Monday, March 19, 2012

Stuff I Love: Mystery Boxes

I'm a total sucker for a surprise.  And mail.  And especially, surprises that come in the mail.  Which is why I pretty much cannot pass up a chance to order a mystery box.  Knowing nothing more than the general category of items inside, it's ultimate anticipation as I wait by my mailbox for my package to arrive!  I also love to use mystery boxes for gift-giving.  Most boxes run around $20, but are filled with up to $100 worth of items inside.  Last year my mystery boxes helped me slash my Christmas gift budget by giving me a stash of nice items to choose from for all those "oops, I was supposed to bring a gift" occasions.  Here are a few of my favorite Mystery Box sites.

Occasional Offers
These boxes are offered occasionally by sites that specialize in daily discounts.  You have to keep your eyes open, as mystery box offers are random, and often sell out quickly. 

Pick Your Plum is a discount crafting site that offers daily deals on specialty crafting items (everything from colored twine to rubber stamps to jewelry kits and more).  I'm addicted to ordering supplies for my shop from them - but every few months they offer a mystery box and I will literally wake up at the crack of dawn to purchase one.  At a cost of $30, these boxes contain over $70 worth of crafting odds and ends.  I love these boxes because they give me a chance to break out of a crafting rut and try my hand at something new.  I've received everything from charms and cabochon flowers to snack cups, wooden signs and personalized ribbon to colored vinyl and scrapbooking paper.  It's amazing how many times I've received items that I'd been wanting all along, but had been too cheap to purchase.  This is, quite possibly, my very favorite mystery box.

Graveyard Mall is a discount site that offers tons of items at discounted prices as well as several daily deals at deeply slashed prices.  Every couple of weeks, they'll offer "guaranteed" mystery boxes of varying types.  The primary goal of these boxes is to empty their warehouses of unsold inventory.  Each box is random based upon what the packer has pulled from the shelves - but most boxes follow a theme (i.e. kitchen items, items for kids, gift-basket items, Christmas items, etc).  The boxes cost around $20 for around $70 of items - and because they are so random, they guarantee to refund you shipping both ways if you don't like what's in your box and decide to send it back for a full refund.    This is my primary source of "Christmas stash" items - I loved 90% of the items in my box last time and was able to give gifts to 6 people from what it contained.  The biggest drawback to this site is processing time.  It can take up to 3 weeks from the time of order until your box is shipped, and shipping often takes as long as a week.  But if you don't mind waiting, it's a very fun surprise, and the guarantee makes it totally safe (if you don't mind your money being tied up while you wait). 

Tulle is a gorgeous clothing site filled with vintage inspired clothes and accessories.  They aren't a discount site, but they do offer discounted mystery boxes at the end of each season as they are clearing out their inventory.  For (again) $20 you receive a box stuffed with great accessories.  Mine contained a trendy tote bag, two pairs of beautiful knit elbow-length gloves, a gorgeous knit scarf and a matching knit hat.  Those went straight to my Christmas stash to give to my uber trendy friends and family members.  The box was well worth the money as I'd have paid much more for these items even at Target.  

Subscription Boxes
 These sites offer 'subscriptions' to sample boxes.  You are able to have some choice in what is inside, but generally the contents are a surprise.  You can pay monthly, quarterly, or semi-anually for most of these boxes.  The two I've tried so far are:

Kiwicrate sends you a monthly box filled with themed craft supplies for your kids.  It runs around $19/month plus an extra few dollars if you want the 'sibling' add on.  I wrote a more detailed description of my first box here, but I was really pleased with my box.  It looked small at first, but it was packed with enough supplies for almost a week's worth of afternoon activities (for my toddlers with short attention spans) plus their website/newsletter offers follow-up activities to use the items you've created and expand on the theme.  They even suggest books to read and snacks to make to go along with your activities.  My kids loved their crate and I can't wait for the next one to arrive.

Blissmobox is a subscription site that allows your a little input in customizing your box.  These boxes specialize in samples of eco-friendly and/or organic items.  If you're like me and are still familiarizing yourself with the world of organics, this might be a good site for you.  Each month you can choose what category you'd like your box to contain (beauty supplies, snacks or cleaning supplies for example).  Since I have so many food allergies, I've passed on the snacks (reluctantly, they look so yummy in the pictures), but have been moderately pleased with the beauty supplies I've received.  My first box contained a lot of chapstick and soap (it felt a little like getting a box of fancy hotel samples), but my second box was a little more exciting.  I still received chapstick and lotion samples, but I also received a full-size container of naturally based night cream for my face.  I've never really been a face-product person, but I LOVE this cream and this little jar will last me at least half a year.  The cost of the night cream alone is almost equal to the price of the box ($19/month or $108/6 months) so I was very pleased.  I have the 6 month subscription, so maybe I'll branch out and try another option some time. 

If you'd like to know more about subscription boxes, Fantabulously Frugal has a huge list of them here (the challenge will be not signing up for them all!)

So if you're a sucker for surprise like I am, go ahead and check out some of these fun mystery boxes!  Do you order a mystery box or subscription box that I didn't list?  Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

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