Opportunity costs: Another cost often overlooked when considering the price of watching TV is the opportunities forfeited when you choose viewing over something else. You could start a business, take on a part-time job or take care of your garden so you don't have to pay someone else to do it. Assuming that your time is worth at least the minimum wage of $5.85 per hour, your opportunity cost is $737 a month if you view the average amount of TV.

So what does this all add up to? Say you're 25 years old and you initially spend $2,000 for your TV, DVD player, entertainment cabinet and gaming system after getting your first job. Add in monthly costs of $100 for cable, $10 for electricity use, $20 for renting movies, $25 for buying games and $20 for an occasional pay-per-view event, and you're looking at $175 a month. Add in another $525 a month extra you spend due to the influence of commercials if you are the average person, and you are costing yourself $700 a month watching TV.

If you instead invested this money and received a return of 8% compounded annually over 45 years until you're 70 years old, you would have more than $3.7 million in your account.

That is actually a conservative number, as additional upgrades in equipment were not included. Not to mention potential repair costs. It's also more than likely that many of the services will rise in price over time and new TV-related services will be introduced. And the calculation does not even take into account the potential additional opportunity cost, which could be a significant amount of money.

Your actual lifetime TV costs will vary from the above assumptions depending on how you watch TV and what services you use. You can make an estimate of your total costs for watching TV by plugging the relevant numbers into a basic compounding calculator .

While it's probably unrealistic that you will give up your TV entirely, the above numbers should make you consider how much money your TV-watching habits are costing you. Even some small changes could have a huge benefit on your overall finances.
Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.

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