Why I Cancelled My Scrapbooking Subscription Boxes

In February 2015 I discovered the A Beautiful Mess subscription services. I originally saw someone post a picture on Instagram with an art print that made me completely heart-eyes emoji. With some quick tag searching I found it was from the ABM Happy Mail subscription box. I went to see if I would be able to get that print, and before I knew it I had signed myself up for a year long subscription.

Create the things you wish existed ? #lifegoals #quote #abmhappymail

A photo posted by Adrianna Mary-Anne (@adriannamaryanne) on

(I got the print I wanted too!).

This was around the same time that ABM was launching their second subscription service: Messy Box. This, realistically, made more sense for me as Happy Mail was mostly greeting cards whereas Messy Box would be scrapbooking supplies (aka my greatest vice). So, naturally, I signed up for that too. Plus, they would be shipped together which was an added bonus.

Initially I was ecstatic with the monthly boxes. When I saw the box sitting in my mailbox it would immediately brighten my day. I would rush to post the contents on Instagram, even getting featured on ABM’s Instagram a couple times!!

✂️✏️? #messybox #abmhappymail #mybeautifulmess

A photo posted by Adrianna Mary-Anne (@adriannamaryanne) on

Some of my faves from @abeautifulmessofficial’s #abmhappymail and #messybox for June ? #abeautifulmess #subscriptionbox #stationery

A photo posted by Adrianna Mary-Anne (@adriannamaryanne) on

My favourite #messybox and #abmhappymail so far!! ? Check out the link in my profile to see what’s inside!

A photo posted by Adrianna Mary-Anne (@adriannamaryanne) on

September @abeautifulmess subscriptions ???#ABMautumn #messybox

A photo posted by Adrianna Mary-Anne (@adriannamaryanne) on

I stalked the hashtags (#messybox and #abmhappymail) and still love seeing the different things people do with the same content.

In May and August 2015 I filmed unboxing videos of the contents as well as wrote blog posts to go with them (which you can read HERE and HERE)

I then discovered Studio Calico and their subscription services. I was torn between the different ones they offered: Scrapbooking, Project Life (now called ‘Documenter’), Planner, and Stationery. Impulsive Adrianna wanted ALL of them, but Realistic Adrianna (who is well aware of her fixed income and poor student status) knew that I could realistically only justify one.

Studio Calico’s Scrapbooking subscription kit combined with the Project Life offered similar products as the Messy Box, while the Stationery Subscription kit is comparable to Happy Mail. Even though I was attracted to the Planner kit, the products were mostly aimed at a personal sized planner which is limiting as I have an A5. Stationery, while having beautiful cards, was not practical as I was already getting so many from ABM. The choice came down to the Scrapbooking and Project Life sets. I ultimately went with the Project Life subscription as I felt it had a wide variety of products for a smaller price point than the Scrapbooking subscription. And if you’ve seen my room, you know if there’s one thing I don’t need, it’s more scrapbook paper.

#mysckitishere ✂️ #studiocalico #subscriptionbox

A photo posted by Adrianna Mary-Anne (@adriannamaryanne) on

I signed up for the six month subscription. They were running a promotion at the time where if you signed up for either a six or twelve month period, you’d get the first month for only a dollar. Sounded good to me! It also worked out that because I was six months into my ABM subscriptions, all the “contracts” would end at the same time. That way, I could re-evaluate all at once if I wanted to continue any/ all of these services.

photo

Danny Tanner kindly illustrating my transition…

It worked out that the subscriptions would all end with the final orders in February 2016, and when the time came I had decided to cancel all three subscriptions. Even when the term is up, you still receive the boxes (and subsequently pay for them) until you explicitly go and cancel them.

Before I get into how I came to that decision, I want to go over the “pros” and “cons” I found during my time as a customer for these subscription services.

ABM HAPPY MAIL/ABM MESSY BOX
Pros:
-SUPER cute designs with lots of foil detailing and unique artwork.
-Themed boxes, sometimes with consistencies between MB and HM.
-(Almost) all products are designed by Elsie and Emma, meaning you can’t get them anywhere else.
-Ships internationally! A lot of programs don’t.
-Interactive online (specifically Instagram) community.
-Official unboxing videos (or blog posts) so you know what to expect (some I’d watch and other times I wanted it to be a surprise).
-Those art prints were on point.
-A lot of great inspirational “girl power” items.

