How much time, on average, would you say you spend watching TV? Or programming in general? According to a survey from the Bureau of Labor statistics, those age 15 years and older spend an average of 2.8 hours per day watching TV. That’s almost 20 hours per week!
Now, I’m not saying people need to completely throw their TVs out and never watch a show (or sports) again. However, if you’re watching TV for more than 3-4 hours per night, and having a hard time getting anything else done, that doesn’t bode well for your other goals.
Instead, I suggest you start spending your time in a more meaningful way. It’s extremely easy to fall into the habit of turning the TV on and checking out after a hard day at work. But is that how you want to spend 20 hours of your week? If not, here are 11 other things to do besides watch TV.
1. Get Outside and Exercise
While I might not be guilty of watching TV, I am guilty of sitting in front of the computer and getting involved in work a little too much. Obviously, sitting all day is not good for you. One of my goals is to get outside and exercise more, even if that means taking a walk around my apartment complex.
Fresh air (as long as you don’t have allergies) can be welcome after being inside all day, and working out means making an investment in your health. That’s something sitting on the couch won’t do for you.
2. Start a Side Hustle
Have you been meaning to start a side hustle, but can’t seem to find the time? If 20 hours of your week is being eaten up by watching TV, it could be time to cut the cord (at least for now).
You can start a blog or build an online portfolio in those three hours after work every night. Make it a goal to keep pushing forward with your side hustle and see where it gets you.
You can even use your TV watching time as a way to make a little extra money.
3. Take an Online Course
There are so many free online courses available these days, from places like Udemy and others that offer thousands of courses at very reasonable prices. If you want to learn a new skill, or increase your knowledge on a certain subject, you’ll probably find something out there on it.
Carving out those 20 hours per week to dedicate to taking a class or two can greatly improve your skillset. If you’ve been thinking it’s time to ask for a raise or explore a new career path, this will help get you there.
4. Read a Book
Reading seems like a lost art for a lot of people I know. We’re just too busy to settle down and get into a good book, especially with so many other ways to consume content available to us.
I’m guilty as charged. Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies, but I haven’t made time for it. I have a list of books I’d like to read, and even some sitting around my apartment.
I’m sure most people could get through one book in one week, and in my opinion, books typically have much more satisfying endings than TV shows do. 😉
5. Spend More Time With Family
Is your family guilty of sitting around the TV too? While it can be fun to enjoy together, most times, watching TV is a fairly passive activity. It’s not known for creating amazing memories.
What can you do instead? Try playing a card game or a board game. Do a puzzle together. If you have smaller kids, play around with them in the backyard or go to a park. Visit other family members or friends that live nearby.
These are all terrific ideas for cheap things to do with kids that create a lifetime of memories.
I can tell you with certainty that the best memories from my childhood didn’t revolve around watching TV with my parents! Enjoy making memories with the people who are important to you doing things together that allow you to interact with each other more than TV does.
Want to get productive and possibly make some extra money? Dedicate a week or two to decluttering your home. I know, it might not sound like the most exciting thing (which is probably why you’ve been putting it off), but you’ll feel so much better after you’ve done it! Plus, you can sell or donate whatever you don’t want to keep.
7. Get Creative
While I love writing, there are other creative pursuits I wish I had the time for, such as acting. I used to love it back in middle school, and I haven’t revisited it since.
Stifling your creativity due to lack of time (or energy) isn’t something I’d recommend. I think everyone needs some sort of creative outlet! Besides, life gets rather stale when your creative juices aren’t flowing.
Whether you want to draw, write, paint, act, dance, or play music, make time for it. I’m sure it will be more fulfilling than mindlessly watching TV.
8. Listen to Podcasts
Podcasts are a great, convenient way to digest information while multitasking. Heck, you could listen to a podcast while decluttering to make it a little more fun, or you could listen to one while you work out.
Not all podcasts are strictly informational, either. There are plenty of comedy podcasts out there, as well as some narrative ones (like Serial).
9. Explore Your City
When’s the last time you “explored your backyard”? If you live in a larger city, take advantage! Walk around instead of driving and see what you can discover. This idea is perfect for the warmer months, which just so happens to coincide with when most shows are on break.
One of the most fulfilling ways to spend your time is volunteering. If money is tight, you can always give with your time. This is a great solution as the holiday season approaches.
*Related: Looking for something fun to do tonight? Read our exhaustive guide of fun things to do tonight that don’t cost a lot of money.*
See if there are any food banks or local organizations putting together food or toy drives that you can help out with. Bring the entire family along – volunteering is a valuable learning experience for kids.
