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.
12. The D.I.Y Collectives: DIY enthusiasts and fans of organic beauty products will love this subscription box service. All hands-on projects are designed to help you craft your own bath, beauty and skincare products at home. Every month the subscriber receives a project kit that includes a step-by-step guide, organic ingredients and other supplies that are required to complete the project. All the DIY products foster self-sufficiency & promote environmental sustainability. Their past projects include Dead Sea Salt, Lavender, Olive Oil and Lemon Soak and Scrub and a facemask and toner made using bentonite clay, aloe vera , chamomile and rosewater.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
birchbox#TBT to when we launched Birchbox in Canada last December! 🇨🇦 Please give a big Birchbox welcome to our Canada subscribers who will now be joining us on this Instagram account and the latest addition to the Birchbox team: @caseycrowetaylor, our Canada Social Media Manager! LOBBL (Lots Of Birchbox Love) xo #Birchbox #BirchboxCA 📷: @theprettyvain
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.
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.”
Each BarkBox contains four or five items, which are never the same from month to month. When you sign up, you enter your dog’s weight to get items that are sized appropriately for your pooch; you can scale up or down at any time. And if there’s an item your pup doesn’t like, you can exchange it free of charge (up to one item per month). The service costs $29 per month, with a discount for 6- or 12-month subscriptions.
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.”
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.
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.