Give Up Television and Grow Rich

Give up television and grow rich by tapping into the most precious good of modern times — plentiful free time

It takes you roughly an hour to eat breakfast, get showered and dressed for work. Another hour goes to eating lunch and dinner. You sleep eight hours. You exercise one hour. You read in bed an hour before going to sleep. Getting to work and back sets you back two hours. You put in close to 9 hours at the office on many days. What’s left? One hour.

That’s the hour you spend watching television.

Give Up Television and Grow Rich
Some days you only work for eight hours. On those days you watch television for two hours.

Some days you only work eight hours and you skip the exercise. On those days you watch television for three hours.

Get the picture?

Television is The Great Default Time Consumption Device. Give up television and you open up at least one hour of time in each of your days. Perhaps two. Perhaps three.

You sell your time to an employer. You demand money for it because you know it is valuable. Yet you give it up to the television without hardly thinking about whether you are being compensated adequately for letting those hours go.

You cannot accomplish anything in this world without time. You need time to think, time to plan, time to savor things you enjoy. Give up enough time and ultimately you have given up everything. Give up enough time and ultimately you have given up your life.

Would you give up your life to watch reruns of Hill Street Blues? It sounds like a dumb question when phrased so bluntly. It doesn’t seem like so bad an idea when it is done on the installment plan, episode by episode.

Say that you now have two hours of free time in each day and one hour of it goes to television. Giving up television increases your free time by 100 percent.

We all complain that we don’t have enough free time. Those of us who watch more than an hour of television per day don’t have a legitimate complaint.

Give up television and grow rich by overcoming another addiction

Amy Dacyczyn is the author of The Complete Tightwad Gazette. She is one of the smartest money advisors who ever lived. I once heard an interview with her in which she was finding fault with herself for allowing her weight to go higher than she wanted it to be. You could hear that it wasn’t the weight that bothered her as much as her recognition that she was failing to make her life all that she wanted it to be. She could see that she was engaging in mindless behavior with food and the world’s expert on overcoming mindless behavior with money didn’t like seeing that in herself one little bit.

Blow Up the TV
The reason why most of us don’t manage our money effectively is that so few practice frugality that it strikes us as “extreme” and we never explore how much it could enhance our enjoyment of life. The reason why so few of us give up television is that it too seems “extreme.” There’s a lot of good stuff on television, right? Right. Couldn’t we watch the good stuff and give up just the time-wasting stuff? We could.


In the real world, it is a rare individual who watches the good stuff and doesn’t get sucked into watching a good bit of junk too. The television industry would be only a fraction of its current size if lots of people watched only the good stuff. It’s a nice reasonable thought to limit yourself to the good stuff. But the “magic” of television (not to you, to those who profit from you watching) is its addictive quality. Can you beat it? Thinking you can is like thinking you can win the lottery. It’s a long-odds bet.

I know people who watch only the good stuff. Those people had to first break the addiction by giving up television altogether for a time. Once you’ve become aware of the power of the addiction (by escaping it and seeing what life is like on the other side of the steel bars), it’s possible to come back for short visits to take in the good stuff and not to break down entirely. It’s hard to do that when all the trickery they engage in to keep you tuned for the next show still is exerting its hold on you. You need to be able to think straight to tame this monster and you can’t learn to think straight about the monster until you ask it to kindly leave your living room.

Does watching only the good stuff make you rich? Yep. Those who watch only the good stuff lead richer lives. That’s the object of the game. Sssh! Please don’t let the big corporations know that I told you this. I could lose my license to dispense money advice on the internet.

Give up television and grow rich by opening up your creative side

The first time I ever heard an anti-television argument was on the old Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. There was a regular there named Mason Williams (he had a big hit with an instrumental entitled “Classical Gas”) who often made the case for not letting children watch television. He said that they need to be constructing their own fun to learn how to be creative. He said that listening to music is okay because you can do other things at the same time but that television is both too demanding and not demanding enough at the same time.

Pros and Cons of Watching TelevisionI spent a long time coming around to his view. I now see that he was right. It’s not just children who need creative moments in their lives, of course. You need creative moments. You can get them by giving up television.

