When you want to save money in a major way, you have to take some serious stances. You need to start tracking all of your expenses, and then start examining them and culling the herd.
It starts out easy. You find dollar bills running out the door and going to frivolous luxuries like paying someone to make your lunch for you, tv channels you don’t watch, or to a gym membership you don’t use. And you start finding dollar bills going to live with people who don’t deserve them, like financial advisors or contractors who are overcharging you.
We’ve spent years finding and eliminating these inefficiencies. After you pare down more and more, it gets kind of fun in one way. It’s a challenge, a game. We’ve cut down on takeout food, clothing, groceries, and gas for our cars. I bike to work a lot of the time. These changes result in thousands upon thousands of extra dollars every year that can go to more important things.
Then at a certain point, you hit a wall. You’ve eliminated almost everything you can think of. But now it’s an addiction… the need to cut is still there! You feel the need to cut more! Like Space Ghost said, “Cut cut cut cut cut cut!”
So whatareya gonna cut?
We all have those things we spend money on that seem impossible to let go of. Maybe it’s your craft beer, or movie tickets, fancy food, or ski passes. You just love it so very, very much. It’s a thing that almost feels like a part of you. Ah, but it costs money! If only it was free, right? For me, one of those thing I’ve always taken for granted is the daily newspaper.
I’ve always consumed a lot of media, and that includes a lot of news. There has almost never been a time when I haven’t read the newspaper. I started reading the comic strips when I was in elementary school. In middle school, I started reading the sports section.
Eventually I learned to appreciate the other sections. Local, national, world news. The movie reviews and lifestyle section. The Dave Barry-knockoff funny guy column. In college, I didn’t have a subscription, but for a time, our school experimented with delivering piles of different newspapers to our dorms! So every day, I was reading the Poughkeepsie Journal, The New York Times, and USA Today. Apparently, I was the only one, because they stopped that experiment soon after.
Once Marge and I moved in together, I made it a point to immediately subscribe to the Albany Times Union. To me, it was as necessary as signing up for electricity! People can knock the Times Union all they want, but it is definitely the best local newspaper out of the three places I’ve lived. (Every time I visit my old hometown, I manage to find spelling and grammatical errors in the Waterbury Republican-American)
I love photos like this one from the Travers stakes race at Saratoga of hundreds of people trying to take a bad photo of a horse. (Side note: I’ve stopped taking photos at well-attended events. If I really want the photo, I’ll be able to find someone else’s later. It’s a wonder more people don’t do the same thing. Photography-wise, we are at Peak Documentation)
Unlike canceling our cable tv subscription, canceling the newspaper was very bittersweet for me. It was actually tough, and I had to rationalize it. Instead of going straight up cold turkey, I am allowing myself to buy the Sunday newspaper.
You will have to pry my Sunday newspaper from my cold dead hands! Our Sunday routine involves watching CBS Sunday Morning, reading the Sunday newspaper, and Maeby begging to eat our delicious Sunday breakfast:
How does the cost compare? Well, the Times Union has been raising their subscription price over the years. Last year, I paid for a year’s subscription all at once and it was $442. By comparison, since the Sunday paper costs $2.00, the most I could possibly spend buying just Sunday papers is $104 a year. But we’re not around every Sunday with our various trips, so it might be closer to $80 or $90 a year.
That’s $350 saved a year! That’s a few months of heat in the winter, or most of our water bill for the year. It’s also about how much we spent on cell and landline telephones in 2014.
What made cancelling the newspaper even more difficult is that the timing aligns perfectly with the toughest time in history for the survival of newspapers. With the rise of free news on the internet, they’re losing subscribers. And revenue from internet advertising doesn’t match the revenue provided from old-fashioned subscribers like me.
I believe you should support the things you like in the world, which is why letting my newspaper subscription lapse feels so wrong. By directly supporting the newspaper, you directly support journalism, and journalism is an integral part of a well-functioning democratic society. I say “directly” supporting because journalism can be indirectly supported by advertising.
But I actually worry what 100% advertising-supported journalism in the future will look like. Advertisers’ needs don’t line up with the news-reading public’s needs. I like the subscription model. I like listener-supported radio stations and podcasts and reader-supported newspapers because they have no one to answer to except for their audience… But I’m still cancelling this one.
On the bright side, I’ve kind of been looking forward to this change. Not only will it save money, but it will allow me practice that Mr. Money Mustache idea of the Low Information Diet. There is so much news in the world, and so little of it actually impacts my life. So why do I need to know it? It’s good to be an informed citizen, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
Not that I plan on becoming a mouth-breathing ignoramus. By eliminating my daily lunchtime newspaper read, I can read more books. And thanks my prodigious use of the used book trade site PaperbackSwap, I have more than enough books to keep me occupied for a long time. And there’s more coming all the time.
I just finished Heads In Beds and Wild, and now I’m working my way through Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower and Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do. Traffic should be of interest to many people, but especially those of us who, like me, find traffic patterns fascinating and also hate cars.