Subscription Boxes: Are They Worth It?Last Updated:
We’ve talked about what subscription boxes are and how they work, and how they’re so popular right now. We’ve also established that if you are passionate about anything at all, there’s probably at least one subscription box service out there that’s perfect for you. Now, let’s get to what’s really important: Are they worth it?
Sure, many of our reviews focus on the great value of these subscription boxes. It’s practically a standard selling point by now: Most of these boxes do contain a collection of items that, if bought individually, cost more than the price of the subscription. However, it is always up to you to determine if that is enough to justify a service that needs to be paid for regularly. It’s not just about the actual monetary value of what you get.
If you’re trying to decide whether or not you should try out a subscription box service that you find interesting, run through the questions below first. By the end of this article, you will know for sure whether or not you’re ready to subscribe.
#1: Do I really, really want this subscription; enough that I would pay for it no matter what?
If the answer is yes, then why did you even read this far? Seriously, though, some subscription boxes can look so enticing and it can be hard to say no, even though you know you should. If that’s the case, look for smaller versions or trial boxes that you may be able to get for a more reasonable price. POPSUGAR Must Have offers this, as well as Farm to People; and they’re not the only ones that do. The purpose here is to make sure that you at least have the chance to assess the service personally, before committing to a subscription you may later regret and find hard to cancel.
#2: What is the actual total cost of each box, including shipping and other hidden charges?
First and foremost: Some subscription fees include shipping; some do not. Some companies will advertise cheaper monthly rates that you can only avail of by paying for six months or even a whole year in advance; the actual month on month price may be less attractive. Moreover, some services charge you added fees to be able to ship boxes to places far from their headquarters. Make sure that you know how much you are actually going to pay for before you even start assessing a subscription box service’s worth.
Once you’ve cleared that up, take a closer look at the box contents. Collections that include many sample-sized items may look like they provide variety and value, but here’s some food for thought: When you’re actually at a mall and walking around, samples are usually given away for free, right? In comparison, not only are boxes of this type typically non-refundable, but it’s also likely that you’ll only really love one or two items. In theory, to be worth it, sample-filled monthly boxes should cost less than the amount you would spend to go out and shop for yourself.
One more thing: Do look for seasonal sales, coupon codes and other discounts that may be applied before subscribing. You may even have a friend who’s already subscribed; ask them if there’s a referral and rewards program that you might both benefit from. These little things add up, and sometimes can be deal breakers.
#3: Is there a smarter way for me to spend this money, instead of paying for a subscription?
If the answer is yes, then obviously do that first. At the heart of it, subscription boxes are often treats and rarely necessities. Even recurring, convenience-based subscriptions like the Dollar Shave Club–which ships you new shaving razor cartridges each month–keep a clientele that views the comfort of never running out of a specific product as a luxury, or a least a weight off their minds.
Particularly prone to being classified as needs when they’re actually just optional quality-of-life upgrades are food subscription boxes; such as meal preparation subscriptions offered by the likes Blue Apron, or snacks selection subscriptions offered by the likes of Graze. Yes, it may be healthier to prepare your own meals and to nibble on all-natural treats; but you can often find the same ingredients and products by yourself, for a much lower price. All it takes is diligence and time.
Now, if that extra effort is something that you would sincerely just rather pay to not do–if you keep a busy schedule or if you live many hours away from the nearest health food store, for example–then paying for a food subscription box may very well be the smarter choice for you. Otherwise, know it for what it is: a luxury. This is not to say that you shouldn’t spend on luxuries; only that you should be fully aware that it’s what you’re paying for, when you do.
#4: Will there be any waste? Will I be able to use everything that’s included in each box?
Here’s a great tip for the penny-pinching subscription box lover: Try as much as possible to find a service that allows you to skip boxes, like Bespoke Post or Winc. It’s easy for products to pile up when you’re getting regular deliveries, and unused items–no matter what anyone says–do diminish the value you get for what you pay. Products don’t do you or anyone else any good if they’re just hidden away in a drawer or a closet. This is the argument against discovery-based subscriptions: What do you do with items you don’t like? However, the answer is simple; especially if you do put a premium on the element of surprise when it comes to box contents. Either you use them anyway, or give them to someone else who will. Otherwise, the box won’t be worth it.
A few final notes: Do check customer reviews! While they’re not always unbiased, sometimes you will find out things that companies don’t want you to know. Sometimes the temptation to pay for a long term subscription can be great because the monthly fee is usually a lot cheaper when you do so. What these services may not tell you upfront is that it can be difficult or impossible to cancel subscriptions, if you happen to change your mind halfway through. Another thing to keep in mind is to check the service’s return and refund policy. Most will replace damaged goods, but some won’t accept returns or refunds no matter what; so watch out for those.