The upside of dropping cable

Many programs solely exist to promote an expensive materialist lifestyle, add on top of that the amount of otherwise productive time devoured by television watching and you have a strong case for doing without.

Scott Wallace / The Christian Science Monitor/File
Would dropping cable improve your life?

Over the years, I’ve made a strong case for abandoning television watching as a good move for financial and career success. Not only does television offer up a lot of advertisements glorifying unnecessary material stuff and rampant consumerism, but many programs glorify it through product placement within the programs. Many programs solely exist to promote an expensive materialist lifestyle as well. Add on top of that the amount of otherwise productive time devoured by television watching and you have a strong case for doing without.

Over the last few years, I’ve slowly been paring down my television watching. I’ve stopped channel surfing, only turning on the television to watch specific programs. I’ve gradually pared down the number of programs I regularly watch.

As of May 1, I have ceased all television watching at home (excepting Lost, which ends for good this Sunday). This coincided pretty conveniently with the birth of our third child.

What exactly does this mean? Here are a few of the consequences of doing this.

I have plenty of time for other projects. Of course, I’m not directly seeing the time benefit yet as I’m spending a lot of time holding the baby and also playing with our two older children. The biggest impact I’ve seen is that I’ve managed to add this third child to my life without really reducing time spent on other hobbies and activities.

I don’t want “stuff” at all. I have no interest in new cars. I have no interest in whatever new food product is out there. I have no interest in great new home decor or furnishings or countless other things like this. The only things I can think of that I even want at all right now are a couple of items for the kitchen to aid with cooking, a few books, and eventually some sort of tablet computer to aid with notetaking in a wide variety of situations. That’s it. The absence of television leads to the near-absence of want.

I might not be culturally “up to date” – but I really don’t care. I don’t feel bad that I’m unaware who won Survivor or who’s still left on American Idol. Yes, conversations have come up that I’m clueless about, but I’ve still been able to participate. How? I simply say, “I don’t watch that program, but…” and then I ask a question about it. The person I ask almost always is very happy to answer the question and enjoys being the expert on the topic. My ignorance is a conversation builder.

Our cable bill won’t drop as much as it might seem on the surface. Our cable provider advertises our package as costing $55 a month. However, we get a package that includes high speed internet, phone service, and cable all together. Downgrading to the internet and phone package only drops our monthly bill by about $20 a month, so the savings isn’t that much. Even if we just keep the internet (which is a work-related need for me), the drop is only about $45 a month.

In short, I’m happy with the choice, even if it won’t save me as much directly as it might have seemed. I’m happy because of the secondary effects – the lack of cultural awareness wasn’t the hindrance I expected while the extra time has been wonderful.

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