Magazines – Do you buy them?

By glblguy


Every so often, I like to write a post that asks a question to you. You guys are smart and I really appreciate and value your opinions on things.  One of the purchases I’ve been trying to decide on whether or not to make is regarding a few magazine subscriptions. I really struggle with magazines as I love reading them and love the information in them, but the fact that you have to pay for them and that they use paper bothers me. I’d rather be able to read the information online for free that’s supported by advertisers.

I do wonder why all magazine subscriptions can’t be free like the free magazines I offer here on Gather Little by Little, especially considering most if not all magazines are chock full of paid advertisements.  I mean here on Gather Little by Little, I run advertisements but I don’t charge a subscription fee. My content is free and the time I spend writing and researching my articles is compensated for through my advertising. Am I missing something? I probably am.

Anyway, here are the one’s I am considering:

  • Make Magazine – Features geeky do it yourself at home types of projects. From what I’ve heard, I think it would give my kids and I some really fun projects to work on together. Cost is $34.95 for 4-issues.  A little steep, but I understand the magazines are very high quality and more books than magazines. If you are a subscriber, I’d appreciate any feedback you might have.
  • Backwoods Home – I first read about this magazine from Frugal Dad. My wife and I are very excited about starting our vegetable and herb first garden this year and now that we have about 4 acres of property, we would really like to for opportunities to really utilize it and lean more towards living “off the grid”. Cost is $24.95 for 6-issues. Again, a little steep, but from what I’ve read it’s a highly respected and very good magazine.
  • Model Railroader – I’ve subscribed off and on to this magazine over the years. Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved both real and model trains. My 12 year old son has become very interested as well looking through my old issues of Model Railroader. Him and I have begun planning a small layout for our downstairs area. We plan to begin working on it this fall (we’re saving some money into a hobby fund). Cost: $42.95 for 12 issues.

All together, these three magazines would cost me $102.85/year. The frugal side of me cringes at that cost, but the more practical side of me seems to think I would get that much value from them.

So my main questions are: What would you do? Do you subscribe to magazines? How do you determine whether or not the cost is justified?

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the subject. Please add a comment and let me know what you’re thinking.

If you like magazines, I’d really encourage you to check out my free magazines page as well. After all, they’re free!

Photo by: Mannobhai

34 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Magazines – Do you buy them?”

  1. Abigail Says:

    I don’t generally buy magazines. Every so often, I’ll go ahead and get a $12 magazine subscription (for a 12 issues).

    I love US magazine (juicy, tawdry gossip is a secret pleasure) but it’s a ridiculous “discount” subscription price (since it’s weekly rather than monthly) of something like $30-40. I can’t justify that.

    As for why magazines cost so much despite ads… Well, at least with newspapers (parents were journalists) the paper cost basically almost covered printing costs.

    Especially in a bad economy, all publishing can use all the moolah it can get, as advertisers scale back or cut ads completely. But in good times, I think there’s a couple reasons for it. (FYI I’m totally guessing here.) First, if you give something away, it’s hard to record how many people read your magazine. And readership is important. So they have to set a price so that sales can be recorded. Second, the cover price provides some quick bucks for impulse sales at grocery stores etc. They probably don’t sell TONS this way, but having the copies sitting around means your mag gets seen and gets into people’s consciousness. This means name recognition, which leads to more readership and higher chance of sales.

    Finally, a steep cover price will help convince people to subscribe to “save” money. I mean, if you figure US magazine goes for something silly like $4 an issue, and you know you tend to pick one up at least four times a year… Well that’s $16, or about half the cost of the “discount” subscription offers.

    Because the way to get money from advertisers is to have a lot of readers. So the more subscriptions you sell, the more money you can make on advertising.

  2. the weakonomist Says:

    I have one magazine subscription and that is because it was a 3 year gift. I still have another year on it. I rarely even read it anymore because it covers cars and the websites I follow are always weeks ahead in the news.

    That being said I do love to hold a good magazine and read it through. If money weren’t an issue I’d probably subscribe to 5-10 magazines. The content on the web is just too good to make magazines worth the expense these days.

