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.
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.
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.
Another clothing subscription service, Nice Laundry, focuses specifically on socks. Every three months, it ships you six pairs of dress socks, especially chosen for you. Each quarterly shipment has sock weights and styles appropriate for the season. Socks are only available in one size, which will fit most men as well as women with larger feet. It costs $49 for one quarterly shipment, or $99 for a full year.
Stitch Fix offers boxes for men and women from both well-known and new brands like Joie, Citizens for Humanity, Original Penguin, and Converse. Items cost an average of $55 each, and the $20 “styling fee” is deducted from the cost. If you choose to keep all five items, you get a 25% discount on the lot. If not, you can send back the ones you don’t want in a prepaid envelope.
Difficulty of Quitting. In theory, you can cancel a subscription box at any time. However, it’s not always easy to do. McCall says the hassle of canceling is often enough to make people hold on to a service, even after they’ve lost interest in it. He compares it to a gym membership you’re no longer using: As long as the fee is low enough to make it seem like a good deal, it won’t seem worthwhile to cancel the service.
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.
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.
Problems With Returns. Some subscription services, such as Stitch Fix, let you return or exchange items you don’t want. However, it’s not always easy to do, and so many people just don’t bother. Consumer expert Mitchell McCall, speaking with LearnVest, says people are much more likely to leave something on the shelf in the store than they are to return an item they’ve already received – even if they know they won’t use it.
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.