11. Pay Attention to Your Hobbies
Is there a hobby you used to enjoy, but haven’t had the time for? For instance, maybe you’re interested in photography but haven’t had the chance to learn proper techniques.
Or maybe you enjoy making jewelry or designing shirts and want to improve enough to sell or gift your creations. Regardless, there are plenty of things to do by yourself that are fun but not costly.
You should always make time for hobbies (they typically give you a creative outlet!). They’re bound to bring you more joy than watching TV. Find out what excites you the most, and carve out time to learn more about it.
At the end of the day, it’s all about what your priorities are. If you prioritize relaxing and checking out at the end of the day, then you can watch TV guilt-free. But if you’re struggling to make progress on a goal that means a lot to you, then you need to evaluate how you spend your time. Try giving up TV for a week or two and notice what a difference it makes. You have nothing to lose by trying!
Are you a big fan of watching TV, or do you not watch it at all? Was there a time you used to watch more TV? How did you lessen the time spent in front of the screen, and what did you do with your newfound time?
Dang I wish I would have thought of this post idea — god one!!
Haha. I love that we’re on the same page – it’s not often I meet other people who don’t care too much for TV!
We used to watch a lot of television, and sometimes it’ll be on just because…even when there was nothing good on. Nowadays, with a little one, we don’t have much time to watch t.v and we don’t want him to have too much screen time either. You’ve listed a lot of things that are much more productive to do than to watch T.V!
It seems like a LOT of people fall into the trap of having the TV turned on “just because.” It’s a hard habit to break. I personally like working in silence or with music, otherwise I get too distracted!
James Pollard @PersonalFinanceGenius says
I used to be the average American and watch countless hours of TV per day. Then I read something by Zig Ziglar that said to plan out all your TV watching in advance. He said that a majority of the stuff we watch is stuff we just mindlessly watch. If you know you want to watch the new Walking Dead episode on Sunday, plan for that time and that time only.
I took his advice and started doing some of the stuff you mentioned in this post, and I never looked back. Personally, I’ve read a LOT of books and it’s been incredibly rewarding. Much more so than television. This is the stuff I like to see, since it can help a lot of people.
Thanks, James! I agree with that – it’s better to approach TV watching with a plan, and know when to shut it off so you don’t get carried away with it. Glad to see another person who prefers reading!
Jason B says
I used to watch a lot of TV growing up. I stopped watching a lot of it because I realized I was wasting valuable time by just sitting there and doing nothing. Since I’ve cut back I’ve been able to get a lot more things done. I’ve also been able to focus much more as well.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Jason! I agree that it’s much easier to focus without the TV distracting you.
Reelika @Financially Wise On Heels says
I have never been big fan of TV, however, I do have my favorite shows that are absolutely non-negotiable 😀 I absolutely love to watch fixer upper at HGTV and it is just so motivating. However, otherwise I do prioritize my family time 🙂
Ha! Back when cable was included in our apartment, HGTV was the default channel we usually tuned into. It is pretty inspiring.
I can think of a million things to do instead of watching TV. I usually can’t sit still long enough to watch a show!
Glad I’m not the only one!
I’ve noticed that TV sucks in kids, even if it’s a show they don’t really care about or the news. We used to keep TV on all the time for background noise, but we are much more productive since cancelling satellite TV and using streaming when we do want to watch something.
It does seem like streaming allows you to be more intentional about watching TV. If it’s one thing I never liked, it was surfing through all the channels to find something you wanted to watch!
Shannon @ Financially Blonde says
I actually find little time for watching tv now and ever since we cut cable last year, I watch it even less but I don’t miss it. I would rather do work, read or spend time with my family instead of watching tv.
I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels that way. I don’t get drawn into shows the way some people do – books are better in my opinion. 😉
DC @ Young Adult Money says
Great post, Erin. I will be the first to admit my wife and I watch a lot of TV. It’s how we decompress at the end of the day, and I typically have something on in the background while I’m working on side hustle work. But yes, there is a whole lot more to do than watch TV!
Watching TV isn’t always a bad thing, especially if it’s something you enjoy and look forward to! The key is being mindful about how much you consume and whether or not it’s adding value.
Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says
I rarely watch TV since I became serious about my financial goals. I’d rather work on my side hustles or jog around the village to make use of my time productively.
Great to hear, Jayson!
Rachyl @ On My Fridays Off says
I get restless when I watch too much TV. I think about all of the time I’m wasting!
Another great place to take classes is teachable.com.
I always have to smile at the people who say they don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done, but then say they HAVE to watch xyz show every night. That’s the reason they aren’t getting as much done!
Great ideas in this post.