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.
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.
Are These Items You Can Use? The most important thing to know before you sign up for a monthly box is whether you’ll use everything in it. With some services, such as Dollar Shave Club, it’s easy to tell, because you know exactly what you’ll be getting every month. But with others, you can’t be sure what to expect. However, you can get a pretty good idea by checking reviews online to find out what items the box has held for the past few months before you take the plunge.
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.
Trunk Club is a Nordstrom company that offers styling services for both women and men. Customers fill out a detailed style profile which, in turn, your assigned stylist uses to handpick clothes, shoes, and accessories. There is a $25 styling fee which is credited towards whatever you decide to keep, which is waived if you are a Nordstrom cardmember.
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.
Potential Savings. Having goodies shipped to you in a subscription box is often cheaper than buying each of those items separately. Karr says her subscription service gives her a 5% discount on all the items she has shipped from Amazon. Others subscription services offer even bigger savings. For instance, GlossyBox says its October 2017 box contained $69 worth of beauty items for about $20, and Loot Crate promises at least $45 worth of nerd-culture joy for $16.
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.