Experiment: Life Without TV

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notv.jpgAfter we moved, I didn’t sign up for Cable TV as I couldn’t find a good deal and was morally against paying the full price of over $50 a month again. So, we decided to try life without television. We don’t watch that much TV, but we are definitely used to having it around. The only show I watch religiously is PTI. I’d like to not have cable when we have kids, but I’m not sure we can pull it off.

So far, it’s been pretty bland. Contrary to what some may say, we did not spontaneously start to read Shakespeare or become triathletes. Our IQs did not mysteriously double. On the other hand, we do actually talk to each other over dinner now. I do miss PTI, or what my wife calls “the two loud guys”. We’ll see how the rest of the month goes…

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  1. Way to go. I don’t watch TV for about (tries to recall…) 8 years now. And I don’t think I miss much.

  2. Lol…I have a TiVo – now imagine going from THAT to no TV. I can’t, and never plan to!!! perhaps if you got something like netflix, you could enjoy TV/movies and still pay a lot less?

  3. I don’t have cable or satellite tv either. As I am a huge sports fan, I am afraid that I will watch too much sports programming with a cable package. Also, I rather save the money.

  4. I have a TiVo myself. I’ve been slowly catching up on all the shows I’ve recorded but haven’t watched yet since I don’t have cable.

    I think TiVo actually reduces the amount of TV I watch, both by cutting out the commercials and letting me choose what to watch ahead of time.

  5. I didn’t have cable when I was earning my master’s degree full-time. That set-up worked for me because I was too busy to miss it.

  6. Personal Finance Blogger says

    Have had ReplayTV for about 3 years now. (Just like Tivo) I definately agree that it reduces the amount of TV we watch. I used to channel surf and find something mildly amusing to waste my time with. Now we’re pretty focussed on what we watch (and don’t watch commercials.) There is also no pressure to turn the TV on at any given time to catch a show.

  7. You can get basic channels (the first 40 channels here) for $20 a month from Comcast.

    Also alternative to netflix, blockbuster has their own similar program.

  8. frugalman says

    way to go! We also do not pay cable fees. We do watch TV though, using over the air broadcast. Rather same the time and money watching too much TV.

  9. What have you done about an internet connection (since the cable/internet package is so common)?

  10. Anonymous says

    I do not have cable for about 6 months. We are glad that we made that decision. We get 10 local channels which includes PBS and ABC from our rental property wall for free. I think it is just waste of time and money to watch “REALITY shows” and filthy people in my living room. We have netflix lowest membership that way we have control of watching a move per week whenever and (almost) whatever we want (We have one year old and attention). That keeps our monthly entertainment bill at approximately $10.00/-.

  11. I never had cable TV when I was growing up. As a result, I never cared too much about TV… you don’t miss what you never had to begin with.

  12. This is interesting, as I just thought about this the other night.

    If we got rid of the TV, the communication in our house would go way up, I’m sure. Not that we have BAD communication, but it could be better.

    I, like you, don’t watch much TV in the first place, and every time we get our cable bill I threaten to toss the sets out the window and never look back.

    Keep us posted on your experiment!


    P.S. – The next step is getting rid of the internet! 🙂

  13. PTI is now available as a podcast.

  14. PTI is the best show on TV today. Kornheiser and Wilboun are the best thing on ESPN.

    Good luck with the no TV – summer’s not a bad time to be without it, but come football season, I could never do it. Although I think we pay too much for Cable and Internet on Adelphia, almost $100/month for both.

  15. We went with just over-the-air (free) programming for a while and didn’t have any problems. We made the decision to go with a standard cable package when the wife’s sister moved in because she wanted it and she agreed to split the bill, but when she moves out we’ll cancel the service because during the brief time we were without cable we didn?t miss it one bit.

  16. I moved about a month ago, and I refrained from signing up for cable. Almost all of the shows I follow are on the networks, and I don’t want to pay $40/month for the handful of programs I’ll miss.

