Monday, November 18, 2013

Gift Guide 2013: Good Things Comes in Package After Package

One of the reasons I love magazines is because I get a shiny new one every month. I check the mail almost every day and if nothing is there, sometimes I sing that kid's song, "nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I'll eat some worms...". I really, really like getting stuff in the mail.

Enter, gift subscriptions. Although I have yet to sign up for one or gift one, I think I might have to soon. There are many reasons why I think these beauties make perfect Christmas gifts, and they come in a wide enough range of prices and themes to satisfy even the most difficult person on your gift list.

In short, gift box subscriptions are packages curated by someone else (takes some difficult choices out of your hands!) that arrive at your door or the door of someone you love once a month (or sometimes quarterly). You can even subscribe for smaller amounts of time (like 3 months) or one month at a time.

While I, for one, love to go out and shop, box subscriptions can be perfect for people who don't want to go out themselves and try and put a package together, especially if you don't know your gift recipient very well. I also tend not to like surprises, so if you're in that camp with me, some subscriptions allow more control over what you're getting than others.

I've put together a list of the ones I've heard about that I like the most. Some of the boxes could fit in multiple categories, so if you don't see something you like in a particular category, check out the others or just Google what you're looking for - there are SO many options. I hope you find something here that will fill a hole on your gift list, and if you do, tell me what you think of it!

Extra Tips: Most subscriptions have free shipping, but make sure to calculate that into the cost if you're interested in one that doesn't. AND Make sure to do a quick Google search for coupons or discounts for the subscription of your choice - there are some out there!

Little Passports ($10.95/month, ~ ages 5-12) One of my favorites! Packages with themes of different countries. Here's an example of the Japan package. It looks like a similar package (TravelBox) is being developed for adults, and I can hardly wait!

Citrus Lane ($21/month, nb and up) A collection of the best products on the market, this one seems very professional and is one of the most widely cited subscriptions of any kind. Here's a picture of a back to school August 2013 box. 

Kiwi Crate ($16.95/month, ~5-10) Each box contains a themed craft, such as creating a dinosaur fossil or starting a mini garden. For an extra fee, you can have extra supplies added to your box if your box is covering more than one kid. (Compare with SurpriseRide for a different set of themes).

Bluum ($20.99/month, moms & babies) Bluum sends you product samples for moms and babies, and they have an online community where you can share which products you loved and would consider adding to your permanent mom-repertoire. 

Little Pnuts ($240/year, nb-5) Little Pnuts specializes in catering to specific stages of development, so if your child is in his or her first year, the 3rd quarter box (months 6-9) will be filled with toys to help your baby learn language development and sitting up, among other skills. They offer special occasion and "just because" add-ons (additional packages) as well. I'm not sure what the standard in the subscription world is, but Little Pnuts specifically mentions that they ship internationally.

Wittlebee (~$40/outfit, sizes 2-12) First, you take a little quiz about your child to determine his/her style. Then each month, you're presented (online) with a 3 piece outfit the service thinks will fit your child's style, and interests. If you like the outfit, you purchase it. I'm loving this little outfit they put together for Ishmael because Jonas wore this EXACT thing the other day. The first outfit you purchase is only $20, to lure you in of course. 

Sproutkin ($24.99/month, 0-6) Sproutkin's boxes are full of books - 2 to 4 books for babies, 10 books for preschoolers, and each box is themed. I'm curious to know exact titles they send, because I'm very picky about children's books. This subscription is a RENTAL - you can buy the books they send you for 10% off retail price, otherwise, you send them back when you're doing using them for the month. I wonder how well this works, knowing how destructive kids can be with books. 

BabbaCo ($29.99/per box, ~3-6) Rather than a subscription, these are just individual fun boxes with themes like Awesome Artists and Gratitude. They seems a little bit more substantial education wise than the purely crafty subscriptions. 

Mouth ($170-$280/3m) This is another one of my favorites, but definitely on the pricier side. These packages are monthly gourmet food collections in a variety of themes. Personally, the jerky and pickle bundles sound good, but I imagine the chocolate one would be a big hit with most people. They also have a delectable selection of one-time-purchase packages like fancy pasta, honey products (for my brother-in-law!), bi-partisan treats, to name just a few. My my coveted item may be the passion fruit candies, but please don't make me decide. Here are some (pretty, pretty) pictures of the monthly subscriptions.

Gourmet Spotting ($29.99/month) Each box contains four to six gourmet products, like Tagliatelle pasta with white truffle, organic dried oregano from Sicily, or artisan hot sauces (whatever that means). For every box you purchase, a meal is donated to charity.

