Subscription shopping also has some big drawbacks. The most obvious one is that, with most services, you don’t get to choose the items you receive. You get the thrill of looking forward to a surprise package, but when you open it, the surprise isn’t always a pleasant one. You could find yourself stuck with a bunch of stuff you don’t actually want, and not enough of the stuff you need.
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.
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.
Spice up things in the bedroom with this collection of different sensual products — perfect for those Saturday nights when the kids are sleeping at their friends' houses. You can choose from the lube of the month ($10/month), a toy of the month ($25/month), or the full on Spice Box, which features two full-size items, one or two "intimate" items, and two to three trial-size items.
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.
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.”
If your kids are always glued to your iPad or laptop, then they'll love this subscription that teaches them how to code. Each box has an activity book with various coding projects, which kids develop into an app through the Bitsbox website. They'll be dying to show off their digital creations to friends and family, plus it gives them hours of entertainment.
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.
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.
4. London Tea Club: If you're a tea drinker who wants to get out of the comfort zone and explore the delicious world of rare and exotic loose leaf teas, you should subscribe to the London Tea Club already! Each month you get a new tea carefully packed in a glass vial. The box also includes a detailed note about the tea, tea estate where it was grown and the brewing instructions. The selection is curated with seasonal tea drinking in mind - something LTC's Director Cecelia Lau prefers herself. For instance, this month the subscribers got to enjoy tangy Zomba Pearls White Tea from Malawi. Lightly processed teas are perfect for summer as they are considered to be more cooling. These include white teas, green oolong teas and most young sheng and green teas. Meanwhile, roasted, fermented and aged teas which are considered to be warming are selected for their winter boxes. These include black/red teas, shou puerh, aged sheng puerhs, roasted oolongs, highly oxidized oolongs and certain roasted green teas like Hojicha. Moreover, the selection is responsibly sourced from small farms and independent cooperatives that encourage sustainable tea farming, so the curated teas are all-natural and organic.
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.
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.
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.
Looking for the best monthly women's subscription boxes? Our comprehensive list includes brands big and small, for all interests and budgets. Some of our favorite (and most highly rated) subscription boxes for women include FabFitFun (one of the winners in our Subscription Box Awards), POPSUGAR Must Have; and online personal stylist brand Stitch Fix.