  3. DDFD at Says:

    I try to get my subscriptions from free sites or from marketiing research sites. If I do buy– it is from Wal*Mart where they discount them. BTW, I am a big fan of the Backwoods Home.

  4. Broke Wall Streeter Says:

    I try not to buy magazines for environmental reasons, but if I do, I get them for free. Just last week, I used my credits from taking surveys through e-Rewards and got a 1 year sub for Entrepreneur and Fast Company. I get Trader Monthly mag for free since I’m in that field. Hold onto special editions, like the eBay specials from Entrepreneur mag. They resell on eBay nicely. I sold the final issue of Business 2.0 and a Rolling Stone issue with a special marketing insert as well for some profit.

  5. Heather Says:

    Magazines are expensive to produce. Much more expensive than a website (I am a web designer and work with a lot of writers and small businesses who are often also trying to get things printed. I have also dealt with some of the smaller magazine companies–mostly home based home school mags, who are trying to make a go of it ). First they take a lot more time to layout than a website does–it takes more logistics to figure out how to get all the content in there, plus the ads and all the logistics of “this ad needs to be near this content”. There is also the fact that they have to pay, often quite a bit, for their content. The Escapist pays roughly $60 per webcomic and about $200 for an article just for their website–and those don’t even make it into their print magazine. Think of it this way–what if you had to pay for all your content here, plus pay for printing (with a decent printer) AND pay for shipping all of the magazines out. It gets expensive pretty fast PLUS they are trying to make money (earn a living) doing it–especially since it is VERY time consuming. The ads (at least in smaller mags–I don’t deal with any large scale printing big name ones so can’t speak for them) usually just pay for the printing costs so the subscriptions not only let them know how many to print but also give them their paychecks.

    That said, I seldom get magazines just because I hate the clutter and I prefer reading online. I prefer books to magazines anyway (so I seldom buy them in the store–if I am going to buy them I order the subscription from their site so they are getting paid instead of having to pay for advertising to someone else. )

  6. Jason Says:

    I do have a few magazine that I subscribe to but I almost always get them through which seem to have a greatly discounted price from the “retail” pricing. Once done if there is nothing more useful I try and make sure to recycle them.

  7. Sue Says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with Magazines…I love them for about 3 months then I stop reading them and the clutter the house up for the other 9 months of the subscription. If you know you’ll read them and enjoy them, take it out of your entertainment budget!

  8. Tom Says:

    When it comes to magazines, there is only one way to go: eBay. You can get insanely cheap, longterm subscriptions for many magazines and it can be for both new and renewal subscription, depending on the listing of course. Two examples I’ve done: Men’s Health 4 year subscription for $12 and Family Handyman $15 for 3 years.

  9. Donna Says:

    I’m not sure if you library carries those magazines but ours has tons of magazines. You can check out the back issues. Just a frugal idea.

  10. Sheila Says:

    I am a magazine reader and subscriber, but I consider it part of my ‘entertainment’ rather than something I justify. You should check I have used them several times without any problems. The model railroader magazine is showing something like $27, so it would be a good savings.

  11. Grant Baldwin Says:

    I subscribe to about 8 magazines although several of them do offer the content for free online. I travel a lot and mostly read magazines on the plane or while I’m on the go. For some reason I feel like if I didn’t have the hard copy, I wouldn’t take the time to go online and read it. But all the magazines I order are usually less than $10-$15 per year, so I don’t feel like it is that major of an investment for what I’m getting in return.

  12. My Journey Says:

    My cc offered me magazines for points (since my points were NO WHERE NEAR the amounted to get a trip to hawaii I took the mags). So I got a bunch of garbage ones for the Wife (read: celeb gossip) and I got the economist and money magazine. I don’t love either of them but they were free.

    My fav. magazine is a Trade publication for estate attorneys called “Trusts and Estates” been around since the early 1900s – it is literally $35/issue! !!!! Luckily work picks up the tab.

  13. Craig Says:

    I read Men’s Health, I enjoy reading their tips although not everything applies to me in the magazine so its tough to read some of it. Other than that I do all my reading online.

  14. megscole64 Says:

    The only magazine I pay for is a jewelry magazine and it is a write off for my business. It has a lot of great articles and tutorials. My mom has bought us magazine subscriptions in the past (log cabin and consumer reports) but otherwise I have no desire to pay for a magazine subscription. They stack up and if I really needed information I can get it online or the library.