Kona Kases ($15/month) are full of snacks for hikers, cyclists, and otherwise crazy health conscious and active people. Eww.

Taste Guru ($25/month) is full of gluten-free treats, which can be hard to find, especially for people who only recently discovered they are gluten intolerant and don't have years of experience shopping for their specialized diets. I know several people who would really benefit from this!

Mantry ($75/box) is a super creative and well designed "pantry for modern men." Love their website, love the actual box the subscriptions come in, and love their themes (like Georgia on My Mind, products from Georgia curated by a James Beard award winning chef)! My brothers could probably eat the whole box in one sitting, but when they move out of my parents' place next year, they might appreciate something like this. They even have some yummy man-recipes on their website.

Murray's Cheese of the Month Club ($275/year) delivers 3 cheeses (totally 1.5lbs) to your door every month. There are many cheese subscriptions out there, so if this interests you, you could definitely scout out different cheese types and price ranges.

The Pig Next Door ($346/year) provides you with "between 12 and 16 ounces of premium bacon selected by our professional bacon connoisseurs" and includes "tasting notes and recipes included in each shipment". My sister Annelise's boyfriend Andrew would love this. Oink oink! 

Homegrown Collective (~$50/month after shipping) focuses on seasonally appropriate boxes, such as a hard cider making kit during the holidays. Each box is themed (one was all manner of salts, one was all manner of coconut products), and they're not all edible. This past September's box was a "Sustainable Laundry 101" kit. This subscription seems very in tune with our cultural zeitgeist.

ALSO, check out some fair trade and charitable food subscriptions: ConsciousBox ($19.95/m for a LOT of stuff) is full of fair trade, organic, vegan, gluten free, and handmade products, PaleoPax ($49 for starter kit) is pretty much just what it sounds like, and the purchase of a LoveWithFood ($10/month) box, full of organic all-natural snacks and ingredients (more conventional than some other boxes), provides a free meal for a hungry belly somewhere else in the world.

Steepster ($24.95/month) gives you 2 servings each of 5 different teas and expert brewing instructions for unique flavors from around the globe. Affordable and crowd pleasing.

Craft Coffee ($19.99/month) is 3 packets (4 oz. each) of different artisan coffees, complete with tasting notes and brewing tips.

Teavana Tea of the Month Club ($275/year) Though I've never subscribed to this club, I do buy Teavana tea (especially at their incredible after Christmas sale!!!) and their teas are some of the very, very, few that I will consent to drink. The subscription brings you 2 different packets (2 oz. each) of tea each month. There are three available year-long taste profiles.

Panty By Post ($15/month) I think this idea is so fun, and a perfect gift for a close gal pal in your life. Who wouldn't want a new pair of fancy panties every month?

BirchBox ($10/month) is a lovely collection of mainly beauty product samples. It looks like each box contains at least one snack item as well. One thing I really like about the BirchBoxes is that they don't half-ass it with their brands. I mean, they have Stilla and Juicy Couture goodies, so I'm pretty much sold. I think this could be a great box for someone trying to figure out what good-quality make-up to use without buying full sized products before having the chance to really try them out. [image source; I think this is more than what comes in one box] Compare with GlossyBox ($15/month), which looks equally good.

UmbaBox ($25-$45/m +shipping) delivers hand made goodies such as Pumpkin Spice soap (I know half of you are foaming at the mouth in delight, at just the mention of such a thing), or an engraved cutting board. One subscriber said, "I bought my wife a subscription before I left for deployment, so she could have a beautiful handmade present every month I’m gone." How adorable and clever is that?!

MustHave ($39.95/month) boxes are full of the month's "must haves", as curated by the editors of Pop Sugar website (where they ridicule Miley's ridiculous wardrobe, what's not to love?!). Some product examples are a parrot wine bottle opener (I totally need one!) and the hilariously titled box of conversation-starting cards called "Questions I Ask When I Want to Talk About Myself."

GoScratchIt ($30/month) includes 3 nail wraps sets, tools and a surprise from each monthly designer to keep you on trend with the nail color/art craze. Compare with ColorMeMonthly ($7/month for 1 polish) and CultCosmetics ($20/month for 3 polishes and a nail tool).

There are several DIY craft boxes like DarbySmart, WhimseyBox. BritKit, For the Maker (my favorite of these options) and Chic Maker (strictly beaded jewelry) but honestly, I don't understand why you'd buy those and not just the supplies you want for a project of your choice at your local craft store. On second thought, some of these could be great for younger girls who don't have access to the mayhem of a craft closet or garage that some women do. The Chic Maker beading boxes would be perfect for one of my early-teen sisters in law.

