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Purchases that keep on giving #4: Magazines


Part of my magazine collection

At one time or another I have been intensely interested in learning to skydive, taxidermy, knitting, sewing, oil painting, kung fu movies, film noir, kalashnikovs, diamonds, poisons, the subprime market crisis, science, forensics, the causes of birth defects, cooking, makeup, serial killers, the periodic table, embalming and loads more. Some of those interests are enduring, some were fleeting. Time goes very fast for me when I am learning about something just for the sake of it, but aside from a few things, the interest generally wanes after that.

That’s why I absolutely love my magazine subscription to Stack. They send me a new magazine or two each month on a random topic, put out by independent publishers. The ones I’ve received so far have covered street art, boxing, interns, gay men, plants, bicycle riding, Los Angeles, music, film, graphic design, happiness and inventions. It’s like Christmas once a month when my subscription arrives.

It’s also a purchase, and it’s one I considered long and hard about cancelling when I started my year without spending. But it’s something I decided to keep simply because it brings me so much joy. There have been a few standouts since I started, and I wanted to share two of them because they’re doing an amazing job and I guess its hard to survive in as an independent publisher in the digital age.

The Plant

This was my very first one and it’s still one of my favourites. It’s a beautiful, full-sized glossy magazine that features interviews with gardeners, landscaping tips, recipes based solely on commonly-grown edibles, gorgeous photography, erotic plant-based fiction (not even joking), an in-depth look at a feature plant and advice on growing more and better.

It’s a fun one to flick open now and again, and fills me with a desire to be more wholesome and self-sufficient. And to get out of the city. Which is completely unrealistic for me because I lose my shit when a pigeon flies in my direction and don’t even get me started on insects.




Works that Work: A magazine of unexpected creativity

Works that Work magazine aims to “publish articles that give you great dinner stories to tell your friends.” And they do. This is by far my favourite and I will get a subscription to it once my year of not spending ends. It’s only put out every six months, but the writing is of such a good standard and the topic is so broad that it could cover just about anything.

The issue I received had a fascinating long read on people who had lived through the siege of Sarajevo – the longest in modern history – and the way they had been forced to improvise to complete simple, every-day tasks. From hauling water up endless flights of stairs with no elevator to home-made thermos mugs constructed from salvaged boxes and bubble wrap, the people interviewed actually looked back on the time as one of the most interesting of their lives. Necessarily forced to develop a sense of community, people shared their inventions as quickly as they could and in a time with no conveniences, intermittent electricity and extreme danger, they innovated the most incredible things from the most unlikely materials.

There were so many other great stories in there as well: how the native Sami people of the arctic constructed dwellings that helped them follow reindeer herds across the tundra, how an entire city is constructed out of nothing every four years for the holy Indian festival of Kumbh Mela, and how the invention of a cheap solar lightbulb is changing lives in the Philippines.

My Stack subscription is a calculated spend that brings me far more joy than the 12eu a month price tag costs me. And it lets me peek into all sorts of interesting corners of our amazing world.

And by the way, if you’re like me and get crazy interested in things for a short time, you might also have felt like there was something wrong with you. I have always envied people who can sustain a deep, abiding interest in a single topic and find contentment in it. The people who always knew what they wanted to do with their lives. I’m still figuring it out, but I’m no longer punishing myself for all my interests. I’m learning to celebrate them, as I’m working my way through this book: Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. It’s a really liberating read for me and I feel much more at peace with my ADD and my broad array of interests.

And don’t worry, I didn’t buy the book. It’s something I’ve had on my shelf for a long time but have never actually sat down with. That’s another benefit of not spending, it forces you to shop your own bookshelf. And you bought everything in it for a reason, even if you haven’t gotten to it yet!


The Finer Points

Whenever I have mentioned this challenge to friends, the first reaction has been a load of questions. Mostly about what’s in and what’s out, and how far I will take this. What if there’s a nuclear holocaust and my winter coat’s not cutting it? This type of stumper.

Apparently, there is a lot more to think about than I realised.

Goods and Services

Can I go to the salon, the nail bar, the waxer? I mostly do my hair myself, so the first one is kind of redundant. I probably should go to the nail bar, but sometimes I just get a little overwhelmed by everything I “should” do for my hair, legs, skin, teeth, eyes, bones, feet and muff. It’s exhausting keeping up with maintenance. Some mornings I’m lucky if I’m wearing clothes, and I once left the apartment after jauntily tossing a black scarf around my shoulders. I got strange looks on the train, and only realised once in the office that the “scarf” was actually my black pyjama pants.

Mostly, goods and services are out. One exception is massages. I don’t go regularly, but for reasons I have explained in a previous post, there are times when I just desperately need a good strong massage. I actually don’t consider this a luxury item. Having Nid 2 (that’s apparently her real name. I’m going to work my way up to Nid 1, and then just Nid), a 45kg Thai lady, walking over your back and separating your ribs with her dainty but surprisingly strong elbows is something everyone needs to experience. You haven’t lived until Nid 2 has produced a crack from your femur.


Actually, it’s singular. I only have one. But it’s just about my favourite thing in the whole world. My Stack Magazines subscription. Each month, I am sent a different, random, English-language magazine from an independent publisher somewhere in the world. I never know what it will be, but my subscription has taken me on cycling journeys with men who’ve lost their babies, got me thinking about the diversity of journalism cadetship candidates, explained the exact reason and mechanisms through which drugs affect the brain, and introduced me to the flamboyant world of plant porn (not a typo). There’s even one dedicated entirely to happiness! Take a bow, Perdiz.

I don’t think I can bear to part with it, and it’s only 12eu a month! But as one friend pointed out, the 12 euros here and there are going to add up. And they’re what got me into this mess in the first place. This is really, really difficult choice for me. I’m going to need some more time here! Back off!


I’m keeping my phone and my internet connection. And electricity and gas connections. But only because it’s 2014 and my boss is kind of a stickler for me showering before work. Also, where else am I going to watch porn but online? (Kidding! I totally have a DVD collection.)


These are in. Because that’s the kinda person I am.

Other stuff

There are going to be things that pop up.What if the vacuum cleaner breaks? I can’t live among pizza crumbs and corn chip remnants for ever. I haven’t even started this thing yet, but I have to admit, I’m getting cold sweats. I actually, genuinely had a nightmare last night where all my bras had gone missing and I couldn’t buy a new one. If this happens, I am definitely allowed to buy a new one.

Everything else, I guess I will have to take case by case. Oh, and waxing is in.



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