Subscription Services Anonymous: How to Choose and When to Cancel


Subscription Service

Full disclosure, I love getting mail. It’s like a mini version of Christmas, including the surprise element since sometimes I shop late at night and forget what I ordered. So when subscription services started ramping up in popularity about 10 years ago, I could definitely see why so many people were jumping on the bandwagon. Especially during this time of social distancing, the trend of ordering online is even more appealing.

These days, you can order almost any type of product through a subscription service. From food subscriptions, touting claims that they will save money in wasted groceries and precious time shopping, to beauty and lifestyle subscriptions promising a few moments of self-care, there’s almost nothing you can’t get delivered. But are they really worth it?

One of the biggest advantages of this type of service is the fun factor. In many cases, the items included are a surprise, and the suspense of wondering what each month’s box contains is enough for some people to keep up their subscriptions. Some companies offer customization. After filling out a profile, the monthly box will be tailored to your specific likes and dislikes. 

Everyone also loves a good deal. Often, subscription boxes will break down the cost of each item compared to retail. So, a beauty box that may cost $20, could contain items valued at much more. Finally, there’s the simple factor of convenience. Boxes delivered to your door, without having to go out and shop. 

Another way most subscription services offer a discount is through their referral program. If you refer friends and they sign up, then often you’ll receive credit or a discount off the subscription cost. The referral benefits both parties, usually giving a discount to the person signing up as well.

As with any service, however, there are pros and cons. Cost is an important factor to weigh when choosing a subscription box service. Some companies will offer a significant discount if you pay upfront for a longer subscription. Buying more upfront may seem like a good value, but it’s also worth asking if you truly want that many deliveries. And you must ask yourself, would the items be something you’d buy on their own if no subscription were involved?

One drawback of subscription services is both a positive and a negative: the items it contains are often out of your control. It’s fun being surprised, but if the items are ultimately not something you want or need, then it becomes difficult to justify the cost. It’s true, some of the items could be re-gifted, but acquiring items in this way and “hanging onto it for the right person” just results in clutter. 

Almost all companies will say that if you want to cancel, it’s easy. Be sure to look closely at the fine print. Some make canceling as easy as clicking a button, while others require that you reach out to their customer service team. Researching the service ahead of time could save a lot of headaches down the road. 

So how do you determine if subscription services are really worth it or not? Although the boxes can contain items that are useful, for the most part, they are more “wants” than “needs.” However, if there is room in your monthly budget and the box of items brings you joy, then there’s nothing wrong with the splurge. 

From a personal perspective, this year was full of change. Having a monthly subscription (or three) to look forward to is essential, and it keeps me involved in the hobbies I love. If the value is there, then I would definitely say give subscription boxes a try!

Being a parent isn’t easy, but you’re not in it alone. Check out this article for a funny take on parenthood.