Is a Television a Want or a Need?

May 28, 2012

On Saturday afternoon, after a crazy morning of not sleeping followed by going hiking, I curled up on the couch for a nap. The sliding door was open, with both the sun and a slight breeze creeping in; that plus exhaustion was going to equal an epic afternoon nap (and would make up for the sleep I’d missed the night before). With a blanket up over my chin, I turned on my TV and started watching something on my PVR. My eyes were already half-shut, when my TV went blank.

At first, I wondered if the power had gone out. But my PVR was still running and so was everything else in my apartment. I tried turning the TV and PVR back on with the remote. The PVR came on but the TV did not. I walked up to the TV and hit the Power button. Nothing. Then I unplugged everything from the power bar, plugged them back into different spots, and tried again. Still nothing. I even plugged the TV directly into the outlet. No power. Nothing but a blank screen. And this is when I felt a few moments of panic.

I hit up Google and searched, “my 40″ Samsung HDTV died.” Let me tell you… the results did not make me feel any better. Post after post after post proved that I was not alone in the loss of a young Samsung HDTV. The upside is that most people said the problem was often fixable by replacing an electrical capacitor. The downside is that that’s not always the case and, unless you can replace it yourself, could cost up to $250 at a repair shop. I don’t exactly have $250 lying around… and that’s when I started thinking about whether fixing/replacing my TV was a want or a need.

First, I decided to calculate what this TV had already cost me. In October 2009, I purchased it from Future Shop for $900 (incl. taxes). Let’s now remember that that was during one of my spend crazes so, as you can imagine, it went on my credit card. $900 / 2.5 years = $360/year or $30/month. Plus interest. For a television that should have lasted me at least 10 years, making this purchase could potentially be my biggest financial mistake.

Second, I researched the cost of repair as well as the cost of replacement. A capacitor seems to cost no more than $2 so, if my dad can do the repair himself, it will cost basically nothing but time and effort. However, if it’s not a capacitor and he can’t determine the issue, I will then need to decide if it’s worth repairing or just buying something new. Another 40″ HDTV will run me about $499 + tax. A repair could be cheaper but I’m also one of those people who is really weary of getting any electronic repaired at a shop (that may be my one conspiracy theory, lol).

Either way, paying for a repair/replacement has not been in my budget. I’m beefing up my Emergency Fund right now, for the sole reason that I could potentially lose some of my income in the coming months, and anything television-related is just simply not an emergency. I haven’t watched much hockey since the Canucks lost in the first round, the Lakers are also out, and the only shows I’m really watching are Mad Men and The Killing (both of which I can stream). On top of that, the next 5 weeks could be the busiest of my entire life. What better time to not have a television?

Of course, there are things I will miss about not having a TV for a while (if it’s not an easy fix):

  • I won’t be able to watch Breakfast Television in the morning.
  • I will have to stream the Lang & O’Leary Exchange after work.
  • I won’t be able to have friends over for TV/movie nights.

But when I tried to make a list that could justify paying for a quick repair/replacement, I got stuck:

  • I don’t need a TV to survive.

And so, I’m not going to worry about it right now. I will bring it over to the ‘rents sometime, so Dad and I can take the back off and have a look at it. If it’s not something he can fix, it will have to wait until I can save up for a solution.

What would you do if your TV died today?

  • Melissa May 28, 2012 at 4:49 am

    Thankfully, I live in a house with a TV that’s bigger than my couch, and probably a gazillion other smaller ones. Haha. But back at my apartment, if my TV crapped out (32″ Samsung flatscreen), I’d probably do whatever I could to fix it within reason, and then I’d just toss it and trade it in for one of the many old boxy tube TVs my parents have sitting around their place (my stepdad is kind of packrat). I really love picture quality the flatscreen, so I’d probably replace it eventually, but I wouldn’t worry too much about replacing it right away.

    I’m of the mind that a TV is definitely a want, but one of those more questionable wants, like a dishwasher. Yes, you can obviously live quite easily without it, but some people get such enjoyment out of it, that I’d never *tell* someone that it was a want and thus, they had to get rid of it. Maybe it’s less a “want” and more of an “almost need.”

    I can tell you if my parents had to choose between giving up one of their cars, and their big screen TV, I wouldn’t be surprised if they picked the TV (for which they paid a lot more than my mom paid for my used Honda Civic!).

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      Ha! If it comes down to replacing it, I think I’ll either look for something used/cheap online or save up for something smaller like a 32″. I would be so pissed if I spent the extra money on another 40″ and it died again.

  • Daisy May 28, 2012 at 6:16 am

    I’d probably get an old, ugly free TV on Craigslist or something like that – I probably wouldn’t go without, but I can’t fathom spending a ton of money on a new TV. Do you have warranty on your tv? Maybe try calling Samsung? It shouldn’t have died already!

