on subscription boxes: silent savings killers

There’s something out there that’s silently crushing your ability to save. It’s superfluous and a complete money drain.

What am I talking about?

Subscription boxes.

It started with one or two but has simply proliferated into obscenity. There are so many subscription boxes on the market.

what the heck am i going on about?

For a monthly fee you can receive a small box of pretty much anything of your choice.

Food, alcohol, beverages, beauty, fashion, pets and personal care are big categories and the main market contenders. But there are plenty of niche categories too, such as vegan, geek* and sport.  

(*Geek is one of my most hated terms and a look at the boxes on the particular website under that label show mostly boxes for gamers with figurines and other assortments in there. Gamers are not geeks. Just because their hobby is gaming, they don’t deserve the default ‘geek’ label.)

They are little tasters of something, a treat to yourself once a month. They are perfect for the modern, hectic life – they’ll simply arrive at your door each month, with just a few clicks of your laptop. What could be easier and more exciting?! A treat every month! Just what you need to cheer yourself up from work/life/[stressful situation].

My curiosity (which soon turned to outrage) in subscription boxes was piqued when a colleague of mine was excited to go home one particular evening as her new subscription box had been delivered that day. I asked her what she was talking about and she said for £15 a month she received a beauty box with 5 items. They were all small, little sample bottles. She said she loved it as it was a nice little surprise each month (she didn’t know what she would receive each month) and it gave her the chance to test out new products.  

Some light Google searching later, I found 100’s of these things. A UK based website that seems to be an aggregator of subscription boxes list over 350 boxes in 15 categories. Seriously?

why do i rage against them so?

I rage because they are a classic example of simply wasting your money. I liken paying money for a subscription box to flushing money down the toilet. It might sound boring but the money would be better spent adding to your savings account. Not only that but you’d be doing a favour to the environment by not contributing to the packaging crisis.

let’s do the maths

Does one or two subscription boxes a month make that much difference?

Take my colleague as a great example. £180 a year for her beauty subscription box, got her 60 little bottles of lotions and potions that may or may not be of any use to her.

And let’s just assume she’d have a couple more subscriptions thrown in. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to assume people would have 3 subscriptions.

Let’s say she spends £15 on a food related box and let’s also assume she has a taste for gin and so also subscribes to a gin subscription box for £14.

That’s £528 a year purely spent on little samples of lotions, potions, snacks and alcohol.

You might be thinking, that doesn’t even sound like much, I could go in for 2 more boxes and still have a bit of money left over each month.

But, if you take that initial £528, invest it and then contribute £528 a year thereafter, assuming you get 7% returns on it, in 25 years, you’d have £36,261. And that’s not to be sniffed at.

Yes, you might get excited every month. You might feel like you deserve a treat. But we need to escape this culture of instant gratification. Of our happiness being tied to spending money. It’s only going to get us into trouble and hasten our happiness by limiting the money we have that can go into securing our financial futures.

It might not seem like a lot but it’s these types of expenses that can really inhibit your ability to save meaningfully for the future.

over consumption based on debt

We are a society of over consumption based on debt. The amount and the rate at which we consume is simply staggering. As if we didn’t have enough pulls on our money, we now have products such as subscription boxes, sucking even more of our income from us every month.

I don’t like the word disposable income. It comes with connotations that it needs to gotten rid of; disposed of. And that’s what we do. Every month. We mentally say in our heads, ‘OK, that’s the bills paid. I have £300 of disposable income left.’ Which then gets frittered away as mentally we have allowed it to be. We’ve allowed it to be frivolously spent because we’ve labelled it disposable.

Everyone doesn’t necessarily have the ability to earn more money but everyone has the ability to control their outgoings.

The next time you’re lured by one of the shiny, well packaged little monthly treats, just remember that you’d be treating yourself more by stashing that money in your savings account. Pay yourself first.


4 thoughts on “on subscription boxes: silent savings killers”

  1. I had a bunch of vouchers for Graze a while back so had a subscription with them, until the vouchers ran out and I realised I was just paying for very expensive snacks. They’re all marketed as convenient but are never value for money. I know of a couple of people who subscribe to the food ones, eg Gousto or Abel & Cole – Gousto costs around £25 for two recipes/ingredients (for two people) – ouch! Sourcing recipes online is free and buying your own ingredients is a lot cheaper but some people obviously have money to burn.

    Interesting note you make about the term ‘disposable’ income – hadn’t thought of it that way but yeah, it suggests that the money is to be spent, rather than saved.

    First time to this blog and I see I have quite a few posts to catch up on – all the best with your journey to FI.

    1. Thanks for your comment Weenie! I completely agree about the convenience aspect, there’s so much marketing to that end these days. I have a full time job & a very busy life outside of work & manage just fine without all those so-called conveniences!
      Thanks – it’s a slow journey but a fun one!!

  2. As harmful subscriptions are for consumers (as you describe in your article) as awesome are they as business models. Just think of that gym membership that gets signed in January, while there are no gym visits for the rest of the year 😉
    A good piece of advice is probably to review ALL subscriptions you have and cancel the ones you don’t need any longer, really challenging each one of them.

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