How Much Control Do You Have? Some subscription services send the same monthly box to every subscriber. Others, such as Stitch Fix, tailor the contents to your personal tastes based on a questionnaire you fill out when you sign up. A few, such as Julep, allow you to preview each month’s box before it’s shipped and skip that month if you don’t want it, or even personally choose some or all of the items you receive. This means you’ll never have to waste money on an item you don’t want – but on the downside, your monthly box won’t be a special surprise.
Julep. The monthly Julep box has a focus on nail polish, though it includes other beauty items as well. Unlike many services, Julep gives users the option of previewing the month’s selections and picking out the specific items they want. The service has two tiers: My Maven, which provides $40 worth of products for $25 a month, and Maven Luxe, which delivers at least $60 worth of products for $40 a month. You can save $5 a month off either service by signing up for a three-month subscription.
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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.
Other services offer books for more specific audiences. For instance, Comic Bento ships a monthly assortment of graphic novels with a cover value of at least $50 for $25. OwlCrate is a themed monthly box containing a young adult novel and various related items like pens, bracelets, and bobbleheads for $29.99 plus shipping. OwlCrate Jr. provides the same service for tweens, with subscriptions starting at $27.99 a month plus shipping.
8. Vinyl Me, Please: Vinyl Me, Please's monthly subscription service is a treat for audiophiles. Every month the subscriber receives a limited edition vinyl LP (often in color), a 12x12 album-inspired art print and a cocktail recipe to complement the music. Each Record of the Month, whether a current release or a special re-issue, is thoughtfully curated, aimed at broadening the musical taste of the subscriber. Plus, you get to enjoy additional content online, including their podcast and Spotify playlist.
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.
If you're working out in the same old gym clothes every day, it might be time to switch things up. You fill out a profile based on your workouts and style preferences, and SweatStyle selects a handful of activewear options you'll love. After your box arrives at your doorstep, you have five days to decide what you want to keep and pay for; the rest can be returned.
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.
12. The D.I.Y Collectives: DIY enthusiasts and fans of organic beauty products will love this subscription box service. All hands-on projects are designed to help you craft your own bath, beauty and skincare products at home. Every month the subscriber receives a project kit that includes a step-by-step guide, organic ingredients and other supplies that are required to complete the project. All the DIY products foster self-sufficiency & promote environmental sustainability. Their past projects include Dead Sea Salt, Lavender, Olive Oil and Lemon Soak and Scrub and a facemask and toner made using bentonite clay, aloe vera , chamomile and rosewater.
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.”
10. Runner Crate: Runner Crate is perfect for people who want to get or stay fit and try new things at the same time. Every month the subscribers receive cool running gear, 4 to 6 healthy snacks (like veggie chips, granola and organic snack bars) and a couple of other runner goods. The boxes also include monthly running challenges to motivate you to crush your fitness goals.
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.