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How to save money on magazine subscriptions

One of my favorite Sunday afternoon activities is to curl up in my favorite recliner with a drink and a magazine. Magazine subscriptions are one of my guilty pleasures, a splurge that stayed in our budget. I subscribe to a number of magazines – Money, Kiplinger’s, Smart Money, Forbes, AAII (American Association of Independent Investors) & Good Housekeeping. It used to be even more – Wall Street Journal, Consumer reports, Shop Smart, Health, Red book, Vegetarian Times and some journals I don’t even remember. The only magazine I actually pay for is the Kiplinger’s and AAII (the magazine is part of the membership to AAII, which I would pay anyway even if there were no magazines). Here are some tips to save money on magazine subscriptions and even get them for free.

  1. Use miles to get magazines : I never paid a cent to subscribe for most of the magazines. Initially, I used to have only a couple of frequent flier accounts with the carrier I fly frequently with. But I am not loyal to any particular airline, so if its cheaper to fly on some other airline, I just take that one. I thought I would never get enough points to get a free ticket with my infrequent travel on any one particular airline, so why bother creating a frequent flier account. I was wrong. Those odd miles have fed my magazine addiction for the last 4 years. I think I have 2 more years of Good Housekeeping, thanks to Delta Skymiles. Money and Smart Money will be running out this year, but mostly likely I will use miles again to get them.
  2. Corporate/Business rate : I shouldn’t put this out here because I am not *entirely* sure how I ended up with this rate to be honest. But this is one of the reasons I pay a very low price for the magazines I do pay – $4 for Kiplinger’s for 2 years. When I was shopping for the Wall Street Journal, I called up customer service and asked if they had a business rate, as… well, I blog :-). I also quoted the rate that another site was offering through them and by the end of the conversation I had a price match + some discount for a “corporate” member. Then suddenly offers for corporate subscriptions started coming in. I ignored some of them, but for the magazines I was going to subscribe anyway, I used those rates to add more years to my free-from-miles subscription. This is one of the times that the annoying information sharing saved me some money. I *think* it was due to me calling WSJ and asking for the business rate. But don’t quote me on this one.
  3. Don’t buy directly from the magazine website : As an Amazon fan, it is one of my favorite sites to get s magazine subscription. Usually they have 50-90% off, so if you don’t want to search for long, this is a great place. You can also get magazines from e-Bay, just make sure it includes shipping and “handling”. Finally if you can afford some time for searching, check out discount magazine sites like – magazines.com or Best Deal magazines.
  4. Don’t forget the cash back sites : Usually Ebates or Shop at home network have cash back if you go through their site. You can also use Swagbucks to accumulate Amazon gift cards. If you put all of these together you can get your magazines for next to nothing. For example, ShopAtHome has 28% cash back on Magazines.com AND a $5 off coupon. Combining the cash back, coupons and a discount magazine site is a great way to save money on magazine subscriptions.
  5. Don’t renew your subscription when you get that letter. I feel really annoyed when they start sending out that your-subscription-is-expiring-renew-now letter. For one, they usually start sending it 6-8 months(!) before the actual expiry. And second, for some weird reason, the new subscriber rate is always cheaper than renewal rate. Ignore those letters and close to the expiry date, call them and ask for a price match. If they say no, just cancel and subscribe under someone else’s name.
  6. Recently, social buying sites like Groupon, Living Social and mamapedia have been offering magazine subscriptions. This should save quite a bit of money over the regular rates.
  7. Never buy from the newsstand. It is a waste of money. (Exception : if all you need is 1 or 2 issues of a magazine, just buy it at the newsstand, the subscription is not a good idea.)
  8. Ask for them as gifts : Most magazine subscriptions will cost $10-$20, so it is a gift that won’t burden the gift giver and will give you enjoyment throughout the year.
  9. Use your library : If the magazine is not subscribed to by your library, donate a subscription. It will be useful to everyone and (most of the time) you can request to put an automatic hold for you to check it out first. A win-win situation. Your library might also have an online subscription to certain magazines. Ours had Consumer reports, which was one of the reasons I stopped my subscription.
  10. Start a magazine swap : If you have friends with similar interests, may be you could buy a magazine and your friend could buy another. You will have access to 2 different titles for the price of one. Less clutter too.
  11. Join a magazine club : If you don’t have interested friends, join a local magazine club. You can get information about such clubs in the local charters/associations that serve your interests.
  12. Read it online for free : Almost 75% of the magazine’s contents are available for free online. They might run a day late, but its free if you don’t mind reading it online. This is the cheapest way, but since I spend so much time in front of the computer, I prefer to hold my books and magazines.
  13. Yard sale : If it is not a time-sensitive magazine, you can always pick them up at a yard sale for pennies. I got quite a few vegetarian and knitting magazines for $1.
  14. Check with your boss : If it is a professional magazine, before you shell out the money just ask your boss. Most companies won’t mind spending $15 on you if it will help you keep up to date with the industry.
  15. Use your Coke Rewards to get free magazine subscriptions [Thank You Hunter @ Financially Consumed for adding this tip]. If you buy Coke products collect Coke Rewards and redeem it for free magazine subscriptions.

Recently with the help of #1-5, I have been able to satisfy my magazine addiction for <$5-10 an year. I am thinking of letting a couple of them expire mainly because it adds to the clutter in the house. I should make an effort to go through, cut/file the articles I like and recycle them.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? What are your favorites? How to do you keep the cost low?

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