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.
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.
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.
free_dominionThe #bespokepost black box. Not too exciting. A slim wallet I was excited about until I saw it was made of cheap leather and what looks like carpet pad. A terribly dull pocket square. Hot sauce, a key loop, a $10 coupon only good if you spend over $75 ($10 gift card would be much better. I could give that to a friend, drumming up more customers). I do like the tea tree products. I already use tea tree hair and skin moisturizer, and these little bottles of shampoo and conditioner are just the right size to drop in my Norton leather dopp bag for traveling. Overall, very meh.
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.
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.
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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.

free_dominionThe #bespokepost black box. Not too exciting. A slim wallet I was excited about until I saw it was made of cheap leather and what looks like carpet pad. A terribly dull pocket square. Hot sauce, a key loop, a $10 coupon only good if you spend over $75 ($10 gift card would be much better. I could give that to a friend, drumming up more customers). I do like the tea tree products. I already use tea tree hair and skin moisturizer, and these little bottles of shampoo and conditioner are just the right size to drop in my Norton leather dopp bag for traveling. Overall, very meh.
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.

9. Birchbox: If you're someone who hates browsing through shelves at the local beauty supplier, Birchbox is the perfect subscription service for you. Just fill out a survey to help the service customize the selection based on your personal needs and sit back. Each month, you'll receive five deluxe sample-sized hair, beauty and skincare products tailored to your personal preferences. Every item comes with a how-to guide so you can easily test out different products. Once you've discovered your favorites, you can buy their full-size versions from Birchbox's online store.


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.”
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.
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!
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.
Stitch Fix is a personal styling service. You tell them your style and size preferences, and they send you a package of stylish goodies to try on at home. No two Fix shipments are alike. Each one is hand-picked just for you. Keep what items you like, and return the rest in a pre-paid return mailer. The services costs $20 a month for your stylist, but that fee is deducted from any items you choose to keep.
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