Monthly Boxes Probably Aren’t Worth It–But Not for the Reason You Think

What started with Birchbox has expanded into an empire of monthly “box” services—some category of products mailed to your door every month in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. These range from programs sending out razors, to fine wines, to not-so-fine wines, to old comic book paraphernalia, so there’s truly something for everyone. But is it worth the monthly fee? Whenever challenged with this question, most who advise ditching the boxes cite cheaper alternatives as their reasoning. According to these articles, in most cases, you could track down the same products that you’d be receiving in the mail for a lower price if you were willing to order them separately, or even go out into the real world and purchase them from stores. So essentially, this means that if you have one of these subscriptions, you’re paying a service fee. Despite what the internet claims, the service fee isn’t the real issue in determining if a monthly box subscription is worth your money. The issue isn’t even the value of the items in the box (they usually average out to being worth approximately what you paid for them). Instead, the thing that most people overlook is the actual need (or lack thereof) you have for these items. Let’s say you’re subscribed to a service that sends out boxes full of various types of artisan cookies every month—12 cookies for $40/month. The price per cookie isn’t any more than you would pay in a bakery, at only a little over $3 each, so one might think this is a great idea. And this is where the problem comes in: do you need 12 artisan cookies every month? If you sign up for a subscription like this, you’ll be paying for them whether you consciously decided you wanted them or not. The same goes for a box full of specialty cosmetics or fancy notebooks—you might have bought them one month, but that doesn’t mean you would’ve made that same purchase every month for the rest of the year. So, before you sign up for any monthly subscriptions, consider your month-to-month need for these products. If you wouldn’t have gone out of your way to purchase them without the subscription, then it’s definitely not worth it.