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.
Why We Love It: This is a subscription box that even Ron Swanson himself would buy. Every box is carefully put together (seriously that packaging is great) with down right delicious snacks that revolve around a common theme such as “Bacon Nation” or “Tailgate Tour”. Is the idea of dude friendly snacks a little ridiculous? Sure. But it honestly, we’re here for it.
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.
Dollar Shave Club. Subscription grooming boxes aren’t just for women. The Dollar Shave Club is a monthly service that delivers high-quality razor cartridges for both men and women. Choices range from a two-blade razor for $3 per month to a six-blade model for $9. If you don’t like the blade you’re using, you can switch membership levels at any time. When you first join, you get a handle to go with your cartridge of choice and a selection of sample-sized grooming products, such as “shave butter”; if you like them, you can add on a full-sized version to your monthly delivery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.