Many people love to read magazines, I’m not one of those people. Generally, I find the time spent wading through a mountain of advertisements to find an article about getting fit abs that shows the same exercises and offers the same advice I’ve seen countless times before can be used more constructively. On top of that, magazines are a huge wallet drain, especially if you buy them off the newsstand, several bucks a piece a month adds up to a pretty penny in the long-term. Of course, you can always ask to receive subscriptions as gifts; this is one option to save some money while still getting your mags if you know your friends or family are willing, and you don’t mind foregoing holiday surprises. Here are some other ways to get the benefits of magazine articles in more efficient and cheaper ways:
– Online: Most popular magazines offer all, or part of their magazine online for free. Try the website of your favorite magazines, perhaps you’ll be able to read that article you were so interested in without spending a dime. Plus, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the web extras, such as audio, video and special downloads.
– At the Library: Most libraries, especially those in big cities have subscriptions to many of the popular magazines available for purchase. At the library, you can generally spend as much time as you want reading the current issue and check-out older issues to read through at your leisure. If the public library doesn’t have what you’re looking for, a little-taken-advantage-of option is to try the research library at the local university; college libraries will often have subscriptions to a wider range of magazines and most of the time you don’t even have to be a student to hang out and browse them. For example, the local community college near my house has subscriptions to all the popular news, finance and literary magazines, plus trade journals available to read to anyone, you don’t have to be a student.
– Databases: Most people don’t realize that many library systems and schools have subscriptions to huge databases that offer access to decades of back issues of almost every magazine imaginable. Though, databases are usually a month or two behind, so you won’t get the current issue, but so what? You can enjoy Time magazine from the sixties. The great thing about databases is that you can browse just the articles, no ads. Generally, all that’s required to gain access to these services is a library card, or a school ID number. If you’re a library user, ask a librarian how to gain access to the database through the library web portal (Los Angeles users: LAPL.org: click on Databases and knock yourself out). If you’re a student ask the IT person, or librarian how to access the system. Here’s a neat hack if you’re not a student: most school libraries have fifteen minute computers that connect directly to the databases, no student ID necessary, figure out the off-peak times, pop in and sit on those computers as long as you like (at UCLA, the computers at the Young Research Library are very available Friday-Sunday, and in the morning and evening on weekdays). If you can’t figure out how to access the databases, ask a librarian, carry a backpack and it’s unlikely that they’ll suspect you’re not a student.
– Browse at stores or newsstands: If you’re only interested in an article or two of several magazines, go to your local Walgreens, Ralphs, Walmart, Borders, Barnes & Nobles or whatever you have around your place of residence and read those articles without fear. A magazine article usually only takes minutes to read and for the most part, employees don’t care unless you’re there all day. I’ve spent a good thirty minutes at Fry’s Electronics reading through several magazines without as much as a breath in my direction.
– Share with friends: “Sharing is caring” applies to magazines also. If you have a friend with similar interests, carpool your subscriptions. Going halfsies will save money, plus you won’t be tempted to keep all those back issues you never look at. Some magazines (Vogue anyone?) can be enjoyed together, while some take a few days to read. So what if you have to wait a few days while your bff reads the latest Cosmo? You can spend it coming up with two thousand ways to please your man. If you can come up with two thousand ways, maybe Cosmo will give you a job, then you can get it for free! (If you can actually come up with two thousand different ways, maybe you can be the next Dr. Ruth).
– Be a shyster about it: Take advantage of free trails. Nothing really sneaky about this, but I’m not sure if I would recommend doing it twice with the same magazine.
Finally, it may be useful to look at some intrinsic aspects of magazines. Everyone’s magazine reading style is different. Maybe you like to look at the ads of the latest issue of InStyle. Maybe you enjoy reading Popular Mechanics cover to cover. Determining how you read a magazine is very helpful in determining which of the above options is best-suited to your lifestyle. Consider these questions:
Are the magazines you read really time-sensitive?
Does it matter if you read last months issue this month?
You’ll find that most of the time they are not. This also depends on which articles are your favorites: If you like the Dear Abby type section, it doesn’t matter which month you read. But if you must know the latest business news perhaps a newspaper or an online source is actually a better bet then a magazine. Remember that a monthly magazine goes to print a week or two before it actually gets to you. If what you’re interested in is really time-sensitive that kind of lag is unacceptable. For up-to-date consumer data (i.e. reviews), the blogosphere and public review sites are beginning to be a better source of information anyway.
Do you read cover to cover, or only what interests you?
Are you a fast reader?
Do you usually take notes? Or like to keep a copy of the articles you’ve read?
I usually check the table of contents and flip around to the articles that interest me and I’m a fast reader, so reading at the magazine rack of a store works just fine for me. You may be more comfortable sitting down at the library and taking notes on the latest issue of Discover or Science News. If you want to keep an article handy, database accessibility from home (Los Angeles Public Library allows users access outside of the library), printers and copiers solve this problem quite well.
Does advertising piss you off? Or do you find solace in the sinewy bodies of fashion models?
After you read a magazine, is it usually trash? Or do you find the need to horde years of National Geographic?
Answering those questions will generally guide you to magazine fulfillment. My hope is that by reading this article you have gotten some idea of how you can enjoy magazines efficiently and save some money at the same time. Here are some links to online articles I found that talk briefly about some of the ideas I’ve already mentioned in-depth and give a few that I didn’t think of:
Money Smart Life >> How to Save Money on Magazines – I think the first one is just irresponsible enough to be intriguing.
Visit the Library to Save Money (Ask Mr Credit Card’s Blog) – Another library enthusiast! Seeing all of this joy about the library makes my desire to make Librarianship my career even stronger. Note what Mr. Credit Card says about DVDs too. Good stuff!
Saving Money On Magazine Subscriptions — iSnare.com Articles – Ms. Peterson brings up a good point that I didn’t mention: if you must subscribe, look for the “subscription cards” that always fall out of new magazines, they sometimes offer great discounts.
Magazines for Less | Smartmoney.com – This article gives some links to “…well-known sellers of discounted magazine subscriptions…”A year-long subscription for $5.95 is just a small step down from free. Might be worth it if the you’re not up for the free options.