  15. Ron@TheWisdomJournal Says:

    I only get those that I can buy with frequent flier miles. Otherwise, I just read the online versions.

  16. Shawna Says:

    I love magazines. I will read anything on glossy paper…I don’t really know what that is. That being said, I rarely buy them anymore. I have two that I subscribe to, and will occasionally buy one at the grocery store, but I try to get my info online for the most part.

    If you are worried about the magazines cluttering your home, here’s an idea that I have used…I make copies of the things I’ll reference again (usually recipes) and put the copied in a binder. Then you can donate the magazines to your doctor/dentist for their waiting room.

  17. Boots Says:

    I buy Make Magazine on occasion (and I used to buy Craft, but publication of Craft has ceased). I don’t have a subscription, however, because if I did, I would be swamped by issues filled with things that, while interesting, do not apply to me, and are not useful to me. Instead, I pop into my local Barnes & Noble whenever I know a new issue has come out, flip through it quickly and, if it has things I am interested in or find useful (or whatever criteria you use), I buy that issue. I have found that in the long run, I actually only buy one issue a year, sometimes two. While the magazine is very worthwhile, I’ve found it a waste of money to get a subscription when I know I’d only be tossing most of what I received. I think it’s worth the 10 minutes a few times a year to check the current issue out before I pick it up.

    I have found, actually, that I do this with most magazines. I’ll borrow back issues from the library, or flip through them at the bookstore to see if they consistently have content I’m interested in. If not, I don’t subscribe, and instead continue borrowing from the library or occasionally buying an issue here or there at the bookstore.

    As a result…I don’t have many magazines.

  18. Jason @ MyMoneyMinute Says:

    I read them for the articles, I SWEAR! LoL, j/k.

    Seriously, I don’t have any subscriptions, but the last two flights I’ve been on, I bought The Economist for the trip. And honestly, there is so much detailed content in there it’s insane.

    It might be boring for some, but I love money, economics, and world politics. Every article seems like a worthy read in The Economist.

  19. plonkee Says:

    I subscribe to a nice house decorating magazine, because it’s the only way to stop myself from buying all the ones in the shop every month. Do what works, right?

  20. Andrew Says:

    I don’t know about Backwoods Home but the one you SHOULD get is Mother Earth News. Full of articles about home gardens, living off your own land, getting off the grid, etc. It’s a great read every other month.

  21. Funny about Money Says:

    I enjoy magazines and always have, though these days they’re a pale shadow of their former selves.

    You can’t read a Web page over breakfast or dinner. You can’t comfortably read a Web page while you’re lounging on a hammock floating in the pool or soaking in the bathtub or sitting on the terlet or laying in bed. And reading copy on a computer screen is a different activity and a different intellectual experience from reading print copy.

    I subscribe to The New York Review of Books, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s Magazine, AARP Magazine (by default), Consumer Reports, and Scientific American. Over the years, I’ve arranged subscription renewal dates so that no two of them fall in one month, which helps with affordability. The main reason I subscribe to the New York Times is to get the Sunday magazine and book review — but as university faculty I get an incredible cut rate (cheaper than the local paper, which I no longer buy).

  22. Diane Says:

    I don’t currently have any subscriptions, but I’m considering one to Real Simple, which I really like. The subscription is much cheaper than buying 1 issue at a time.

    I had sworn off subscriptions because I tend to keep the magazines and they turn into clutter… the ultimate irony is a magazine on simplicity cluttering your house! But I’ve gotten rid of all the old ones, and I’m ready to give it a try.

    I know you can read some of this online, but I get tired of reading things on the computer.

    I do subscribe to magazines for my sons that they enjoy – but they’ve all expired now. Problem is they keep the old issues as well…

  23. Kristy @ Master Your Card Says:

    The only magazine subscription I’ve ever had was for Entertainment Weekly. As someone who wants to be in the entertainment industry, I found this to be a valuable resource and a great read. There were only a few issues I never went through and read, but overall, I devoured each edition.

