It wasn’t too long ago that I found myself with a mountain of empty boxes from online retailers awaiting recycling, and I’m not just talking Amazon (though there was an empty Amazon Prime package in the bunch). I’m talking about the newest thing in our era of instantaneous online shopping: the subscription box (a.k.a. fun mail). In a month, I had received Stitch Fix, Blue Apron, Dollar Shave Club and Framebridge, and despite the fact that I had dropped a decent amount of dough, I was satisfied with my level of techy, new-age purchases for a few reasons: simplicity, time-saving and convenience.
This holiday season, before you give a lame gift card to a big box retailer, take pause. Consider giving the gift of a unique online e-tailer. These days there’s something for everyone. Here are a few of my faves:
1. Stitch Fix
One of the earliest to the online services party, Stitch Fix is a personal stylist you work with through the internet. Fill out a style profile and, for a $20 styling fee, your stylist will send you a personalized package with five hand-picked items. Try them on at home (you have three days), keep what you want, send back what you don’t. Love ‘em and keep ‘em all, get a 25% discount. Otherwise, a prepaid return parcel is included in the delivery—drop it off at any USPS mailbox and boom. Done. The $20 fee is applied to any item you decide to keep, so it’s always worth keeping at least one thing. Give a gift card to your super busy stylish friend or to that pal that “hates shopping” and is too afraid to shop online for clothes. We all have one of those.
This app will frame and ship just about anything to you—from original artwork to posters to digital prints. For a creative and thoughtful gift (without having to bust out your craft supplies), have Framebridge print and frame one of your BFF’s favorite ‘Grams and have it shipped directly to their place. Framebridge has plenty of frame options but not like when you walk into a custom frame shop and have a meltdown because there are so. Many. Choices.
No one really likes shaving, let alone paying for razors. And while you don’t want to send the wrong message to the ones you love, a subscription to this service might be just the trick to getting your S.O. to shave. Joining the Dollar Shave Club is about more than shaving; the service carries other body products like shaving butter, hair pomade and “One-Wipe Charlies.” Yup. Pro tip: if you live with someone else who shaves, share a subscription! Oh, and they include clever “Bathroom Minutes” in each shipment, which make for great reading material.
4. Blue Apron
One of several meal-in-a-box services out there, Blue Apron is perfect for someone who enjoys cooking but is the worst at meal planning and/or hates grocery shopping. Not only are healthy, satisfying meals delivered to your door, you have a certain level of control in selecting what recipes you want, vegetarian and pescatarian options are available and you can skip meals whenever you want. Warning: there are a lot of packaging components to these—which can be annoying—but everything is recyclable or biodegradable. If you already have a subscription, you can gift free meals to friends or maybe just invite them over for a nice meal. P.S.—Blue Apron also does wine deliveries, six bottles per box. Order a box for yourself and gift some of the bottles to friends!
Mainstream greeting cards can be the worst. Flowers can be too much. Greetabl is a fun service that allows you to customize a small gift—from the packaging on the outside to the message and unique item inside. The gifts range in price from $3 to $20 and include everything from Cabernet flavored lollipops to mini Moscow Mule mugs (I know, right?!). This service is great for any occasion, especially for friends who live far away. “Congrats on your new job. Here are some champagne gummy bears!” “Get well soon! Here’s a ‘Cup of Love’ tea!” Cute, right?
We all have that worldly, globetrotting friend. And while you might not be able to gift them tickets for their next big trip, you can treat them like the world traveler they are with Try the World. These boxes are filled with foods and snacks curated by chefs and produced by local artisans from around the world.
Another option: instead of gifting it, keep it for yourself and invite your pals over for fancy snacktime.
This is another way to explore the world from home, only this is for the small humans in your life. Little Passports are packages that include hands-on activities for kids with themes like “World,” “U.S.A.” and “Science.” Not sure what your 7-year-old nephew is into? Don’t worry, they’re organized by age range so you can be sure to be the coolest aunt/uncle ever.
Remember Columbia House’s eight CDs for a penny subscription? Don’t gift that—they filed for bankruptcy last year. Try this instead for the music lover on your list: membership to the Record of the Month club! Vinyl Me, Please will send you or your giftee a new album every month (chosen from tons of different genres and artists) and offers three-, six- and 12-month memberships, so you can commit at the level you feel comfortable. It’s an awesome way to satisfy your urge to be on the cutting edge while enjoying the best of the analog world.
Maribel is a lifelong public media fan and as director of Rewire, oversees the site’s strategy and operations. When she isn’t catching up on the latest digital publishing trends, she enjoys traveling, flamenco dancing and going on adventures with her doggos.