Disclaimer: This is a position I’ve somewhat relaxed over the years! But if you’re struggling with reining in your spending, it’s a good strategy to try, so I’m leaving it up because it was helpful for me when I did it.
Thank god I was tracking my spending last month. Seriously.
If I hadn’t been, I would have completely missed the almost-$60 charge that went through on my credit card for an auto-renewal of my subscription for Martha Stewart Living.
I know, I’m your 65-year-old grandmother, but I like what I like.
Or at least, I used to.
I went through a very real “I’m going to be a fancy homemaker” phase over the past two years. A lot of it was incredibly useful, and has turned out to be very frugal in the end.
Learning how to cook? Very frugal, and I use it every day.
The knife set I got for Christmas? The most practical thing anyone has ever bought me.
Baking skills? No one has ever complained over home-baked birthday presents, as frugal as they are.
However, along with this somehwat-newfound interest, I lifestyle-inflationed my way into not one, but two homemaker-type magazine subscriptions. Around this time last year, I signed up for a year-long subscription to Martha Stewart Living, closely followed by Style at Home – which is basically a Pinterest board of beautiful Canadian houses turned into a magazine.
Magazine Arrival Day used to be the best. The Boyfriend would get back from checking the mail, hand me a magazine and understand that for the next hour, I was Not To Be Bothered. I’d curl up with the magazine and spend an hour daydreaming about gorgeous houses and/or planning my next baking project.
Isn’t there always a but?
The past few magazines that showed up at my doorstep (the luxury of it all!) elicited an “OK, I’ll get to it later on.” Sure, I read them, and I even earmarked a few recipes that looked good, but the same zing of possibility and excitement just wasn’t there.
Maybe it was the profile of a $75,000 kitchen renovation and my new awareness of oh my god you spent $75,000 on a kitchen do you know how much that would compound to over the next 30 years?! Whatever the root cause, each jaunt through the magazines came with a hyper-awareness of just how much advertising I was consuming as a leisure activity.
When I really thought about it, I remembered that oh right, I’ve had this epiphany before, but about fashion magazines. In the immortal words of Savage Garden,
“I believe that beauty magazines promote low self-esteem.”
I used to read fashion and beauty magazines all the time, but as a direct result, I “learned” how to spend way more than I needed to on absolutely unnecessary advancements in mascara technology.
These days, I’m perfectly fine with my drugstore mascara, thankyouverymuch, and beyond that – I truly cannot tell the difference in my day-to-day life. If schmancy mascara is your jam, and it makes you feel absolutely amazing, that’s fantastic, and I’m SO happy for you. No sarcasm! It’s just not my thing, so I choose not to spend more than $10 on it – which is easy when I’m not exposed to the glossy two-page spread about how my eyes could look like a movie star’s, if only I were willing to buy $50 mascara.
I stepped away from the magazines, my eyes still look fine – at least, no one has ever had the guts to tell me otherwise – and my wallet is very, very happy.
See, I learned my lesson. Magazines all have an agenda, and that’s OK – we all have to make money. But the problem arises when you aren’t paying attention to the difference between what your leisure time reading is trying to sell you, and what you really value. It happened to me with makeup once before.
But as with many a life lesson, I needed to get hit over the head with it again before it really stuck. Luckily, I noticed it this time before it got too far. I think I would have been exponentially more upset had my lifestyle magazines convinced me to take on debt to finance a dream kitchen.
Instead of continuing down this path and finding $100 bookends that I just had to have, thanks to the magic of tracking my spending I noticing the charge, cancelled the subscription and received a full refund for the almost-$60 charge on my credit card, because I caught it so quickly.
In the meantime, I’ll allow myself a 30-minute guiltless jaunt down Pinterest road if I want to get lost in pictures of gorgeous interiors and unbelievable baking projects. Seems like a fair trade, and as a bonus: it’s free.
Have you changed your magazine – or other media! – consumption as a result of paying more attention to your money? Or are you totally impervious to advertising? (Oh man, teach me your ways if you are!)
It’s so hard to own a home and flip through magazines. I love the changes that we’ve made to our house, but we’ve tried to be really practical about them. In terms of advertising, the hardest thing for me to do is reconcile some of the lifestyle/fashion blogs that I follow with my own priorities. There are a few bloggers who I still follow because I love their writing, but I had to let a few go because it really was just fueling the mindless consumer in me.
