Subscription boxes have exploded in the past few years. They’ve gained an incredible amount of traction by appealing to the needs and desires of niche audiences then exposing those consumers to new relevant products.
Needless to say, the vegan community has a ton of options. There are many enticing subscription boxes that are designed to target vegans and people who are concerned about animal welfare. To get an idea of how many are out there, check out a list of some of them at PETA2, the youth division of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. There are enough exciting products to make even the stingiest vegan shopper reach for their credit card.
But don’t start typing in those 16 digits just yet. While these boxes might be tempting, they are sometimes not worth it. If you are considering enrolling in a new subscription service, or if you are considering cancelling a current subscription, read on:
Good Reasons for Becoming a Subscriber
It would be inaccurate to simply say that all subscription boxes are a waste of money. After all, there are thousands of businesses offering them, so there are bound to be some that are a reasonable value. Before delving into the negative aspects of subscription boxes, let’s discuss some good reasons for selecting one:
• When it’s a good value: Do you typically use at least 90 percent of what is included in your subscription box? Are you receiving the items at a notable discount? Consider the cost of the box with shipping included. Vegan foods and makeups can be pricey, so this can be a great way to get such items at a reduced price. If a service offers items at a discount that you would have bought anyway, a monthly subscription box might be the right call.
• It lets you explore new vegan options: Vegans — especially those who have very recently adopted the lifestyle — can benefit from exposure to new products. Many subscription boxes focus on offering new snacks and meals for those on restricted diets, and even major meal subscription services sometimes offer vegan options. This can also be a great way to discover new cosmetics that aren’t comprised of bizarre animal products.
Under these circumstances, subscription boxes aren’t necessarily a bad investment. However, there are some services that can seriously affect your bottom line in the long haul.
When They Become a Problem
Subscription boxes can fall into a category of expenses that Fiscal Tiger refers to as a “money hole:” a financial vampire that drains your finances on a monthly basis, sometimes even making it difficult to make timely bill payments. Here are some reasons to avoid these services:
• Inconsistent offerings: Sure, you may enjoy a subscription box for a month or two, but the nature of these services means you could get a raw deal. For instance, if the quality of your favorite subscription box goes down over the months, you are stuck with the monthly fee. Depending on the business, cancelling subscription services can be a major hassle, since marketers often use “sticky” tactics to keep you enrolled, such as pricey reactivation fees or discounts. Worse, you may have been suckered into an annual membership, which could turn you into one seriously unhappy customer
• You really can’t afford it: You really should only be spending, at most, 10 percent of your net income on entertainment purposes. This means that, if you bring home $2,000 every month, your entertainment budget should not exceed $200. While this might sound feasible, it is very easy to go over. Four movie tickets, for example,could set you back $60 or more — well over a quarter of your budget in a single night. Dedicating anywhere from $20 to $50 on a subscription box each month makes it even harder to maintain a reasonable budget.
Discuss subscription boxes on any forum for long enough, and you will inevitably hear one word: “addiction.” Indeed, many consumers are subscribed to multiple boxes every month. $10 to $20 per month seems like a drop in the bucket, but when you expenditures balloon to $200 or more, something has gone amiss.
How to Budget for a Monthly Subscription Box
To determine your entertainment budget and figure out if a subscription box is right for you, you need to do some math. As noted above, you should limit your entertainment budget to 10 percent of your income. If you don’t have a pay stub handy, use a paycheck calculator to determine your monthly income. Divide that number by 10. Now, subtract the cost of a prospective new subscription box from your budget.
Seriously consider if you are comfortable with that budget. Does it allow you to do the things that suit your lifestyle? A subscription box might make those morning trips to Starbucks impractical, or it might mean that you’ll have to explore some more budget-friendly ways of shopping for food. If you aren’t willing to make these compromises, do not sign up for a new subscription. If you can afford it, carefully manage your remaining budget.
Carefully weigh the pros and cons of each box and determine if it is a good value to you. Avoid annual fees and customer retention hullabaloo. Vegan subscription boxes can be some good fun, but don’t let them drain your finances if you aren’t ready to make some potential compromises.