I think monthly subscription boxes were invented for and made wildly popular by the masses of people who are like me - people who love getting a box in the mail, and even better, a box that may have an element of surprise of mystery about it.
I have tried four different box subscriptions so far, and have close friends who've tried a few others I have not. I wanted to share with you my thoughts on those I've tried, in case you too may enjoy them (or wish to stay clear of them) and I also thought I'd point you in the direction of a few others* you may enjoy that I haven't yet tried. (*Which will be coming in a second post shortly, as this one is already a bit lengthy!)
Ipsy (aka Ipsy Glam Bag)
What it is: Each month subscribers receive a themed cosmetic bag filled with 4-6 deluxe sample or full-sized cosmetic, skin or hair products. Brands range from drugstore (NYX, Jessie's Girl) to mid-range (Pixi, Laneige) and high-end (Benefit). The bag itself is a cute, reusable zippered pouch with a new design each month. The subscription is an ongoing one, so if you subscribe, you'll receive a bag each month until you cancel.
Pros: The cost of this subscription is just $10 (free shipping, local tax if applicable) and of the subscriptions I've tried offers the most bang for your buck. The products included are frequently full-sized and the total value always exceeds the cost, usually 3-5 times over. When you subscribe, you take a survey about your likes, coloring, favorite products and dislikes, and Ipsy tries to customize the items you receive to your tastes. There are a finite number of items selected to include in each month's themed bag, so if you and a few friends subscribe, there's likely to be a few items you receive in common.
Cons: This subscription is very popular so there is a waitlist for new subscribers. I believe I initially waited about a month, though I believe now there are some things you can do (share about Ipsy on social media is one I think) to help shorten your wait and get a little advantage. Another downside to Ipsy's popularity is that so far, Ipsy subscriptions are not available for purchase as gifts for others.
Final verdict: I love my Ipsy subscription and am unlikely to cancel anytime in the near future. I love some items I receive, am so-so on others, but for the most part, there are at least a few great items in each bag. For $10, you really can't go to wrong with Ipsy, unless of course you don't like beauty products. ;-)
A few of my past Ipsy bags...
What it is: A relatively affordable personal styling service that sends you five customized clothing or accessory pieces selected just for your body type, personal style and likes once a month (or whenever you schedule a "fix", no monthly subscription is required). The styling fee is $20 (doesn't charge you until your first fix ships), and that amount is deducted from your purchase price on the items you choose to keep. You get three days to try on the five items and decide what you want to keep and what's going back, then you simply place anything you don't want in a prepaid envelope and send it back to Stitch Fix. If you keep all five items, Stitch Fix gives you 25% off the purchase price too.
Pros: This service is so great for a number of reasons. Personally, I get frustrated shopping locally at times, and have some issues with my weight/body type, so it can be hard to find a style that I not only like, but that also fits and flatters me. Stitch Fix's stylists don't seem to struggle with that much when choosing items for me - they really seem to know how to choose pieces that will flatter. The style profile questionnaire is very specific and you can add specific notes just before a fix if you need something specific for that month (e.g. "Looking for a cocktail dress for a wedding." "No pants this month, just skirts and tops please." "Going on a vacation to the beach - need some beach wear.") You also can control the price range of items sent by type of item. (e.g. for Accessories, send me items as cheap as possible, but for outerwear, $50-100 is ok). I think the thing I love most about Stitch Fix is that it opens my mind to new possibilities. So many times they've sent me something I thought I would never have tried on if I saw it at a store - but then when I try it on, I fall in love with it! Did I mention the stylists will send you styling tips for what to pair each item with and keep track of what they've sent in the past, so they can reference it if it goes well with another item? ("Wear this with the blue cardigan we sent last month for a great weekend outfit.")
