Subscription Clubs: The New (Old) Way to Waste Money

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As a teenager, I belonged to a subscription club that sent me a new sampling of makeup each month. Seldom did I receive a lipstick or eyeshadow I ended up using more than a few times, but it was fun trying random new stuff each month. And who doesn’t like receiving surprises in the mail?

Of course, back then, I had little better to spend my babysitting money on – I wasn’t wise enough to stash it in a savings account.

Today, I’d never fall for that money-wasting trick. But that’s not stopping companies from dreaming up new ways to tempt me. Here’s why you should resist the temptation too…

Monthly subscription clubs have been around for decades. Harry and David conceived their fruit-of-the-month club in 1938. Now they do the same online.

In fact, with the growth of online shopping and the success of Groupon-like deals sites, new breeds of blank-of-the-month clubs have emerged. Many target women, who have traditionally done more shopping than men in stores and online. (Technology news website TechCrunch wrote a great article last year about Why Women Rule the Internet.)

A few years ago, ShoeDazzle.com launched with the backing of reality TV star Kim Kardashian. The ShoeDazzle model quizzes its members on their style preferences to better guarantee customers are happy with the shoes and handbags they receive each month. They recently revamped this model, however, to remove the $40 monthly subscription fee.

A few days ago, the pop news website PopSugar.com launched its PopSugar Must Have monthly subscription club. Like ShoeDazzle, it made national headlines.

“Subscribers are home-delivered a monthly potpourri of fashion, health, beauty and home decor items in a unique bag,” USA Today reported. Members receive these goodies, hand-picked by PopSugar.com’s editorial team, for $35 a month.

That’s $420 a year – for purchases you can’t see or approve in advance!

Money Talks has warned you before about the power psychology can hold over unsuspecting shoppers, and a similar power endangers the savings accounts of shoppers tempted by these monthly subscription clubs.

The combination of mystery and anticipation seduce shoppers in a way that specific products seen on store shelves or websites can’t. Yet if you were shopping for, say, a beauty product at the drugstore rather than by mail, you’d never reach for the bottle that had no picture or label identifying its contents. Joining a monthly “mystery” subscription club is no less of a gamble.

So, again, the only way to overcome an age-old retail-industry trick designed to prompt you to hand over your hard-earned money without thinking twice is to recognize it for what it is.

If you find yourself curious about the next new subscription model, ask yourself if 12 random pairs of shoes or 12 bags of alleged “must-haves” are really worth hundreds of dollars a year. If they are, maybe you should try to find a more productive hobby.

Have you ever tried a monthly subscription club? If so, share your experience with us in the comments section below or on our Facebook page!

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