Cons:
-At the end of the year there was a discounted sale on former boxes. You could select which ones you wanted, and certain things were offered for sale separately. This spoiled part of the exclusivity element from the whole subscription process. Why sign up and pay the premium when I can just wait til December?
-The products in the Messy Box were tailored towards their scrapbook brand: The Messy Book. The scrapbook paper was 9×12 instead of the traditional 12×12 and it was hard to find page protectors for the 3×3 journalling cards that would fit into my 12×12 Project Life album. I understand this choice from a business/ marketing perspective but it felt like I was not as appreciated as a customer compared to someone who used the Messy Book system, even though I was still paying every month. Not a big deal, or a deal breaker by any means as I was well aware of this from the get-go, but something to be aware of. A corner rounder was an investment I had to make.
-No referral program/ incentives or special deals exclusive to subscribers (a discount off a Messy Book for Messy Box subscribers would have been awesome). Later on, there have been incentives to start a subscription, like free things thrown in, but this made me feel less appreciated as someone who subscribed from the get-go. I understand that the value of gaining new customers is huge, but I was feeling like I was the kid eating lunch alone (albeit with pretty scrapbook paper) in the cafeteria.
-International prices were substantial.
-The release date was the 10th of the month. I would generally receive the box on the 27th of the month which made some of the products obsolete to use immediately.
-Seasonal products were… weird. The July Messy Box was almost entirely 4th of July themed which rendered a lot of the products irrelevant to me as a Canadian, while other holidays were hardly touched on. I was seriously looking forward to some Christmas Happy Mail cards and there weren’t any, not even to put away for next year since my box does come late in the month. I felt pretty lame as a subscriber to a greeting card service having to go out and buy Christmas cards. Maybe this choice was to do with shipping times or avoiding religious conflicts, but even in the November box this would have been really helpful. And I wouldn’t have minded Hanukkah or Kwanzaa cards.
-Decline in the uniqueness and quantity of products as the term progressed (I’ll touch on this later).

STUDIO CALICO PROJECT LIFE/ DOCUMENTER KIT
Pros:
-Point program for referrals.
-A variety of styles and designs.
-A monthly descriptive card with information about the colour theme and a very usable month graphic on the back.
-Previews the month prior with release dates always on the 1st (I would receive them around the 15th).
-Optional add ons and occasional choices between items.
-Different designers and brands giving you a wide variety of products
-Contents came in a little zippered pouch (very ipsy-esque).

Cons:

-Substantial international prices.
-SO.MANY.FREAKING.COLOURED.PLASTIC.DOT.STICKERS.
-There was a similar end of year sale (Black Friday)  but instead of picking which month’s kit you wanted, it was a surprise. Because I hadn’t been subscribed for the whole year, I jumped at this chance to get the products from earlier kits. This would have been in the “pro” section except I received three of the same kit. Not really a “con” of their subscription service but frustrating nonetheless.

My #studiocalico #blackfriday order came last week! Bummed about the duplicates but still so excited!! ? #mysckitishere

A photo posted by Adrianna Mary-Anne (@adriannamaryanne) on

Photo 2016-02-29, 7 44 34 PMAt the beginning of February I filled out the online forms for both companies, indicating I wished to end my subscriptions following the delivery of that month’s box.

While all the aforementioned “cons” played a part in this decision, it ultimately came down to the financial investment.

Even though I live 45 minutes away from the USA (it is literally faster for me to go to the States than to get to school), as a Canadian I am an international customer. Although both companies do advertise a small additional fee for international shipping, there is quite a bit of a “hidden cost”. Just emphasizing that I am placing the blame entirely on the brutal Canadian dollar and not these companies, but it’s actually quite substantial. The combination of Messy Box and Happy Mail is advertised as $35 a month for the twelve month commitment, but after the shipping and the dollar conversion I was paying $60. The six month Studio Calico Documenter kit was advertised at $27.99, showed up as a $30.99 charge, but after the dollar conversion, it ended up being $45 every month. With that considered, the value just isn’t there.

This feels like a total Debbie Downer post and I just want to emphasize that I am not by any means dissing the products or the companies. I loved what I was receiving but as an international customer, it just wasn’t justifiable no matter how much I adored getting these every month.

Photo 2016-02-29, 7 47 17 PM

February’s Studio Calico Documenter Kit. (SEE THOSE DARN CIRCLE STICKERS?!?)

