Monthly Subscription Boxes: Affordable fun, or enough already?

If you have a credit card and a mailbox, there’s a monthly goodie bag of stuff designed just for you. Or at least, that’s what the exploding subscription box industry would have you believe.

The movement began in 2010, when Birchbox offered a monthly package of curated products for beauty and makeup enthusiasts. Since then, they’ve been joined by competitors like Ipsy and BeautyFIX, and Sephora recently entered the game with Play. The success of Birchbox and its imitators sparked an explosion of specialty offerings.

You can solve a mystery every month with Hunt A Killer. Curated snacks hit your doorstep with graze and MunchPak. Wine lovers can expand their palates with Winc and Glassful. Obsessed with Japanese candy? There’s a box for that. (Several, actually.) There are more than 600 box services to choose from, for everyone from comic book geeks to chocoholics, starting at about $10 a month. Now retailers like Walmart, Amazon and CVS Pharmacy are joining the movement.


Think before you sign up

There’s a downside to those delightful packages: They’re just stuff. They inevitably add clutter to our lives. Even though companies target their products to our individual tastes, some months are hit or miss. After a year, you’re left with a pile of tiny moisturizers, aromatic teabags and Star Wars stickers you didn’t love but don’t want to throw away.


Another drawback: Services can be hard to cancel because they’re set up on a monthly auto-charge basis to your credit card.

So if you’re going to subscribe, you’ll want to do some research first, to make sure you’ll actually use the stuff. If you’re only kind of into drawing, don’t waste $20 a month on Doodle Crate. (Or find a friend to split the monthly cost.) Sites like Hello Subscription and My Subscription Addiction can help you narrow down the overwhelming number of options.


Boxes worth trying

subscription-boxThese are some of the best-reviewed boxes in popular categories, according to Hello Subscription and My Subscription Addiction:

Beauty and makeup: Ipsy, Birchbox, BeautyFIX, Julep Maven, Allure Beauty Box, Yuzen, BOXYCHARM.

Geeky fandom: Loot Crate, Nerd Block, Geek Fuel, Lootaku, Fandom of the Month Club

Wine: VINEBOX, Blue Apron Wine, Bright Cellars, Winc, Plonk.

Food and snacks: Graze, Degustabox, Love With Food, NatureBox, Yummy Bazaar, Universal Yums, Snakku.

Pets: BarkBox, CatLadyBox, Loot Pets, Pet Treater, RescueBox, Purr Packs, PupJoy.

Men’s lifestyle: Robb Vices, Bespoke Post, Birchbox Man, Gentleman’s Box.

Arts and crafts: Smart Art, Studio Calico Kits, Quilty Box, Darby Smart, New Hobby Box,SketchBox, Yarn Crush.

Most sites let you browse previous months’ offerings before signing up, so do your research and be realistic about what you’ll have time to use. If there’s an option to try a box for just one month, take it. And shop around for discount codes, too; there’s no point in paying more than you have to.

If you do find yourself with a basket of unused dog toys, calligraphy pens or nail polish, don’t despair – monthly box leftovers make great stocking stuffers at Christmastime.



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