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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

84. What is the Lifetime Cost of Cable or Satellite?



Cable or satellite today is seen as a need by many people. Is it a need or a justifiable expense? Let's take a look. Here are some assumptions.

*You start paying for cable or satellite at age 22.
*You either get a package for $60, $75, or $100 a month respectively
*You pay for cable for 50 years or until you are 72.

Cable or satellite costs seem to rise about 5% per year. (See Source 1) So doing some basic math how expensive is cable or satellite?

Basic Math

So let's do some basic math here. Let’s assume no interest but simply add up what cable or satellite service would cost if a person had the service for 50 years.

Scenario 1: Assuming a person pays an average of $60 a month for cable or satellite and has similar service for 50 years that is $36,000.00. 

($60 a month x 12 months x 50 years = $36,000.00)


Scenario 2: Assuming a person pays an average of $75 a month for cable or satellite and has similar service for 50 years that is $45,000.00. 

($75 a month x 12 months x 50 years = $45,000.00)


Scenario 3: Assuming a person pays an average of $100 a month for cable or satellite and has similar service for 50 years that is $60,000.00. 

($100 a month x 12 months x 50 years = $60,000.00)


What About Investing the Money Instead?



Question: What if instead of having cable or satellite you'd invest that money monthly? What is the opportunity cost of cable or satellite?

Interestingly enough this investment calculator was the first to pop up on my Google search.

If you were to take Scenario 1 and instead of spending $60 a month on cable/satellite invest the money at 5% annual rate of return for 50 years you would have $158,267.06. If you’re rate of return increases to 7% after 50 years the value of the investment would be $313,189.73. If you’re rate of return increases to 10% after 50 years the value of the investment would be $921,815.55.

If you were to take Scenario 2 and instead of spending $75 a month on cable/satellite invest the money at 5% annual rate of return for 50 years you would have $197,834.05. If you’re rate of return increases to 7% after 50 years the value of the investment would be $391,487.51. If you’re rate of return increases to 10% after 50 years the value of the investment would be $1,152,270.64.

If you were to take Scenario 3 and instead of spending $100 a month on cable/satellite invest the money at 5% annual rate of return for 50 years you would have $263,778.53. If you’re rate of return increases to 7% after 50 years the value of the investment would be $521,893.19. If you’re rate of return increases to 10% after 50 years the value of the investment would be $1,536,359.24.

This doesn’t account for inflation of course. Granted, a dollar today will not have the same value as a dollar 50 years from now.

Average Americans watch 81 hours of TV a month. (See Source 1) That would be 972 hours a year. That would be 48,600 hours in 50 years. What additional return in skills development, work, networking, exercise, qualify family time, time spent volunteering, time spent investing in spiritual matters could you gain from having another 48,600 hours of life?

Understand I’m not advocating eliminating ALL forms of TV or movies. I’d just like people to understand what they are potentially giving up or what cable/satellite is costing them.



There is even data to suggest that the millennial generation will never get cable or satellite TV. (See source 2) Too many alternatives such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other options out there.

1. Does this view of cable or satellite change your outlook on justifying it as an expense? 

2. What could you do with the investments listed above? Save to buy a vehicle cash? Pay off your mortgage faster? Invest in college funds for the kids? Give more to your local church or favorite charity? Adopt a kid through Compassion International? Put the money towards retirement accounts?

3. Do you find yourself in financial trouble? Are you paying your bills on time every month? Do you have lots of credit card, car loan, or student loan debt? Perhaps you should consider cutting the cord?