Oh -- yet another great thing: For each person who signs up for the service by going to the site through your link, you receive $25 in credit towards your next purchase! (If you're learning about Stitch Fix through me, and decide to try it, I'd be so grateful if you used my link, seriously, huge thanks! :-))
Cons: Stitch Fix is also pretty popular, so occasionally you may have to wait a few weeks for your first fix. I find it's easier to stay on a monthly subscription and just skip a box than to try to wait through a waiting list again and not do monthly fixes. If you're used to very inexpensive clothing (everything under $20), this may be a bit pricier, but I find most of the pieces to be of great quality, so I look to keep those that have classic/timeless designs that I can wear for a long time and consider them an investment. Sometimes, you'll get a fix that you're just not in love with - and it helps to re-do your profile and be more specific. I've tweaked my profile a couple of times and have been really happy with what I've received overall, but there have been 1-2 boxes I was "meh" on. Stitch Fix is definitely my most anticipated subscription and I really love it.
Final Verdict: Stitch Fix is hands down the most exciting box to receive for me personally, and it really is convenient, whether you're typically a shopper or you hate shopping. I'm hoping they'll make a men's version soon, because my husband really hates shopping! ;-)
A few of my "fixes"
(can you tell I told them mint is my favorite color? hehe)
What it is: Birchbox is a monthly beauty subscription also, however the products tend towards high-end more often than Ipsy and also include lesser-known, up and coming luxury brands. Products range from deluxe sample to full-sized, but typically lean toward deluxe sample. Subscribers receive 4-5 items in each box.
Pros: Birchbox tends to allow a bit more customization of items, as it allows you to lean certain ways in your product preferences, such as enjoying trendsetting options vs. classic choices or preferring organic/natural beauty products. Matching Ipsy in price at just $10 a month, Birchbox is still a good value overall and can also be gifted. Of note, Birchbox also offers a Men's Birchbox subscription.
Cons: My personal experience with Birchbox was a little lackluster. In more than one box, I received a protein bar (organic Lara Bar) and while that's nice and all, I wanted you know, um, beauty products. (Also, I am allergic to several nuts, and the bars were fruit and nut bars) Many of the items I received were from natural lines, which is nice... so long as the quality is there too. Pigmentation in color products from most of these lines was lacking. I did receive a few high-quality skincare items, but, the price of a full-sized replacement of these items was so high, I wouldn't consider purchasing once my sample ran out. ($85 for stretch mark cream? Pass.) The final straw with Birchbox for me, was when I gifted a subscription to my child-less sister, and they sent her nipple cream for mothers in her first box. Mind you, I know that makes great lip balm too, but she didn't know that and they certainly didn't explain it. I'm not sure how that jived with her personal profile other than I don't think it did at all.
Final verdict: Birchbox is affordable, at least the subscription is, and if you like discovering products and brands you maybe didn't know about or lean towards natural products, you may enjoy this subscription. Would I resubscribe? Probably not.
What it is: Julep is a nail polish company that has branched out into other cosmetics items. It's most popular monthly subscription box is $24.99 a month and includes two of their luxury nail colors and a third item of your choosing.
Pros: You can usually find a code to try Julep for free online for the first month (you still pay shipping) and your initial box often contains five items. You have control over what comes in your box. You can view the options at a set time during the month and make swaps as you like, or you can take the luck of the draw based on your style type (something you select at sign up). The colors are unique, many have beautiful finishes with metallics so fine they're similar to high-end car paints.
Cons: That first trial box you get, the one that comes with five items? Well, it sets your excitement pretty high. But, they when you get charged the $24.99 + tax (over $27 in the end) for your second box, and you only receive three items, and two of which are polishes that comes in quantities smaller than most polishes you can buy at the drugstore, it's a little bit of a letdown.
Final Verdict: This box is fun, but at more than $25 a box, it's just not something I wanted to continue. I've tried a few items other than nail polish from Julep and so far they've been so-so, but not stellar. I typically only buy $8+ nail polish every once in a blue moon, so spending that much on multiple polishes every month just feels a little wasteful to me.
My Julep intro box