Saturday, July 29, 2006


Moneysaving tips you'll never read about in magazines

***Our blog has moved! You'll find more great tips for your renegade writing lifestyle at the Renegade Writer Blog. ***

This week I bought three magazines at Borders I may be interested in pitching. Total cost? $14.48. Ouch! To riff off Leona Helmsley, only fools pay newsstand prices, but I really needed these magazines, and I consoled myself that I'd be able to expense them on my taxes.

I don't think I've ever read any money-saving tips in articles about how to save major bucks buying magazines. We talked about it briefly in the Renegade Writer, but since then I've picked up some new tips. Let's break them into three categories: cheap, cheaper, cheapest.


-- Check your Sunday coupon supplements. Occasionally you'll find a cents-off coupon for magazines like Woman's Day and Family Circle. The coupon is usually for a certain issue, but other times, it's good for six weeks or so. If you want to buy a couple issues for market research, it may be worth raiding your mother-in-law's coupon caddy for extra coupons.

-- Use cash register coupons. When I buy magazines at the grocery store, I frequently get a store coupon to use on my next purchase of a similar magazine. For example, I buy Fitness and get a coupon for 50 cents off my next Self.

-- Send the magazine's SASC for a year-long subscription. You might as well get a whole year for what you'd pay for three newsstand issues.

-- A bonus tip for the super thrifty: Check your subscription's start date. I've sent in subscription cards from a January issue, yet the publication will start my subscription effective with the December issue -- occasionally November! Call the magazine and ask that they change your start date to the February issue -- or even the March if you purchased February on the newsstand.


-- Buy subscriptions off eBay. I've found some fantastic deals here. I got three years each of Parents, Parenting, and Child for $9.78. A two-year sub to Reader's Digest for $9.98. Yankee for $8.00. You get the idea. I buy only from sellers/brokers who have excellent ratings, and I haven't run into problems yet.

-- Mine your professional affiliations. I'm not a member of ASJA, but I hear they have an excellent magazine subscription program for member/writers. I get subscription offers from magazines because I teach at a local community college: for example, I just got an offer for a year's worth of The New Yorker for $20 (or something like that).

-- Use your frequent flier miles or rewards points to buy magazines. I've used American Express rewards points to buy dozens of magazines, and when some of my United Mileage Plus miles were about to expire, I traded them for subscriptions.

-- Check out the following websites for cheap magazines subscriptions:,,, and Or Google "cheap magazine subscriptions" -- you'll get thousands of hits.


-- Read magazines online. More and more magazines are putting their content on the web. If you're simply reading these publications to figure out what kind of stories they like, or you're already familiar with their demographics (I like to look at the actual magazine when I'm doing market research), web-based reading costs you nothing but bandwidth.

-- Steal them. Well, let me clarify that. Steal them from doctor's offices, your mother's coffee table, your brother's lad mag stash ... that sort of stealing. Occassionally I'll see a magazine that I've never seen at the newsstand, so I turn on the charm and ask if I can borrow it. I've never been turned down.

-- Read them at the library. This is what Linda does. My local library has subscriptions to at least 200 magazines. They don't even charge late fees if I'm late returning them!

-- Log into a database. Back to the library -- in Massachusetts, any resident with a library card has access to some amazing magazine databases, including Gale Group, InfoTrak, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and more. While I still subscribe to dozens of magazines, I've been able to dump hundreds of back issues from my library. If I want to find out what Parenting has done on potty training recently, I can search InfoTrak.

Any other tips you have to save money on magazines?

The library idea is so great. I didn't realize until a few months ago that my local library subscribes to SOOO many mags that I would buy anyway. It's a great excuse to get out of the house/office and have some quiet time doing "research!"
Borders lets you browse their mags for free. Grab up a stack and get comfy. I sometimes bring a notebook to take notes.

And, most mags will let you subscribe, get first sample issue, then write cancel on first bill if you don't want to continue.
Here's a rule to break. I have never made a habit of buying copies of a magazine I want to write for. Either the print magazine also has articles on the Web I can read for free, the editor sends me an issue, the editor sends me a sample article from the magazine that I should use as a guide when writing the assigned piece, the question of whether I've read the publication never comes up or I flip through some pages in the magazine racks while at the grocery or drug store. In other words, I deal with the issue without it ever inconveniencing me - monetarily or otherwise.
Thanks for the great ideas. Borders and Barnes and Noble are my favorite places to read. I can take my laptop, sip a latte, read a book and/or magazine or two and beat the hot summer heat all for free.

I also have a few more ideas for gaining magazine subscriptions if anyone's intersted.

I currently receive approximately 10 magazine subscriptions and every single one of them was free. The amount that I receive now has greatly lessened from what I used to get even a year ago. All of those were free too.

You can try these sites:

I have a couple more listed on my blog ( as well as a link to where anyone interested can access even more.