TrunkClub (a lot of money, varies by box) is perfect for men with style (or perhaps men who badly need it). A real human will be your personal stylist, and every time you wish to shell out a load of mullah, he or she will send you a beautiful cardboard trunk with a really stylish man outfit in it.

Cigar of the Month Club ($29.95/month) gets you 5 hand-rolled cigars of different varieties (but not Cuban, they're illegal in the US) each month. Check out the crazy list of subscriptions on the left hand side of their page if you're looking for some really specific [mostly food] subscriptions.

Lootcrate ($11.67/month)I know that if I don't get this out of the way right away, there will be hell to pay: girls could like this box too! Ok, as I was saying, I will kill you if you even think about getting this for my husband, but if you have a person in your life who you'd like to see less of, get them a box of video games! To be fair, these boxes are actually full of nerdery and game-reminiscent stuff, like zombie survival guides and Dr. Who tshirts, to name just a few things that will half the half of you not ripping at your screen over pumpkin spice soap ripping at the screen now.

Turntable Kitchen ($25/month) I am just crazy about this idea. It's bordering on my favorite subscription, in fact. Turntable kitchen sends you an limited-edition 7in vinyl record with music they're loving, a custome downloadable mixtape of more music artists they're discovering, 1-2 "premium" dried ingredients that you'll need for the 3 seasonal, themed recipe cards they include. Along with suggested music and food pairings. I find this so genius and enticing. AND occasional extras like a letterpressed card or [what looks like, in the picture] a tablecloth.The one flaw I can imagine is not having the same taste in music, but I'd so be willing to give it a try. [image]

Just The Right Book (Pricing varies, ~$300/year) This service is customizable for all ages, which I love, but if your Amazon wishlist isn't enough motivation for you, let Just the Right Book take down your reading preferences and then select books for you! A great way to discover new things and maybe having books dropped on your doorstep will be incentive to actually pick up a book. If you get a book you don't like, you can have it replaced.

Art In A Box ($50/month) After giving 3 adjectives to describe the kind of art you like and choosing which media you prefer, this subscription will send you original art by various designers each month. I love this idea because I want to be that person who collects original art, but there's always something stopping me (usually money). Art In A Box would take the pressure off (for me at least) to find the perfect piece for my home, and instead I'd just have a really cool collection that I could choose to display or not display as I chose. I think I could make a place for something like this piece by Elise Mahan.

Papirmasse ($69/year) is also an art-in-the-mail subscription in which you will receive a total of 12 prints. I think I prefer most of the art on their website to Art-in-a-Box, but it is stylistically more narrow. They have a seperate think called a folio with included prints and writings and comes as one package all at once, if I'm not mistaken (sometimes these websites can be a little vague).

ArtSnacks ($20/month) includes 4-5 full size premium art products, sourced from around the world, hand-selected after rigorous testing from real art professionals, and including information about each product and its best uses. I think it's a great way to discover new things, when I for one, can get really focused on just one or two tools that I love. Jonas would love this. They also have a really cute pretzel-pencil logo. 

Not Another Bill (18 pounds/month, ships to U.S. too) I definitely want this subscription - you answer some questions about your preferences and they send you an assortment of ... stuff.... from artists, designers, and brands. I like that they have such a wide variety of things, and what's extra amazing to me is that I like most of the stuff they show on their website. I was really having to BS my excitement about some (not all) of the boxes I suggested for ladies, ha. This box is definitely on the table for the one I would most like if I were to subscribe to one of these myself. Check it out to see what I mean. P.S. Isn't the name perfect? Even though I'm almost excited to see even a bill in my mailbox, having a box of nice stuff would provide that happiness rush even more.

Pijon ($25/month) is specially designed to suit the needs of college students. My sister Annelise would get so much joy from something like this when she has so little money that buying anything for herself becomes a major dilemma. The boxes include things like headphones, snacks, and products from Lush (yay!).

BarkBox (~$20/month) If you call your pet your "fur-baby" or some other such nonsense, a) we can no longer be friends and b) get this for your animal to fill the void that my friendship has left. They take into account the size of your puppy and the website has cute illustrations, which is always a plus for me.

Quarterly (~$50) is a pretty cool concept. You choose from a range of "influencers" - a person of influence in the community - who chooses stuff they love to send you. You can choose who will be packing your box so that it aligns with your taste, but I love the idea of a really personal care package, especially if the influencer is someone you're already a fan of. Some influencers you can choose from: Nina Garcia, Q-Tip, several quarterbacks I've never heard of, Bill Nye, Laughing Squid, and Cool Hunting. Impressive! 

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