I have a drugstore problem.
Send me in to make a quick toothpaste run and I’ll come out 45 minutes later weighed down with vitamins, makeup, a novelty onesie and four boxes of Captain Crunch. (It’s rude not to when they’re buy one, get one free, you know?)
Inevitably, what should be a $5 purchase turns into $50.
Fortunately, I know I’m a slave to temptation spending and take measures to have everyday essentials delivered via subscription boxes to cut my risk of exposure.
Am I hungry for Captain Crunch now that I no longer shop in stores? Yes.
Am I saving money? In more ways than I thought I would.
The 8 Best Subscription Boxes for Saving Money
Services like Birchbox and Le Tote specialize in hooking you on items that you want but don’t really need. But there are some monthly boxes that can actually save you money.
Here’s how to cut the cost of everything from toilet paper to contact lenses and have them delivered free of charge.
If you’ve ever known The Fear associated with running out of toilet paper, Sudz Club is your latrine lifesaver. It doesn’t end at TP, either. At first glance, $24.99 may seem steep, but every box comes loaded with bathroom essentials from well-known brands.
What you get: Toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, toilet paper and more.
What it costs: Prices start at $24.99 per month.
Price comparison: Sudz Club claims each subscription box has a value of $75. A little research on Walmart.com showed I could purchase similar items for around $38. That’s still a savings win in my book, especially with free delivery thrown in.
While professionals recommend changing your electric toothbrush head every 12 weeks, a recurring charge of $29.99 feels expensive. I may be guilty of the occasional four- to five-month gap — sure, the bristles are a little bent and botched, but I like to think it lends character. For a more manageable fee, Brusher Club ensures you change your Oral-B or Sonicare toothbrush head on time by sending a replacement every three months.
What you get: One replacement toothbrush head for your Oral-B or Sonicare toothbrush exactly when you need to change it.
What it costs: $8.99 every three months.
Price comparison: $29.99 for two replacement Sonicare heads.
Don’t own an electric toothbrush? I don’t blame you. While the most basic Sonicare option is $39.99, products get pricier with every bell and whistle added. The DiamondClean Smart — with its five modes, three intensities and app-based brushing feedback — is $329.99. I’d want app-based feedback on brushing, outfit choices and relationship woes for that price. A partnership between dentists and designers, Quip offers a range of simple, affordable and surprisingly attractive electric toothbrushes.
What you get: A super sleek electric toothbrush with built-in sensors and quadrant timers.
What it costs: $25 for a starter set; $5 every three months for refills.
Price comparison: $39.99 for a basic Sonicare electric toothbrush.
If you’ve ever found yourself hunting through every crevice of the bathroom for a lone bobby pin or hair tie, Pin Culture has the box for you.
What you get: For $2 a month, you’ll receive 25 bobby pins or 10 hair ties, which you can tailor to your hair color. Pay $6 a month and you’ll get a combo box of both pins and hair ties. Pro tip: If you have a cat, your hair ties are probably under the couch alongside every pen you’ve ever owned.
What it costs: Boxes start at $2 per month.
Price comparison: $3.49 for a pack of 20 bobby pins at CVS.
Dollar Shave Club
Penny Hoarder editor Dana Sitar has discussed her love affair with Dollar Shave Club at length. Staff writer Carson Kohler even listed it as one of her top ways to take care of yourself while saving money. Really good razor blades, delivered when you need them at a fraction of the price you’d pay in stores? It’s a win in everyone’s book.
What you get: Four stainless steel, four-blade cartridges a month with a sleek razor handle and shave butter to get you started. Replacement cartridges and shave butter every three months after.
What it costs: Around $8 every month.
Price comparison: $8.99 for a Gillette Mach3 razor; $8.22 for replacement blades.
Replacing your air filter on a regular basis doesn’t just remove toxins from your home. It can also lower your monthly energy bill and prevent expensive repairs. But it’s yet another maintenance task to remember, which is why I love Filter Easy: Its delivery is a reminder to make the swap. (I would never replace my air filter without a timely reminder.)
What you get: One high-quality air filter. You set the schedule, meaning filters arrive as frequently as you want.
What it costs: As little as $11.97 per filter.
Price comparison: $19.97 from a local store.
As an avid home cook, I was aghast to learn my trusty, hard-working kitchen sponge is probably the dirtiest thing I own. That bacteria-breeding hotbed went straight into the trash after I read about this study, let me tell you. I felt betrayed. Experts suggest swapping your sponge out every week, which is where Sponge Club comes in.
What you get: Four high-quality sponges every month.
What it costs: $4.44 per month.
Price comparison: $4.19 for two sponges at a local drugstore.
An uber-simple and affordable solution for vision care, this subscription box packs a serious value punch if you wear contact lenses. Once you’ve enrolled, the Sightbox team books and pays for your eye exam upfront. You attend the exam and receive a new prescription. Sightbox then delivers a monthly box containing your custom contact lenses.
What you’ll get: An eye exam and fitting, plus a 12-month supply of contact lenses.
What it costs: $39.99 per month.
Price comparison: According to NerdWallet, the average consumer spends $200 upfront for an eye exam and contact lens fitting and anywhere from $600 to $1,270 for a year’s supply of contact lenses.
Ready to Sign Up for a Subscription Box? Read This First
The endless choice and convenience, coupled with the seemingly affordable nature of subscription boxes, can make it easy to overspend. If you’re not careful, monthly charges will rack up and you’ll be overloaded with products you barely use.
To save money, be selective and focus on things you buy regularly.
Can I survive without a rotating borrowed closet every month? Yes.
Do I need shampoo, contact lenses and kitchen sponges? Yes.
Having answered these questions, I won’t entertain fashion-based subscription boxes, as much as I’d love a never-ending carousel of new dresses.
But I will subscribe to those that offer items I’ll use on an almost daily basis. You know how much you generally spend on everyday essentials, which makes it easier to spot a good subscription box deal.
This way of shopping isn’t only cutting my temptation spending. I’m saving time and money every month.
I can even afford to add a box of Captain Crunch to my grocery order. Just one — promise.
Kerry Bailey moved eight years ago from London to Florida, where she discovered a love of shuffleboard and Captain Crunch. Though no longer a resident of the U.K., she still writes for many of its national newspapers and magazines, covering books, money, travel and relationships.
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