Real Estate Investing: Cut Cable TV and Retire 30 Years Earlier?

Copy of House-2

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.

Hidden Messages

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.

Work-Life Balance

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:

Rental Property #1: More house than I will ever need!

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?

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Retire Before Dad
6 years ago

FIF, I recently gave up cable tv and I don’t miss it. We watched a lot of HGTV including what you mention above, plus Income Property, and Flip or Flop. It helps to read into the shows to understand what about them is staged (nearly everything). House Hunters, for example, the people have already chosen their home before the show, and a realtor just adds too more that make a story line. Your recommendation is spot on though, there is nothing to learn. You need to turn your brain off and use it as education. And everyone loves the granite… Read more »

No Nonsense Landlord
6 years ago

I am getting ready to ‘cut the cord’ myself. I gave up a land-line, but I went to magic jack. The next thing is the cable TV. I can get great reception for local channels on a regular TV.

It’s almost $100 per month, which is a lot.

The Stoic
6 years ago

I think one of the most insidious things about television is all the advertisement that is being pedaled to people in ways they are not even consciously aware of. It’s easy to say, “Oh I don’t even notice the advertisement, it doesn’t even effect me any more.” , but believe me it does, you’re just not aware of it. These “stories” are being crafted by a small group of media companies whose intention is not to help us live our best lives possible, but to live lives of mindless consumption continuously believing that “only if….” will bring us happiness. Entertainment… Read more »

Andres @

Online TV is the answer ! Cut the cable and watch TV online if you need to. Al lthe major news channels have an online TV. Do not forget the good old radio and books as entertainment, they are cheaper and more brain expanding then TV…

6 years ago

Over here in the UK, our TV schedule is full of these types of house programmes and I use to love watching them all. A couple of years ago I stopped watching nearly all of them as I got fed up of them. I realised that they were making me want things I just just really didn’t need and I got sick of hearing how everyone must have an en-suite or a massive kitchen for entertaining in or granite worktops. The only house programme I watch now is called Grand Designs and its more a design programme and you see… Read more »

6 years ago

Ive never owned cable after I started living by myself. I have resisted watching too much TV and instead – “live my life”. It boggles my mind when Im around people who watch TV all the time and talk passionately about silly things. I’ve seen one or two episodes of some of home reno tv shows (not sure which one it was), but the message came across loud and clear to me – “you are a loser if you dont have a HUGE house with a pool, granite countertops, a home theatre in the basement….” Love this post, btw. You’ve… Read more »

6 years ago

I do not have cable either, but I enjoy the HGTV shows when I catch them. I think most of the shows are filmed in Canada so the prices aren’t exactly what you or I would pay. Also, as someone that regularly visits Toronto I can honestly say that things like $700-1M homes are pretty “normal” in a lot of the areas. Of course it’s still a lot of money but the there is only so much good land available in the cities. I noticed in some of the shows the people are starting to move out further to places… Read more »


I absolutely agree with your take on the houses and those who watch HGTV. We’ve been looking at co-ops here and I notice a lot of people who have renovated their places. Kitchens are always touted as a good “investment” even though I don’t agree…sure it will increase the value of the place but some people go to extreme with the renovations. What’s so great about granite countertops and stainless steel appliances? It’s all for show. As for TV, I’ve never had cable TV and don’t plan on getting it. I have an antenna and Netflix…plenty to watch.

6 years ago

We have cable, but only because it is included in rent. But prior to moving to Cayman we only had netflix and rented the occasional movie from amazon prime. I have to say my fiance and I do enjoy the shows you listed. I think the biggest thing is to recognize the ridiculousness of these people’s “needs”. Our personal favorite is the “where is the bath tub???” I can’t even imagine a grown man taking a bubble bath. To each his own, it doesn’t really affect me in any way. So if they need that grand entrance for guests to… Read more »

A Frugal Family's Journey

We have been without cable for several months (around the same time that I started my blog) and I can say I don’t miss a thing. Well, maybe I’m just too busy building and improving on my new blog. Regardless, we now have an extra $100/month that I now put towards dividends stocks and/or P2P notes on Prosper or Lending Club. One day, those investments will pay for my cable bill…if I ever choose to have one again. 🙂 AFFJ

6 years ago

Those were probably my favorite shows at one point in time (reverse order though: Prop Bros, LoveItOrListIt, HouseHunters).

I cut the cord a while back, but still watch the local channels (gratis of course).
There’s an Instructable on how to make a sweet antenna for less than $5, but with the high winds I opted for a bulletproof outdoor one from Amazon for $20.

My Dividend Pipeline
6 years ago

I would love to cut the cable TV, but my wife is addicted to Game of Thrones along with a few National Geographic programs. *sigh* I have learned over the years that some battles are worth fighting and some aren’t.:-)


The First Million is the Hardest

I could never cut the cord as they say. I’m way too addicted to watching sports and there’s just no good way to replace that for free (that i know of).

I find those HGTV shows to be hilarious. The stuff those people think they “need” in a house is ridiculous. It’s very easy to see why so many people buy so much more house than they can truly afford.

Dividend Mantra
6 years ago

FI Fighter, I haven’t had cable in quite some time, but when I did I used to watch HGTV sometimes for the International House Hunters show. Although I knew it was all fake and set up, I also enjoyed the travel aspect of it seeing far-flung places and what housing costs there. Other than that, that channel must have a secret agreement going on with the home improvement stores! I personally enjoy renting right now. And now that I’m renting a $200 room I’m even happier. Of course, this situation is a bit temporary. However, even if I do buy… Read more »


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