Is It More Than You Need? A box isn’t a good value if it’s going to tempt you into buying more of any one item than you would normally want. Even if the cost per item is good, it’s likely to be more than you’d spend buying just one item each month. Plus, you’ll be cluttering up your house with more socks, cat toys, or bottles of nail polish than you can use.
How Hard Is It to Cancel? If you’re not sure whether a box is a good deal for you, you could plan to try it for a month and then decide. Liz Corry of My Subscription Addiction, speaking with RetailMeNot, says nearly all subscription boxes offer a month-to-month subscription plan. However, canceling your subscription can be tricky. Some services, such as Birchbox, allow you to cancel your subscription online; others, such as Julep, require a phone call to customer service. Also, many sites are set up to automatically renew your contract whenever it expires, unless you call in time to cancel it.
There are ways to get some of the perks of subscription boxes without having to commit to a monthly service. For instance, if what you like about them is having products specially chosen to fit your style, you could join a loyalty program like Sephora’s Beauty Insider. This program rewards you for shopping at the store with bonus products tailored to your tastes.
Can You Really Afford It? Although subscription boxes can contain useful items, most of them are clearly wants rather than needs. Even if a box is a good value, it’s not worth buying if you don’t have room in your budget. Financial planner Katie Colman, speaking with LearnVest, says it’s okay to splurge on a monthly crate of goodies only “as long as you’re meeting all your other financial obligations and it’s not impacting your ability to meet your goals.”
What you get: With the Dollar Beard Club, you’ll get all natural beard products such as oils, balm, wax, growth accelerators, and more. All you have to do to get started is build a kit which includes choosing an oil, an essential, a shower item, an accelerator, and a accessory, and you’ll be sent that monthly. However, you can always just pick a single product and only have that in your kit which is by far the cheapest option.
Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, "And from that you make a living?" She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including ConsumerSearch.com, ShopSmart.com, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.
How Hard Is It to Cancel? If you’re not sure whether a box is a good deal for you, you could plan to try it for a month and then decide. Liz Corry of My Subscription Addiction, speaking with RetailMeNot, says nearly all subscription boxes offer a month-to-month subscription plan. However, canceling your subscription can be tricky. Some services, such as Birchbox, allow you to cancel your subscription online; others, such as Julep, require a phone call to customer service. Also, many sites are set up to automatically renew your contract whenever it expires, unless you call in time to cancel it.

Each BarkBox contains four or five items, which are never the same from month to month. When you sign up, you enter your dog’s weight to get items that are sized appropriately for your pooch; you can scale up or down at any time. And if there’s an item your pup doesn’t like, you can exchange it free of charge (up to one item per month). The service costs $29 per month, with a discount for 6- or 12-month subscriptions.
On the other hand, if your favorite thing about your subscription box is getting a special treat each month, you can give yourself the same experience by creating a category in your personal budget for “mad money.” This is a sum of cash – which doesn’t have to be large – that you can spend on anything you want. It allows you to treat yourself to something special each month – and since you pick it yourself, you can be sure it’s something you’ll really use.
Subscription shopping also has some big drawbacks. The most obvious one is that, with most services, you don’t get to choose the items you receive. You get the thrill of looking forward to a surprise package, but when you open it, the surprise isn’t always a pleasant one. You could find yourself stuck with a bunch of stuff you don’t actually want, and not enough of the stuff you need.

Overbuying. While a subscription box usually costs less than buying all the items in it separately, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t buy all those items if they didn’t come in your box. For instance, a $29-a-month BarkBox subscription works out to $350 each year. Chances are, that’s a lot more than you’d normally spend just for toys and treats. Over the long term, it could add significantly to the cost of owning a dog.
Why We Love It: Cooking is hard and unless you’re great at it, you can pretty much guarantee meal time to be a fiasco – even when provided with instruction. Freshly takes the grunt work out of meal prepping by delivering healthy, handcrafted meals to your door that you handpicked yourself. All you have to do is heat that bad boy up and you’re ready to go. Oh, and the best part? They’re not frozen.
Why We Love It: Trunk club is basically like having a personal stylist, but at a fraction of the cost. Their men’s and women’s style quiz is super thorough to ensure that each “trunk” is filled with clothing you’ll love. What’s even better is that you can approve its contents before it’s shipped to your door. Once you try everything on, you choose what to keep (and pay for) and send back the rest at no cost. You can do this on a monthly basis, or whenever you feel like you need to spruce up your wardrobe.
Dia&Co is the premier styling service for women sizes 14 and up. After filling out a style quiz, you’re matched with a personal stylist who hand-picks pieces based on your style, fit and budget preferences. For just $20, you get a Dia Box filled with five curated styles delivered right to your doorstep. Try them on in the comfort of your own home, then keep what you love and send back what you don’t! You’re only charged for what you keep—and your $20 styling fee is always credited toward any purchases. Shipping’s free both ways!
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