These days, you can get nearly anything in a monthly subscription box. From beauty sample boxes to meal delivery services, these companies will deliver a fresh selection of products to your door, month after month, for a flat monthly fee. People love subscription boxes for their convenience and the thrill of getting a surprise package each month. And with prices as low as $10 a month, they can look like an unbeatable deal.
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There are ways to get some of the perks of subscription boxes without having to commit to a monthly service. For instance, if what you like about them is having products specially chosen to fit your style, you could join a loyalty program like Sephora’s Beauty Insider. This program rewards you for shopping at the store with bonus products tailored to your tastes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.