Even in the digital age, magazines have something to offer. They provide a weekly or monthly deep dive into a topic that interests us — something we can’t get from a quick skim of our Facebook feeds.
The biggest downside of magazines is their cost. The cost per issue is significantly lower with a subscription than it is when you simply grab a magazine off the newsstand, but it still isn’t trivial.
At Discount Magazines, subscription prices for popular magazines range from around $1.50 to $5 per issue. Some weekly magazines cost as much as $190 per year.
Ways to Spend Less on Magazine Subscriptions
If you’re trying to save money on a tight budget, your first impulse might be to slash out all unnecessary “extras,” including magazine subscriptions. But cutting your budget to the bone this way can actually backfire by causing frugal fatigue.
A much better idea is to find ways to enjoy your favorite magazines for less.
1. Ask the Publisher
The first place to look for a better deal on your favorite magazine is with the publisher. For instance, many magazine publishers charge you significantly less per issue if you subscribe for more than one year.
This is a good way to save on a favorite magazine you know you’ll want to keep reading for at least a couple of years. Check your renewal notice or the little subscription cards tucked inside the magazine for offers.
Another way to save is to call up the subscription office and negotiate the price. If you’ve been subscribing to the same magazine for several years, you’re probably paying quite a bit more now for your subscription than you did when you first signed up.
Magazine publishers tend to offer their best rates to new subscribers in the hope they’ll get hooked on their content. They pay less attention to long-term subscribers because they assume they’re committed already.
However, you don’t always have to be a new reader to get the introductory rate. In many cases, all you have to do is call and ask to have your old rate reinstated.
This strategy tends to work best if your subscription is up for renewal, since you can threaten to cancel if you don’t get the cheaper rate. There’s a good chance the publisher will give it to you rather than risk losing your business.
To give yourself this leverage, make sure not to sign up for the “auto-renew” option when you first subscribe to a magazine. If you do, your automatic renewal will likely come with the highest possible rate.
2. Seek Daily Deals
From time to time, daily deal websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial offer magazine subscriptions at extraordinarily low rates. You can save as much as 90% off the regular price for a one-year subscription.
Typically, you can find deals on only a few magazines at any given time. You probably won’t be able to snag discounts on your particular favorites the first time you look.
However, if you check these sites regularly, you can spot deals on the magazines you love as soon as they pop up and snap them up before they disappear.
3. Use Your Rewards
If you use rewards programs and apps such as Swagbucks or Ibotta, you can often cash in rewards for magazine subscriptions. You can earn rewards points from these programs in a variety of ways, including shopping online, searching the Web, taking surveys, or even playing games.
Since many of these are things you’d do anyway, you might as well earn your way to a free magazine subscription at the same time.
You can cash in rewards from other sorts of programs for magazines as well. For instance, some credit card rewards programs allow you to redeem your points for a magazine subscription.
And if you’ve earned a bunch of frequent flyer miles you haven’t had a chance to use, you can visit MagsForMiles to exchange them for a magazine subscription. The site accepts unused miles from multiple major airlines: Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Spirit, and United.
4. Check Magazine Discounters
The subscription price listed on the little cards inside the magazine or on the magazine’s website isn’t necessarily the best price you can get. There are various outlets that sell magazine subscriptions at discounted rates.
If you don’t want to check all those sites individually, you can save some time by going to Magazine Price Search. This site doesn’t sell magazines directly. Instead, it compares subscription prices from a dozen magazine sellers and tells you where you find the lowest rate.
It’s also sometimes possible to find magazine deals on Amazon and eBay. However, some users warn to use caution when ordering from eBay or smaller online sellers, which can take six to eight weeks to process a magazine order.
If your magazine doesn’t arrive as promised when that time period is up, it’s usually too late to cancel the charges on your credit card. Still, if the price is low enough, it can be worth the risk.
5. Look for Free Offers
Discounted subscriptions are great, but free ones are even better.
The discount site ValueMags has a whole page devoted to the most special deal of all: subscriptions of up to a year long for absolutely no cost. Most of these free offers are for digital versions of a magazine, but occasionally you’ll find one for a print subscription.
Of course, like many things that are “free,” these subscriptions come with a catch. To get them, you have to sign up for promotional emails from the website.
