minimalizing our channels, maximizing our life

last january, we got rid of extended cable.  it was the cable company’s idea.  although we considered changing our service every time they raised our prices, when they went over the $60/month threshhold, we finally pulled the plug.  to be completely upfront, we tried satellite services but could not get a signal in our wooded neighborhood.  so we downgraded to the basic cable (13 channels).

because that was 8 months ago, we have had sufficient opportunity to evaluate our decision:

  • less channels
  • more boardgames
  • more family walks (we enjoy the 1.1 mile loop through our neighborhood)
  • more playing sports rather than watching them
  • more time at the dinner table
  • more reading
  • more sex
  • more money in the savings account
  • more time with friends
  • more interest in real peoples’ lives (instead of interest in the real housewives of atlanta)
  • more watching tv together (less options means that my wife and i tend to watch more of the same shows)
  • more time at the gym
  • more time on-line (that’s the compensation)
  • more appreciation for both political parties (less o’reilly, hannity, olbermann, and stewart)
  • less touch with youth culture (i work in a job that requires me to stay current with youth culture… this is the biggest drawback)

let’s be clear.  we have not eliminated television completely from our lives.  my children (7 and 3) still watch at least one hour per day (30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes after school).  i still watch sports when i can.  my wife still enjoys her drama in primetime.  but our television watching has been drastically reduced.

we are pleased with our decision.

i realize this is probably not for everyone… after all, our kids are young.  and i suppose some people are disciplined enough to just turn off the television.  but overall, i’d recommend the experiment to anyone.

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Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. brooke says

    I love this, glad to hear it. I turned of cable completely, and though some times I really miss my favorite shows, overall, i am happy that the tv is only on for movies. Of which I rent plenty of from the library– no cost, and no permanent clutter!!

  2. says

    i love living without cable. i downgraded to the basic a long time ago, then upgraded briefly when my father moved in with me and HAD to have cable(which he paid for) and then moved to live with my boyfriend who doesn’t have cable at all, and i love. rarely we watch the couple local channels we actually get. usually i just watch shows on Hulu or SciFi Database. anything that isn’t on there can be rented or borrowed or swapped or downloaded(legally) somewhere or watched at the Theater. usually i stick with Hulu and SciFi database though if its not on there i generally just don’t watch it.

  3. tom says

    same here… when we moved house we went from premium cable to the basic package. Next move we will be getting rid of cable all together.

    We find that we now mostly watch stuff on-demand straight from the web. Again I think the media industry is missing the boat.

    People’s viewing behaviour is definitely going more towards watching what they want when they want it. What are the media companies doing? Putting up a walled garden.

    BTW, having more time to do other “real” stuff has more to do with the fact that the quality of programming on cable is actually going down hill as well.

    • di says

      I agree. It is very difficult to find a show without crime, violence or injustice. Don’t care for the reality shows.

      At least Barefoot Contessa is still on.

  4. Amy says

    We also ditched cable almost a decade ago now. At first it was for cost reasons…but now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    We get Netflix and watch stuff on demand from there as well. The kids do watch TV (sometimes too much, still) but there’s no commercials.

    I agree with the programming on cable TV – it truly is 100’s of stations of nothing. When it was just the 3 networks plus public TV, ironically it seemed like the quality was higher. The kids get to watch cable when we vacation and I’m so glad I’m not paying for what I see.

  5. says

    This is a terrific recap of the benefits of unplugging from Cable. Were it not for you having to keep up with youth culture as part of your job, this would be an overwhelming win. Even in spite of that, it’s a tremendous list of benefits.

    As I go through my own evaluation process of the essential versus the unessential and I undergo my own 100 Things Challenge, I’ve contemplated ditching the cable but as my wife is a new stay at home wife with our three baby triplets, she’s asked that we put off that decision till the children are old enough to interact with and play board games with. For her, the television is her only outlet and means of relaxation from three crying, demanding babies.

    Warm Regards,

  6. Alicia says

    I loved this article because I related to it. My husband and I decided 3 years ago when we bought the house to save money by not having cable at all. Since not having cable we find ourselves turning on TV flipping through our 7 channels, realizing there is NOTHING we want to watch, turning it off and going to do something more productive with our time. I was very skeptical of this choice when we made it, but I can honestly say that it was the smartest decision we ever made.

