Cable TV arrived late at my household and left early. Back in the 80s and early 90s we only had local channels available over the airwaves. As the year 2000 approached I broke down and allowed cable TV to enter my home. It was a disaster. I could not believe I was paying for something that was mostly ads to get me to waste even more money. A few years later the fix was in; cable was on the way out.
My greatest concern was my family. Mrs. Accountant and the girls liked a few shows on the glass teat (reference The Glass Teat by: Harlan Ellison). I had to devise a way to cut the cord without making it look like I was cutting the cord. My idea was to convince my family we were only temporarily suspending the DirecTV account for six months as an experiment. To my surprise nobody was bothered by my idea.
The girls were the biggest concern for me. Once again dad got a massive surprise when my oldest daughter volunteered we just dump the DirecTV permanently with the youngest agreeing. I questioned the girls about their ambivalence toward cable. They informed me most of the programs they enjoyed were either available on local, over the air, channels or available online. Even though it was harder to find programming online five and ten years ago, my girls found what they wanted online and at no cost.
Before we talk about the costs of viewing television I want to share my evolving television viewing habits. Television, radio, and other forms of mass media were always a small part of my life. Still, even modest amounts of commercial media can affect your income and net worth. It is a rare day when I sit down and actually watch a program. When the TV is on it is usually for background noise. Back in the old days when I still watched football (I am writing for an American audience so I am referring to American style football, not the football commonly known as soccer in the U.S.) I would mute the TV and read a book. I was not sure how I would handle quitting football cold turkey. Around these parts missing a Packers game can get you killed. But it all went smooth. I never missed the game. People sometimes notice I have a dazed look when they talk about Packers players. I tell them I don’t watch TV and they are supportive. I think more people want to be like me and dump TV, but can’t find the willpower.
Once DirecTV went, so did all the commercial TV. Local channels available free over the airwaves are avoided by me, but Mrs. Accountant like to catch the local news and weather. In the barn public radio plays without commercials. The chickens and steers are very educated on current events and have no idea what anyone means by “talk to your doctor”.
The library provided movies and documentaries. My viewing habits made it hard for me to sit for a movie. We still get a movie now and again from the library, but Netflix provides most of my viewing pleasure. I still use the TV as background noise. Except for educational documentaries I could not tell you a lick of what I watched on TV for the last five years. I know what was playing as background noise, but I do not know the content of the program.
There is one area where I do pay close attention. Educational videos mesmerize me. Netflix has a few; YouTube has an unlimited supply. Learning is my addiction. I can’t get enough. There are few subjects I am not interested in at some level. Learning how to do things is one of the most important parts of my day. My viewing habits should come as no surprise as you will see shortly.
The Cost of Commercial Media
The most obvious cost of commercial media is the fee for cable. My guess is cable runs about eighty bucks now, so you unload your wallet about a thousand dollars a year. (Feel free to update my numbers in the comments. I will not research cable rates, etc. as they are unimportant to the underlying premise of this post.) The crazy accountant in me also knows the TV uses electricity when it is on.
There are also hidden costs far exceeding the cost of cable itself. Advertisers know what works. The most disciplined of us cannot withstand the assault of massive amounts of programming. Commercials continually tell us we need more. That is how the companies make money, by getting you to want more.
Stress builds when you waste a day planted in front of the box with pretty lights coming out of it. The stress of mental manipulation coupled with no exercise, and frequently, poor diet, are part and parcel for the course of television watching. Relationships do not grow when the family is tuned out. Television time is not family time together! Forty percent of marriages die and of the remaining 60% only half are happy. I doubt the happy marriages where built on television watching. Less communication with friends and family coupled with the mindless messages spewed from TV programs rob you of the juice that makes life worth living. Research has shown again and again sitting for endless hours is harmful to your health. The human body was not meant to spend the majority of its time idle. Outside 6-8 hours of sleep your body needs a full day of moderate activity with an hour or so of more extensive exercise.
There is a direct correlation between income and the amount of television viewing. Forty eight percent of people earning $150,000 per year or more watch one hour or less of TV a day, whereas, 67% of people earning $50,000 per year watch an hour or less per day. The interesting fact not shown in the chart is that of the one hour a day many high earners are watching is used to watch educational videos! The evidence is clear; the more you make per year the less TV you are likely to watch and what you do watch is probably educational in nature. It does make sense. If you sit in front of the idiot box all day, you will have less time to educate yourself to grow your income and build your net worth.
The depressing chart from marketingcharts.com shows how many people say they watch the bulk of their TV programming from “Live on TV”. “Live on TV” means commercial local TV and cable. The lowest group at 71% is business owners. This does not surprise me. Business owners need to focus on the important stuff if they are to survive in the business world. What does surprise me is how high the number is for business owners: 71%. Every other group is higher! It is possible the charts are showing us why we have so much income inequality and personal finance difficulties in the Western world. We watch too damn much commercial TV.