If you actually want to receive emails offering discounts on magazines and various other products, that’s not a downside. But if you don’t, it’s up to you to decide whether the free subscription is worth its cost in spam email.
Another site that offers free subscriptions is FreeBizMag. All the magazines here are specialty publications focused on specific professions, from education to beverage manufacturing. These can be useful for business owners, but they’re not of much interest to the general public.
6. Go Digital
Part of what makes magazines expensive is the cost of printing and mailing them. Publishers can avoid these costs by releasing their magazines in digital form, and they pass on these savings to customers.
So, if there’s a magazine you love but don’t love the price of, check to see if there’s a digital version of it you can view on your phone or tablet. If there is, you can probably save a nice chunk of change by switching your subscription from pages to pixels.
Digital magazines have other perks besides their lower price. For instance, because they don’t have to go through the mail, they’re likely to be delivered sooner than a paper copy. They can also include extra features, such as links to videos, that a printed magazine doesn’t have.
Another nice feature of digital files is they’re easier to search. You can just type in a keyword to look for specific topics or terms that interest you. It’s also easier to bookmark a digital article for future reference than it is to tear some pages out of a printed magazine and try to find a place to store them where they won’t get lost.
As a final perk, subscribing to a magazine in digital form saves paper. This makes it a way for you to save money while going green.
7. Swap With Friends
Do you have a friend or neighbor who subscribes to all the same magazines as you? Do you love getting together and discussing the articles from the latest issue? If so, you can do more than just chat about your favorite magazines — you can share your actual subscriptions.
For instance, suppose you both read two magazines every month: Better Homes & Gardens and Family Handyman. In that case, you could decide to drop your subscription to Better Homes & Gardens and keep Family Handyman, while your neighbor does the opposite.
When you get your copy of Family Handyman each month, you read it first and then pass it on to your neighbor, who gives you the latest issue of Better Homes & Gardens in exchange. Each of you gets to read your two favorite magazines while only paying for one of them.
Another way to share your magazine subscriptions is to start a magazine swap at your workplace.
Choose a central location, such as the break room, to drop off copies of your magazines when you’re done reading them. Then encourage all your coworkers to do the same. You’ll get access to your own magazines and all the ones your coworkers read as well, at no extra cost.
If you commute to work by bus or train, you can even set up a magazine swapping station at the local bus or train station.
Just put out a small box or rack labeled “Take one, leave one” and use it to drop off the magazines you’re done with instead of tossing them in the recycling bin. Other passengers will get to enjoy your old magazines during their commute, and you can hopefully pick up the ones they leave behind.
8. Visit a Library or Bookstore
If you only tend to read through a magazine once before discarding it, maybe you don’t need your own subscription at all. If your local library subscribes to your favorite magazines, you can simply read them there.
Usually, there are comfy chairs and couches to sit in, so you can stop in and curl up with a magazine whenever you have a free hour.
Many bookstores also allow you to peruse their magazine offerings to your heart’s content without paying. Here, too, there are often cozy chairs to sit in as you read. Some bookstores even have cafes, so you can enjoy a snack or a drink to go with your reading material.
The one catch with this strategy is that you can’t take the magazines home. You can only stop in to browse through them when the store or library is open. This isn’t much help if you like to spend a few minutes paging through a magazine to decompress before bed.
However, there are ways around this problem too. For instance, libraries typically keep only the two or three most recent issues of a magazine on their racks and discard the older issues. If you ask, there’s a good chance the library will let you take these back issues home rather than simply tossing them in the bin.
Some libraries also provide digital access to the magazines they subscribe to, so you can download them to read on your tablet or e-reader.
When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, even a few extra dollars a month for a magazine is sometimes more than your budget can handle. If you’re in that situation, you may have no choice but to let your magazine subscriptions lapse for a while.
Painful as it can be to give up your celebrity gossip or sports coverage, giving up on being debt-free would hurt even more.
Fortunately, dropping your subscriptions doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite reads entirely.
You can browse through them at the library or borrow them from friends and neighbors. You can also get some content for free on the magazines’ websites. These freebies can tide you over until your budget loosens up and you’re able to subscribe again.