    I also noticed we watch more TV together also because there is less on and it helps in us spending time together when we are watching TV.

    I will admit it’s hard at first but ends up being worth it.

  7. Weph says

    I got rid of my television about a year ago and I have never been happier. I don’t have the clutter of it sitting in my home space and can grab necessary information online. One of my greatest decisions- my amount of free time is amazing!

  8. says

    A few months ago we noticed we were wanting TV less and less and so we decided to have the satellite shut off and really haven’t missed it. If there is a sho we want to watch we just catch it online most shows have it so you can watch the latest episode online any way. I also joined netflix i think its about $14 per month but its nice we can watch all the movies we want and get 2 at a time and were still saving about $65 dollars!

  9. says

    Several years ago after watching my kids constant battle over the boob tube I had the cable turned off.

    The kids stopped fighting so much, started playing with each other more, and I heard a lot less “buy my this” from them!

    We finally got rid of our television, though now we watch some things from hulu and places like that.

    It is more pleaceful, saves not only the cable bill, but also the money I would spend on a television! I don’t plan to own another one!

  10. says

    I like it. :) I’m not a huge tv guy but I do enjoy watching my Chicago Bears once a week. My weakness is getting sucked into watching the other games knowing I have studying and other important things to complete.

    With school (graduate) in full swing, there’s always something productive to do done. And I don’t mean just staying busy for the hell of it. Thanks for sharing.

    I like hearing about other people’s stories about the positive changes since tossing their cable, TVs and so on.

  11. says

    Great post!

    I made some similar choices, completely forgoing cable. I found that Hulu offers the few shows I enjoy, and similar to a DVR, they show up in my “to be watched list” as new episodes become available.

    Love the minimalist lifestyle!

  12. Deborah says

    I don’t have cable or even networks, but I do have a huge television that my husband insisted on buying. We use it for netflix mostly. He watches more than me, and I will often go off and do something productive and/or crafty, or read fiction while he watches something that doesn’t inspire me. I stopped watching TV completely for a long time, starting in high school when my family’s TV broke and it took us 6 months to get a new one. I realized the commercials make me stressed out and depressed. I will watch movies now with my husband, but I will not watch a commercial (unless you count movie previews). I will leave the room if I accidentally find myself somewhere where commercials are playing.

  13. says

    I highly recommend getting rid of the TV, at least for a trial period. It sounds crazy but it isn’t, I promise. You might be amazed how much time it frees up… and how much nicer the living room can be when not all the seating is directly aimed at that glowing focal point.

    (Most good shows are coming out on DVD these days anyway, and DVDs can be watched on computers… there’s also Hulu.)

  14. Catz says

    In the UK, we have FreeView Plus. You buy the box for £100 – £150 and get 30 of the best channels. You can then record what you want and watch it when you want. No ongoing fees. I love it!

  15. LA says

    I tried to eliminate the cable and just get fast internet access – get this it would be MORE expensive for us to do this! Instead we pay for basic cable even though we have no tv so we can get good internet access – how ridiculous is that!!!

    I have found that we do more of everything on the list without tv – although I admit – we do get netflix – only streaming though (limits the options a bit!)!

    Enjoying the archives! Thanks!


  16. says

    We live overseas currently and didn’t want to buy Sky (dish service) because our last assignment (hubby’s military), we spent WAY too much time in front of the tube. So, we didn’t sign up once we moved here. The base gave us a decoder to get some of the “free” channels. More than a year ago, hubby deployed and I stopped watching TV all together. Hubby came back & we still didn’t watch TV. We do watch movies & can get some of the shows via the internet, but mainly it stays off. Sooooo much more time as a couple without the constant noise. :-)

  17. Samantha says

    I grew up in a house without pay tv (that’s what we call it here in Australia). As an adult, we have never had it hooked up & no desire to. DH watches You Tube for video bloggers and I have significantly cut down on free to air TV to about 1/2 hour at the end of the day. As parents of a 4 year old, we can’t go out after dinner for entertainment as our son is in bed at 7pm, DH doesn’t like board games, hasn’t cracked a book in a while & I find his choice in video blogs to be incredibly boring- so we are kind of limited to spending time together in front of the TV.

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