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.
Custom Picked Items. With many subscription boxes, the items you receive each month are chosen especially for you, based on your particular needs and preferences. This can be a major boon for people who have trouble finding what they like in stores, or who just don’t enjoy shopping. And for many people, knowing the items were chosen just for them increases the thrill of opening a new box. According to Dorman, getting these “handpicked” items boosts people’s self-esteem and “makes them feel unique.”
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.
Stitch Fix offers boxes for men and women from both well-known and new brands like Joie, Citizens for Humanity, Original Penguin, and Converse. Items cost an average of $55 each, and the $20 “styling fee” is deducted from the cost. If you choose to keep all five items, you get a 25% discount on the lot. If not, you can send back the ones you don’t want in a prepaid envelope.
Birchbox. This is the box that started it all, and it’s still one of the most popular, with over a million subscribers. For $10 per month or $110 per year, it provides an assortment of five beauty samples – all specially chosen to meet your particular tastes. Items include lipstick, mascara, skin cream, dry shampoo, and fragrance, all from high-end brands. If you like the samples in your monthly box, you can order full-size versions from the Birchbox website. Birchbox now offers a men’s grooming box as well, with products like hair gel, deodorant, and beard oil.
These days, subscription boxes can do more than groom you – they can dress you from head to toe. The best-known clothing subscription is Stitch Fix. This shopping service is a bit different from other subscription boxes. For $20 a month, you get a box with five items – clothing, shoes, and accessories – chosen just for you based on your style preferences. However, if you want to keep the items, you have to pay for those separately.
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.
Other just-for-fun boxes cater more to adults. For instance, Loot Crate is a $16 monthly subscription box “for geeks and gamers” containing a themed assortment of t-shirts, decals, figurines, and more. And Spicy Subscriptions is strictly adults-only, providing a monthly selection of sexy products like massage oils, candles, and adult toys for $34.95.
What’s the Return Policy? With many services, you’re stuck with whatever you get in your monthly box. Others let you return items you don’t want – but it isn’t always easy. Before you sign a contract, check it for details about how long you have to return items, how many items you’re allowed to return, and whether you have to pay return shipping costs.
BeautyFIX is Dermstore’s contribution to the skin care and beauty realm of subscription boxes. Curated by skin care experts, each monthly BeautyFIX includes six or more products adding up to a total value of $100+ (that’s about four times what you’ll pay for it!). In each box, you can expect to see a healthy mix of full-size and deluxe-travel-size products—including skin care, hair care and cosmetics handpicked by beauty experts and delivered right to your door. Brands included in previous boxes include: Avene, Paula’s Choice, Skinceuticals, ByTerry, Jane Iredale, Juice Beauty, and more.