Ever since the glass teat entered our living rooms we have been sacrificing more and more of our mind to commercial programming. We are told endlessly how unhappy we are with what we have and need more. No wonder we are such a miserable society while basking in the palm of wealth and luxury. The poorest of us are better off than most humans throughout history. Warren Buffett recently wrote how middle class people today (those earning roughly $50,000 – $70,000 per year) have more than the wealthiest man alive in 1930. It is true. Most of the stuff we take for granted today did not exist in 1930. Health care is massively better. For $9,000 or so you can cover all your basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter). All the rest is gravy. We have it so good we fail to recognize our blessing. As Zig Ziglar once said, “When foreigners immigrate to this country they say, ‘What a deal!’ while Americans here for generations say, ‘Big deal’”.
Every day when we wake we should jump out of bed excited to be alive in such an awesome time in history. Every one of us have it so good and have so many opportunities, we should constantly sing praise to our great fortune. We live longer, have more and better food, enjoy more free time if we choose, have endless entertainment choices, live in mansions compared to our parents and grandparents, and can travel almost anywhere on the planet in a day or less for a modest amount of change. It is laughable how easy our lives have become. And yet we whine, cry, and complain over our hardships. We are mentally drained and require medication to modify our brain chemistry because we are convinced we are so deprived. I argue our society has turned into spoiled brats.
There is another world out there. When is the last time you watched the heavens? The night sky is an awesome place. Spend time with your significant other and children reading the stars. Dream together. Ask the big questions. Explore!
Wean yourself from commercial media. It is impossible to avoid all advertisements. You can control the volume, however. When you read quality blogs (I hope this blog falls into that category) the ads are relevant, or at least more relevant. I am not against companies promoting their products. I am against a non-stop diet of mental junk. TV, radio, Facebook, and other social media have found a way to maximize the amount of shit they can cram into your brain before you leave. Send a return message; spend less time (or wean yourself completely) from most or all commercial media. My business has a Facebook page; so does this blog. I don’t have a personal Facebook page. The account supporting my business and blog pages have almost no activity. Only several requests from people around the planet who saw me speak recently caused me to accept any friends on my list. I still have not posted anything. I make a conscious choice to avoid commercial media. My office staff manages my social media sites for me. Mrs. Accountant handles the personal side of our lives. I focus on the business end.
There is one last gift when you wean yourself from commercial media: freedom. You cannot imagine the extra free time you will have to explore all the things that interest you. You will never miss the TV time! You now have time to spend with the people who are important to you. Who cares who is playing for the Packers? (I am now in the witness protection program.) I’d rather talk with my wife and kids, parents (while they are still alive), brother, neighbors, employees, clients, and people of the community. What an awesome age we live in! It makes me tingly inside just thinking about it.
Out in the boondocks where I live the garbage is picked up every two weeks; recycling once per month. Until a few months ago this arrangement worked well. Garbage was placed in a large barrel the garbage truck could automatically empty into the truck hopper. Recycling was placed in blue plastic bags with paper and cardboard placed in either a box or tied in a bundle. A few months ago the system was changed for recycling. Bags were replaced with a blue barrel the same size as the garbage barrel. I understand why the change took place. Under the new system the recycling company could run the route with only one employee. The truck has a lift (like the garbage truck) to grab the barrel and empty the contents.
The problem comes from the amount of recycling I have. All the recycling from my office, farm and home went into the barrel and it was not big enough. It was hard to believe I had so much crap every month. The garbage barrel was almost empty; we have one small kitchen garbage bag for disposal every two weeks. But the recycling did not fit. At first I wanted to blame all the stuff (a technical term used by hard-core wealthy accountants) on the office and farm. Certainly, they played a roll, but personal recyclables still would fill the barrel monthly.
Whenever I see stuff going to the landfill or recycling center I start thinking. Why am I buying all this stuff only to throw it away? The only way to understand a problem is to research it. I had to know where all the recyclables (waste) were coming from.
To make for fair research, I excluded the loads of junk mail and other paper from the office and feed bags from the farm. My goal was to understand my personal waste. My garbage waste is so small I don’t think it pays to spend much time reducing the small kitchen bag of garbage. Mostly, we change the kitchen garbage every two weeks whether it needs it or not to prevent odor. But how in the heck do we fill a recycling barrel to overflowing monthly?
First off, I notice we have a lot of plastic jugs. I mean lots! We could mention the whisky bottle, but we will not go there to protect the reputations of the not so innocent. (Mrs. Accountant does not drink whisky… that I know of.) The real mass of plastic is dominated by juice bottles and milk jugs.
