Kelly writes in:
Do you subscribe to any magazines? Why? Do you find enough value in them to be worth the cost?
This was originally a question in Thursday’s reader mailbag, but the answer became long enough that I felt it deserved a post of its own.
Sarah and I get several different magazines in the mail. Most of these magazines come about from buying magazine subscriptions from the children of neighbors who are trying to raise funds for their activities, which we try to support. It’s not an overwhelming cost for us and it facilitates good relationships with the neighbors while also supporting youth activities.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t try to maximize our value from these orders. Over time, we’ve come up with something of a philosophy for deciding what magazines to order when those neighbor kids come around. The reason? It’s just another opportunity to maximize the value of each dollar we spend.
So, here’s how we decide which magazines to order when this situation comes up.
Magazines of direct professional use Sarah teaches science classes, so if she’s ordering, she’ll tend to choose magazines like Discover or Scientific American. For my own writing, I used to look at personal finance magazines like Money, but now I find more value in things like Businessweek and The Economist.
Why? We love our jobs, simply put. We enjoy reading about things related to our chosen careers. Doing so makes us better at those things, too.
Magazines covering activities we enjoy engaging in This mostly applies to cooking magazines, which is what we typically order if we don’t have any career-oriented options. Magazines like Bon Appetit and Vegetarian Times fill in the gap here.
Why? With a family of five, food is a major part of our monthly finances and a significant part of our time, too. Food preparation is also something Sarah and I both enjoy doing. We love experimenting, and having children on hand to try out our experiments makes it even more of an interesting challenge.
Challenging general interest magazines By these, we mean things like The New Yorker and The Atlantic – magazines with long, in-depth articles that strive to actually teach something to the reader on a variety of topics.
Why? Neither Sarah nor I like to read if it doesn’t challenge us in some way. Articles in magazines like these consistently do that.
Virtually always, we can find a magazine that fits into one of these three groups.
Do we renew? Once we’ve subscribed, we keep a careful eye on how much we read that particular magazine. Are there issues left unread? Do we get something valuable out of the issues that we do read? Do we take action or rethink our viewpoints because of something we read in those magazines?
Generally, when we do renew, we wait until there’s another child at our doorstep asking us to buy a magazine subscription. That way, we get both the value of the magazine and the social value of supporting neighbors and community.