How To Save Money #1

When I was a child, we didn’t have much money. Invention being the daughter of necessity, we learned early that one must “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” as the old folk saying goes. Although my finances got easier, many of my thrifty habits remained (though my natural generosity tends to take a bite out of my finances when I am doing well).

In these times, every little bit helps, and so I am going to share some of my tips on how to cut back your costs. I have a lot of them—65 on my list, and I’m not done listing everything. I’m not simply going to give you a list, however, but am instead going to have a separate  post for each item on the list so I can discuss it a little bit, say why it works or how it works, perhaps give instructions if it is something along the lines of reusing something for a new purpose (“repurposing,” as it is known in the corporate world), and even, if you don’t mind, sharing a bit of the philosophy behind the item.

Some of the ideas I will be sharing with you will simply involve changing habits—doing something differently than you have before. Some will involve buying things in different ways. Others will involve not buying something entirely. It is of course completely up to you whether you choose to take one, some, or all of these ideas and make them your own. All I ask is that you read through them with a neutral eye. If you find one you like, consider making it a goal to incorporate that idea into your life.

Ways to Save Money #1: Cancel Your Television Service

Television does not exist to entertain us; it exists to sell to us. (Commercialism by Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen)

In some ways, there isn’t a priority to these ideas, but idea number one is so important in so many other ways than saving money that I am sharing it first. It is also going to be an idea that many people will resist, so I am throwing it out there first so that you have a chance to mull it over, maybe do a little research yourself, perhaps give it a try for a month and see how you do with it.

This first idea is to cancel your television service. There are many good reasons to stop watching television entirely, though you don’t have to. Most television shows are available on the Internet either through the network Web site or such sites as Hulu; if you are patient, many shows are eventually available on DVD (which you can rent or check out of your library instead of buying them). However, you will still be subjected to commercials while watching at sites such as Hulu, so the DVD option is still better.

Here are some good reasons to cancel your television service. You can

  • Save money. Most people are paying $50 to $100 a month for cable service. That’s $600 to $1,200 a year. Think of what you could do with that money. You might even be able to afford a nice vacation.
  • Save money and refuse to be programmed. Commercials are a waste of your precious time, and yet the number of minutes you spend watching them when watching television just keeps increasing. Commercials are designed to get you to do one thing: spend more money. They use a number of ways to manipulate you into thinking that a particular item or lifestyle must be yours; of course, that item or lifestyle is going to involve spending money. Do you really need brand-name shoes? In addition, even when you are watching television shows, the programming is there just as strongly in the shows themselves. You will see women working as waitresses living in apartments that someone with a much higher salary might not be able to afford. Subconsciously, you think that your lifestyle and circumstances should be at least as good as hers, and so you go buy more stuff. Stuff you can’t afford. Stuff you don’t need.
  • Save your young child’s health. Watching television is actively damaging to the health of toddlers. Many people, pushed for time, use the television as a babysitter for their very young children, saying with exasperation that they just don’t have the time to watch a child every second. They unfortunately will have to pay a heavy bill later in terms of their child’s lost health and abilities. However, when you have no television, you will find you do, after all, have time to care for your child. And what better use of your time than to spend it than with your own child? For years before my daughter was born, I had been deliberately without television. When she was born, I had no partner, so I had to single-handedly take care of her until I married (when she was nearly four). Without television, I instead spent time with her (which was a joy and not a chore for me). Even after I married, we still did not purchase a television until she was seven, and then we carefully and closely supervised and limited what she watched. I still didn’t like it. Then, when she was ten, the television was gone again. What should you do instead? Take your children to story hour at the library. Read to them yourself. Take them to the park or a museum (if their age allows). Take them camping or to the beach or a lake.  Chances are, you’ll develop a much better relationship with your children than otherwise, which will pay you back many times over as they grow older.
  • Improve your children’s reading abilities. You will be amazed at how much more literate your children will get when they don’t have TV as an option. When I went television free in 1996, my daughter’s reading speed, level, and comprehension shot up in just a few months. She’s now an adult and chooses not to have television herself.
  • Spend more quality time with your family. As mentioned earlier, you will have more time to spend doing things with your family. Pick up a shared hobby, or pick up hobbies you can do together companionably. For example, one person might enjoy reading while another is doing needlework.
  • Spend more quality time with yourself. If you don’t have a family, you can still benefit just as much from all the time you free up by not having a television. You may find yourself getting so busy you won’t know how you ever had time to watch TV in the first place.
  • Get some fresh air and maybe some exercise. If the weather is good, you can go outside for a while and enjoy the fresh air. if your health allows, you can take a walk.
  • Save your brain. Television itself, even with nothing on it, suppresses mental activity. (Though that might only apply to the old cathode-ray-tube style of television.)

If you find yourself getting angry at the idea of quitting television cold turkey, or find yourself giving all sorts of reasons why television is good (the Discovery channel is often mentioned to me, but hey, that’s on DVD too), consider this: “Millions of Americans are so hooked on television that they fit the criteria for substance abuse.” (source) Bottom line: don’t let television control your life. Save a substantial amount of money and cancel your television service. If you wish, keep the TV set and watch DVDs instead. You’ll still be miles ahead.

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