On December 26, I sat down at my laptop with my freshly padded wallet—thank you, Christmas—and started shopping. I was determined to find new and interesting ways to shop with my haul of Christmas cards bookmarked by $20 bills because I’m equal parts too busy to shop and not entirely thrilled at the prospect of waiting in a line in the Galleria for hours on end for after-Christmas sales.
Then I remembered there is a new way to get other people to do my shopping for me. It's called a subscription box. My friend swears by them—each week she gets a new package, always full of new beauty products or a customized box of clothes.
This year, I want to try new things—new styles, new products—but I don’t have time to watch beauty hauls on YouTube or flip through endless catalogs to find the latest and greatest wants. Instead I’m subscribing to let the professionals pick out some cool new things for me, and maybe you should too.
Best for beauty: BIRCHBOX
If you’ve never heard of Birchbox, you’ve been hiding under a Texas-sized rock. The New York-based company has more than 800,000 subscribers in four countries since its founding in 2010. It’s $10 a month with free shipping and you get four to five makeup products, lotions, soaps and other new beauty items. You have some say in what you want—you fill out your profile when you subscribe, but generally most boxes have some of the same items. The idea is to try before you buy, so once I fall in love with the shampoo and conditioner samples I was sent last month, I’m three clicks away from buying it through Birchbox. You also can earn points through reviewing and recommending friends join. There’s also a men’s box, guys, so step your grooming game up.
Best for clothing: StitchFix
This subscription is like having your personal shopper on speed dial. You sign up and fill out a complete style profile, pay $20 per box—you can get a monthly box, or just pick when you want a box—and StichFix sends you five personalized clothing or accessory items. You then have three days to decide what you like and want to send back, with free shipping each way. Whatever you don’t return is automatically charged to your account, with the $20 cost acting as a credit. All the selections are tailored (pun intended) to fit your style—StitchFix picks items based on your tweets, your LinkedIn profile, and your Pinterest boards, so give them something to look at.
Runners-up: Daily Look Elite, for you high fashionistas, is another option that works like StitchFix—but there’s a three-month free trial and six to eight items per shipment. Just Fab VIP puts together a group of shoes or handbags that you might like online, and you choose what you'd like to buy from those items, which are all about $39.
Best for foodies: Plated
Do you ever feel like you could be the best cook ever? Like you could totally do what those chefs on Chopped do but you are just a tad too busy to grocery shop and find the right recipe? Well then Plated is perfect for you, you wannabe chef you. Pick what dishes you want to make (each recipe will make two servings, or "plates") and when you want the shipment to arrive, and boom—it’s at your door. The price begins around $12 per plate, depending on what you order, and there's a minimum of four plates in an order.
Best for getting fit: Bulu Box
Bulu Box sends you a box full of four to five weight-loss or original health and nutrition sample items for $10 a month. You can taste and try, then buy online. Think: protein powder, vitamins, and more.
Runner-up: Her Fitness Box, from the makers of Her Fashion Box, sends you one to two fitness accessories with six to eight lifestyle samples for $49.95 quarterly.
Best for men: Trunk Club
With actual stylist interaction and no service fees, Trunk Club aims to completely revamp a man’s wardrobe. Basically, you create an account and meet—virtually—with a stylist. You tell them what you want or need and they will take it from there, sending you a customized trunk with no required purchase. The items are nice but kind of pricey, starting around $100, so be warned. However, this service doesn't require you to commit to a monthly trunk, and you can return whatever you don’t want.
Runner-up: The Dollar Shave Club will spoil you. You sign up, pick which handle you want—$3 to $9 a month options, four to five cartridges a month—and add in whatever cream or products you want in your box next month. You can schedule your own frequency.
Best for kids: Citrus Lane
Citrus Lane is equal parts for babies and for moms. For $29 a month with free shipping, you get a surprise box of toys and products selected for you child’s age. Then, after you receive your package, you can shop online to buy more.
Runner-up: Did someone say DIY? For your craft-savvy daughter, Darby Smart has Darby Girl which sends a DIY project right to your door for $19 every other month.
Best for pets: Bark Box
For just $19 a month—some of which goes to nonprofit rescues—you get a customized box for man’s best friend. Pick your dog size and get toys and snacks for them.
Runner-up: Let’s get the cats involved in this, hmm? PetBox sends you either cat or dog boxes monthly for options as low as $7.95 a month.