I love to read and will read just about anything. Needless to say, before I turned frugal I spent a lot of money on books and magazines. I solved the book problem by frequenting my local library. Magazines were a bit more difficult. Sure, I can read them at the library (and sometimes I do), but there’s no comparison to curling up on my couch and reading without interruptions, harsh fluorescent lighting, or time constraints. In other words, there’s no substitute for having plenty of magazines at home.
I’ve solved my magazine addiction in several ways. The first is finding ways to acquire free subscriptions. I was surprised at how many national publications can be acquired for free if you know where to look. Startsampling.com offers free subscriptions from time to time (as well as other samples) for their members. Membership is free. There are numerous free trade magazines available. Freebizmag.com and MercuryMagazines.com occasionally offer a national magazine in the hopes that you’ll also sign up for a trade publication. Sign up at their websites and they’ll send you emails when they have magazines available.
The free magazine forum at Slickdeals.net is a great place to learn about free subscriptions. People post when they find a deal through one of the above sites, or when they find free subscriptions elsewhere. I recently picked up Family Fun for free because Party City was offering it as a reward for joining their Party Club (also free). Many retailers or service providers offer free subscriptions as rewards or inducements for trying their products.
Another place to get free subscriptions is through reward programs like Coke Rewards, credit cards rewards, or various airline rewards programs. These offer the opportunity to accumulate points that you can trade in for magazine subscriptions. Technically they’re not “free,” since you’re spending money to generate the rewards, but if you’re getting points for stuff you’d buy anyway, it’s a nice benefit, especially if you have no better uses for the rewards.
If you can’t get free subscriptions, there are other ways to get free magazines. I find free magazines in the recycle bins outside the library. When they clean out their magazine rack, they toss the old issues in the recycle bin. People from the area also recycle their personal magazines here. It’s a very clean bin that’s used only for magazines, so there’s no “ick factor” as there would be with other kinds of dumpster diving. And, since it’s not a typical dumpster, you can look through it without having to climb inside. It’s a great place to score tons of magazines. When I’m done, I drop them back in the bin for recycling or for someone else to take.
Our library also offers a magazine exchange program. Patrons are encouraged to bring in their magazines and place them on a special rack for others to take. Some people just drop off old catalogs and alumni magazines, but there’s usually a fair amount of recent, national publications, as well, all free for the taking. When I’ve read them, I bring them back for others to take.
Another way to get free magazines required a little creativity on my part, but has worked out great. I have a deal with my hairdresser that when her salon is done with their magazines, she will let me pick through the bin before they go out for recycling. This is how I read People magazine for free. Yes, the issues are a couple of weeks old, but for free I can’t complain. It beats shelling out over $200 for a year’s subscription.
For more free magazines, organize a magazine swap with family or friends. I’ve become very popular in the magazine swap I have going with my friends. We save our magazines and then trade amongst ourselves. Since I have so many from my various sources, my contributions are eagerly awaited! If you get a bunch of free magazines to swap with, it won’t cost you anything to participate and you’ll get to read some magazines you otherwise wouldn’t.
If you go the freebie route for your magazines, you can’t be too picky about what you read or how old it is. When searching for free subscriptions your favorite might not be available, but you can probably find something equally entertaining. Likewise, when participating in magazine exchanges you might not get the most current issues, but you’ll still be able to find relevant information. If your reading needs are very time sensitive, maybe the free route isn’t for you. But for the rest of us, there is plenty of useful and entertaining information to be found in magazines that are a few issues out of date.
Now that I’ve found free magazines, I haven’t paid for a subscription in a couple of years. Free magazines save me money, expose me to people, places and ideas I wouldn’t otherwise learn about, and feed my reading addiction. What more could I ask for?