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.
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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.
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.
In addition to meals, there are subscription boxes for specific types of food items. For instance, UrthBox delivers healthy snack items each month, along with a few extras like supplements and personal care products. Prices range from $20 a month for a six-item mini box to $50 for a large box with 25 to 30 items. There are also subscription services for vegan and gluten-free foods, wine, beer, coffee, and even hot sauce.
1. Sparkle, Hustle, Grow: Whether you're a budding entrepreneur, running a successful business or trying to build a lucrative side hustle, Sparkle Hustle Grow's subscription box has got you covered. The monthly box contains four to six items including books, office supplies and chic accessories curated to boost your productivity and career. It also gives access to useful online resources and SHG's exclusive Facebook community of #Girlbosses run by founder Julie Ball.
Other services offer books for more specific audiences. For instance, Comic Bento ships a monthly assortment of graphic novels with a cover value of at least $50 for $25. OwlCrate is a themed monthly box containing a young adult novel and various related items like pens, bracelets, and bobbleheads for $29.99 plus shipping. OwlCrate Jr. provides the same service for tweens, with subscriptions starting at $27.99 a month plus shipping.
Why We Love It: If you’ve ever had a large dog, then you know the struggle of constantly having to buy new toys for them to chew through. Bullymake specializes in durable toys and chews for those big dogs who can destroy anything they set their mind to. The best part is that if your doggo wrecks his new toy within 14 days of receiving it, they’ll ship out a new (and more durable one) for free.
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.
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.
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.
So there is one thing you need to remember about a few of these monthly subscription boxes, like Allure. Some offer a reduced first month rate but then will renew at a normal rate once the first month is over. That’s why it’s super important to turn off the auto-renew option on any boxes that you know you won’t want to subscribe to on a monthly basis.