Are Subscription Boxes Worth it?

According to an article on Forbes.com, about 2000 companies have implemented a subscription-style delivery service into their business. From food to fashion, activity kits for kids, to beauty products, you can find a subscription to match any lifestyle or interest. They cost on average between $20-$50 a month depending on the subscription you choose. I have tried a few myself when this trend first started. I do love receiving those beautifully wrapped “gifts”. You feel a rush of adrenaline from anticipating the surprise inside. You get that butterfly feeling, hoping to discover something new you might fall in love with. The benefit that it saves time from having to go shop yourself for those unique pieces is a very attractive selling point. However, as wonderful as all that seems, we have to look at the flip side.

Meal Subscription Boxes (Blue Apron, Plated, Sun Basket, Hello Fresh)
These services allow you to choose from a wide variety of meals tested by gourmet chefs. The ingredients are pre-measured and clear instruction with photographs are included in each box. It’s a fun activity for a couple or friends to cook together, and a great way to try to different types of food. In those instances, the experience adds to the enjoyment of the food. However, to create a meal that looks like the photos takes time.  The individual plastic packaging for the ingredients are tedious and wasteful. If you were to buy the ingredients yourself, you may have leftovers to take to work the next day, or turn into a wrap or soup. For those who are less adventurous or experienced in cooking, this may be fun to try. However, don’t expect that you’ll be saving time or money.

Beauty Products (Birch Box, Glossy Box, Beauty Fix)
There was a time when sample beauty products were free. These days, you can get a box full of them for a price. I did try Birch Box for a few months. Part of me wondered if I’m paying for items that don’t sell and helping those companies clear out their inventory. Out of the 25 beauty samples I got, I found one lipstick that I liked that I wouldn’t have tried on my own. The rest of the items were used so I don’t waste them, or given away.. Many of the products at regular price are more than what I’d normally pay. If we just took the time to stop by a Sephora, we can get an actual person to recommend products that we can try on the spot for free. That may take a little extra time, but you can ask questions and only buy the items you really like. Another negative when you take advantage of a better subscription deal, you end up locking yourself into a pre-paid 6 to 12 months plan, spending more money on things you don’t want. And one thing I noticed during my research, most of the sites don’t have a section to explain their cancellation policy unless you contact customer service.

When I read the reviews from happy customers, it was never about the products. Instead they felt the thrill of getting something new each month. And that feeling goes away fast, but very addictive. In the end, you might end up with one or two things that sparks joy. However, it will cost you a lot more than what they are worth.

Clothing Subscription (Stitch Fix, Golden Tote, Fabletics)
Clothing box subscriptions are quite costly depending on the type of clothing you want. I tried this service because I didn’t think I had a personal style. I was waiting for a professional stylist to solve this problem. Enticed by the cute outfits on their website, which never seems to make it into the boxes I received, I signed up for 3 months with Stitchfix.com. The deal is that if you decide to keep something, you can put your monthly fee ($20) towards your purchase. Sadly 2 of the 3 boxes had clothes that the entire selection are styles I would never wear. So not only I paid the monthly fee that could have gone towards a purchase, I had to take the time to pack it up and send it back. Once I talk myself into keeping a dress so it wasn’t a total loss. However, if I had tried it on in a regular store I probably wouldn’t have bought them.

I realized this services taps into our insecurities and lack of understanding of who we are. The professional stylist is probably a computer algorithm that’s programmed the same way we make selections to narrow our choices when shopping online. In the end, I made the purchase out of guilt from not wanting to waste the money I already paid. This experience happened before I kondo-ed my closet. And it was going through my entire wardrobe, joy-checking each piece, that I realized I have a personal style. All of the clothes that makes me happy are already in my closet.

Kids Activity Boxes (Kiwi Crate, LittlePassports, Stem Box, Make Crate)
Every parent who is too tired or intimidated by doing an educational activity or craft with their child loves these kits. They come with all the parts and instructions you need, tested extensively to ensure the subscriber to have successful results. But that’s just the problem isn’t it. Learning is most effective when children have questions that they want to find the answers themselves. The boxes you receive may be interesting, but if your child is not in the mood for science, this will feel like work. And parents will get frustrated when the $40 box they paid only lasted 5 minutes of their child’s attention. Also, learning is about failing, trial and error is where learning happens. Creativity comes from being resourceful, to solve a problem in a new way. When given a kit with all the parts included and detailed instructions, there’s very little creativity involved in the process. Of course some of the themes may be a big hit with your child, but as most parents have experience, sometimes the box is a lot more fun than what’s inside them.

To sum it up, we need to be more conscious of what we are buying. When we leave the choice making process to someone else, we start to disconnect from our own ability to make decisions. The KonMari method is a great way to hone your skills to get to know your likes and dislikes. Trusting in our own instincts gives us power and control of how we spend our time and money. Simplify your life by becoming a more conscious shopper and make choices that will infuse more positivity rather than adding more clutter.

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