Don’t Make Advertising Your Leisure-Time Reading

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.

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!)