How not to be frugal: Too many magazine subscriptions
Sometimes a great deal isn't. Because I have a small computer consulting business, I've been placed on a mailing list for “corporate rate” magazine subscriptions. Corporate rate subscriptions are unbelievably cheap, on the order of $10 or $12 a year for many magazines.
Being the frugal fellow that I am, when I received my first offer for a corporate-rate subscription, I signed up. Sure, it was a subscription for Business 2.0, a magazine I'd never read in my life, but so what? I saved money!
Soon I was receiving offers for corporate rate subscriptions on all sorts of magazines. Money? Sign me up! Smart Money? Kiplinger's Personal Finance? You bet. PC World? I'm in. (Even though I'm a mostly a Mac user.) Forbes? Sure, why not.
I even subscribed to Newsweek, which was dumb. The Newsweek subscription was more expensive — about $30/year, I think — but still a great deal. I loved to read weekly news magazines back in the nineties, but this is a new decade. A new century! A new millenium! This is the age of the Internet. Newsweek offers almost no value. The “news” is a week old. The columns are worthless. There are whole pages devoted to celebrity gossip or to new tech gadgets. Gawker and Gizmodo beat them by a mile. Newsweek is so worthless that it usually goes straight to the recycling bin. (But I got a great deal on it!)
I also spent $10 to subscribe to Sunset, which might be an interesting magazine if I had time to read it. But I don't. And so it, too, goes straight to the recycling.
Not all of the subscriptions have been duds. I got a $20 subscription to The New Yorker, and that's worth it for Anthony Lane's film reviews alone. (That man is funny!) Add the insightful articles and, of course, the famous cartoons, and that's $20 well spent. I only hope I can get that rate again on re-subscribing.
In all, I've spent about $150 on magazine subscriptions during the past year. That's not going to break the bank, but it's $150 I could have spent elsewhere. It's $150 I could have invested, or that I could have added to my Nintendo Wii savings account. I certainly haven't derived $150 of pleasure from my magazines.
Worse, even if they do get read, the magazines defeat the concept of simple living. They're extra clutter — both mental and physical — that complicates life. They weigh on my mind. Every time I walk through the living room, I think of how ugly the stacks of magazines are. And then I feel guilty for not having read them.
Basically, I'm paying $150/year for the added mental stress of having too many magazines around the house.
And so I've decided to let most of the subscriptions lapse. I'll keep the best personal finance mag (Smart Money is out of the running — I'm choosing between Money and Kiplinger's), and I'll keep The New Yorker. But all off the other corporate rate subscriptions are done as soon as the terms expire. It feels great to have realized this. If only I hadn't subscribed to them each for five years in order to save the most money. (My subscription to Newsweek doesn't expire until 2008!)