People who spout off about how they don’t have a TV always remind me of The Onion’s “Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn’t Own A Television.”

But the #1 reason people have for not doing what they want to do is time. The refrain: “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” And yet these same people manage to veg out in front of the TV (the average person now watches 4.5 hours of TV a day).

“How Dumping TV Allowed Me to Quit My Job, Create an Online Business and Fund My Retirement Account” gives the actual financial costs of watching TV:

It’s amazing the amount you can accomplish when you find an extra 3,285 hours to work on something you enjoy doing rather than vegging in front of the TV. Those hours helped us create a small network of websites and blogs which allowed both of us to quit our jobs and work on them full time a couple of years ago…

To put it into perspective, if you watch an average of 31.5 hours of TV each week (which the average person in the US does) and you value your time at minimum wage of $5.85 an hour, you are spending nearly $800 a month ($798.53) to watch TV. That comes to nearly $10,000 ($9582.30) a year. I would imagine that most people reading this value their time well above minimum wage, so the cost is likely several times that number. When you look at it from that perspective, watching TV is an extremely expensive and financial draining habit to have.

Seeing the costs broken down like that really shines a light on the problem. Life’s about priorities. If there’s something you want to be doing, ask yourself how much your TV viewing is getting in the way.

Choose your tube
The article above also offers some good tips on how to get your TV watching down. Something that’s worked great for me: I moved recently and didn’t get cable at my new place. My viewing is now limited to things I choose to watch on Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube.

The choosing is the key there. It means I have to actively pick things to watch instead of just flipping through whatever’s on. As a result, I watch way less TV overall. No more SportsCenter highlights, no more local news, no more American Idol. Before, I’d get swallowed up in any/all of those and realize hours had just slipped away. That’s no longer an issue.

Finding more hours
While I’m on the subject, another great way to deposit some hours in your free time bank: Don’t commute. Obviously it’s not an option for everyone. But if there’s a way you can work from home, even if it’s just a day or two a week, think of the extra time you’ll have that you usually spend in traffic, on the train, etc.

An hour here, an hour there. It starts to add up. Then you can use that time to build something on the side. A few hours a week on a project will tell you if you’re onto something. You’ll know if you love doing it. You’ll know if others care at all. Then you can decide if it’s worth throwing more hours at or if it was just a fun thing to try. Either way, you didn’t have to quit your job or do anything too risky.