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      I only had the 1 Year Manufacturer Warranty, so no… but I might call after my dad has a look at it. Thanks!

  • Bridget (@moneyaftergrad) May 28, 2012 at 6:23 am

    You don’t need a TV.

    I don’t own a TV — and haven’t for nearly 2 years. I watch everything on my laptop. Sometimes I would like a TV, but I’m actually worried that if I get one, I’ll watch it too much and be less productive =

    Don’t get a TV! Enjoy your life!!

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      Love this!

  • Dawn May 28, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Try a month without TV and see what happens.
    If you can’t last the month, then you’ll know that repairing/replacing the TV is worth it. If you find you don’t miss the TV, then you can wait until finances allow you to deal with it.

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      Good call, Dawn! Thanks.

  • Mommi2csj May 28, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I go online and buy a new one from a buy ans sell group for five bucks! Lol. I own 5 tvs right now. My kids all have one and we have them in ech room. I rarely turn them on when the kids are not home,

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      $5!? Teach me your secrets!

      • Mommi2csj May 29, 2012 at 8:49 am

        Well, they are the big giant old ones, but who cares…almost broke my back getting it home, haha

  • Michelle May 28, 2012 at 10:07 am

    I have that same tv! Hopefully mine doesn’t break. But if it did, I have 3 or 4 in storage and 3 other flatscreens in the house. Yes this is bad. If they all broke, I’d honestly buy another one just because I love TV. I wish I wasn’t so dependent.

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      Can I just buy one of yours? hehe

  • Cassie May 28, 2012 at 10:17 am

    I’ve never owned a TV of my own. The last time I willingly had a TV in my living room was 6 or 7 years ago. Bridget is right, TV is definitely not a need. If you try going a month TV free you’ll notice your productivity goes WAY up, because suddenly you have an hour+ to work with that you didn’t have before. That’s work out time, side project time, cleaning time, Bold Academy time, you name it. I’d really recommend trying it.

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      I’m definitely going to try it for a month. I do, however, often have people over for movie/TV nights… so not having one would change my social life a bit. Hmm. Guess we’ll see what’s wrong w/ it first!

  • Pamela @ May 28, 2012 at 10:31 am

    We still don’t even own a flatscreen TV – our old one still works fine & I’m not a big TV fan (I’m that person who’s never even heard of most of the shows on TV). Eventually I’d like to get one though, if only to finally use my Apple TV I’ve never got to use!

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      I should’ve just kept my old CRT…

  • belowhermeans May 28, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I never owned a TV until I moved in with M. Now we share a flatscreen plasma but he definitely watches more TV than I do. Two episodes of anything is my max and sometimes I can’t even sit through movies. I prefer to be in our bedroom curled up with a book. Television is definitely a want.

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      I totally agree w/ you in that it’s already made me read so much more. And just be more productive in general! Thanks for your comment :)

  • Brittany May 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I think you should get past this busy time in your life and then figure out if you want to have tv in your life again. It doesn’t sound like you were letting it suck away valuable time when you could have been more productive. Everything in moderation! I am for you having tv again, but later down the road when you are less busy and perhaps have money saved up to fix it, buy a new one, etc.

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      I think I’m going to do exactly what you suggested, Brittany. I will still get my dad to look at it soon, but if he can’t fix it then I’m going to wait until August to deal w/ it!

  • ashlyandmonkey May 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    I watch tv much more than I should… and I say I could do without it but everytime I wake up in the morning I turn it on… when I get home from work, I turn it on and at night I put it on for background sound… It’s like a crutch! lol. I think unless you have a really nice big laptop or desktop screen, a TV is a must.

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      I hear that. The past couple of mornings, every time I wake up or come home, I want to turn it on. I wonder if that’s a habit that will change, by not having one? Hmm.

  • Vanessa Pagé May 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    I bought a 27″ CRT on Craigslist a few years ago for 70$ (I probably could have haggled it lower though in all honesty…) and it works fine! At that time I was at my parents so I was using their cable/PVR but now that I’m in an apartment I just use it to play DVDs. I can find any TV show I want online (which saves on cable!) and I can live without HDTV or 3D TV or whatever’s out there now

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      Hahaha, and that is why I heart you.

  • Canadianbudgetbinder May 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    It’s definitely a want for us and I’m sure most people. We recently purchased a 55in Panasonic Vierra with Facebook,You Tube and other great apps. We used tv’s from freecycle for years until I saved enough to buy this tv. We then freecycled all of our 4 tube televisions. I did pay half price for the tv so when it saw it on sale for 1 day I price matched it.

