Ending My Relationship With Newspapers

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.

Bike Commute (3)

More biking means more views like this

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)
Times Union (3)

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:

Maeby Sunday Breakfast (5)

She ended up getting a bite of hash

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.

Books To Read

PaperbackSwap spoils

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.

What’s the one expense you can’t imagine cutting? You ever read any of those books?

13 Comments

  1. Hmmm… “Call me Ishmael…” actually, I only read the cliffnotes. The rest of them… I got nothin!

    As a person who spent a lot of VERY early mornings of her youth delivering newspapers, letting go of that one was actually very easy for me. If I NEVER have to have black fingers from newspaper ink again, it will be too soon! Plus, the vast majority of my papers when I did subscribe went straight into the recycling without ever even being opened – just never got around to reading them!

    And the expense I can’t imagine cutting is my cats. Seriously, they’re my single biggest expense. They eat better than I do most days, and I spend a ridiculous amount of money keeping them healthy and happy. I keep saying I’ll never get another cat… but alas, the cat fairy keeps bringing me more! There’s a little gray neighborhood stray who’s working hard at adopting me…. I guess we all have our weaknesses. Sigh.

    • Norm

      August 31, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      Ah, that news ink is pesky. I hope you were a better deliveryperson than our newspaper man who flies by in a car, doing probably 30, and hurls the paper without even slowing down. Sometimes it slams into a window, sometimes it’s hidden in the bush, sometimes it ends up on the roof!

      And yeah, pet expense is one you can’t cut. I would never recommend giving up a poor animal just to save some dough. It looks like our dog and two bunnies will be with us forever. I just saw a dog food commercial yesterday where the dog was “thinking” how much better he eats than his owner. “All she eats is crackers and yogurt.” I don’t laugh at many commercials, but that one got me.

      • Ha! I don’t know what kind of a delivery person I was… though by the end I could ride down the middle of the street on my bike and hit porches on either side. Of course there were those times that I got a tad bit too much zing on the thing and smashed it into the screen door… at 5 in the morning. At which point you ride REALLY fast…! 🙂

  2. I agree here. I’m still fairly young, but I’ve never paid for a newspaper. I think that they are having some serious issues, and If I paid for any paper, it’d be the NYTimes (I love their reporting) and i’d do a digital only, which is a fraction of the real paper cost.

    • Norm

      September 2, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      Yeah, a lot of the cost is the printing and delivery of all those papers. The New York Times subscription is pretty good. I always use up my allotted ten articles a month, so I have to choose what I read carefully. I think I clicked on one this month and it just turned out to be a blurb and I was all upset!

  3. I haven’t gotten the newspaper in years….I find all my news on the internet. But now it’s actually due to boycott. Awhile back they called me to solicit me to get a subscription. I told them calmly that I wasn’t interested, but they kept hammering away. They told me the information on the internet was false, and that i needed their physical paper. They argued with me, and got belligerent…..then THEY hung up on ME. I called back and laid into a manager telling them what had happened, and told them to take me off their list. I would never, ever EVER buy their paper. A few years later they called back, and I let the guy have it again retelling the story, and demanding to know how I got back on their cal list. No paper for me!

    • Norm

      September 2, 2015 at 11:14 pm

      They’re terrible! I forgot to mention that ever since I cancelled a few weeks ago, we’ve been getting calls everyday from them with offers of cheap subscriptions. It’s so pathetic I was starting to feel bad for them, but one came tonight at 9PM, so screw that.

  4. I tried Tell the Wolves I’m Home, but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get into it.

    It’s my deep shame that I’ve never been able to steadily and thoroughly read a newspaper. Why is that particularly embarrassing? Both my parents are journalists.

    I’ll do okay or a few days or even a week. Then I miss a couple of days and it all piles up, and my depression takes over and flees from the stress. Sigh.

    • Norm

      September 2, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      I can’t even remember why I added Tell The Wolves to my list. I hear stuff recommended somewhere, add it, and forget about it.

      I’m almost the opposite. If I forget to cancel the paper while I’m on vacation and come back to a week’s worth of papers, I feel like it’s my obligation to read them all. And it feels like a waste of time even while I’m doing, but I feel like if I don’t, I’ll miss something? It’s a stupid completist compulsion I have with a lot of things. But if the newspaper isn’t there at all, I don’t have to think about it.

  5. I cancelled my subscription to the Baltimore Sun about 10 years ago – mostly because I don’t like their politics. My wife still likes to get the Sunday paper for the coupons, so I accepted their low cost subscription offer of $9.95 for the entire year. I just make sure I cancel at the end of the year and another offer shows up in about a month.

  6. I own and enjoyed “I Want My MTV”. I see you have the revised paperback there, instead of my horrible-to-behold hardback with Madonna on the front cover. I hope it still includes Ad-Rock’s immortal line “I liked a couple of videos by They Might Be Giants”.

    I stopped buying a daily newspaper in around 2009 and went online-only. When I made a nostalgic purchase of the big Saturday paper a few weeks ago, I really loved it! But I’m not sure how much of that would wear off in time, and how much of it was because the print version seems to skew to an older readership than the online version – as a result, my incipient cranky-old-man wasn’t thinking “Why would I care about the opinions of people younger than me?”

    • Norm

      September 5, 2015 at 8:31 pm

      I remember a few people saying how much they liked that book, which is why I got it. You might’ve been one of them.

      Big weekend paper is great, right? Is it all about the Saturday paper in Australia, with a teeny Sunday paper? We do it opposite. One of the gross things about our newspaper now is all the online elements interfering with the paper version. They just take website comments, even anonymous ones, and print them as headlines above the fold of the local section. Above the fold! And they always run spurious website poll results. Quit crowd-sourcing content, paper!

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