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Are Fashion Subscription Boxes Really Worth It?

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If you shop for clothes online, you might have seen targeted ads for fashion subscription boxes. These programs promise that for one recurring fee, you’ll get customized style options delivered to your door. But are they worth the money?

It seems like you can get a subscription for everything these days, from kid’s science experiments to skincare products. Some are worthwhile, while others waste your money. We’re here to help you decide on fashion subscription boxes before you buy—keep reading to discover if this commitment is right for you and your closet.

The Advantages of Fashion Subscription Boxes

First, let’s take a look at the good things these boxes promise to do for your wardrobe.

  • Convenient Shopping: When you get clothes delivered to your door, you can save yourself a trip and try things on in the comfort of your own home. Many fashion subscriptions offer the chance to buy only what you want and return what you don’t like.
  • Personalized Choices: Some subscription boxes promise that your clothes will be hand-picked by a professional stylist. Others make algorithmic selections based on quizzes that you’ve filled out. Either way, the promise is that you’re getting things that already fit your style, instead of digging through the racks at the store for what you might like.
  • New Options: Some subscription boxes also throw in a daring or unusual item periodically to encourage you to buy new things. People who want a non-intimidating way to try fresh styles might find this a good way to upgrade their wardrobes.

And Now, the Disadvantages

Now, let’s look at the drawbacks of signing up for a fashion subscription service.

  • Added Costs: Most subscription boxes promise to sell you stuff at a lower price than retail. Still, you’re adding a monthly (or bimonthly or quarterly) bill when you take on a recurring subscription. Also, these brands often use savvy marketing to get you to buy more, so you might not be saving money compared to your normal shopping habits.
  • Time-Consuming Returns: If you don’t like an item, or something doesn’t fit, you have to go through the hassle of shipping it back to the company to get your money back. For some people, this takes more time than just stopping by the store for a return.
  • Too Much Stuff: Many people struggle with the problem of having too much stuff. Fashion subscription boxes certainly won’t help. You might find yourself tempted to keep things you otherwise wouldn’t buy since they’re already in your hands and the return process can be difficult.

How to Decide If a Fashion Subscription Is Worth It

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With these pros and cons in mind, are fashion subscription boxes worth the money?

A subscription isn’t the most cost-effective or environmentally-friendly way to shop—you have thrift stores for that. But it’s also hard to deny the appeal of getting cool, curated items delivered to your doorstep.

If you’re considering a new subscription, we’d recommend asking these questions before you buy. If you’re satisfied with all the answers, then the benefits of the subscription probably outweigh the drawbacks. But remember that no matter what, the company is still profiting from your decision to subscribe.

Is It Easy to Cancel?

Some services make it incredibly difficult to cancel your subscription. If a company uses this nefarious tactic to cling to profits, it probably doesn’t deserve your money. Check the cancelation policy before you subscribe.

Does It Have Good Reviews?

Customer reviews will tell you what the marketing materials won’t. Check the reviews on social media and review sites to get a clear picture of what real customers think.

If you read the testimonials posted on the company website, remember that the brand selected those reviews themselves. Visit third-party review sites for a more balanced look.

Will You Actually Use These Items?

If you love shoes, a monthly shoe subscription box might be tantalizing. But if you already have party shoes collecting dust because you don’t have enough chances to wear them, it’s probably not worth it to add to your collection. Opt for subscriptions that offer things you can realistically use regularly.

Are the Discounts Worth It?

The discounts shouldn’t be the sole reason you subscribe. However, it’s worth checking if the subscription really offers valuable discounts on retail prices. Check the retail prices of individual items against the prices in the subscription box. Don’t forget that paying for shipping and returns will cut into the savings, too.

What’s Your Budget?

Factor the cost of the subscription into your overall budget. Do you have the cash to spare, or will you need to cut into another area of your budget to make room? Is there something you’re able and willing to sacrifice, like a few restaurant meals each month, to pay for the subscription? No matter how great the deals look, it’s not valuable if you can’t afford it.

Can You Control What You Get?

You’ll almost certainly get things you don’t like in your box from time to time. If you can control what you get, such as by previewing and customizing your choices, you have a better chance of actually liking what arrives.

And if you don’t like everything, can you easily return what you don’t want? If you can’t easily make returns (or make them at all), you’ll get stuck with excess stuff that you don’t love.

How Does the Company Source Products?

Some subscriptions focus on sourcing products from brands with certain ethics. Others will source from any brands at all. If you value cruelty-free products, environmentally safe, produced with ethical labor, or otherwise better for the world, you’ll want to look closely at what comes in your subscription box before buying.  

What’s in the Fine Print?

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Some subscriptions contract you into keeping the subscription for a certain amount of time or keeping a certain number of items from each box. Read the rules carefully, so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you probably have a clear picture of whether or not to give up your credit card information and start subscribing. Fashion subscription boxes are a fun luxury that you can live without. But if you’ve gone through this checklist and are happy with all the answers, there’s no compelling reason not to indulge.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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