Thursday, December 13, 2012

Feminist Gift Guide #2: Build Your Own Gift/ Subscription Box

One of the hallmarks, commercially at least, of the holiday season is the preponderance of gift boxes that stock store shelves.  Cosmetic companies, designers, and even candy companies package their most prized products into handy travel sizes that they sell at lower-than-average rates.  The point of these sets is to give consumers the opportunity to try the products out, develop a taste for them, and (hopefully, in the minds of said companies) become regular buyers.

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Subscription boxes work in much the same way, though they operate year round: provide subscribers with tester products in the hope they find something will find a product they love and cannot live without.  These services often allow consumers to buy boxes on a month-to-month, quarterly, or yearly subscription basis and can cover anything from beauty products to home goods and food.

The problem with these gift and subscription boxes is twofold: (1) they can be cost prohibitive and (2) you’re often left with products that you don’t like or cannot use.  Recently, I bought a cosmetics gift set from Benefit (Sexy Little Stowaways) and ended up giving a few of the products to my mother because they just didn’t suit me or my (oh so light) coloring.  While giving these products to my mom in October when I had bought the gift set myself wasn’t that big of a deal; however, if I would have been in the same position at the holidays with a gift set I had received . . . well, that’s a different story altogether!

Now, if you had been thinking of getting one of these boxes, I have a better (and cheaper!) alternative for you: build your loved one their own gift/ subscription box using miniature versions of products you are positive they will enjoy!

On Sinterklaas, I made a box for my mom built around a “Loveliness in Cold Climates” theme using a repurposed mini-pastry box (like the ones you get at bakeries for danishes) which I filled with miniature beauty products I picked up in the travel essentials section at CVS.  Since I know my mother personally (duh!), I was able to select items that I knew she would like and ones that would compliment her coloring.  Among the items I packed for her were some lip balms designed for wintery weather, some make-up, a miniature of a super luxurious hydrating shampoo, some of her favorite chocolates, and a nail polish.  All of these items came up to less than $20 and they were a hit with my mom-- all for about half of my Benefit gift box!

Building your own gift/ beauty boxes is also a great opportunity to repurpose any small boxes or wrapping items you have about your house but were unwilling to throw away (it’s ok, we’re all wrapping hoarders to one extent or another).  Also, DIY boxes are a prime opportunity to share any (unused!) samples you may have accumulated throughout the year and share them with someone who can actually use them and enjoy them.  Seriously, how many primer samples does a person really need?

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Additionally, building your own boxes for your loved ones is less dubious politically.  Often, subscription boxes (particularly beauty boxes) are based on sometimes degrading themes (e.g., sexy holidays, slimming for bikini season).  Creating boxes of your own lets you select an innocuous theme-- or no theme at all-- and share nifty things your loved ones without making them feel minimized.

You can make such boxes for anyone on your holiday gift list-- parents, siblings, friends, partners, and even pets.

Let me know if you have any DIY box ideas of your own or if you have made a box this season.  I’m eager to see what my creative readers have come up with.



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