I don’t subscribe to cable TV. I don’t own a satellite dish, and come to think of it, I don’t even have a Netflix subscription. The only way I really watch TV is when I’m at somebody else’s house, or if I’m watching sports at a restaurant/bar. Sure, I do go out and catch a movie at the local theater every now and then, but that’s primarily to meet up with friends and to socialize. The movie itself is never the focal point of the outing.
What’s On TV?
I guess you could say I’m deprived… or frugal. Honestly, I don’t really miss TV too much, and since I’m able to stream almost anything online these days, I find just having a fast internet connection is sufficient for my needs. To be succinct, I’m doing just fine!
So, it was a bit unusual for me to find myself tuning it to the local programming when I was flying to Boston, and later home from New York. I flew Southwest Airlines and they offer complimentary streaming of some popular cable networks. Since the flight is so long (7 hours or so), I decided to tune in and give it a go.
What did I end up watching? Well, since I’m pretty interested (and invested) in rental properties these days, I guess subconsciously that was the reason why I decided to check out HGTV. I watched through a few episodes of House Hunters, Love It or List It, and Property Brothers.
The shows were great! Maybe it’s because I don’t watch this stuff on a regular basis, but I found the shows delightful and entertaining. It’s always fun following the journeys of other people and seeing what they end of purchasing/renovating at the end. These people always seem so incredibly overjoyed and thrilled with the end results. If I didn’t know better, I would think that this is exact type of lifestyle I ought to chase after for myself…
But I do know better… and because I do, if I turn on the brain for a second, I find myself in trouble…
Buying a property, whether it’s your own residence or a rental property, will always be so emotionally overwhelming for 99% of people out there. It’s understandable why buying property makes people go crazy, because for so many, it’s the single biggest financial decision you’ll ever make in your life.
The TV networks know this… and they run wild with the stories in their programs. Not only that, but they also like to pimp out the most extravagant properties… almost like they are trying to convince you that this is something YOU must also have in your own life. For the most part, the houses they show all look the same (expensive cookie-cutters), and lack any real character.
If I didn’t know any better, not only would I chase after the American Dream of owning my own primary residence with a white picket fence out in the suburbs within the BEST school districts, I would also covet the following:
- My primary residence MUST be admired and adored by ALL!
- Stainless steel appliances
- Granite countertops
- HUGE island in the center to occupy even more space
- Open concept with enough space for dining room, living room, and raised eating bar for “entertaining”
- High vaulted ceilings
- Recessed lighting
- Hardwood floors
- Expensive fireplace (for show)
- Expensive grand piano (for show)
- At least 2 levels with a bathroom on each
- At least a 2 car garage
- HUGE backyard for more “entertaining”
- En suite with a HUGE bathtub and shower
- Movie theater
True Cost of a Dream House
That’s not too much to ask for, is it? I mean, isn’t that what everyone needs in order to have an ordinary, enjoyable life? If you watch enough HGTV, you’ll probably think so…
Show after show, I was watching people drop $700,000+ for these type of renovated properties. If their old property needed some fixing up, the renovation budgets started at $40,000. In some cases, you would see $90,000+.
$90,000… to make a perfectly livable (and functional) home that much more glamorous…
What the TV shows fail to show you is the number of painstaking hours these same folks would have to endure at their day-to-day jobs to pay for all of this jazz. Of course, there’s no way for the viewer to know how much the real costs were… or how much of it was subsidized or gifted by the show, but for any regular folks watching who want to attempt something similar for themselves, it would cost a fortune!
It’s too easy to lose sight of the main purpose of a home… It’s simply a place to live in! Yes, memories can be created here, but if you’re going to be dropping $1MM+ to fund your dream house, chances are sky high that you’ll be spending most of your time away from your McMansion and creating your memories ELSEWHERE.
Slaving away at The Company for years on end wouldn’t be so bad if life went on indefinitely. Unfortunately, no one lives forever, and we all degrade (age) with time. Since time (and life) are so precious, we must ask ourselves, “Is all of this really worth it? Is owning a dream home so important to me that I’ll be willing to sign up to work the next 30+ years of my finite life to pay for all of this?”
My answer would be “No way!” Working isn’t so bad when you have a choice, but all the bad things about the work environment get magnified and made 1,000,000x worse when you know that you have to be there by necessity. If you sign up for the lifestyle of the rich and famous, well, guess what will happen? You’ll most likely end up working until you’re old and grey…
For myself, I want to retire early and embrace life again. I want financial freedom so that I can control my own time and destiny. To me, getting to early financial independence would be the greatest and most liberating accomplishment ever. I would choose financial freedom and living in a bare bones “shack” over working the next 30+ years of my life to live in a McMansion where I would end up spending less than half of my day in (EVERY SINGLE M-F, at minimum).
Simplicity CAN Work!
The reality is, no one HAS to live in a stereotypical dream home with all the latest and greatest fixings. We all just become conditioned to want that lifestyle because mainstream media, like the aforementioned TV shows, keeps shoving that image down our throats.
When you step back and analyze how much you would have to sacrifice to make that dream a reality, though, it just becomes that much more difficult of a pill to swallow.
$90,000 on rehab costs… I could use that money and buy 3-4 cash flow properties to feed me indefinitely. Remember, every action has a reaction. When you decide to splurge $90,000 for your own enjoyment, that’s $90,000 you’re giving up on investing with… and $90,000 will take you a long, long ways towards obtaining financial freedom (especially over the years as compounding kicks in).
How do I plan on making early FI possible at age 30? By not getting caught up in all the hoopla that is home ownership. I’m perfectly OK with the idea of owning rental properties that are furnished better and higher quality than my own personal residence. I don’t need granite countertops, or REAL hardwood floors… Forget the movie theater and HUGE backyard… Those are nice things to have, for sure, but by no means necessary at all.
As a matter of fact, should I one day choose to move into one of my rentals, my redefined “dream home” wouldn’t be anything more than this:
Nothing fancy going on here at all… But more home than I will ever need. Something this simple would surely never make its way onto HGTV…
Give Up Cable!
So, maybe giving up on cable TV can help someone retire 30 years earlier? Without all the brainwashing and subliminal messages being tossed around, maybe our perspective on home ownership would be altered a bit? Perhaps simple is good, after all… No, I don’t have anything personal against any of those aforementioned television shows, or HGTV, and actually find it all quite enjoyable and entertaining. I just have to make sure when I’m watching those TV shows, I turn my brain off. I do love a good popcorn movie every now and then, so these shows are perfect for a long flight out to the East Coast! 🙂
*This article is the closest to a “cut cable TV out of your life” post I will ever attempt…
What is your take on home ownership? Financial freedom or a house with all the trappings?