free_dominionThe #bespokepost black box. Not too exciting. A slim wallet I was excited about until I saw it was made of cheap leather and what looks like carpet pad. A terribly dull pocket square. Hot sauce, a key loop, a $10 coupon only good if you spend over $75 ($10 gift card would be much better. I could give that to a friend, drumming up more customers). I do like the tea tree products. I already use tea tree hair and skin moisturizer, and these little bottles of shampoo and conditioner are just the right size to drop in my Norton leather dopp bag for traveling. Overall, very meh.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
What’s the Return Policy? With many services, you’re stuck with whatever you get in your monthly box. Others let you return items you don’t want – but it isn’t always easy. Before you sign a contract, check it for details about how long you have to return items, how many items you’re allowed to return, and whether you have to pay return shipping costs.
Why We Love it: Sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to drive yourself to the gym. The solution? Working out from home. This subscription box makes it a breeze to get into the groove from the comfort of your living with workout DVD’s, equipment, supplements and more. What’s even better is that they have different packages for your skill level ranging from beginner to expert. Which gives you zero excuses for not getting up off the couch.