Monday, April 4, 2016

Your TV Watching is Breaking Your Wallet

About a month ago, Mr. Frugal Rock and I had a glorious weekend. It was one of the first nice, warm weekends after the cold stretch of winter, and we spent a lot of time outside, hanging around with friends and working on our projects. In talking about our weekend Sunday night while lying around our living room, we had a revelation. We hadn't watched any television.

While never having been excessive (I think) in our television viewing, I will admit to a heavy binge-watching streak, especially on weeknights after a tough day. With the endless ability to continue watching shows, thanks to streaming services like Netflix uploading whole seasons at once, it can become easy to overdo it. You may not be a House of Cards fanatic (like your's truly) but for all you March Madness fans out there, don't pretend like you haven't been watching endless amounts of basketball games in the past few weeks and pouring over the highlights each night after the day of play is over. Plus for the Frugal Rock home, we both have our own shows- (HOC for me/Tom Goes to the Mayor for Mr. FR) so this is also time where we are spending time apart doing our own thing. I'm not a believer that couples need to spend ALL their time together but ignoring your partner can get a bit excessive when you are trying to cram through 13 episodes in a short amount of time.

So how much Television is 'normal'? The way to find out is the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Time Study. This fancy tool takes a look at how Americans spend their time. Yup, all of it. Seriously, they quantify the amount of hours Americans work, cook, clean up the house, do leisure time, etc. And most interesting they break it down by gender, age, employment and other factors. Feel free to us the time study next time you want to talk with your partner about gender inequality over household chores. :)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Time Study (take a peak if you've never looked at it) on the average night, employed childless adults (that's me!) watch just under 2.5 hours of television. Employed adults with children watch about 2 hours. Those numbers increase on weekends and holidays. According to the 2014 time study- Americans spend about half their leisure time watching television. That means that about 1/2 your free time that isn't designated towards work, commuting or household tasks is associated with your television screen. This does not include all the time you spend on your computer or phone so 2.5 hours is just strictly television, not including other screen time you may also have.

But Isn't Watching Television a Frugal Pastime?

But wait, can watching Television instead of going out actually cost you MORE money? Turns out that this is a real phenomena.

This is very similar to research that's been done correlating television and obesity by Harvard's Department of Public Health (check it). The study found that sitting and unhealthy snacking that is common during television viewing may also be influenced by the amount of unhealthy food adds, that are targeted to you during the commercials. Not surprisingly one finding was that ads on television influence our habits- which is what they are meant to do! According to the above mentioned link, 'children who watched cartoons with food commercials ate 45 percent more snack food while viewing than children who watched cartoons with non-food advertising'. Don't think that as an adult that you are that much more immune to the influence of advertising and product placement- increased television watching in adults is also linked to obesity. So it can wreck your waistline, but can it impact your wallet?

Television watching can also wreck havoc on your personal finances- and not only if you are watching the shopping channel. Advertisements are there to make you realize all the things that you can't live without- the more you expose yourself to media content, the more likely it is to influence you. Even product placement has gotten a bit extreme lately with more shows featuring tech gadgets or cars purposefully put there to make you want to buy.

I found these numbers really interesting but honestly wasn't going to do anything about it until Mr. Frugal Rock threw down this gauntlet: no television on weekdays. I'll admit to initially being skeptical about his seriousness, but he persisted. And like the middle schooler I am at heart, I thought if HE can do it, I can do it. Nothing like a bit of good relationship one-up-man-ship to keep things fresh! Now I don't want our 'no-TV' time on weekdays to lead to more eating out, going shopping or any other non-frugal pastimes, which prompted this question:

But what do you do with all that extra time?

Now my first reaction when we stopped watching television on weekdays was that we will have so much more time for all of our favorite things. Cooking elaborate meals on a weeknight? Decadent! I also naively thought- I will exercise so much more! I bet you all know how that's working out...

I found the reality at first a bit more challenging. After a long day of work, it can be hard to think about what you want to do. It can seem like expending energy that you just don't have to even come up with an alternative.

Sometimes I find myself making excuses and saying, "I don't have time to..." and realize that it's just something I say to get out of an activity I don't want to do. There are plenty of things though that I enjoy doing or things I have always wanted to do and have been putting off. Sooooo, I made a list. It's been one month of no TV on weeknights and we are going strong!

Think of the things you've been putting off...what could you accomplish with 2.5 extra hours every night?

Fear of missing out?

What will we talk about with our friends/coworkers?! This was actually a pretty big concern that I initially joked about but had some real life thrown in. Your favorite shows, and what you enjoy watching on your own time, can often be an easy social bonding tool- think about how you can talk the next day with co-workers you hardly know about the big game the night before, the Oscars, or even that knew episode everyone has been waiting for. This was a phenomenon that we encountered when we stopped going out to the movie theater ($18 for tickets to the movies??!). While we still talk about movies or shows we enjoy- we no longer have the bragging rights for what the newest/coolest show or story is...and that's okay. If anything it helps us curate what we do want to spend time watching since by the time we get around to it, the reviews are long in!

Can you see yourself chucking the TV?
So how about it? Do you think that your TV watching habits are excessive or about the norm? Do you think about getting rid of your television screens altogether or this a pipe dream? 

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