Is Watching TV Economical Entertainment?

by Jason Unger

Watching TV

I’ve never hidden the fact that I watch a lot of TV. I can keep up a conversation on most of the popular shows these days, and definitely have some favorites (Entourage, 24, The Office, to name a few).

Am I proud to admit that I watch a lot of TV? Well, not really — there are certainly other things I could be doing with my time.

But I think there’s a legitimate argument that watching TV is not only economical entertainment, but it’s a good way to spend your time.

The Cost

We’ve invested in our TV watching. Not invested, like we hope to get something out of it, but we’ve decided that buying good equipment and content is worth it to us.

Here’s what we spend money on:

  • A $2,500 plasma TV (a wedding present we bought ourselves in 2006)
  • A monthly subscription to Cable
  • Premium channels (HBO, Starz, etc.)
  • HD DVR

In addition to these items, I have an old Series2 TiVo in the bedroom with our standard definition TV, and a cable box for that tube as well.

As I’ve mentioned before, even though we get a lot from our monthly cable, we don’t pay a very large bill. We’ve negotiated with Comcast to get all of this, plus our monthly Internet, at a pretty deep discount.

While we choose to spend a fair amount of money on TV, it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are a ton of alternatives to get almost the same thing we do, with an even smaller cost.

Options like:

  • Hulu/iTunes for watching content
  • Over-the-air antenna signal
  • Free DVR software on your computer
  • And, obviously, a cheaper TV

So you can certainly get almost the same entertainment for cheaper.

Why don’t we do it? Mostly, it revolves around quality and ease-of-use. It’s much easier to get all of the content from the cable company, use their DVR, and get their high-definition stations. We also love HD, and that’s something we will pay for.

But Isn’t it a Waste of Time?

There are definitely times where I think to myself — and Debbie and I even say to each other — that we watch too much TV. But there are a number of reasons why TV watching doesn’t take over our lives.

  1. Considering that we have a six-month old daughter, we’re not going out at night … basically, ever
  2. Because we’re both at home during the day (I’m working, and she’s working harder with our daughter), we get some additional time together that we wouldn’t if we were both commuting
  3. We spend one day per week not watching TV or using the computer, so we’re not a slave to the TV

When it comes to the shows that we watch, it’s just that — shows that we watch. There’s not much, if anything, that only I watch or that only she watches. So we’re spending time together, even if it’s sitting on the couch.

Everyone’s habits and opinions on the merit of watching TV are different, but since we view it as entertainment and time spent together, it’s worth it. And since the cost isn’t high and we can get multiple uses of it, we’ll pay for it.

What do you think: is watching TV economical entertainment?

More reading:
Ten Financial Reasons To Turn Off Your Television – And Ten Things To Replace It With – The Simple Dollar
Cut the Cable: Ways to Save Money on Television and Movies – Bargaineering
We Are Switching to OTA (“Free”) TV – scfr’s Personal Finance Blog

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

RC@Thinkyourwaytowealth August 25, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Interesting post- most people seem to like to write along the “Kill your TV” theme- but as long as it is in moderation, and not taking away from other aspects of your life, I personally don’t see anything wrong with it being part of your entertainment time.

Jason Unger August 26, 2009 at 10:11 am

RC – thanks for the comment. I won’t defend people who waste their days watching TV (if the national average is 5 hours a day, who are the people watching more?), but “as part of a well-balanced diet” — as food companies like to say — watching TV can be enjoyable and economical.

Lee Distad August 26, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I’ve spent a fair amount on our media room, but we don’t watch a lot of TV. Nor for that matter do we watch a lot of movies, although the cinema experience was important to my media room’s design.

Realistically, we watch about 60-90 minutes a night, and perhaps 1-2 movies a week. From a time management perspective there’s a lot of other things for me that come before TV watching on the list of priorities.

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