I am one of the first to admit that television, video games, the Internet, and cell phones add fun and convenience to our lives. But this past April I took the challenge presented by TVTurnOff.org and shut the television off for the week. For good measure, I also shut off the video games, and the Internet and cell phone (as much as I could without missing work related items). I was surprised by a few things that week, including how little I missed it all after just a few days and how much more active my social life became.
What surprised me most, however, was how much money I began to save. I’ve kept the television mostly off since April, even discontinuing my satellite subscription, and I’ve saved more than I thought possible. Below are ten ways that “plugging out” — consciously allowing less electronic noise into my life — has saved me money.
1. The most obvious way that plugging out saves money is that you no longer pay high subscription rates for cable, satellite, movie channels, sports packages, TiVo, satellite radio, cell phone contracts, etc. My savings from canceling satellite alone is $600 per year, and I didn’t have a premium package or extra subscriptions. You don’t have to eliminate everything, but consider whether a smaller/less costly package might not serve you as well.
2. Plugging out saves money on your electric bill. A modest home entertainment system consisting of a tube television, VCR/DVD player, and a basic cable/satellite set top box uses about 1200 kWh of electricity per year. At the average residential electric cost of 11.06 cents per kWh, that’s $132.72 per year to operate the equipment. That’s before you add in speakers, a gaming system, TiVo, a Slingbox, or a big screen television. And if you have multiple setups in multiple rooms, the cost goes even higher.
3. Limiting television gets you and the kids away from advertising designed to encourage the want monster. How many times have you been watching a program and a commercial comes on for something that, until that very minute, you had no need for or no knowledge of and now suddenly you have to have it? Plug out and see how your wants and needs change without advertising constantly calling to you.
4. Plugging out cures you of unrealistic expectations set forth by shows like “Friends” or “Sex in the City” where young people with regular jobs are living in fabulous apartments in high rent cities, with cool clothes and hot cars. It doesn’t work like that in the real world, but watch enough television and you may start to feel like your normal life is inadequate. Plugging out has made me much more content with what I have and less inclined to pursue an ideal that can only be reached with a good lottery win.
5. Spending less time watching television or mindlessly surfing the Internet gives you more time to pursue other money making opportunities. Maybe you’ve always wanted to start your own business or make some extra money from a cherished hobby, but haven’t been able to because “there’s never enough time.” There might be, if you didn’t come home and plunk on the sofa to channel surf all night. I’ve been able to get my writing career off the ground because I spend less time watching TV and more time writing.
6. Toning down your use of electronic gizmos gets you off the upgrade treadmill. If you aren’t using your TV, game system, or cell phone very often, who cares if it’s an older model or doesn’t have the jazziest features or newest games? If it does what you need, there’s
no need to go out and get a bigger, faster, flashier version every six months.
7. Plugging out gives you time to get out and be active, saving you money on your health care costs. If you come home from work and go out for a walk or play with the kids, you’ll be healthier than if you spent that time sacked out on the couch. You’ll probably visit the
doctor less often and, with some insurers/employers now penalizing the unfit and inactive, you may pay less in premiums.
8. You’ll have more time to learn and use money saving skills such as gardening, cooking, home/auto maintenance and repair, sewing, or landscaping. Read books or take classes to learn more. The more you can do for yourself, the more money you’ll save over calling a service person every time you need something done.
9. Without electronic distractions, you have more time to tend to your finances. You can comparison shop for insurance, balance your accounts, pay your bills on time, and make certain your financial life is in order. You’ll also have more time to educate yourself about finances, investing, taxes, and insurance so you can make informed decisions in the future.
10. Plugging out gets you away from over-hyped financial news that may cause you to make hasty and ill-advised financial decisions. When the media is screaming that XYZ Corp’s stock is plummeting and you opt to sell based on those reports, it stinks to find out the next day that a computer glitch caused the fall and that XYZ is financially sound. You should remain informed about world and national events, but limiting your exposure to the hype can save you money and heartache. (Not to mention the money you’ll save on therapy by avoiding depressing news.)
I certainly don’t advise that you never watch television, play video games, or surf the Internet if you enjoy those activities and find value in them. Just be aware of your usage of, and dependence on, these devices. Electronics should bring added fun and convenience to your life, not rule your life to the point that you’re losing precious money and time that could be better spent in other ways.
Image courtesy of BriD