I’m going to tell you that cutting the cord can help you reach financial independence. Just not in the way you may be thinking. One of the biggest obstacles that gets in the way of achieving our goals is time. I’ve made this excuse before. I’m not a better golfer because I don’t have time to work on my game. I’m not in better shape because I don’t have time to go to the gym. I don’t make more money because I don’t have time to work on my side projects.
Despite being short on time, the amount of TV Americans watch continues to grow. New channels and shows are coming on all the time to compete for your viewership. How do you make time for ten different TV shows and still have time to actively pursue your goals? Something has to give.
Why We Cut the Cord
It has been nearly two years since we officially cut the cord. For the second time in our married lives, we became one of those weird households without cable. The first time was back when I was studying for the CPA exam after work. At that time, I needed to eliminate as many distractions as possible. It’s hard enough to motivate yourself to study after a long day at the office, and I didn’t need any further distractions.
The second time around, my motivations were a bit different. Most discussions about cutting the cord center on saving money. While money is always a factor, it wasn’t near the top deciding factor for us. The reason we cut the cord was so we would stop watching so much worthless TV. As I wrote in How I Increased My Salary 20%, the average American today spends five hours a day watching TV.
I used to think this number was absurd. There’s no way we spend that much time in front of the tube. But when I started to think about it, the number wasn’t that far off. On a typical weekday, our TV was on from the time we got home until the time we went to bed. Whether there was something on that we wanted to watch or not, the TV was on. And believe me, there was always something on that we could find to watch. Two straight hours of Chopped, Property Brothers, an episode of The Big Bang Theory that we’ve already seen seven times. Yep, there was always something on that could suck our time away.
This realization of how much our TV was on and always providing a distraction is what led us to cutting the cord. Surely there’s a better use of my time!
Cut the Cord to Get More Done
It’s really an amazing feeling to not be bogged down by TV anymore. No longer do I feel obligated to keep up with ten different shows that are filling up my DVR. Sure, I’ll watch some shows or big sports games occasionally, but that typically falls on the weekend. If we stick with the 5 hours a day statistic, that’s 1,300 hours a year. Now not all of that time was previously spent with my butt parked on the couch watching TV. Some of that TV time was during meal prep and eating, and other somewhat productive activities. Even if we cut the number in half, that’s still 650 extra hours each year, by just limiting my TV watching on the weekdays.
Without TV taking up a big chunk of my time, I now have a lot more hours to get things done. Here are the biggest benefits I’ve realized from cutting the cord.
1) More time to work on side projects
With three to five hours of my day now freed up, I have more time to work on my side project. I launched Go Finance Yourself in October 2016. Had we not cut the cord, there’s no way this would have happened. Now instead of watching hours of mindless TV each night, I’m able to put in time towards one of my passions. Starting and building this blog has been a blast, and I don’t think it happens without cutting out this major distraction.
2) Time to read
I’ll admit that I’ve never been a big reader. Outside of reading for school, I probably averaged reading 1-2 books a year for most of my life. That might even be generous. Since the TV is no longer on in the evenings, I’ve started reading at night. This has had two profound impacts on my life. First, I’m much more relaxed when I go to bed. My mind is always spinning, always thinking about something. Reading helps me shut out the noise and calm my mind. This leads to the second benefit, better sleep. I’ve always had a tough time falling asleep. With a mind that doesn’t shut off, I could spend an hour or two lying in bed before I finally drifted off. Now, it rarely takes more than 10 minutes for me to drift off to sleep. That’s a huge improvement!
3) Time for athletic pursuits
Even though I’m now 35, I still have a competitive drive. Especially when It comes to sports. These days, my competitive outlet comes on the golf course, and more recently, the racquetball court. I’m not someone who just plays for the fun of it. If I’m shanking shots around the golf course, I’m not going to be having a good time. It takes a lot of hard work to become really good at something. With one of my goals for 2017 being to lower my handicap to single digits, I need to play and hit the practice green as much as possible. Watching one more episode of Property Brothers, as tempting as it may be, won’t get me closer to my goals.
4) Increased happiness
Studies have shown we are the happiest when actively pursuing and achieving goals. Instead of watching Modern Family, I’m working on building my blog. Instead of watching Love It or List it on HGTV (I don’t even like that show…but would still find myself watching it in my cable days) I’m out working on my putting. Instead of watching Suits, I’m reading a few chapters before bed to shut my mind off for the day. Let TV be a reward on the weekends after putting in several hours towards one of your pursuits. I’ve found my overall sense of well-being has gone way up since doing this.
5) Increased Savings
Saving money was not a top consideration in cutting cable. But being a personal finance blog, it would be remiss of me to not mention it. I’m saving about $80/month after dropping cable. Not a ton of money, but every little bit counts. If you’re struggling to find money to save each month, start with your cable bill. In addition to freeing up more time to actively pursue financial freedom, you’ll be able to save another $1,000 each year.
How I Watch TV Today
Instead of searching for something on TV, I now watch TV only when there’s something on that I really want to watch. For the most part, this involves sports. To watch the college football national championship game last Monday, I turned on my Sling TV subscription so I could watch the game on ESPN. Sling TV is awesome. It costs only $20/month, and I can turn it on and off as I want. For sporting events that are on one of the four major networks, like the World Series or Olympics, I have an HD antenna that provides picture quality that is just as good as cable.
When it comes to watching shows, I’ll wait until the entire season comes on DVD or is available on Amazon Prime. For shows like Suits and The Americans, they become available on Amazon Prime typically during the month when the next season is starting. In the age of instant access to near anything, this can be tough. But I really enjoy waiting to watch the entire season at once, and have become used to watching seasons a year later. Just tell your friends to shut up when they start blabbing about the latest season.
By doing this, I’ve cut down on the number of shows I watch. I no longer have a DVR filled with numerous weeks of shows that I feel some sort of obligation to get through. Now, only the shows that I really enjoy consume my time. And I typically don’t watch during the weekday. When my shows become available, I’ll watch them on the weekend, but only after I’ve put in some good work towards one of my active pursuits.
Actively Pursue Your Goals
By cutting the cord, I no longer turn on the TV just to find something to fill my time. When one of my favorite shows becomes available, I watch it. Otherwise, I spend my time working on achieving one of my goals. Take a look at how much of your life TV is consuming. If you’re like me, you might find that more hours of your day are going towards TV than you originally thought. By putting more of those hours towards one of my pursuits, I’ve increased my overall happiness, and I’m using my time to actively pursue financial independence.
Readers, how many hours of TV do you watch a day? Does the number surprise you? What are some of your goals that you can put a few more hours towards achieving each week instead of watching TV?