    That said, I do miss The Colbert Report a lot. And I’ll need to figure out some alternative for when Battlestar Galactica returns in October. Not having a DVR anymore might be the biggest loss (although I do believe that I watched more TV because of it, albeit fewer commercials).

    For now, I’m just getting by with an antenna. I considered getting the $17/month basic cable, just for the signal quality, but with the regular season about to end, I’d rather not start now and get three months of repeats. Maybe in September I’ll reconsider.

  17. I can relate to the price gouging for programming. For me to get Showtime where I am, I would have to upgrade to an $75/month service, and $35/month for only 23 channels. I am in an apartment rental situation where I can’t be a smart shopper and find a better deal either. This forced me to the same decision making process as you Jon.

    Now, moral subject is arisen by what I’m about to say, so take it with a pixel of salty programming, but you can really get anything you need if you have a decent internet connection (which I am willing to pay for). There are many sites where you can download tv shows and watch them on your computer, or if you’re smart on your tv or projector with a video out on the computer. I’m doing this, and I love watching Penn and Teller Bullshit every week without the $65/month pricetag. The best thing though (aside from saving cash) is that my girlfriend and I watch WAY less tv now because it’s focused down to the 3 or 4 shows we care to download and watch and we don’t surf. And even cooler? No commercials. The average show has 1 minute of commercials for every 2 minutes of show. Not a big fan of that.

    Right now it’s in a legal gray area from what I can tell, because you can tape anything you want off tv and give it to whomever you want, so downloading tv shows hasn’t been brought up…at least not next to the legal wars of music and movies. It’s a great way to watch tv at least for now.

    ~ JD

  18. Kudos to everyone living without the boob tube. Though I also feel your pain of favorite cable shows missed.

    But if you still pay for internet, you can still get your favorite show by firing up a bittorrent client each night. I’ve used this tutorial:


    Its nearly fully automatic and painless. I’ve been able to keep up with all my favorites despite ditching cable!

  19. Susannah says

    We got rid of cable, also, when our cable internet connection contract ran out, about a year ago. We still occassionally watch things from the air, maybe 1-2 hours of TV per week. It’s no big deal to not have TV with children, PBS is still available if you want to watch a few shows. I’ve found, though, that since my daughter isn’t used to watching TV she’s really not even that interested when it’s on. She’d rather play with other things, and she can play very independently, which I think is partly due to not being constantly entranced by the TV. Not having the educational shows hasn’t slowed down her progress any, either. She’s getting plenty of exposure through her books and toys (almost every toy these days it seems incorporates letters or numbers).

    You don’t instantly start doing new things, but over time, you do. I’m amazed when I realize how little we went outside before, or took walks. We also read to my daughter more, talk to each other more, and (this might not be a good thing) are on the internet a lot more.

    Google video is slowly upping its offerings, too, so we check that out occassionally. It also seems that PTI has a free PodCast available, it’s just audio for now, though.

  20. We’re going on 3 years now as a married couple without TV. I’m down with it. It takes 60 days for your IQ to double 😉

  21. No PTI? That’s tough. Got to be one of the best shows on TV.

  22. Yes, but how much have you increased your time spent online?

  23. I’ve turned on our TV probably 5 times in the past 12 months. And during the past 7 years, we’ve hardly watched it at all. We only have basic (really basic) cable, so everyone who comes over to the house complains.

    Not watching TV frees up your time, makes you a less cynical person (you can feel the garbage leaving your body after a month or two), and it forces you to read more. Last year, I read 36 books, which is way more than I had ever read in a single year, post-college.

    If you keep denying yourself TV, your urge to watch it will continue to decline. And you won’t even miss those numbnuts from PTI.

  24. Smart Paul says

    You know that you can download TV shows off the internet now? Do enough research on Google and you’ll figure it out (and no, its not iTunes). Downloaded TV shows without commercials is awesome!