    That being sad, when I felt my costs creeping up, the magazine subscriptions were the first to go, followed very closely by my cable. I find I have more time to get things done having gotten rid of both of these things.

    But, in all honesty, I’d probably subscribe to EW again, I just haven’t done it yet.

  24. Mubongo Says:

    I do have a couple magazine subscriptions. I generally only get magazines that will have *lasting* value for me. That is, I don’t get gossip or news magazines because I can read most of that online for free. I *do* get sewing and other DIY magazines that I can (and often do) reference for tips and inspiration. I also ask for these magazine subscriptions for birthday gifts. They’re usually inexpensive enough for family members to pool together and purchase for me at little cost to them but much enjoyment to me throughout the year!

  25. natasha Says:

    i am huge into magazines. i am a stay at home mom with several small children so they work for my lifestlye better than books. i can read several articles while waiting in the carpool line or while cooking. i recycle them when i’m done and can’t give them up. :) what i do hate is all the catalogs, enough already! i get 3-5 a week from victoria’s secret alone.

  26. Twinsmom Says:

    I get a lot of magazines, mostly the free ones, and the few I do purchase are mainly through my kids’ one and only school fundraiser. I second the ideas to see if you library carries the magazines (ours carries the model railroader one you mentioned) and also stopping in the bookstore to check through the current issue before buying. I do a lot of needlework and saved a ton of money (literally $100s) by looking through the issue instead of having a subscription. My rule is, if I won’t do at least 3 of the projects, I won’t purchase the magazine. There is a publication out of Australia that I would dearly love to subscribe to, but single issues at Barnes and Noble are $15 a pop, and I just cannot justify the cost right now. For the really expensive magazines, you might want to try ordering a back issue before subscribing if you can’t find it in your bookstore. That way you can “live with it” for a while before making a decision.

  27. Kim Says:

    People are always asking what to get me as a gift. I’m horrible to shop for since I hate clutter and refuse to pile more into the house.
    That said, I have been known to add a magazine subscription to my wish list. As a added bonus the gift giver is the one that has to deal with any increase in unsolicited mail by getting the subscription.
    After I am finished I just pass it on to a friend, waiting room, or relative.

  28. Beth Says:

    My dad got me O magazine three years ago as a Christmas gift that I asked for (even though he did it kicking and scratching saying “I’m sure Oprah needs my money”) and he keeps getting it for me even though I really don’t want it now. lol I barely read through a magazine one time, much less enough times to justify their existence around this house. lol

  29. crazyliblady Says:

    I don’t buy any magazine subscriptions except one that comes with a professional membership. I work at a university where we have a lot of magazines. Check at your library public library to see if the magazine you need is available. Some may let you check magazines out. If not, you could at least photocopy the item you need and save the cost of a subscription.

  30. AmberJones Says:

    I don’t subscribe to magazines. I figure that if I need to know something, I am sure that I can google it. And if I am interested in just the magazine topic in general, there is usually a wider variety of pages I can find than what I will find in the magazine.

  31. dramon Says:

    Another idea is to donate a subscription to the library and then read it there. It serves two purposes, you can read it when you want and also let others read it. The library will store the old versions so saves you storage. Of course, it does depend on how far away you are from the public library.

    Another good source is

  32. Bonnie Says:

    I used to buy a ton of magazines (my guilty pleasure used to be computer and cooking magazines) but when I got my mortgage they were the first thing that I cut back on.

    Nowadays I read online because the way I see it.. the premium price you pay for a magazine is because they gather all the information right there for you in one convinent package. If you are good at searching your way around the net, there is nothing to stop you finding the information/articles on your own, not to mention most of it is replicated online anyway!

    If you must absolutely *have* a magazine, as previous posts have a look at your library/ask them to subscribe if they don’t already, or have a talk to your newsagent about if they have any left of last month’s issue and whether you can have it for a discounted price.

  33. Justin Says:

    I LOVE Make Magazine. I haven’t really made anything out of the pages, but I have found some really useful stuff in all the issues I have. I received a subscription for xmas and have three magazines already. The gadget pages with cool small tools are awesome, as are just the general ideas.

    It only comes out every 3 months, so I have plenty of time to peruse it before the next one comes. The articles on tech are awesome, as well.

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