Cost Analysis: Are Subscription Boxes Worth It?
Few trends have risen as fast as subscription boxes; tailored boxes full of goodies that are shipped directly to your home. You can find subscription boxes for almost anything, with popular options including fresh food and recipes, fitness and well-being items, and even fandom products.
Prices vary considerably, but most subscriptions range between $15 and $200 per box, which raises an important question — while everyone needs a "treat yourself" moment, are subscription boxes worth it? Is your money better spent elsewhere? Let's take a closer look at what buyers should know before they sign up.
What to Consider When Buying a Subscription Box
Many subscription services will tell you upfront how much you save on the box — "Pay $50 for $100 worth of savory treats," etc. — or give you a percentage discount. This isn't always accurate, but it's a good place to start if you want to save money. Look up past examples of what boxes have contained, and research prices for a few of the main items to get a good idea of the discount you're getting. SNBonline has comparison lists you can use to help you find the right box at the right price. Keep an eye out for limited time discounts, too.
Another question to ask is how much use you'll get out of the box. If you don't use some of the items (say, a fragrance you don't like, or a snack you can't eat), that's lost value. If too many items go unused, the box isn't worth the price anymore. This is another good reason to carefully study the sort of items boxes contain, and try to find customizable subscriptions when possible (such as this one for dog lovers).
While some boxes are expensive, others may be worthwhile because the items are handpicked just for you — or the box gives you access to rare goods that you wouldn't be able to find otherwise. This may make the box a good purchase even if you aren't saving money.
Think Before You Choose a Box
Some boxes aren't the best for your wallet. Be wary of:
- Clothing Subscription Boxes: Clothing subscription services drop off new items every month or so, usually for around $100-200. Your closets may fill up with clothes you only wear once, or not at all. Additionally, you can often find similar clothes at lower prices if you do a little self-shopping.
- Fresh Food Deliveries: Fresh food subscription boxes offer the convenience of home meal deliveries — meaning that they charge you for that convenience. In almost every case, it will be less expensive to buy ingredients yourself and make food at home. A fresh food subscription can help you save time and eat more healthy meals, but it's not a great option for savings.
- Sample-Based Boxes: Cosmetic boxes are a frequent issue here. You pay for a number of different samples, but there's not a lot of equivalent value. Many samples don't work out or go unused. These boxes are mostly fun if you want to try new things.
Always budget carefully to make sure you can afford a subscription box. Boxes are usually intended as a splurge buy, not a replacement for other monthly purchases. They can make excellent gifts and fun treats for yourself, but saving money via boxes will take a lot of research on your part.
On a final note, remember that many subscription services will sign you up to keep receiving boxes. If you only want a box or two, cancel the service before it's renewed.