  25. Satellite is MUCH MUCH cheaper than cable. I get 60 channels for 34 dollars a month after taxes and fees.

  26. I find this to be one of the stupider ideas you have come across (perhaps on par with the “let’s not buy groceries for a month” stroke-of-a-genius). I can’t imagine WHY on earth you are willing to noticeably take away from the quality of your life now to make your retirement an inch better (and if you re-read your post from an oustider’s perspective it’s clear you miss TV). Did you lose money in your stock portfolio or something? You can also get satellite for less. But, I guess my point is, is that $50/month really going to change the rest of your financial life? Why not add a creature comfort that most normal people genuinely enjoy (as opposed to becoming couch-potatoes). Sigh…

    Also, now here’s a surprise, I manage to read SEVERAL books per _month_ as well as watch TV – OH MY GOODNESS, here’s the secret – it’s called time-management.

  27. Nah, I’m not going to download TV shows off of the Net. That’s too much trouble for me. I’m just trying to simplify my life in various ways, and this was one way of doing so. It’s not a huge factor in my life, just one of many small ones.

  28. Gregory says


    What has mind numbing Cable TV to do with quality of life? And please explain why he needs to spend $50 a month just to make up for the “loss”? Here are a few things that will keep you busy and enhance your personality, your life and your relationship: walks, actually talk and listen to your significant other for more than 10 minutes a day, read books (library for example), play board games with your family, play and interact with your kids if you have any. If you really feel the urge to spend money then join a sports club or take your partner our to some venues (opera, live music, dance, whatever you like) or the movies on the weekend (matinee). We go to matinee showings all the time on Saturday or Sunday noon. They are cheap if you can resist buying the $4 soda or popcorn, and we often take my nieces (we don’t have kids yet). They have blast.

    my 2 cents

  29. I’m moving and I’m going to go cable-free and try it. I have and LOVE my TiVo, and I noticed that a vast majority (90%?) of the stuff on my TiVo is recorded off the major networks. So I’m thinking I’ll can the cable and see if I can buy a $27 antenna to get the major channels. I already have one picked out!

  30. Well Jonathon,
    As you know, I have TIVO too. I agree with the comments that I watch LESS tv because of TIVO. I only watch the shows I want, never watch live tv, and skip through commercials. (And there are only a few shows that I actually want to watch)

    I refuse to get anything more than the expanded basic cable. (No sexy digital cable or extras).

    Our neigbors did without cable for years with their kids, but they were very frustrated at the number of homework assignments the kids would get to watch a certain show (always on cable) and then write a report on it. Their kids always had to do a “special” project since they didn’t have tv. Our society is so centered around tv, I guess the teachers couldn’t believe no one would have it.

  31. I had tivo and I was the opposite of some people. I ended up watching MORE TV. Basically if there were 2 shows that I wanted to watch, I would watch one and tivo the other!

  32. I gave up TV in march and so far I really haven’t missed it. I sold my older tv, planning on buying a really nice, widescreen, plasma hdtv but after I sold my older one I decided I really didn’t need one.

    So some how I came upon the idea of giving up tv for awhile. The first two weeks felt kinda wierd, not having a tv on in the background all the time but its kinda nice. I’d say the time has been replaced mostly by more working out, reading, internet, and, well, communication with family members. I’d recommend it to anyone, if for no other reason than to see how much time you are wasting.

  33. We gave up cable after I realized what a tv news junkie I was. PBS is pretty much all we watch – but we read a lot of books, newspapers, mags. We didn’t get more brilliant but the peace and quiet is great in our urban environment. I have never even watched Seinfeld…Oh boy. Or Friends. Netflix is wonderful and our local SF library has lots of good stuff. We even listen to music. Imagine.

  34. If you have broadband connection take a look at IPTV, television through your internet. Believe it or not the quality is amazing and there’s paid service coming out, but if you want to check out something free that includes HBO, NBC, Fox, CNN…etc download this program here http://www.tvunetworks.com

    You can build a PVR and place it in your livingroom and with an antenna and using IPTV you’ll get a nice combination of channels all for free.

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