Three Unique Subscription Services that Might Save You Money
Most of us have used a subscription service in our lifetime. Cable TV, magazines, and movies are usually purchased in monthly installments. I recently took a look at three subscription services that were a bit off the beaten path: MagHound, BabyPlays, and BookSwim. But are they a good deal?
If you’ve ever considered convenience or variety to be valuable, you may find these services to be especially enticing. I haven’t used these services personally, so I can’t vouch for the quality of customer service or the integrity of the products shown. What I can tell you is my experience in purchasing these items traditionally, the cost involved in the subscription plans, and how they could possibly affect your bottom line.
Magazine Subscriptions via MagHound – This is a very creative way to sell magazines. Time Inc.’s new MagHound offers to bundle several magazine subscriptions at a reduced price. If you ever tire of any one title, you can switch it out for another, no questions asked. You can also cancel your subscription at any time. Let’s look at pricing for this service:
3 Titles for $4.95
5 Titles for $7.95
7 Titles for $9.95 (each additional title is $1.00 per month per title)
If you already subscribe to a bunch of mags, this could be a great deal. With no contract requiring you to lock in for a year (or more), you can get magazines for as long as you like (and cancel if you find yourself not being able to justify the cost.) Titles are quality, and at a cost of between $1.50 - $1.60 per mag, per month, it’s a huge savings over newsstand prices. For a magazine like Real Simple, which charges almost $24 a year (or $2 per issue) on their website, this is a substantial savings. Other magazines, like Redbook, only charge $5.99 for 12 issues (or $.50 per issue) from their own site.
Bottom line: You could probably score as good a deal on your own, or through another magazine reseller. If you’re already indulge in several magazine subscriptions, MagHound could make it easier to manage subscriptions, with no obligation to buy further issues. If you’re not already subscribing, however, I wouldn’t suggest adding $4.95 (or almost $60 per year) to your budget.
Toy rental subscriptions via BabyPlays – Maybe your kid is like most and bores easily with that overpriced toy just days after you buy it. If so, you may consider renting an assortment of toys on a monthly basis: This is the premise of BabyPlays.com. Just like Netflix (but with toys), you can check out toys on a monthly basis, and rotate them with new ones when you’re done. Keep the ones that go over well for longer, or choose to buy them for a discount. BabyPlays includes shipping in your monthly fee, so there’s no hassle beyond packing up your “done with” toys. Pricing for this service is set at:
Silver - 4 Toys per month (3 month commitment) for $36.99 per month
Extended Play - 5 Toys per month (6 month commitment) for $26.99 per month
Gold - 6 Toys per month (3 month commitment) for $47.99 per month
Gold Plus - 6 Toys per month (12 month commitment) for $42.99 per month
Platinum - 10 Toys per month (3 month commitment) for $64.99 per month
*All toys can be returned every 30 days, except for the Extended Play plan, which only allows for returns every 60.
The way the pricing is set, toys will cost between $5.40 per toy per month (for the Extended Play plan) and $9.24 per toy per month for the (Silver plan.) If you lose a piece from a toy, you have 30 days to find and return it, or be charged a $5-10 fee. If you fail to properly clean up a toy, you may be charged a $5 fee. If you break a toy, you must buy it at the reduced price (20% below retail.) You can also choose to buy any toys you want to keep at this same price.
Bottom Line: If you are using the service to rent low-cost toys (a puzzle that cost $8, for example) this isn’t really good deal. You could buy new toys for the same cost, and either resell them or donate them to charity if your child really grew that tired of them. For pricier items that you may not want to take the chance on, it may be simply an OK deal. Larger toys offered through the service (like the $55 Zoom Around Garage) will count as 2 toys in your rental service. Personally, I’d recommend shopping garage sales, thrift stores, or clearance racks for toys before I overspend on this service.
Book rental subscriptions via BookSwim – I’ve heard a bunch of good stuff regarding this book rental service. In a nutshell, you check out books much like movies, sending them back when you’re done and getting new ones when they’re available. The plans cost the following prices for an unlimited number of exchanges per month:
3 at a time for $9.95 the first month (then $19.98 a month thereafter)
5 at a time for $12.45 the first month (then $24.97 a month thereafter)
7 at a time for $14.94 the first month (then $29.96 a month thereafter)
9 at a time for $17.44 the first month (then $34.95 a month thereafter)
11 at a time for $19.93 the first month (then $39.94 a month thereafter)
*There’s also a 2 at a time plan for $14.99 a month (not including a first month at a discount, but why would anyone get this rotten deal?
The pricing on this service will cost you between $1.81 and $3.31 per book, per month (not including the atrocious 2 at a time deal) THE FIRST MONTH ONLY (then prices go up. If you can handle having your books shipped via USPS media mail (which can take between 4 and 14 days to arrive), you may get one or two new books per rotation. Here’s the big IF in the matter: Because BookSwim makes you mail back books in bunches (anywhere from 2 to 4 at a time), it may limit your ability to exchange books quickly. If you can get just one exchange per book per month for the first month, it decreases your book cost to between $.90 and $1.65 per book.
Bottom Line: If you have a well-stocked library close by, and you enjoy making the walk/drive/ride, this isn’t a necessary service. Those in remote locations or who fear library late fees, however, might find BookSwim to be an angel from heaven. This is a service that will fair best for the well-read or the homebound. Traditional library geeks might want to save their money.
Do you have any extra advice to share with our readers regarding these three services? What about any competitors offering similar subscriptions? We'd love to hear about it!