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 they have simply proliferated into obscenity. There are so many freaking subscription boxes on the market.

What exactly am I talking about?

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

Food, alcohol, beverages, beauty, fashion, pet care and personal care are big categories and the main market contenders, with plenty of niche categories out there too.

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) 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?

So, why are they such a bad thing?

Because, they’re a classic example of simply wasting your money. I liken paying money for a subscription box to throwing your money in the bin. It might sound boring but the money would be better spent being added to your savings account. Not only will you be doing yourself a favour but you’ll also be helping out the environment by not contributing to the problem of packaging waste left over by all these boxes.

Let’s Do The Maths

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

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

Let’s assume she’d have a couple more subscriptions. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to assume people would have 3 subscription boxes.

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 (a 7% annual rate of return is considered average over decades of investing), 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 can not only get us into financial trouble in the short term but it has long terms ramifications 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 don’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.

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