I couldn’t agree more! I definitely have my guilty-pleasure lifestyle blogs too, but most of them are featuring such ridiculously priced items that it’s more a “look how some people live and oh my god that t-shirt cost $325!” and less “I should really buy these things.” So I’m in the clear on those ones unless I suffer some kind of personality transplant.
We’ve done some updates to The Boyfriend’s house in the time I’ve lived there, and practical is a REALLY good word to describe them, haha. We’re really conscious of not over-improving for the neighbourhood, which helps limit the set of options! When you’re replacing cabinets that came with the house in the 80s, you’re probably not in an area that would appreciate new granite countertops. Ikea laminate is serving us really well for now! (And honestly, looks great and was far cheaper than the exact same product at the big home stores, in case you were wondering!)
I shudder when I think about all the money I’ve wasted since I started working in my teens. Some of it was nicely employed and I do not regret it, but most of it went to what I now consider garbage. I think I could I have retired by now if I had saved and invested that money. At least I’ve learned my lesson! Some people never do…
Tracking your expenses is a wonderful idea. At first it may seem tedious, but you’ll learn about your tendencies and will be able to better avoid the pitfalls.
Oh my gosh, I had never even CONSIDERED my teenaged earnings. I’m going to just lump that into “lessons learned” and not think too hard about how much I probably made and what that might be worth today, because I might cry.
Oh my gosh it was probably so much money.
Now I’m stuck trying to remember literally anything I bought during that time… and all I’ve got is Starbucks. I went to Starbucks *a lot.* And bought food at the mall. All I can do is laugh at this, and chalk it up to “at least I learned eventually!”
And yes, in more recent wins I’ve been really happy about how much I’m learning by tracking my spending so closely! It’s been a huge eye opener that I’d recommend to anyone 🙂
I love a good (bad?) magazine and my favorite way to get them is through my public library. There is even a way to get them instantly via my iPad. Love it!
…. Kate, I had literally never considered that the library would have e-magazines! This is blowing my mind.
I always walk by the big wall of magazines and think about going to spend an afternoon getting my magazine fix, but e-magazines! I’m going to run and check to see if my library offers that ASAP. Even if my library doesn’t offer it, thank you for reminding me once again that I should basically always check the library first.
I deleted my “things I need to buy” board on Pinterest. So instead of having a dedicated spot where it’s geared towards buying or spending stuff, I try to focus on things I can make or cook or bake, instead of things I want to buy. For some reason that shift has helped.
What a great shift Katelynne – and SO much yes for finding baking projects on Pinterest! I have nothing but ah-may-zing things to say about this chocolate chip cookie recipe and this cinnamon brioche pull-apart bread (you will be the most popular Christmas human if you bring this to brunch, I speak from experience.)
I’ve kept a wishlist of sorts in Google Keep for a while now, but it’s WAY easier to avoid purchasing things when they’re on a text list that you forget to check for months until someone asks you what you want for your birthday and you legitimately can’t think of anything, haha. I feel like a Pinterest board of the exact same items, displayed to perfection, would definitely be my downfall!
As it is, the best part of my Google wishlist is that every time I open it, I cross off a bunch of stuff that I didn’t buy and actually don’t want anymore. I’m sure there’s a blog post in there somewhere, haha.
I never managed to get around to subscribing to a magazine, although I came close very many times.
Instead, I tend to binge on magazines every now and then (30$ on magazines? omg).
I even spent almost 60$ on wedding magazines this year, and I’m not even the one getting married, just planning the wedding :S
I love the home/food magazines, but the beauty/fashion magazines are my go to.
Fortunately, they don’t really fuel mindless consumerism for me. Beuaty blogs and my best friend do that 😛
Hahaha oh man Rue, I am all too familiar with the magazine binge. You’re talking to a fellow magazine binger here – and also, I think binging on wedding magazines is what keeps that entire industry alive, because who really buys them every month?! There is a pretty defined window in which most people have the golden ticket to buy them and not look weird, and it’s definitely with either a) an invite to plan a wedding or b) an engagement ring. I guess maybe a pro wedding planner could subscribe… but seriously. You have to assume most people do the exact same $60 wedding magazine buy that you did 🙂
My Achilles heel is the overpriced airport magazines. There’s just something about the airport and the prospect of a long flight to convince me I want to spend $40 on magazines I’ll likely leave on the flight, because I’m sure not carting them around on my entire trip. Needless to say, you’re in good company!