I prefer drinking fresh, home-grown juice. Sometimes I buy apple juice at a local orchard in the fall. I drink milk, but not often. So I can place all the blame on Mrs. Accountant and my two Jr. Accountant daughters. Except it would not be fair.
Milk containers collapse down and don’t take a lot of space, but we guzzle three gallons a week. Juice containers are more rigid and collapse to a point. The barrel would fill slowly each day. There was also one other bulky item that consumed a lot of space other than office paper, feed bags and plastics.
Before I tell you the criminal in the recycling barrel I want to defend the Accountant household. The item causing all the problems came mostly from the office with only a few coming from the household. The culprit: packaging (cardboard boxes).
Food packaging is the worst. The ladies at the office love to ship in lunch on a regular basis. Example: one of my employees had a birthday recently so it was decided the boss would pay for lunch. (We have a petty cash account for special treats for the staff.) I had no say in the purchase. They decided on Subway. The plastic container holding all the sandwiches was huge! I had no doubt more cost went into the plastic packaging than the amount of food purchased. Two lessons here: 1.) the plastic package did not collapse down well so it took a lot of space, and 2.) the cost of the food was probably less than the cost of the packaging which was purchased for no other reason than to throw it away.
Since we know packaging is not free, we have an opportunity to reduce costs in our life without sacrificing lifestyle. I am on a mission at home and at the office to reduce recycling waste. Stuff tossed in recycling is still waste! And you paid for it; just as much as you paid for all your regular garbage. If we can find ways to reduce all waste, including recycling waste, it would do wonders for our personal bottom line. Call it frugality without giving anything up.
A Few Solutions
When you have a farm, office building and a large home you need a fair number of light bulbs. I use LEDs in all my buildings. Some LEDs are packaged with so much plastic I have to visit the shop to pry open the packaging. I discovered some LEDs use less packaging, especially when multi-packs are involved. I visited a few local stores to see if I could do better when buying stuff, LEDs in this case. Using my trusty pocket calculator I determined multipacks were a much better deal and used a significant amount less packaging. Lesson: More packaging equals either a higher cost or a lower quality to cover the packaging cost.
Packaged food is bad for your health and pocketbook. All the boxed foods my kids love (and I eat right along with them) are hurting my body while wasting a lot of money on packaging. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be somewhat more expensive, but after considering health they are a bargain. I have a plan to buy more in bulk to reduce packaging costs and to reduce prepackaged foods like cereals. In my defense, I eat eggs every morning and I get them from my barn. When I say ‘Farm Fresh’ I mean it. My breakfast: laid this morning. (BTW: you can buy my eggs (brown eggs) if you stop in the office. First come, first serve.)
On the farm I buy egg mash in 50 pound bags. I will move to bulk delivery without any bags and store the mash in a spare gravity box. I use about a ton of mash a month and when I checked it is cheaper for the same exact product. Savings: $40 per month. Farmers are noted for their frugality. I still cannot explain what took me so long to figure out I could save $500 a year with this simple change.
The accounting office will be a tougher nut to crack. I don’t always have control over the waste flow. Junk mail will keep coming no matter what I do. Boxes from Amazon for supplies or paper take a lot of space and cannot be easily replaced.
I reuse many plastic containers and cardboard. The cardboard works on the farm around trees or in the garden to control weeds and protect soil moisture. Juice contains store homemade wine well (ahem). In the end it will end up as either garbage or recycling, but used many times before discarded.
I saved food waste for last. We don’t have food waste in our house. What the chickens, steers and barn cats don’t eat goes into the mulch bin. It is estimated 50% of all food grown is discarded from farm to the table. We certainly have waste in the Accountant household. Garden waste is common during the summer and fall. Not all things grown should be eaten. Unfortunately, there is waste from the kitchen as well. Wasted food is going to happen. Things sitting in the fridge too long have to be tossed. Unless you have a farm you will have more food waste going to the landfill than my household.
Make a Difference
Every household has different waste/recycling issues. Any waste bothers me; it goes against my upbringing. My paternal grandmother used to remind us kids that during the Great Depression they ate lard sandwiches “and liked it”. We joked back that today we have Butter Flavored Crisco. Truth is it is not funny. Waste delays retirement plans as money funneled to retirement investments get a ride to the landfill or recycling center. Waste reduces quality of lifestyle. It also feels really good knowing you are acting as a responsible steward of the gifts life has granted you when reducing waste. Be vigilant. Whenever spending hard earned money (or easily gotten money, too), pay attention to the waste products you are buying with the stuff you want. It’s how wealthy accountants roll.
More Wealth Building Resources
Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?
Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.
Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.
PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.
QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.
A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.
Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you very much!