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.”
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.

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.


Are These Items You Can Use? The most important thing to know before you sign up for a monthly box is whether you’ll use everything in it. With some services, such as Dollar Shave Club, it’s easy to tell, because you know exactly what you’ll be getting every month. But with others, you can’t be sure what to expect. However, you can get a pretty good idea by checking reviews online to find out what items the box has held for the past few months before you take the plunge.
GlossyBox. GlossyBox is a pricier service than Birchbox, with monthly rates ranging from $17.50 to $21 depending on the length of your contract. However, it gives you more for your money, providing both samples and full-sized products from trendy brands. Consumerist reports that when its sister publication, ShopSmart magazine, tried the box, it included a full-sized lipstick that would have cost $20 by itself. Unlike Birchbox, this service usually sends the same items to all its subscribers each month.

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.”


Convenience. Having items delivered automatically each month can save shopping time. For example, LearnVest quotes a subscriber named Lindsay Karr, who’s a teacher and also the mother of a six-month-old baby. She uses the Subscribe & Save service from Amazon to get baby food, toilet paper, and other home goods on a monthly schedule. That way, she doesn’t have to take time out of her busy schedule for “running around town from store to store.”

For most people, the big advantage of subscription boxes is the fun factor. Experts who spoke with LearnVest about the psychology behind subscription boxes say people enjoy the suspense of looking forward to each month’s box and wondering what it will contain. As addiction expert Amanda Dorman explains, “Waiting for that box each month – not knowing what it is, but knowing it’s coming – creates an adrenaline rush.” It’s like getting a birthday gift every month.
GoodBeing. Formerly known as Goodebox, this service focuses on organic and eco-friendly products. It offers a choice of subscriptions: an all-beauty box that contains makeup and other beauty products, and a “lifestyle” box that adds in wellness items like sunscreen, supplements, and products for the home. Both boxes are available in a $10-per-month mini size with only two items, or a $25-a-month standard size with four to five items of varying sizes. If you choose the standard size, you can personally select one or two of the items you receive each month. You can shave a few dollars off the monthly fee by signing up for six months in advance.
Speaking of kids, you can also get subscription boxes with educational toys or projects for children. KiwiCo includes a monthly magazine and an age-appropriate creative project, along with the materials needed to complete it. There are subscriptions for all age groups, from toddlers to teens, and you can choose between art-themed or science-themed boxes for older kids. All boxes are $19.95 per month, with a discount if you commit to a 6-month or 12-month subscription.
abby_calvinIf this isn't happy I don't know what is. The birthday gift that keeps on giving. Tiffany knows me so well - a subscription to a try-new-craft-coffee service? Yes please! I did a happy dance when these showed up in the mailbox. Can't WAIT to try them - maybe in my super-nifty portable espresso maker also from the incomparable Tiffany? You are the bestest and I love you to bits! (Even without the bribe of coffee...) #mistobox #coffee #friendship
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.
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.
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.

3. Papergang: Papergang by Ohh Deer is the ultimate subscription box service for stationery lovers. Every month the subscribers receive a beautifully crafted box filled with snazzy paper goodies like desk pads, notebooks, sticker sheets, art prints and other stationary treats like pens, pencils and washi tape. All the items are thoughtfully curated based on a monthly theme. Each selection is exclusive and created in collaboration with different artists. Their wide selection of products and the remarkable illustrations on each of them is what makes Papergang stand out. In addition, they plant a tree for every four boxes sold. So a big YAY for the environment too! You can also buy other cool stuff like art prints, planners, candles, jewelry and fun socks from Ohh Deer's website.
Although often considered a splurge, subscription boxes can be quite the little life-savers. Say you always forget to buy razor blades until it’s too late (read: you’ve got serious razor burn)? There’s a subscription box for that. Never remember to eat breakfast in morning and feel totally drained by noon? There’s a subscription box for that. Or maybe you never have anything fun (cough, cough, educational) to do with your kids on a rainy day. Yep, there’s even a box for that. While you can’t possibly sign-up for them all, we’ve rounded up the top-rated options to help you make the best choice.
×