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.”
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.

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.

Frank And Oak Style Plan is a personal stylist service for men and women, exclusively for Frank And Oak products. You can choose to have Frank And Oak send you 3 items every month or every other month. Items are selected according to your size, taste, and budget preferences– and you can login 2 days before your box ships each month to add or remove items, or skip the month entirely. When your box ships, you’re billed in full for the members-only discounted price of the items in your box; up to 25% off their retail prices. If you decide not to keep any of the items, Frank And Oak will issue a refund minus the $25 styling fee for your order.


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.”

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.


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.


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.
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Sock fancy not your fancy? Fashion-forward Ozone socks are a great alternative having been featured by Vogue, True Religion, Interview Magazine, and many other high-profile brands. Available in 6-month (7 pairs for $75) and full year subscriptions (13 pairs for $150), their Sock of the Month club will ship a fun new design to your doorstop to each month -- and having tried a pair myself, I assure you, they're worth signing up for!
From food, fitness and fashion to puzzles, houseplants and gadgets, there's a subscription box for every taste and every hobby.The convenience of receiving cool merch, tailored to your personal needs, at your doorstep plus the eager anticipation of getting a surprise package in the mail (which totally brings out the inner child in all of us, btw), makes subscription boxes the best gift you can give to yourself or a loved one.
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