If you watch the ABM unboxing videos or read the corresponding posts I wrote, you’ll see me justifying the price. And I did. I felt like I could warrant spending the extra money as the products were unique, of good quality, and the fact that very few of these kinds of services exist for Canadians and other non-American customers. However, since I originally subscribed the Canadian dollar has continued to decrease in value making paying for these products even more expensive than when I first subscribed. Also, something I have noticed is that the contents of the boxes have changed.

The contents of the ABM kits are posted on their corresponding pages on the ABM website and are as follows:

FEBRUARY 2016 HAPPY MAIL CONTENTS:

  • 9 Cards
  • 9 Standard Envelopes
  • 2 Postcards
  • 5 Heart Stickers
  • 1 Carved Wooden Stamp

Photo 2016-02-29, 7 53 50 PM

FEBRUARY 2016 MESSY BOX CONTENTS:

  • 3, 9×12 Papers
  • 9×12 Pizza Transparency
  • Set of Journal Cards (2 3×4, 6 3×3, 4 4×6)
  • 9, Cardstock Food Die Cuts
  • 5, Heart Stickers
  • 2, Rubber Watermelon Dies
  • 8, Circle Die Cuts

Photo 2016-02-29, 7 50 37 PM

Despite these descriptions, all but two of the Happy Mail cards were single sheet “postcard” style cards, just in envelopes. The two subscriptions both had the same sheet of five heart stickers. The scrapbook paper was all single sided. The stamp was “Block Wallah” brand (not a bad thing but I feel this should be indicated in the list of contents). Some of the paper/ journalling card patterns were repeats from previous months and there was no art print, which is literally the reason I subscribed in the first place.

To compare, the May 2015 Messy Box had 12 journalling cards in the 3×3 size alone (with 24 cards total), while this month has a total of 12 journalling cards. The scrapbook paper used to have patterns on both sides but is now single sided. While you’re still getting the great quality products, the quantity is almost halved.

The Happy Mail seems to be pretty consistent in quantity, but as I mentioned earlier, I’m not getting cards for events I need cards for. I don’t have enough friends for all these friendship cards (haha). I love having them and they are something I can keep for future use so it’s not that big of a deal, but something to be aware of. Also, I do plan on using a lot of them as journalling cards for Project Life and other projects like that as the illustrations are amazing.

I want to emphasize that the products I do get are great quality and I love using them, but with the quantity of products decreasing and my monthly bill increasing… It’s just not sustainable.

The main reason I’m writing this is the lack of posts talking about these subscription services. I saw a few people discussing similar issues with finding fewer products and not liking themes (I never had that issue as much, but definitely had my favourites) on Instagram but any blog posts I found were just unboxings and not going in depth into the experience of these services.

So with all that said, I hope this post was helpful with the breakdown of these services. Obviously I went a bit more in depth with the two A Beautiful Mess subscriptions as I had those for twice as long as the Studio Calico. While I can’t see myself restarting these subscriptions, if similar sales are offered near the end of the year I definitely plan on taking advantage of that. Plus, the benefit of that would be paying shipping ONCE, and I can have it sent to a mailbox in the States, which eliminates some of the cost. I also will still be creeping the Instagram tags and the launch videos… while probably crying longingly.

For more information, here are all the links:

Has anyone else had experiences with these subscription services that they want to share? How about any other scrapbooking subscriptions? Thanks for reading!

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6 Comments

  1. March 5, 2016 / 12:27 pm

    I subscribed to ABM’s Messy Box for a year. I also decided to cancel my subscription at the end of the 12 month contract. I loved the designs, but noticed a sharp decrease in quantity and quality. I just couldn’t justify the cost anymore when I can go to Michael’s/Joann’s and create my own kit of things I would actually use for about the same price point.

    • Adrianna
      March 5, 2016 / 3:37 pm

      It’s so relieving to hear someone had the same experience and I’m not overreacting. I definitely share your thoughts about Michaels/ Joanns! Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  2. Mel
    December 2, 2016 / 1:37 pm

    Thank you sooooooo much for this excellent article on subscriptions. I wanted to sign up for one and didn’t know the ins and outs of them but now i do.

    • Adrianna
      December 22, 2016 / 3:16 pm

      No problem, Mel! Thanks for commenting!

  3. December 13, 2016 / 7:25 am

    This was such a well written and thought out post. Thank you for sharing! It’s definitely helping me figure out and think about what I want out of the subscription boxes I may order from. Thanks again! <3

    • Adrianna
      December 22, 2016 / 3:16 pm

      Thanks Emma!! 😀 I’m glad to be able to help!

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