Are Subscription Boxes Worth The Money?

Ever wanted to prepare a new recipe but don’t know where to start? There are subscription boxes for that. Need some new clothes but lack style? There are subscription boxes for that. Need help remembering to replace your razors? You guessed it, There are subscription boxes for that.

With nearly 3,500 online subscription services, there’s a box for just about everything. Even though that seems like a lot, consumers have — and still are — responding. A recent study by McKinsey found that 15 percent of US consumers use a subscription service. And many subscribers have memberships to more than one service, with a shocking 35 percent holding three or more subscriptions.

$2.6 billion in sales

This industry is barely 10 years old but has ballooned to more than $2.6 billion in sales in 2016. A once scant sector of the overcrowded retail industry has attracted some of the nation’s largest retailers including Nordstrom (Trunk Club) and Sephora (Play!). In 2016, Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club for a cool $1 billion.

The success of subscription boxes is largely attributed to technology. The digital revolution enables customers to get what they want, when they want, without having to think about it. Those looking for a more experiential service get products curated to their unique style and tastes.

From one perspective, subscription boxes pan to some of our worst attributes: laziness, materialism and a lack of imagination. But many consumers who use subscription boxes are motivated by affordability, convenience and just plain fun. Either way, if you’re Financially Fit, you can spend your money on what you choose. My question is: do they live up to the hype?

4 reasons why you should use a subscription box

Saves money: Most boxes have a proclaimed product dollar value that is far greater than what the box cost. FabFitFun boxes cost $39.99 but include more than $200 of product in each box. That’s a savings of 80 percent! Definitely a great value, if it includes things you’d buy anyway or give as a gift.

MindShift.money managing editor Erin Martell says “I use maybe 25% of the products, give 25% away and don’t use about 50% to be honest. But I continue the subscription, because it’s the only way that I really hear the latest on anything to do with fun or fashion.”

Surprise!: Subscription boxes literally have a surprise in every box. Discovering something new and unknown is what makes these boxes so fun. What’s more, they’re pretty low-risk so even the most uptight subscriber should be able to loosen up and enjoy.

Convenience: A third of subscribers use services that replenish items they buy regularly, like diapers and razors. Not only are the products typically cheaper than retail, but subscribing to a delivery service eliminates the need for you to remember to replace items you truly need.

Beth, a busy mother of three, had this to say about subscribing to Grove Collaborative, “I love that products I know and trust are automatically sent to me, just when I need them. No more last-minute trips to the store for cleaning products, because they are already on my doorstep!”

Just for you: Most people who use subscription boxes — 55 percent — use them to personally curate items like clothes, makeup and food. Subscription boxes take the guesswork out of trying new things, because they deliver products that an expert already knows you’ll like.

And 4 reasons why you shouldn’t use a subscription box

Wastes money: Substantiating a box’s claims of value is difficult. They may promise $200 worth of product, but have you ever sat down and calculated the true value? What’s more, they often require an automatic funds withdrawal. This eliminates the pain of payment and increases the chance you’ll justify the cost and continue to buy. (See below, difficult to cancel… )

Bad surprise: You probably won’t love everything in every box. You may even have a few dud boxes with nothing you like. Subscribing to a box is a gamble. For some, that’s a benefit. For others, it’s a flippant waste.

Difficult to cancel: While many subscription boxes are known for their stellar customer service, canceling a subscription is almost never easy. If you’re lucky, you can cancel online. But typically you to have to make a phone call to end your service. And that means you may put off the task for quite awhile.

Wastes product: Yes, you can get a lot for your money in these boxes. But if you end up with loads of products you wouldn’t normally use, you may want to reevaluate the packaging, plastic and unused product you’re tossing.

Brankica, a self-proclaimed beauty addict, uses Birchbox. According to her, “Most months, I wind up giving most of the products aways to family and friends who I know will enjoy them.”

What’s right for you?

Before subscribing to any box, ask yourself a few questions:

Is it affordable? Make sure product value claims are true by calculating the retail value of your box. Consider your budget and make sure you can comfortably absorb another monthly expense. Before you subscribe, look for coupon codes and special offers for new customers. You can almost always try out a first box (or more) for less!

Can you use this stuff? Find boxes that include products you buy anyway. Or use the subscription box approach as a way of finding new, surprising items. There’s nothing wrong, and everything right, with adding a little delight to your life every month.

What’s the fine print? Some services have hidden fees. For example, find out if they charge to cancel or style your box. They may also charge for shipping.

Bottom line: do your research before signing up.

There are thousands of boxes, and no two are created equal. When deciding what’s right for you, look at your motivators: convenience or fun. Either way, only you can determine what that’s worth.

Whatever your motivation, think before you subscribe.


The views and opinions expressed are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of MindShift.money.

image credit: Bigstock/KitzCorner

Amanda Witman is a freelance writer and editor who is passionate about communicating ideas that improve readers’ lives. She has a background in government public relations but has experience writing for many sectors including the financial, tech, culinary, environmental and sports industries. Amanda resides in the heart of Amish Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband, two-year-old daughter and an overprotective cat.

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