    I was certainly motivated by the price. Saving for a tv that was over $1700 and paying under $800 got me off my seat. I’m happy we bought it, and paid cash for it. We saved the money in our budget as we do with anything we want to buy that is a want.
    Cheers Mr.CBB

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      That’s a great price and wonderful you were able to pay for it with cash! That’ll be my goal, if I have to fix/replace it.

  • centsofacountrygirl May 28, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    I’ll be honest, if my tv broke today and couldn’t be repaired, I’d go get a new one. I don’t even have cable – but I love watching movies and playing video games on my big tv. It’s the only new thing I bought when I got my house. I suppose I could watch everything on my laptop, but it’s hard on the eyes and not ideal for having a movie night with a bunch of friends.

    Hopefully all your tv needs is a quick and easy fix.

    • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Hopefully! Because I host TV/movie nights a lot and don’t really want that to stop…

  • Cait May 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Right. And I love watching news, some shows, etc. so a part of me considers it a need. Maybe it’s just not a need during the summer, when nothing is on!? :)

  • Budget & the Beach May 28, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I personally couldn’t live without a TV. It’s definitely a want purchase, but it’s my main source of home entertainment next to my computer. That being said, if my TV broke (which BTW I bought like 12 years ago used for $100), I’d probably look for something used on craigslist. I’m not super picky about having the latest and greatest features in a TV.

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:20 am

      It’s great to hear so many good stories about used TVs! Thanks!

  • Diana May 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    I would def say have dad come over to look at it before you pay for anything. I love watching my favorite shows, but there are so many other things more exciting than watching tv, esp now that summer is almost here, so I can def live without a tv. Would I miss it, yes…but I could survive! ;)

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:20 am

      Oh, Dad and I are definitely taking the back off and having a look. Maybe this weekend.

  • Andrea @SoOverDebt May 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Honestly I’d probably throw a party if mine died. I HATE watching TV (which I know makes me some kind of alien). My son is watching it now and the noise gets on my last nerve.

    We basically watch Netflix and that’s it. The only thing I watch on cable is The Walking Dead. (I actually cut off the cable, but I still get the channels because I have cable internet.) All our movies have been ripped to iTunes and we use an Apple TV to stream them. It’s not a perfect solution for people who just love TV, but it works well for us.

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:22 am

      I think that’s a great solution! I planned on cutting my cable at the end of 2012 anyway but I still love, love, love watching movies. And having friends over to do so. I don’t think I’ll be buying big/new, if it comes down to replacing it.

  • afistfulodollars May 28, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I think in almost every case a TV is classified as a want. It would really suck if it actually is dead and it’s a pretty recent purchase (and you’d also have to consider what your threshold is for repairs – I did this with my 2007 MacBook), but I think once you started to go without it, you wouldn’t miss it much. Considering how much you have going on in your life right now, I think not having TV would give you some much needed additional time!

    My fingers are crossed that your dad can fix it!

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:22 am

      Mine too!

  • myjampackedlife May 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    My kids would kill me that’s for sure. I would still like one at the house if it broke though. I watch an hour before bed every night and it’s my time to relax and unwind. Having said that, I can watch most of what I want o my iPad, but it’s trust not the same sometimes.

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:23 am

      No, it’s not. I can appreciate that!

  • serendipitysavings May 29, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Unless you make your living as Nelson TV ratings person, TV is a want, just like internet ( if you don’t use it for work) and Starbucks. It always amazes me that some people would say it was a need. I know if I couldn’t make it work, cable would be the first thing I would cut. Also, I see a lot of people saying they watch Netflix so perhaps a TV isn’t a big want or a need as much as entertainment for cheap is.

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:27 am

      Cable is really expensive in Canada. The minute my promo deal runs out, I’m cancelling it. But I’m a big movie watcher! And always have people over to do that.

  • deenadollars May 29, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Out of the last 9 years (4 years of college + 5 years out), I have owned a TV for six months of it, and it was like a 12″ CRT. BF and I dated 5 months before we got around to watching TV or a movie together, and even then it was like half an episode of Family Guy in some hotel. It’s just not part of my life, which like Andrea said, makes me kind of an alien. I can’t relate to even pondering TV as a need, to be honest.

    That said, we all have our things that make our life more enjoyable….DON’T TOUCH MY IPHONE! :) I think opportunities like this (your TV breaking, my iPhone being stolen six months ago) give us the chance to be mindful about the priorities we’ve built our lives around and decide actively whether we are happy with those choices. If you come out of the other side of this, and make the active choice to get your TV fixed, I say do it.

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:28 am

      Priorities = 1 million deadlines for me, right? hehe.

