How they work depends on the subscription service themselves, but generally you pay a monthly fee, and in turn you get a product or a service. Subscriptions make great gifts—for friends, family, even yourself. Here are 10 to consider:
Amazon Prime: $99/year
I don’t remember what life was like before I signed up for Amazon Prime. I did it during the holiday season as a free monthly trial, and I’ve never looked back. Prime gives you free two-day shipping on select Prime products—and let me tell you there are a lot of these. You also have access to Prime Instant Video—meaning I can stream movies and TV shows on my tablet, smartphone, and Roku—and Prime Music (Amazon’s new version of Pandora). And you can borrow books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (this only works if you have a Kindle, though). Amazon Prime Instant Video has begun introducing its own original programming and recently inked a deal with HBO for unlimited streaming (but if you read the fine print it’s kind of limited because newer shows like Game of Thrones aren’t available.)
For TV fans
The granddaddy Internet subscription services, Netflix started as a DVD-of-the- month program perfect for people who paid millions in late fees to Blockbuster, and has turned into pioneer for original online content. The real value of Netflix are the TV shows that you can stream if you don’t have cable, and it’s exclusive shows House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Arrested Development (season 4). The movies available for streaming are kind of meh and the DVDs come out later than DVDs and On Demand.
For book lovers
Audible: $14.95/month to $229.50 a year
Back in the early days of the iPod, Audible cornered the market for downloadable audio books. The basic service allows you to download an audiobook a month, or you can opt for an annual plan allowing you to download 12 or 24 books at your leisure.
Kiwi Crate: $16.95-$19.95
If you’re looking for the kid gift that keeps on giving—and won’t drive mom or dad insane—look no further than Kiwi Crate. The subscription service promises a box of fun for kids once a month, with 2-3 activities with themes like dinosaurs, space, or gardening (think arts, crafts and science projects). There’s a sibling add-on for $9.95, to minimize the possibility fights. Notice I said minimize.
For beauty junkies
If you’re a beauty-product junkie, then this service is for you. Each month you get a box of 4-5 beauty and grooming samples based on a personalized profile. And we’re not talking about drugstore brands—this is Sephora level stuff and higher. There’s also a subscription service for men, and an online beauty store where you can buy full-sizes of your favorite samples.
For healthy snackers
Nature Box: $15.95 – $19.95/month
Remember in college when you’d get a care package from your mom in the mail and it was the greatest day ever? (Me either, but I loved when my roommate got them.) Nature box is kind of like that, only healthier. Each month, the service sends you five healthy snacks to your door that you’ve pre-selected or, if you’re daring, you can opt for a surprise. Snacks can be tailored to dietary needs, and range from sea salt pop pops to PB&J granola. Prices vary based on subscription length—the longer you sign up for the cheaper it is. Also, for every box delivered, the company donates a meal through Feeding America.
Human’s aren’t the only ones who deserve a treat. Barkbox sends you toys, bones, all-natural treats, and cool gear for dogs once a month. And if your puppy gets hooked on one of the goodies, members can purchase more through the store at a discounted rate. And while you’re spoiling your pooch, you can feel good that 10 percent of the company’s proceeds go to doggy charities.
For the wannabe cook
Blue Apron: $10 per person/per meal
You want to make gourmet meals at home, but you don’t have the time to plan meals let alone shop for ingredients. Enter Blue Apron. The service delivers perfectly portioned ingredients and recipe cards for three 30-minute or less meals. Ingredients are sustainable and seasonal, and meals are based on your dietary preferences.
For the fashionista
Rent the Runway: $75/a month (beta price)
If you love high fashion, but hate the cost, an unlimited membership to Rent the Runway may be ideal for you. The fashion rental site has been around since 2009, renting clothes and accessories to women, but now it’s offering a Netflix-style membership. Users put dresses, handbags, and jewelry in their queue and receive three pieces at a time. There’s no limit to how long you can keep it, and when you’re done, you send it back and get three more pieces. (Plus sizes available.)
For the plus-size fashionista
Gwynnie Bee: $35 – $159
One of the biggest complaints of plus-sized shoppers is a limited selection of fashionable pieces. Gwynnie Bee seeks to reverse this problem with its clothing rental service catering to women sizes 10 to 32. If you love the items you’re sent you can buy it at a discounted price. The site uses the Netflix model and prices vary based on how many items you “rent” a month.