Monthly subscription takeover

In the 90s, when I think of monthly subscriptions, I think of the kids in the neighborhood that would go door to door, guilting unsuspecting housewives into magazine subscriptions that were completely unnecessary — who needs a year and half subscription to Better Homes and Gardens or Sports Illustrated? For a one-time cost of $16.99, it didn’t seem so bad. And if you were that kid and you were lucky, you could convince your parents to buy one for yourself, securing 12 or 18 copies of the latest Tiger Beat, depending on if they wanted to shell out the extra $5.00 or not.

Birchbox broke through as one of the first successful and widely-known monthly subscription programs, a $10 per month subscription for all the latest high-end beauty product samples. Subscription services continue to evolve today, letting consumers not only get new makeup on their doorstep every month, but also food, razors, active wear, and  now even undergarments. With the click of a button, you can even subscribe your dog to get a monthly box of treats and goodies.


It’s a thriving market that is sucking a lot of consumers in. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend $10 a month to get a box full of goodies, or $40 a month for a new workout outfit each month. Right?


I’ve largely stayed away from this trend, mostly because I’m cheap. But also on principle: I have so many things, and most of these things tend to get stowed away in a random drawer and are forgotten about until it’s time to give them away or throw them out. And what if you don’t like what you get? Especially with the idea of clothes or a pantie/bra combo being sent to you monthly–sometimes these subscriptions can be costly, and with your card automatically charged each month, you may not realize how costly it truly can be. It just seems impracticable to me. This article looks into the boom of the subscription era and puts the concept of being dissatisfied perfectly:

“In a month where I don’t use Netflix, I don’t really think about it,” Bennett says. “A month where you don’t like the product shipped to your front door, you’ll have a visible reminder that this wasn’t a good month.”

That’s the biggest reason I’ve kept from getting suckered into one of these things. I have the worst buyers remorse, and these types of trends would definitely perpetuate that. The industry is heavily dependent on bloggers to review each product for their followers, one of the most notable being My Subscription Addiction.

Well, as it seems, I finally caved and decided to try Ipsy a few months ago. I have some friends that use Birchbox and have expressed disappointment with it, saying that after a few months they began to receive the same things over and over. I also read that Birchbox is more sample size, high-end products whereas Ipsy provides more sample and full size but also drugstore brands (which, tbh, is probably the only place I shop for makeup anyway).

I find myself wanting to try a lot of different beauty products these days, but never wanting to go out and buy it myself for fear I will get the wrong thing or dislike what I pick once I try it and waste my money. So, a $10 subscription for five new beauty products a month does sound like a good fit for me. Ipsy claims on its website that the average value of a monthly “Glam Bag” is $53.00. Who wouldn’t want to try that? Pay $10.00 and get $53.00?

Not necessarily.

Ah yes, being the nerd I am, I know there are a lot of different approaches to reach an “average,” which is fodder for companies that like to throw out skewed statistics. So three months in, I’m pretty convinced I’m getting my money’s worth–that is, receiving items that I personally value at $2.00 a piece (I’m very practical, I pay $10 per month for 5 items, so it’s simple in my mind). But when you tell me that each item really is valued at $10.60 a piece on “average”? Now that makes me want to know how much they are really worth. I think a quarter of a year is a good sample size, but I’m also keeping in mind that items may be more or less “better” when you start a subscription, and will invariably taper off because a) Ipsy automatically charges my card each month and knows I probably won’t cancel after a few lackluster bags, and b) at some point, I may not need a new highlighter every single month, despite me telling Ipsy that I like receiving highlighter.

A couple of items to note: sometimes sample sizes are cheaper or more expensive than full size, depending on the brand. To keep everything apples to apples, I’ve just taken the price of a full size item to determine a per-ounce price, and used that to prorate the size that was received. It may not be as accurate as the beauty bloggers, but it’s logical math and that’s my jam.

August Glam Bag

Lord&Berry | 20100 maximatte crayon lipstick
  • Full size = 0.20 oz; sells on their website for $20.00
  • Size received = 0.06 oz
  • Estimated value = $6.00
Beauty For Real | I-LINE 24-7 Eyeliner
  • Full size received; sells on their website for $14.00
  • Estimated value = $14.00
Josie Maran | Whipped Mud Mask
  • Full size = 0.50 oz; collection sells on their website 5 for $48.00 ($9.60/piece)
  • Size received = 0.24 oz
  • Estimated value = $4.61
Organic Surge | Perfecting Face Polish
  • Full size = 2.5 oz; sells on their website for $9.09
  • Size received = 1.0 oz
  • Estimated value = $3.64
  • Full size = 0.6 oz; sells on their website for $7.50
  • Size received = 0.5 oz
  • Estimated value = $6.25

Total estimated August Glam Bag value = $34.50

September Glam Bag

Briogeo | Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask
  • Full size = 8.0 oz; sells on their website for $36.00
  • Size received = 1.0 oz
  • Estimated Value = $4.50
Waxing Kara | Sweet Lips Honey Lip Balm
  • Full size received; sells on their website for $10.00
  • Estimated value = $10.00
IT Cosmetics | Superhero™ Mascara
  • Full size = 0.304 oz; sells on their website for $24.00
  • Size received = 0.17 oz
  • Estimated value = $13.42
Crown Brush | Ombre Angle Brush
  • Full size received; sells on their website for $7.99
  • Estimated value = $7.99
tre’StiQue | Mini Highlight Stick
  • Full size = 0.21 oz; sells on their website for $34.00
  • Size received = 0.04 oz
  • Estimated value = $6.48

Total estimated September Glam Bag value = $42.39

October Glam Bag

 theBalm Cosmetics | CabanaBoy Blush
  • Full size = 0.30 oz; sells on their website for $21.00
  • Size received = 0.02 oz
  • Estimated value = $1.40
NYX Professional Makeup | Vivid Brights Liner
  • Full size received; sells on their website for $7.00
  • Estimated value = $7.00
Pure Brazilian | Leave In Miracle
  • Size received = 1.0 oz; sells on their website for $6.00
  • Estimated value = $6.00
Indi Beauty | Buttercream Antioxidant Lip Scrub
  • Full size = 0.353 oz; sells on their website for $21.99
  • Size received = 0.169 oz
  • Estimated value = $10.54
tre’StiQue | Matte Lip Crayon
  • Full size = 0.06 oz; sells on their website for $28.00
  • Size received = 0.02 oz
  • Estimated value = $9.33

Total estimated October Glam Bag value = $34.27

Average Glam Bag value over first 3 months = $37.05

So, while certain items may not have hit my $2.00/piece mark (I’m looking at you, worthless sample size of blush that I can’t even use), and I’m certainly nowhere near the $53.00/month average value by my own definition, you can see that one or two items a month hit above the $10.60 threshold. And honestly, each month there are one or two items that I really love (i.e., the face polish, liquid illuminator, mascara, lip scrub – total estimated value of $34.80) which in total are valued at more than the $30 I spent in the last three months. I’d say for those wanting to expand their beauty bags, Ipsy is definitely worth it, at least for the time being. We’ll see if I get roped into any other monthly subscriptions any time soon….

[[Sign up for Ipsy here.]]

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