I subscribe to quite a few magazines. Some I got for free, but I’ve paid for many of them. Up until recently I’d been guilty of giving my magazines a quick read and then tossing them into the recycling bin. Then one day I asked myself, “Why am I subscribing to these if I’m not really getting anything out of them?” It started to seem like a waste of money if all I was doing was spending twenty minutes flipping through the magazines and then tossing them without getting anything lasting out of them.
So I decided to slow down and spend more time with each magazine and to write down or cut out things that I could actually use. I decided that if the magazine wasn’t giving me something that I could use in some way then I didn’t need the subscription. I no longer wanted to waste money just to fill my recycling bin. I can glance through many magazines for free at the library or even online. Subscriptions, I decided, should be limited to just those magazines that are useful to me. As I started paying more attention to my magazines, here are some content areas that provided useful information.
Recipes: I don’t love to cook, so I always tended to skip through the recipe section of most women’s magazines. I thought everything in there was too complex or time consuming for me. When I started paying attention, though, I was surprised at how many things were actually quite simple. I started clipping and adding quite a bit to my recipe file.
Coupons: I’ve always paid attention to coupons in magazines. That’s about the only thing prior to this experiment that could get me to pull out the scissors and clip. Some magazines are better than others for coupons, but there are usually at least a few that I can use.
Projects: I tended to skip over the craft projects for much the same reasons as I skipped over the recipes. They didn’t seem useful to me, or they were too complex. Once I started paying attention, though, I was able to find quite a few things that were fun to do or might be useful someday. Some magazines, like my husband’s woodworking magazines, have really elaborate projects. I’ve found a few things that I’d like to build (or have him build) one day.
Tips: My computer magazines provide some really great shortcuts that I didn’t know about. Women’s magazines provide some useful cleaning tips, or other household hints. Most magazines provide tips and hints on various subjects. If I come across something I didn’t know, I clip them and keep them for reference.
Puzzles: Some magazines include crosswords or puzzles. While it’s not enough of a reason (to me) to keep a subscription just for the puzzles, they can help keep your brain active so if you have a magazine that offers puzzles, take the time to do them.
Career boosting information: As a writer, I subscribe to industry-specific magazines. I keep a notebook handy and write down the information of publishers and agents that I think might be interested in my work. If I see that someone has represented or published a work similar to mine, I add them to my notebook. I do the same with my graphic design magazines. Anything that might someday be useful in my career gets written down. You can do the same with any of your industry-specific magazines.
Give it to the kids: Once you’ve extracted all the useful content that you can out of a magazine, don’t recycle it just yet. If you have kids, keep a stash of old magazines around for them to use in craft projects. They can cut out the pictures for collages and other crafts.
Dream content: Travel magazines are great sources for future trips. Whenever I see an article about a place I’d like to go, I clip it. Maybe I’ll get there someday. Some people like decorating magazines because they aspire to have a home like the featured ones someday. Car enthusiasts may want to clip information about a car they’d like to have. Not everything in a magazine has to be useful to you today. Some of it can feed your dreams and come in handy “someday.”
Things you want to research further: Sometimes I’ll see a stock or fund referenced in a financial magazine that I want to look into later. I’ll make a note of it. I might see a new treatment for a disease that a friend or family member is suffering from and I’ll write it down to look into it later. Magazines, because they specialize in short pieces, often can’t get into too much detail about things. If you see something you want to investigate further, write it down.
After I went through this process for a few months, I decided to eliminate five of my magazine subscriptions. They were entertaining, but I just wasn’t getting anything substantial out of them. I decided to just read those at the library from time to time. If you go through a magazine and you simply can’t find anything useful in it, it may be time to think about dropping the subscription. Maybe you can give it another issue or two, but if you’re still not finding any content you can use, save the money.
If you’re worried about the amount of paper you’ll generate by clipping every article or recipe that you find useful, you have two options. One, you can scan the piece and keep it on your hard drive. This is what I do with most things I want to keep. After I scan it in, I recycle the original. Two, you can look up the article online and bookmark it in your browser. There are two limitations to this, though. First, publishers often take down older stuff after a while, making your bookmark useless. Second, some publishers don’t put the little tips and hints type pieces on their website.
Magazines should give you something useful in exchange for the money you pay. Sure, some are more frivolous than others and fluff can be entertaining and distracting. But you have to ask whether a magazine that doesn’t provide useful information is worth the subscription fee. Maybe you can just glance through those entertaining magazines at the library for free. If you want to get your money’s worth out of a magazine subscription, you need to make note of the content that you can use in the future.
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