It was the O.J. Simpson saga that led me to giving up television (it’s an ill wind that blows no good, eh?). There was a time when my wife and I used to run together every morning. Then we got out of the habit. One day she said: “I’ve decided to start running again, and I’m setting the alarm for 4:30 AM tomorrow so that there will be time before I need to get ready for work.” I noted how there were numerous studies showing that serious health problems can result from waking up in hours that do not have a “5” or a “6” or a “7” in them and wished her “good luck with that.”

She really did it. It’s just like her to follow through on what she says she is going to do. And it’s of course just like me to be a bit alarmed when I see someone else doing with her life the things that I say that I would like to do with mine despite the fact that they face the same obstacles that I cite as reasons why I am not able to follow through myself. She got me to see that I was conning myself. It’s her job and she does it well.

So I had one of those long talks with myself. I asked myself: “What is it that is really responsible for you not being able to get up at 4:30 and enjoy a nice run with your wife, like you used to do in the old days?” Some rudely honest voice from the back row said: “Perhaps it’s those two hours you spend every night bringing yourself up to speed on all of the day’s important O.J. developments; get to bed two hours earlier and 4:30 might not seem like such a terrible wake-up time.”

I needed that bit of relaxation after a hard day of work, didn’t I?

This Bear of Little Brain eventually figured out that I needed the time running and the time with my wife more than I needed the time with O.J.’s legal team. So I cut the cord. I mean, the cable.

Give up television and grow rich by learning to enjoy television more

I had an amazing discovery when I went on a fast one time. I was only eating one meal per day, a large lunch. On Saturdays, though, I would make the one meal dinner rather than lunch because my wife and I had a tradition of enjoying a long dinner with wine out on the deck on Saturday evenings (this is pre-kids). Getting by with one meal was not too hard on days other than Saturday. Late Saturday afternoons were hard, though, because at that point I had gone without eating for over 24 hours and was famished.

I enjoyed those Saturday evening dinners more than any other meals I have ever eaten. Those dinners tasted better than any I have eaten in the most expensive restaurants I have visited.

Denial is its own reward. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s so. Deny yourself something and in an overall sense you enjoy the something more because the intensity of the enjoyment is so great when the denial comes to an end. To enjoy life to its fullest, you need to deny yourself stuff. It’s my impression that many of us have lost touch with this insight in this modern Consumer Wonderland of ours.

Television Causes Spending Give up television and then go back to it in small doses, and you will enjoy television more than you do now. I watch television when I go on vacation. I love it. I rent videos of old television shows to watch with my boys. I enjoy those.

I don’t waste hours and hours watching nonsense. But I do watch some television. It’s the rut that is the madness you need to escape. I think that the best way to do it is to give up television entirely for a time.

Give up television and grow rich by putting your time to more effective use

The time you used to spend watching television might go to getting back in shape. Avoiding health care costs is a big financial plus.

The time that you used to spend watching television might go to spending time with your wife (or husband) or your friends. Avoiding divorce is a big financial plus. Building relationships that might help you get a job in later days is a big financial plus.

The time that you used to spend watching television might go to researching ideas for a startup business. There are many stories of people who made more money from what they intended as a side business than they ever did at their regular jobs.

Give up television and grow rich by avoiding the big price tag

Television was never free. I once read about a study that examined to what extent watching the commercials on television cause us to spend money. If you compared people earning the same income, you found that for each hour of added television time spending increased by about four dollars. Most movies last about two hours and generally cost eight dollars or less. So going to the movies is in a real sense generally no more expensive than watching “free” television.

Give Up TV

No, the people who watched more television were not “required” to spend more. They just did. What matters in a real-world sense? What matters in the real world is that those who watch more television spend more. All of the advertisers know this. The advertisers don’t go with theory, they go with reality. It’s my humble suggestion that those of us being targeted by the advertisers might want to begin playing the game the way they play it. Reality matters.

There’s rarely even the pretense that television is free anymore, of course. Most of us pay for cable and many of us pay for extra channels. Once you sign up, the money is charged to your credit card without you needing to sign anything a second time. That means that you spend the money unthinkingly. That’s the worst way to spend money. It’s great for those taking the money in and horrible for those sending the money out.

Yes, there is good stuff on television. If you really do limit yourself to the good stuff, television watching is a great value proposition.

The odds are strong that you do not truly do this. If you do not, you should stop kidding yourself.

Time’s a wasting.