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  • Oriana Skylar Mastro

Product subscriptions – are they worth it?

Let me begin this post by saying that I have two boys, ages two and under, and a dog. So, I need (want?) a lot of crap. Maybe you live a carefree, responsible free, clutter-free life and are just reading this to see what crazy crap middle-aged women concern themselves with. But if you also need to buy and use things, this post is for you.

I am a convert to product subscriptions—repeat deliveries. Amazon "subscribe and save." All of it. These are services where you can select specific goods to be delivered to you at particular intervals. Diapers every month? Yes, please! Dental chews for the dog? Let's do it with the 4Ps.

Plan and pay the setup costs. Make a list of items that you always need periodically. I always need dog food, flea and tick medicine, Heartgard, and dental chews for the dog. For the babies, diapers and wipes are a must-have. I also add on some house cleaning items like detergent, cleaning wipes, and all-purpose cleaner.

One of the main reasons to do product subscriptions is you can save a ton of money, but only on big-ticket items. Setting up these subscriptions and monitoring them takes a bit of effort, so I do not suggest that you create a subscription for everything you buy. But think of the things that you always need and that you don’t mind having extra stock if you are a little off with predicting when you’ll be out and when you need more.

After you have a sense of what types of things you would love delivered to your door on a set schedule, research prices. If you have a Costco membership, this is also a great option for items you always need. For example, I get all my paper products (toilet paper, tissue, paper towels, printing paper) at Costco because it's cheaper than Amazon, and I don't want to deal with huge shipping boxes. I get my dog prescriptions through, but her food through Petco.

2. Put it together. Make a record of the information you gathered, including necessary how-tos associated with the task moving forward. If the task requires a decision, note why you made the decision you did and the conditions under which you would need to re-evaluate.

Set up the relevant accounts, stroll through the subscribe options, and make your selections.

3. Produce reminders. I set a reminder to check the shipment each month for all my accounts within the window where changes are allowed. Sometimes I don't need more of something, and then I cancel that month's shipment. Sometimes I'm traveling, so I cancel it altogether. I have on my travel prep to-do list an item to cancel product subscriptions.

4. Performance notes. Make a note of the website's policies. For Amazon, THE PRICES ARE NOT SET. The price for your goods may change, and they won't notify you (though there is fine print that says 'the prices may go up or down). So I once found myself with dog food that was twice the market price. It's rare, but it happens. So you need to check the orders within the time window they set (more about that in reminders). With Amazon, you unlock the big 15% discount only for the shipments with five or more goods. So it can make sense to subscribe to smaller things in this case if you need to meet this quota.

Also, note that for websites where you can accumulate miles through shopping, you usually don't get the miles if you are doing product subscriptions.

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