I hear you!
I had my tirade on magazines too!
The only one I may keep is Vogue because it’s resellable on eBay and is like an art museum in my hands.
What an awesome post Suze – I love the way you broke down the pros and cons! And I know what you mean about Vogue. It used to be one of my staples, and as much as it sounds a little ridiculous to say “I read it for the articles!” they really do have some superb writers on staff and great quality writing. It’s a bonus on top of the world-class photography and to-die-for clothes, haha.
I used to be the worlds’ worst for this! I would buy a new Cosmo magazine every month, or an US weekly whenever the gossip looked good enough to cheer me up. If emotional spending had ever affected me it was through advertising. Since I took a good look at my finances I have not bought a single magazine. They are more so advertisements than anything else and it’s not worth the $6 for one article.
I scoff at paying money for a newspaper subscription so what makes magazines any different? Anyway – I think the bottom line is that we shouldn’t be paying for information we can get online for free!
Thanks so much Alyssa! And oh man, have I ever felt the emotional pull of just about every magazine when standing in line at the grocery store. It totally depends on my mood too. Pre-not-buying-fashion-mags, I would be the girl standing in line with a pint of ice cream and then decide that Women’s Health should probably make its way home with me as well. Six easy ways to get abs? MAYBE ONE OF THEM IS ICE CREAM.
One of the things I’ve noticed too is that over the course of a month, most of the in-magazine articles – even the big features – tend to end up online on the magazine’s website anyways. Even with MoneySense (my one holdout! I still love it.) I have to hold myself back from reading everything online so I don’t spoil the magazine for myself.
Talk about first world problems, eh?
Oh I can completely relate to this! In fact, I used to write a rather Martha Stewart-esque blog, which meant reading other Martha Stewart-esque blogs, which meant being exposed to SO. MUCH. STUFF. Products to buy, new ways to “refresh” one’s decor, new kitchen gadgets, and on and on. Even though I was shopping for deals, I was shopping a LOT. And I literally quit that blog over it. I didn’t like how my little frugal home blog had turned into this major force for consumerism in my life. And magazines are the same! Pinterest is the same! I now consume a lot less of all of it — I’m down to just Sunset and Rolling Stone. Giving up House Beautiful was the hardest, but definitely worth it. (And I keep a little stash of old issues in case I ever feel the need to peruse some gorgeous rooms.) 🙂
Yes, yes, yes! That’s exactly what I found in literally a month of my so-called lifestyle blogging adventure way back when – I was going to craft stores *regularly* and spending so much more than I ever thought possible. Getting all the “right props” for a single image is ridiculous! It really adds up before you know it, and the monetization strategy for basically every lifestyle blog ever is Sell All The Things, so it’s tough to stay on top of it all. I’ve found certain sections of Pinterest are “safe” for me, haha, especially when it comes to looking up vegetarian recipes – I stay far away from the style and most crafts now though, because the temptation is just too much!
I am pretty good at resisting magazine advertising, so I don’t feel too bad about the occasional indulgence in Martha Stewart or Real Simple. Part of it is that RS in particular seriously annoys me — it’s a magazine about simplifying your life which is entirely dedicated to selling you stuff. Uh, no. However! I do like looking at the peaceful happy pictures and reading about organizing my closets. And they both often have good simple recipes. That said, I wouldn’t subscribe on my own. My roommate gets Real Simple and I read hers, and I read my mom’s Martha Stewart — and I feel no guilt about buying some magazines for the occasional plane ride, since it doesn’t happen very often. That said, yay for ditching your subscription! The only thing I subscribe to now is The New Yorker, which is worth every single penny.
Hahaha oh man do I ever feel you on the Real Simple thing! I had one issue of Martha Stewart show up right after I had read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and the entire issue was about storage solutions for all of your stuff. Having just spent two days getting rid of bags and bags and bags of stuff, I spent the entire issue shaking my head. Just don’t have so much stuff! That said, the closets featured *were* a thing of beauty 🙂
I’m right there with you on airports though – something about a long plane ride just screams “Buy magazines and indulge in mindless fun!” That’s one thing I’ll never give up – and I’m not at all opposed to diving into my grandmother’s library of old Martha issues!