Creative ways to trim the budget: your monthly TV bill

In the spirit of improvisation, here’s a cheap source of entertainment: an analog television set.  With the upcoming conversion to digital television slated for next month, there are bound to be more and more analog televisions popping on the used market. A cheap analog television paired with a government coupon for a converter box costs no more than several trips to the movie theater.  Better yet, the television is an investment that continually provides entertainment, as opposed to a pair of movie tickets that are only good for 2-3 hour’s worth of entertainment.

I’m generally not a fan of television.  It’s too easy for television to become the default form of entertainment.  Then it goes from entertainment to filler and becomes the path of least resistance to fill the nights and weekends, rather than spending the time engaged in other activities that actively engage us with the world.

Even though I advocate for a television-free lifestyle, I admit television offers some excellent programming and educational shows.  It provides fodder for small talk or weekly viewing parties with friends.  I myself have a couple guilty pleasure shows, including anything on the Food Network and Project Runway for the seamstress in me, but only the first twenty minutes of actual garment making.  I could live without the snarky comments and drawn-out elimination.  I’ve only seen a handful of Food Network and Project Runway episodes at my ex-boyfriend’s place, because my parents, to this day, have nothing more than basic television channels, and I have never owned a television.

One step beyond cheap is free, and this, too, is a growing possibility as more and more television networks stream episodes from their websites.  The advantage of this approach is it forces viewers to consciously choose the shows most attractive to them instead of defaulting to mediocre shows because they are available and convenient.  Online programming can also be adjusted to busy schedules.  Another free option is to rent an entire season’s worth of episodes from your local library, assuming they have own your show of interest.

Before you write this off as completely ludicrous or entirely too inconvenient, ask yourself: how much do you spend on cable or satellite TV each month?  $30?  $60?  $30 every month is almost $400 every year, and that doesn’t include the cost of going out to movies with friends.  Are you getting $400 worth of entertainment out of your television, and what else could you do with $400?  Of all the shows you get, how many do you genuinely love and are they available via another source?  Even if you must cobble together a combination of online streaming, basic TV for the news and sports coverage, borrowing DVDs from friends and purchasing one or two seasons on your own, that’s still cheaper than your current annual television costs.  So axe those shows that bring middling pleasure, turn off the tube, and go celebrate the extra change sitting in your bank account.

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