The Cost Of Entertainment
I, like most people in the USA, love entertainment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2004 we spent over $540 Billion entertaining ourselves (I include eating out at restaurants entertainment – we’ll discuss this in a different time and place). Although the last decade or so has seen many changes in the type of entertainment we prefer, one thing stays the same – we watch entertainment in order to:
- live a simulated life
- pass time
When we are younger, we certainly watch entertainment more often than when we become adults. This has some fairly obvious causes, such as more responsibility, a job, and finding other ways to spend your time resourcefully. But is our national splurge on entertainment really a good thing?
We, as humans, have several physical as well as psychological needs. Let us first look at the physical needs, which we are generally more self-aware of.
We have a need for Food, without which we wouldn’t get any nourishment or energy. We have a need for Water, which makes up to 70% of our bodies. We have a need for Sleep in order for our bodies to recharge and heal. Lastly, we have a need for Shelter, which protects us from the elements and predators. There is no way around these needs, and these are, for all practical purposes, required costs of living, or, for those of us in the business world, “A cost of doing business”.
Sure, you can skip sleeping for a night or two, eat infrequently, or parch yourself dry, but not without feeling the effects and seriously harming yourself and likely killing yourself.
Now let’s move on to the psychological needs. These needs are much less defined than physical needs, and therefore harder to satisfy. I’ll try to stick with what psychologists would tell. We have a need for a secure environment, which allows us to exist without fear and develop confidence. We have a need to learn, which prevents our brain cells from dying out. We have a need to be occupied and engaged, without which we would dire of boredom. Maslow would add in a few more, which are nice to have, but they don’t really describe required costs of living since, for example, love is nice, but it doesn’t have to exist. Few will argue how spectacular it can be, but it isn’t a built-in requirement for living.
Where We Spend
Once we agree on this (feel free to add a comment if you don’t), we can think of how strange it is that we spend so much of our Time and Money on entertainment. Don’t forget, you don’t just spend money on your entertainment, you need to pay for that entertainment by spending your time.
The greatest commodity of all time – entertainment. Someone actually convinced us to waste our time and money buying something that we don’t truly need. It’s no different than visiting your garage and asking for an oil change, only to be talked into a full maintenance package (every time, amazingly).
A Better Path
How can we deal with the reasons why we need entertainment in the first place? Well, let’s revisit why Americans have a love affair with entertainment along with a better path for each:
How can we deal with the reasons why we need entertainment in the first place? Well, let’s revisit why Americans have a love affair with entertainment along with a better path for each:- relax/de-stress - Take a hot shower, read a book, or, my personal favorite: don’t get into the situation in the first place.
- laugh – Spend time with friends, appreciate the ironies in life.
- live a simulated life – Why not take the time to enjoy your life instead? Spend more time with your family, for one. Living a simulated life is a great excuse for not working hard to make your life better.
- pass time – Find someone to help, or something resourceful to do. The good feeling will last way past the usual good feeling of a 2 hour movie.
We should demand more out of entertainment. If all you are getting out of it is entertainment, you are wasting your money. If you spend money on entertainment and get food as well, it becomes less of a waste, because you are fulfilling a physical need. If you spend money on entertainment that is educational, you are wasting less money, because you are getting something back aside from just “killing time”. Some familiar ways of mixing the two are:
- Restaurant (not fast-food)
- A quality book
- Resort Hotel
By combining entertainment with an actual need of ours, we actually get better value out of our entertainment spending. Obviously, if you can cut back on entertainment spending in general, you would be better off, but how many of us are willing to turn off the TV, Radio, and so on?