March 10, 2012

Save a Lot, Read a Lot: how I feed my magazine habit on the cheap.

I used to love perusing magazines when I was younger, and then later it became an excellent time-kill for those hours spent in the library when I was working a bizzaro split shift too far away to drive back home in the middle. I always balked at actually purchasing subscriptions, however, because they seemed vastly over-priced for increasingly mediocre content with ever-encroaching advertisements.

I've never been a fan of fashion magazines, for example, because when you look at them they're 90% advertising and what little isn't paid advertising is telling you to buy more stuff anyway.  I also get annoyed that the "women's interest" section of the magazine stand is crammed full of cheap gossip rags, celebrity worship, and "publications" devoted to hair, clothes, and buying more and more stuff.  Note how they don't believe women are interested in in current events, arts, or science.  That has always ruffled my feathers.  Why do we have to be so label-happy?  I'm a woman.  I'm happy to look through Reason (a libertarian-oriented current events & political themed publication), The Economist, Popular Science and flip through the latest Real Simple or Ladies' Home Journal.  But I digress.

My business requires that I be at least somewhat aware of what is "trending" in the fashion world: color palates (so the jewelry & accessories I make match the outfits you're buying right now) as well as general fashion trends (are my big, bold & complicated pieces going to be popular right now? Or are we on a more minimalist trend?).  Because I don't watch TV (until it comes out on Netflix, that is) checking out an array of magazines satisfies my need to collect this information about what's trending. But still there is the price problem.

If you want to keep tabs on a variety of subjects or market conditions, or are just addicted to that newly-printed magazine feel, here are some tips from my experience.  I have attained many magazine subscriptions for free to $5 or less.  You just have to do some looking around.

* You can always get plenty of magazines for free at your library.  You can read the current issue there or check out the past issues.  The downside:  you have to deal with everyone else's germs or spillage, you can't rip out pages, you have to go there to get it and take it back.  The upside: you can't beat the price, you can always jot down info that you wanted (websites, recipes, etc.), and you can usually get at least part of the article on their website.

*You can get the digital versions of many magazines for free too, either at the computer or for your mobile device or eReader.  Some publications will offer the digital version at their website almost fully, while others have limited free content and charge for accessing the full publication electronically.

*There are virtually unlimited suppliers of discount subscriptions for the physical versions.  Here are just a few:

While I don't particularly "endorse" any of these sites, I have placed orders with them.  They will all have periodic specials and promos BUT before you place an order, check to see if they have an additional coupon code you can use. My go-to source for online coupon codes is Retail Me Not.  Not only can you search for whatever website you're shopping and see a list of available codes, but you can see the "success" rate for each code and other user-submitted info.  You don't have to register to use the service, which is free.  You can register, however, and provide feedback on codes you've tried or submit your own codes when you get them.

*Subscribe to some bloggers who run coupon and savings-oriented sites.  Many will send an email summary of all their postings so you don't have to visit the blog unless something pops out at you.  Consider subscribing to a few so you get some varied content.  Unless you're crazy into coupon-ing most of the content will probably not excite you, as it consists of much "hey go here to print this AWESOME 50-cent off coupon for hot dogs HERE!!!" and you can roll your eyes and skip that entry because you would never consider a 50-cent off coupon for hot dogs to be "awe-inspiring,"

But then occasionally they'll throw you a bone you actually want to chew--because they're also subscribers to other deal-alert networks, they always seem to be aware of every blessed freebie out there.  It's their business.  It's how they generate so much darn traffic to their blogs.  So when free magazine subscriptions are available to things you actually want to read, or maybe just curious about (as in, I wouldn't pay money for Reader's Digest, but they can give it to me free and I'll check it out) or when those discount sites have super-bargains.

Just this week I scored two full-length albums via digital download at Amazon for a quarter each, a couple free eBooks I thought I might like, and year's subscription to Popular Science for $5.50--all from alerts in these daily summaries.

You have to learn to self-filter the spammy parts of it-- the whole point of being frugal is saving money on things you were actually going to buy, not hopping on every "deal" just because it's a "deal."  Happy hunting, readers!

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