Want to save some serious green? Stop watching TV.

Cutting the cable or ditching the dish can recoup more than just the monthly service fee. Television-free folks say:

* They spend less when they have less exposure to ads and product placement.

* Their children don't continually shriek for treats, trips and toys (see above).

* They feel better physically and emotionally. The hours formerly spent on channel surfing turned into exercise, volunteering, family time and, oh yeah, getting enough sleep.

All that can add up to a healthier and wealthier you -- and you don't necessarily have to give up TV entirely. You just change how (and how much) you watch.

I haven't owned a television since March 2004. I don't have Netflix, and I've watched approximately five minutes of an episode of "House". (Maybe I'll finish it some other time.) While visiting friends or relatives I sometimes watch TV with them. But back home in Seattle, I don't feel the need to rush to the public library to borrow Season 3 of "The Closer." It's not that I don't like TV. It's that other things have replaced it in my life.

But would it work for you? Read on to find out how others view (or don't view) television to help you decide.

'How can you possibly live without a TV?'
Although an estimated 800,000 U.S. households have ditched cable over the past two years, people who don't watch TV are still a tiny minority. Some 61 million U.S. households have cable, and about 33 million more have satellite service, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. These numbers don't include people who get TV for free online or with ordinary antennas.

Those who eschew the tube know they're swimming against the tide. Boy, do they know it. Leigh Henderson, a Manhattan management consultant who also teaches at Baruch College, says her students are horrified.

"They look at me like, 'How can you do it? How can you possibly live without a TV?'" says Henderson, who gave away her bulky old television in March 2007 during an apartment renovation.

Her plan was to buy a flat-screen model. But Henderson liked not being "inundated" with advertising and realized that a lot of programming was, well, dumb.

Since then, she's noticed her students often wail that they don't have time to do all that course reading yet can tell her all about the programs she's missing. Henderson has friends who won't go out because a particular show is on. And at a recent family reunion, one relative watched cooking programs rather than interact with people he hadn't seen in years.

"That just reinforced it for me," Henderson says. "(Television) isn't evil. It just shouldn't be the top priority."

Questions to consider: Does TV take away more than it provides? What are you giving up in order to watch "American Idol"?

'There's a lot of world out there'
Cincinnati resident Cheryl Besl estimates she saves almost $100 a month by not having cable. "I just choose to do other things with my time," says Besl, 38.

Among them: a public-relations career, involvement with several non-profits, regular exercise and reading. Besl volunteers with a neighbourhood improvement group and served on its board for two years. For the past three years she's mentored a teenage girl.

She also gets eight hours of slumber every night, unlike some acquaintances who are sleep-deprived but up to date on the latest TV shows.

John Holden, a publicist at DePaul University, used to have multiple TV sets chattering in more than one room even when he wasn't watching. When television went digital in 2009, his old sets stopped working. At 48, Holden had never been without television. But within two weeks, he stopped missing it and started realizing how much more time he had.

Holden read. He joined a second board of directors. To hone his work skills, he took university classes in digital media and online marketing.

"Once I shut the TV off, I realized how much of my time was being wasted," Holden says. "There's a lot of world out there beyond the TV screen."

Now his TV watching consists of "Jeopardy!" on the web -- sometimes.

P.S. Holden's electric bill has dropped at least 15%.

Question to consider: How would you improve your life (and maybe other people's lives) if you weren't watching TV?