In my area, there are three weekly “alternative” newspapers, supported by advertisements, that can be picked up for free in the entrance to the local grocery stores. I used to be (at best) peripherally aware of the existence of these newspapers; I’d just stroll right by them on my way in to do my shopping. Now, each Saturday on my routine shopping trips, I pick up a copy of each one and toss it into my cart. Why? I save money because of it.
Here’s why: when I get home, I put these free papers out on the table where I can see them (in the same place where I put any new magazines I get). When I get home from work, I usually grab something off of this stack and read through it. Quite often, I’ll find myself finishing off one of the periodicals in an evening, meaning I’ve filled the free time I have with reading instead of turning on the television or the computer.
What does this mean? These free periodicals are causing me to fill more time with reading (which has no cost) and less time with watching television or playing a computer game (which costs electricity, cable, internet, etc.). It’s not even a conscious choice, really (aside from picking up the free periodicals); I just pick something off of the periodical pile and read it in the evenings if there’s something there to read.
I sat down and figured that picking up these periodicals keeps the television and computer off for two hours a week. All told, during active use, I calculated that my desktop computer and its peripherals gobbles down somewhere around 300 watts, while my large television and cable box use about 125 watts. Together, that means I’m using about a kilowatt less each week, which adds up to about four kilowatts less a month, which means I save about $0.40 a month, or about $5 a year.
It doesn’t seem like much, but consider another factor: the local alternative newspaper often has passionate writers and detailed community event listings. I’ve discovered several free events that I’ve attended that, without the alternative papers, I would have never been aware of them. I’m also much better informed on what’s going on in my local community than I would have been even a year ago.
Another way that it saved money is that I found, by adding these to my periodicals, I was starting to not be able to keep up with my subscriptions, so I cancelled the magazine I enjoyed the least, a weekly periodical that saved me about $50 a year.
This adds up not only to a cost savings, but a better sense of community and more peace of mind.