  • Lisa May 29, 2012 at 6:54 am

    I could live without a TV. My husband, on the other would feel that he could not survive without one.

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:28 am

      I can relate to that too (not husband but some people).

  • psychsarah May 29, 2012 at 7:11 am

    I concur with you that it’s a want. We switched cable providers a few months ago to save money, and found out that our old 32″ tube tv wouldn’t work with the new provider (needed some kind of cable that the old tv wouldn’t accept-grrrr!) I refused to eat up the savings we were getting from switching to buy a new tv, so we’re using a 19″ monitor that we had lying around instead. My husband thinks it’s ridiculous because it’s so small, but I don’t watch much tv now that we have a kiddo (I don’t want him watching it-it’s not good for him, or for me probably now that I think of it…), DH has his huge tv in the basement (the one that had to be replaced was the one I watched on the main floor when he plays his online X Box games). If only I knew you might need a tv-we literally couldn’t give away the perfectly functioning 32″-Goodwill didn’t want it, as no one will buy an old boxy tv anymore. We had to find somewhere to recycle it! Absurd really. Good luck fixing yours!

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:29 am

      Can you try getting rid of it for free online? I got rid of my old one, that way!

  • Lindsay May 29, 2012 at 8:55 am

    This is exciting! You will get so much more done now!
    I lived without a TV for 3 years. Just stream what you need, and let people know your TV died. There will be one person with four extra TVs who will GIVE you one. That happened with me and it is great for movies.
    Also, cancel your cable and fold those savings into your emergency (or TV) fund!

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:30 am

      I hope I get so much more done now! Thanks for the tips, Lindsay!

  • A May 29, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Honestly, we would probably get it repaired or buy a new TV as soon as we had the money for it (which would probably only be a couple of weeks of saving). The Olympics are coming up and when the Olympics are on, they’re on 24/7 at our house. I HAVE to watch them. Plus, we only have the 1 TV, so there’s not another one to watch instead. I can’t say for certain who would have a harder time without it. J “needs” to watch sports (especially the Detroit Red Wings, which are thankfully done for now) but I “need” to watch my bad, bad, bad reality TV.

    I really only watch a lot of TV on Sundays, when J works and I’m hanging out at home. Otherwise I don’t really watch it that much. We try to do at least one tv-free night per week and we’re so much more productive that night. I am sure we’d be all sorts of crazy productive if we didn’t have a TV at all…

    I think your TV crapping out is serendipitous. You have tons of projects coming up that need to be taken care of before you head to Colorado, so I’d take it as a sign and wait to get it repaired or replaced! (I realize I am a hypocrite, but I don’t have anything going on like you do! haha)

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:31 am

      haha, you’re not a hypocrite… you’re just looking out for me! :)

  • clutteredmoney May 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

    My sister has a Samsung & she recently told me hatters is a class action law suit against them for hat very issue. She’s had the same issue happen to her 3 separate times. Try google or calling their corporate office. I think if they can’t fix it then thy have to replace it.

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:32 am

      WHOA! Thank you for telling me this.

  • TheDebtprincess Jessica May 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    I have a very small 19″ or something flatscreen tv that is rarely ever turned on. I don’t have cable or satellite. We watch what we are able to receive through my $10 antenna. I don’t miss it at all. In fact, I like not having television. Bonus is that my kids are exposed to a lot less marketing ploys which I find completely annoying.

    • Cait May 30, 2012 at 6:32 am

      I’d say that’s the best bonus!

  • Mike Collins May 31, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Tough one. Even though I find myself watching less and less tv these days I do like to crash on the couch and watch a good movie or one or two shows I enjoy. I’d probably get a replacement pretty quickly but I’d take some time to shop around a bit too.

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  • writerlythings August 19, 2012 at 11:52 am


    I am brand new to your blog ( love it!) and just stumbled upon this post. FYI: Samsung FULLY covers this repair. Literally this summer they had to settle when this issue was brought to court. We looked up our Samsung year and model number and found out that we were eligible for repair. Problem was that no one in our town was a certified Samsung dealer. BUT my husband called Samsung directly and they were super nice and agreed to pay to have a repair man located about thirty minutes from our house come out and do the job for us. He came, replaced the capacitors and we’ve had no problems since. If you still have this TV, DEFINITELY call Samsung. It’s money in your pocket in that even if you decide to get a new TV later you’ll be able to sell the old one.

    Hope this advice is helpful. :)

  • Katie C. September 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    If it was just me, I wouldn’t have one. I watch all of my shows on my laptop (except Pretty Little Liars but I could stream it). Unfortunately, David writes video game reviews for freelance work, so we’d have to replace it for his work. Shucks!