-fiction, or an informative how-to book, we have found reading as being our most frequent use of late evening time that was most often used as TV time in the past.  Rather than ingesting hours of mindless blather, this has allowed us to continue our education, become better communicators, and expand our perspectives outside of what we might be otherwise exposed to.
  • Learn a new skill – with our extra spare time (especially those Saturday afternoons that used to be allocated to watching college football), we have been able to spend our time learning new things…everything from homesteading skills like building small structures, firewood preparation, gardening, and caring from animals; simple home repair like painting, wiring, and plumbing; food preservation skills like canning, fermenting, and dehydration; and other general skills like knife sharpening, chainsaw repair and marksmanship.  All of these things we learned in the time that otherwise would have been spent watching TV.
  • Get in shape – Even just a few minutes a day can go a long way toward improving your physiscal conditioning, extend your life, and help you stay healthy.  Whether this takes the form of running (one of Maria’s favorites) or chopping wood (one of my favorites), personal well-being is an important part of our lives.
  • Spend more time with our family and our community – arguably one of our favorite things to do with our spare time is to spend time with people.  Yup.  Good old fashioned, flesh and blood people.  We share every meal at the dining room table as a family and talk about our day.  We spend our mornings and nights playing on the floor with our boys.  On a Saturday night, we play board games with each other, or with our neighbors.  On Sundays, we will share a meal with my parents or my brother.  In the summer, we’ll spend afternoons having a barbecue with friends in our community.  Sure, we don’t always know what the score was in the big game, but we now have deeper, richer relationships with the people that we love most.
  • Improve our food quality – Whether it is using your time to plant a fruit tree, maintain a garden, cook a meal with sfood from the local farm market, or put up some canned fruits and vegetables, there are few places where your time is better spent than to improve the quality of food that you and your family eat.  This is probably the area where Maria spends the majority of her previous “TV time”.
  • Write a blog – what time do we use to write our blogs?  You guessed it…weeknight evenings.  The very same time that we had wasted on TV only a few years ago.

We often get asked how we find the time to do all of the things that we do around our homestead.  The answer is simple…we stopped watching TV.  Yeah, it was kindof a pain to work with the cable company to drop the service, and yeah, there are times that there are shows we would like to watch that we can’t, and we can’t always participate in the discussions on Monday morning about the score of the game or the last episode of “Breaking Bad”.  We even get some pretty strange looks when we tell people that we don’t have cable.  But in retrospect, the decision seems simple.  Would you rather…

  • Pay $1,500 a year for the privilege to spend 2-3 hours a day, 700-1000 hours a year, sitting on a sofa and watching programs that, at the end of the year, will have added little or no value to your life other than providing fodder for meaningless discussions with other people about what you watched.

OR

  • Save that money, improve your education, learn skills that will enable you to be more accountable for your self and your family, save even more money doing the things that you would have hired other people for in the past, enrich your relationships with the people that you love, build a stronger community around you, get in shape, enhance your food quality, and maybe even start a business?

Every moment is a decision about how we will live our lives.  So, the choice is yours…what will you do with your extra 1,000 hours a year?