Right now I get more than I can keep up with, including Elle, Redbook, Esquire, Golf Digest (I think that's the name...I don't even play golf), several IT magazines and several business magazines all from using these sites and others like it. A good idea for anyone signing up for these is to use an email address specifically for junk mail (and if anyone needs a free gmail account, they can email me at and I'll be happy to send them an invite).

You can also usually request a media kit directly from publishers if you don't want a full subscription, but would like to view a couple of issues as well as info on their demographics, circulation, etc.

Hope this helps!
Since cash is hardly ever in my pockets, I'm a big library fan. Though, I forgot all about Infotrak. Thanks for the reminder--it'll help me out a lot!
Great post. I've listed some tips in an article available here:
Where there's a will there's a way to find magazines for free. Ask a local writing group if they can trade off magazines. Find offices where there is a waiting room ex; doctors, dental, or anyplace that orders magazines and keeps them for people to read. Looking for IT magazines call an IT department in a big company. They get dozens of magazines in one year. Find out if they will donate to you. It's either you or the recycling bin. Find women in churches who keep their magazines for decades not wanting to throw them out. Old issues are great for ideas.
I work at one of the bookstores mentioned, and folks who leave behind big stacks of magazines that they have no intention of buying make us crazy. Want good karma in the bookstore, and happier employees?

- Don't open plastic wrapped magazines. We can't sell them once they're opened.
- Don't spill anything on them. We can't sell them dirty.
- Buy *something*. Get a fancy drink and a cookie from the cafe. We're not a library.
- Above all, PUT THE MAGAZINES AWAY WHEN YOU'RE DONE! I regularly thank customers who I see doing this, and have been known to give them a spare store coupon.

Please, be courteous. Putting some magazines away that we just let you sit and read for free isn't a lot to ask. Thanks.
Anonymous, I couldn't agree more. (And you'll notice I didn't suggest reading for free at your local bookstore.) As a consumer, it drives me NUTS to watch people read piles of mags and then just leave them. What are these people? Five? Do they think their mom works there?

I've also purchased magazines, got them home and found cookie crumbs and coffee drips on the pages -- even one time, a page ripped out.
Anonymous, I'm with you! In fact, you'll often see me putting away other people's magazines. It drives me crazy when people leave crap all over the tables not only because it inconveniences the people who work there -- but also because cafe patrons can't tell if the table is free.

Linda (Who is right now sitting in Borders with an iced coffee)
I always put my mags away (and my husband's, bc he's not always so courteous) and I always make a purchase (even if it's just tea). We have corporate accounts at both Barnes and Noble and also at Border's. We spend a couple of thousand per year between the two, so I don't feel bad about dropping in to read.

Was packing up my laptop to go to Barnes just about a half hour ago, then remembered my laptop overheats (even after just paying $150 for repair), so I'm staying home today...grrr!
Steal them from doctor's offices? I pay money for subscriptions to the magazines I put out in my waiting room. When magazines start disappearing, the people who suffer are not only me (since I often wait to read the magazines until the current month is over) but also other patients, who suddenly have nothing to read and wonder why doctors only have 2-yr old magazines in their waiting rooms. Stealing is stealing, no matter from whom it's done.
Speaking of stealing magazines from doctors' waiting rooms (which you should of course never do -- notice that Diana said she asks to borrow them)...ask your doctor, hairdresser, nail technician, etc., if you can come in and periodically cart away the stacks of old magazines that pile up. Many of these places get free subscriptions, so they're happy to have someone clean them up occasionally. When we lived in MA, my husband's hairdresser would actually call us whenever the magazines started threatening to take over her shop! And we got magazines we wouldn't normally think to read, which is great for idea generating and finding new markets.

And libraries -- yes! In Massachusetts, where we lived in a small town with a dinky library, the librarian told Eric and me that the two of us accounted for a quarter of their entire magazine circulation!
You can score free subscriptions to trade magazines with minimal effort via Tradepub:

I'm found they don't check much when it comes to background questions. Such as my sub to Food Arts:
I noticed recently that the Costco near my house has magazines. I'm pretty sure they are cheaper than the cover price but can't remember how much. Not as gigantic a selection as B&N but still cool. Has all the popular ones.
Believe it or not the church I go to runs a small bookstore with books and magazines that come from member donations. The magazines are a few weeks to a month or so old but they sell for $.35 each, 3 for a $1, which is pretty cheap.
Tradepub is pretty rough when it comes to subscriptions. Those guys at freetrademagazinesource are pretty good. The sites easy to use and the magazine selection is nice and broad.

I've got over 15 subscriptions coming to my house from magazines on freetrademagazinesource.
If dead trees aren't your thing, try Zinio (, which offers low-cost digital magazine subscriptions. Quite a few pubs offer sample issues. I found out about this through, which someone already mentioned, and not only scored free subscriptions to House Beautiful, Spin, Radar and US News and World Report, but also a digital subscription to Saveur. It takes a little getting used to to read mags digitally (clicking to 'flip' pages and zooming in/out to read), but if you just need to get the gist of the pub's tone for a pitch, digital subscriptions just might be perfect.
ya it may be
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