A generation ago, monthly subscription services were limited to magazines and the occasional pie-of-the-month club. That's changed, as consumers want to try designer items that are custom selected for them and their peers.
"Subscription boxes are wonderful because they're extremely fun," says blogger Kimberly Kong of Sensible Stylista. "Who doesn't love a box full of surprise goodies?"
"On top of that, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck," says Kong. "Subscription boxes are usually worth two to four times more than their marked prices."
Whether you're a beauty aficionado, a foodie, a pet owner, a gamer or a curious kid, there's a subscription box for you. Here's a look at 10 popular boxes this holiday season.
Birchbox is all about connecting consumers with the latest and greatest in beauty, grooming and lifestyle products. The monthly deliveries include "curated, deluxe samples" tailored to the subscriber's tastes.
Women's Birchboxes have items such as sample-sized lip gloss, mascara and bronzer. Men's Birchboxes include samples such as cologne, shaving cream and cool gadgets like headphones.
A three-month subscription for women costs $30; six months runs $60. Men's pricing is three months for $60 and six months for $110.
Plus-size fashionistas may want to try a Gwynnie Bee subscription box. When signing up, members generate personal collections of their ideal wardrobes. Then clothing is sent monthly based on those preferences.
For a monthly flat fee, which starts at $35, members receive about $900-$1,200 worth of clothing each month, including unlimited free shipping and exchanges.
Indulge your pet with a BarkBox subscription. Choose your dog's size, your preferred plan (one-, three-, six- or 12-month subscription) and get ready to receive doggy goodies every month. A one-month subscription for a 20- to 50-pound dog costs $29 for one. A one-year subscription for the same size dog is $19 a month.
Each month you'll receive four to six toys, treats and occasional hygiene products. All the items are selected and approved by Scout, the company's "head product tester."
PawPack boxes include four to five products a month of all-natural and grain-free treats, toys and accessories. One box sells for $35, and a yearly subscription is $25 a box.
The company is also committed to pets in the community. A portion of every sale helps rescue animals in need.
Foodies love Plated subscriptions because everything they need to cook gourmet dinners is delivered to their homes. Chef-designed recipes and ingredients are included in shipments, which are packed in chilled boxes to keep food fresh.
You can customize your subscription boxes to your dining tastes, with options including vegetarian, meat and seafood. Plated boxes include a minimum of four plates, which starts at $48 a week plus $6 shipping. Shipping is free on orders over $50.
Looking for the perfect healthy snack? A Fit Snack subscription might be for you. This subscription box includes full-sized goodies each month as well as workout guides, recipes and fitness challenges.
Curated by nutritionists and fitness trainers, the boxes have a mix of "high protein, paleo-friendly, gluten-free, non-GMO, sustainable and healthy foods sourced from indie and boutique local and regional food companies."
Subscriptions are under $20 a month. The retail value of each box is over $35.
Through the online platform at HeroBox.org, sponsors can sign up to send care packages to deployed service members.
Each HeroBox has three types of items: snacks, such as protein bars or beef jerky; hygiene, such as soap or deodorant; and entertainment, including books, magazines and DVDs.
HeroBox sponsorships can be as short as one month or as long as a year. The average HeroBox costs between $25 and $30. The sponsor is responsible for shipping the packages and communicating with the service member.
Every month, the Junior Explorers box sends kids on a mission in nature, learning about ecosystems such as the Arctic or the Serengeti.
The kits include animal figurines, trading cards and temporary tattoos, as well as pins and a secret code to the digital Mission Center.
At the end of every mission, kids can choose a real-world project doing conservation work in the ecosystem they just studied. The child's game points are converted into a real-dollar donation to that project. Subscriptions start at $19 for one month and go up to $185 per year.
These kid-friendly craft boxes are all about creativity, fun and hands-on learning. With a new theme every month, kids will learn about topics ranging from birds to Egyptian history. Each box includes a book, a snack, activity supplies and project lessons.
A three-month gift subscription to Surprise Ride costs $29.99. Shipping is free.
Gamers and geeks can sign up for the Geek Fuel box. Every month you'll get cool collectibles, functional home goods and interactive downloads.
Curated by trend-spotters, Geek Fuel boxes include limited-edition access to superhero comic books, movies and video games. One-, three-, six- and 12-month subscriptions are available for under $20 a month. Each box is valued at $40 to $50.