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Cutting the Cord to Curb Spending

A few weeks ago, my colleague Samantha Solomon wrote about lessening her desire to buy, a topic that doesn’t receive nearly enough attention.

I’m sure everyone has felt that burning desire to buy something, regardless of whether we really need it. We just want it, and after all, we work hard for our money, don’t we?

But the fact that this experience is so commonly understood shouldn’t provide validation. It’s a cause for alarm.

Our spending habits are psychologically driven, and there are many, many factors that influence our decision to either spend or save.

A change of scenery – say, from a fast-moving urban environment to a rural community in Vermont – is a grand example. Yet, there are many other powerful influences affecting our spending habits, and it’s important to understand the forces acting upon us.

Kicking Television

One of the most influential forces is advertising – and there’s no more potent delivery mechanism for it than television.

Now, it may be tempting to argue that TV advertising’s influence is diminishing rapidly thanks to subscription services such as HBO, Netflix, and Hulu, which essentially provide ad-free content as an alternative to cable television.

Unfortunately, it’s expensive to unbundle cable and internet, and subscription services are a luxury that many of us can’t afford. Even with so many new options available to them, the vast majority of people still pay for traditional cable.

Thus, it’s difficult to overstate how much advertising we’re exposed to on a day-to-day basis.

And whether we want to believe it or not, television advertising simply works. In fact, TV advertising remains by far the most effective form of advertising.

A 2015 MarketShare white paper titled “Evaluating TV Effectiveness in a Changed Media Landscape” concludes that TV’s effectiveness at driving advertiser performance indicators hasn’t diminished.

Furthermore, TV is the most efficient delivery mechanism for advertising success across disparate industries including retail, telecom, financial services, and automobile.

Finally, the report states, “TV is a major driver of indirect outcomes such as inbound calls, organic search query volumes, and website visits – which, in turn, lead to direct outcomes, such as purchases…”

Consider another example. Below is a chart tracking the cost of a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl, the most watched television event of the year.

Cost of Superbowl Television Advertising Over Time

Given the incredible sums of money paid for just 30 seconds of ad space, it’s virtually certain that advertisers see a correlation between brand exposure and profit. In other words, the more exposure their ads get, the more we buy.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Hard as we may try to ignore advertising, we’re undeniably and powerfully influenced by its messaging. Thus, the easiest solution is to simply unplug.

Now, I’m not advocating drastic changes. I won’t implore you to cancel your cable subscription and pawn your TV. But I guarantee that as you slowly lessen the number of minutes and hours spent in front of the tube, you’ll begin to notice positive changes.

The hollow yearning silently perpetuated by the parade of ads will start to ebb. The desire for something you almost certainly don’t need, like a new car or truck, the thought of eating at a fancy restaurant, the fear of missing out on the latest iPhone – these will dissipate.

Coincidentally, you’ll also discover a wealth of time that you can spend on other, more enriching activities. Simply taking a walk outside will make you feel more relaxed and content than any show ever could.

From there you can really expand your horizons. For instance, my wife and I decided to plant a vegetable garden, an undertaking that has proven to be as challenging as it is rewarding. Weeding can be hard work, and the garden requires regular attention throughout the spring and summer.

But admiring our handiwork after a few hours spent digging in the dirt brings more satisfaction and pride than I could ever hope to receive from watching TV – and I’m not left wanting some superfluous object, either.

That, as Sam alluded to in her column, is the key: The more content we feel, the less we need to compensate by spending our money.

To Living a Richer Life,

Chris Worthington

Chris Worthington

, Editor-in-Chief of Income

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