I would like to abide by the site policies on not asking open-ended/chatty questions so if someone feels there is a better location or wording for this question, please feel free to modify it as appropriate.
I am normally a big fan of open source/open access work and I believe I have learned a great deal from such sources. There is an open-access journal question here. Nonetheless, there are times where I really do want a specific article that is not available through non-commercial means. I am currently studying to return to school (in other words I don't have access to an institutional subscription) for a physics PhD and reading published work is becoming increasingly important to me. As a result I am considering subscribing to one of the big publishing houses (Elsavier, ScienceDirect, Science, Nature, etc.).
Before I spend that kind of money, I would like to know what other physicists think of these organizations and who offers the best value. If I decided to opt for a subscription, which would be the best? Is a subscription even the best idea, or should I perhaps buy individual articles as needed?
PS - I know the answer to these questions depends on the area of interest, my interests lie in quantum field theories and the like, but feel free to answer for your particular area of expertise.