Your TV Budget: How Much Is Too Much To Spend on TV?

Is "Twin Peaks" breaking your bank? It's time to rethink your subscription streaming habits.
Twin Peaks The Return Showtime Kyle MacLachlan
Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

The concept of “too much TV” wasn’t a problem we were ready to complain about… but “Twin Peaks” broke us.

“The Return” didn’t just damage our brains — while trying to understand the uninterpretable mind of David Lynch — but the combination of Dale Cooper, David Duchovny in drag, and damn good coffee means we have to spend an extra $11 a month on streaming services now. And, like many new Showtime Anytime subscribers, that cost is on top of what we were already paying each month to watch the shows we want to watch.

Forget too much TV — how much is too much to spend on TV?

Showtime is now a subscription requirement for telephiles, at least for the next 16 weeks. That means you’ll be nearly spending an extra $50 on TV over four months. So with “Twin Peaks” in mind, we’ve tried to provide a few suggestions to keep your spending in check during TV’s “peak” season.

READ MORE: The ‘Twin Peaks’ Log Lady Is the Series’ Wisest Character, and Could Save Them All

Below, we’ve broken down the key elements — time, viewing habits, and commitment — to help you make better decisions and spend your money wisely. Whether you’ve cut the cord completely or pay for the best cable package out there, these tips are geared toward add-ons like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Starz, Showtime, YouTube Red, and other streaming services that you can buy monthly.

So let’s get crackin’. There’s a lot of TV out there.

The Leftovers Season 3 Mimi Leder Justin Theroux


How much time do you have? It’s a simple question, but not one people think about when it comes to TV. If you’re at work from 8am – 6pm every day and have weekends off, how much of that free time do you want to spend watching TV? Answering that question, even with a range of hours, will help you save money on your bill each month.

Biggest Mistake: People don’t cancel subscriptions.

Think about it: You just bought Showtime Anytime to watch “Twin Peaks,” but your life hasn’t changed. You still only have 10 hours per week to watch TV, and “The Leftovers,” “House of Cards,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” are all airing new episodes this month.

What do you do?

Cancel one. Or, to put it the way you should be thinking about it, put one service on hold. You are not making yearly commitments with these add-ons. They’re monthly, so treat them like monthly habits. If you’re going out of town, you put your newspaper subscription on hold, don’t you? (Or you did, when you still got a physical newspaper?)

So do the same with TV: If you don’t have time for every show, you don’t need every service. But seriously — don’t cancel HBO. “The Leftovers” is so freaking good right now.

READ MORE: ‘The Leftovers’: Justin Theroux Gets Naked in a Surprise Emmys Campaign That’s Not From HBO — Watch

Dear White People Season 1 Episode 5 Marque Richardson

Viewing Habits

OK, so now that you’ve got a handle on how much time you’ve got each month, how do you watch TV? Do you binge like crazy or space things out? Do you watch episodes the second they’re available or wait and stack up a bunch?

If you’re one of the many bingers, you can really save a lot. Designate one month for each service and cut the rest. Depending on how much time you have (and how many shows you want to watch on each service), you can spend May watching the many new Netflix offerings, June catching up on Hulu content like “Casual” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” July on everything from HBO, and so on and so on as needed.

If you’re a binge watcher who’s also patient — meaning you don’t have to watch things the second they air — identify which months are crucial. For instance, “The Leftovers” ends the first week of June. If you haven’t been watching, I mean, shame on you, but also you’ll have access to all eight episodes on June 4 (the day of the series finale). Start your subscription then and catch up all at once, while paying for just one month. (Then watch “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” as needed, in between “Leftovers” episodes or after you’re done.)

If you’re a punctual weekly watcher – like you’d have to be to watch shows like “Twin Peaks” as soon as they air — you have to be a little more careful. Make sure your subscriptions are active for the shows that really matter — maybe even rank them by priority — and then get brutal about cutting services. Is your sixth favorite show right now also your top-ranked Netflix series? Cut it. Do you find yourself short on time in June? Cut more. Just keep cutting until you’re happy with your budget, and you’ll be happier overall anyway. Why?

Biggest Mistake: People binge too fast and too casually.

Choose what you want to binge, but don’t rush it. Don’t play “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the background as you’re cleaning. It’s worth your attention. And space out episodes of “House of Cards” enough that you’re not in a stupor during the middle five episodes. Unless that’s your idea of peak relaxation, you’re wasting the best part of peak TV: the peaks!

READ MORE: ‘Casual’ Season 3 Review: No More Excuses — It’s Time to Watch Hulu’s Incisive and Enlivening Comedy

Kyle MacLachlan, "Twin Peaks"


How much do you love the show(s)? For the right show, we’re willing to pay the price. That much was made clear with “Twin Peaks.” Even as people complained it wasn’t on one of the more popular streaming services, they still shelled over their cold hard cash for a Showtime subscription.

So if you absolutely love shows “Twin Peaks,” “The Leftovers,” “Handmaid’s Tale,” and “House of Cards,” odds are you’ll have to subscribe to Showtime, HBO, Hulu, and Netflix in May. The options above still apply, but only if you can wait. If you can’t, you’re stuck.

That being said, it’s far more likely that from month-to-month one or two optional services isn’t offering something you want to see. You need to recognize when this happens and make a trade.

Biggest Mistake: People watch bad shows instead of paying for good ones.

People don’t realize what they’re spending money on. Netflix is $10-a-month now. How many of you even noticed the change on their credit card bill? HBO is $15, which feels like a lot when you start off, but wouldn’t you rather pay an extra $5 for three or four months a year to keep up with “Game of Thrones,” “Veep,” “Silicon Valley,” and, yes, “The Leftovers” rather than keep throwing money at Netflix every single month? Remember: Some months have Adam Sandler movies, and other months have Adam Sandler movies.

READ MORE: ‘Twin Peaks’: Why You Need to Watch the Pilot Again Before the Revival Premieres

So don’t ask what channel it’s on and then give up if you don’t already pay for it. Take a month off Netflix and catch up on “Kingdom.” Drop HBO when “The Leftovers” ends and recover by watching “Casual.” Use free trials wisely. Don’t waste it on a show that you only kind of want to watch.

If all this sounds like too much work, well, you can pay for the convenience of keeping things regular. But for TV as weird as David Lynch, you need to go the extra mile.

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