Shop around for magazine subscriptions

Now that I’m retired, I’ve discovered a new interest in not spending money!  One small way is this; when you get a magazine renewal notice in the mail, don’t just stick a check in it and send it back.  Shop!  It’s not a lifestyle-changer, but I think I can guarantee that if you’re subscribing to a few magazines, you’ll be able to take your sweetie out to (a modest) dinner on the money you save.

Just say “no”

A renewal notice from National Geographic.

A renewal notice from National Geographic.

This is the easiest way to save the most money on a subscription; just don’t renew it, if nobody in the house reads it very often.  What to do; recycle that sucker.

Check Amazon

To proceed, you’ll need a credit card and an internet connection.  If you’re wary of buying stuff online, try Amazon.  I’ve dealt with them since the last century and they’ve been totally reliable.  And while there are usually lower prices to be found on the web, Amazon sometimes has good deals.  What to do:

  1. In Amazon’s magazine section, search for the magazine.
  2. Compare the price to the renewal notice you got from the magazine.
  3. If you buy a subscription renewal, make sure to create a new shipping address that is precisely the same as the mailing label on the magazine you’re receiving now.  This way, the magazine will match your shipping label to its address database and realize this is a renewal.

    National Geographic on Amazon.

    National Geographic on Amazon.

Note that the high-level listing for the magazine may mention “Eligible for super-saver shipping.”  “Super-saver shipping” means Amazon won’t charge for shipping if your order totals $25 or more.  But, this is an error; Amazon doesn’t service subscriptions, the magazine publishers do that.  So, Amazon doesn’t have a shipping charge for a subscription, regardless of the price, as the detail listing for the magazine and your checkout will show.

On the other hand, I see that Amazon now collects sales tax, even for a magazine subscription.  So your final cost may be slightly more than advertised.

Find a magazine discounter

If you’re a bit more daring and are willing to do a few more minutes’ work, you may save more by buying your subscription from a third-party service.  What to do:

Searching for a company that offers subscriptions to Discover Magazine.

Searching for a company that offers subscriptions to Discover Magazine.

  1. Use a search engine such as Google to search on “<name of magazine> subscription“.
  2. Ignore the sponsored links in the shaded area at the top of the search results.  (In fact I always ignore them; when I’ve tried them they’ve always either been sleazy deals or broken links.)
  3. Compare the prices in the pages you find to the renewal notice, Amazon, and each other.
  4. When you find a discounter you’re interested in doing business with, search for reviews of that discounter; for example, “<name of company> review“.  If they’ve burned people, some of them will post about it.  Also, the Better Business Bureau rates magazine discounters.
  5. If you decide to buy a renewal, make sure the address you supply precisely matches that on your magazine’s mailing label, as explained above.

Subscribe online?

This is the most dubious alternative, but I’m including it here for the sake of completeness.  On my iPad 2 I subscribed to one magazine on Zillo.  What I got; a bunch of photographs of print magazine pages, with a minimal indexing system for navigating between them.

Another way; look in the iTunes App Store for the magazine.  Typically, you’ll find a free app.  (must there be a different reader app for every single e-publication?) After you’ve downloaded it and started it up, you’ll discover that you have to pay for the magazines you read with the free app.  Most of the magazines I’ve checked want the same money for an online subscription as for a print subscription, even tho their online costs are a fraction of print costs.  I expect this to change in the next couple of years.  But for now, the often poor reading experience and lack of savings are discouraging.


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