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.
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.
Trunk Club is a Nordstrom company that offers styling services for both women and men. Customers fill out a detailed style profile which, in turn, your assigned stylist uses to handpick clothes, shoes, and accessories. There is a $25 styling fee which is credited towards whatever you decide to keep, which is waived if you are a Nordstrom cardmember.
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.
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.
Unclear Value. Normally, when you shop for any product, you can look at all the choices and compare their prices to see which is the best deal. But with a subscription box service, you get a different assortment of products every month, and you don’t even know what they’re going to be. That makes it much harder to figure out whether your box is really worth what you’re paying for it.
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.”
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.