Friday, January 7, 2011

TV Without TV

People's responses vary when I tell them we don't have TV at our house. Some people give me an awkward smile and a look that says they think I'm probably also still breastfeeding my four-year-old and growing some mary-jane in my back yard. Sometimes, it's, "What, did your kids break it or something?" (Not an illogical assumption, but not the reason why.) Others give me a once-over to ascertain why I'm not wearing a long skirt and my hair in a bun. Still others make consolatory sounds, understanding me to mean that we simply don't have room in our tiny budget for anything pleasurable.

The reason we don't have TV at our house, though, is none of the above.

We're not trying to be revolutionaries; we're not trying to be saints. We possess neither a hydroponic garden nor a 12-inch mid-90s Sony in our basement for the purpose of viewing Veggie Tales. Our kids also did not break the TV, though one of them did recently scratch the screen (oh, that big, beautiful, last-year's-Christmas-bonus screen!) beyond any hope of repair. And, fortunately for us, our budget could stand to include a cable bill.

Truth be told, the story of our transition from TV to no TV is not terribly exciting, and actually reveals more about our moral failings than our moral superiority. When we first moved into our house 4 1/2 years ago and had the cable installed, we noticed that we were suddenly getting about 50 channels more than we had gotten at our previous residence. I justified this by telling myself that in Mesa, everything is cheaper than in Gilbert. (Badum-ching for East Valley residents.) So for four years, we blissfully enjoyed 70-some channels for $22 a month, never bothering to find out exactly why we had been blessed this delightful free upgrade…UNTIL my dear husband had to go and get the cable company to send a guy out to fix a problem with the internet. This astute employee happened to detect the extra channels, and our tidy little setup was nixed. Lo and behold, for four years, we had indeed been receiving $50 worth of cable for free every month.

The loss was sudden and shocking. I think I actually went through a few stages of grief. I specifically remember, that first night, watching a full five minutes of a soundless, fuzzy, black-and-white Lifetime movie--the only remnant of the former glory that used to stream gratis into my living room at the touch of a button--before accepting that it just wasn't coming back. A decision had to be made: would we now pony up the extra $50 a month or do without? Well, if you know us very well, you probably know we're way too cheap to may $1.50 a day for ANYthing other than food or rent. So no, we decided we couldn't justify paying to get the channels back. Then we realized that we were still paying $22 a month for the basic channels we never watched anyway. Well, heck, that's almost $1 a day for something we wouldn't use at all! And so, in an act of either defiance or frugality, we cancelled cable completely.

This was six months ago. Since then, for the same price we paid for cable, we've opted for a combination of a Netflix streaming plan and the TV shows we can get on (If you haven't heard of it, don't worry, it's legal.) The transition has been oddly meaningful. While I miss TV on a regular basis (like, um, every single day) I get the feeling that my life is much better without it. There are several reasons why.

-Since I'm now the master of my own viewing destiny, the stuff I watch these days means a lot more to me. Nothing is left to chance.

-Therefore, if I'm going to watch anything, it's a complete show or movie that I've picked out--it's a commitment. Since I can't just sit down and watch 5 minutes of something, I don't.

-When we had cable, I could totally justify watching trash. Like, "Oh, I just turned it on and it happened to be The Girls Next Door, and it was lewdly fascinating, so I kept watching it." Without TV, there would be several more (probably devious and sneaky) steps involved for me to end up watching anything so raunchy.

Overall, without TV, I waste less time and feed my brain less garbage. And as much as I miss my old pals the Real Housewives, that's an outcome worth keeping…for one LOW-LOW-LOW payment of $22 a month!!! Call in the next ten minutes and receive a genuine leather Chia Head juicer ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!


  1. I don't know if you remember, but we've been married 7 years now and still have never owned a TV. I did break down and ask David to install a TV tuner in the computer so we could watch the Olympics last year. :) Streaming tv shows are awesome!

  2. Our tv broke about 2 years ago. We haven't replaced it. We still watch stuff, but all online. And we watch a lot of movies. I agree, it makes you think about what you actually want to watch. And honestly, I don't mind if Ethan just gets VeggieTales.

  3. Yeah, I think this is increasingly becoming more mainstream. I also forgot to mention the other benefit of not being advertised to all the time. My kids don't even know what commercials are, and that's fine with me!