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LEGO budgeting: spreading out LEGO-buying

by admin on August 11, 2011

in Shopping Tips

(Written by Sarah)

In a perfect world, everyone would get everything they wanted. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and our wants far outweigh our means. We simply can’t afford everything we want. We have to spread our purchases out over time; otherwise we end up spending food-money or charging too much on credit-cards.

That’s why we have to decide what’s most important and get those first. Prioritize our desires. While I know this applies to everything in life, here I’m specifically talking about buying LEGO. There’s much more LEGO out there than we can get at one time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eventually get the LEGO sets that you want the most.

The following is some advice on how to get what you want without breaking the bank, racking up credit-card debt or pissing off your significant other. 😉

1. Choose Your LEGO Themes Wisely: Do research first as to whether you’re really into the theme so you’re not disappointed later. Often times we see advance images of various LEGO sets, but they don’t always live up to our expectations. Make sure to read the full descriptions online and talk to people. Many LEGO fan-sites have reviews of sets, sometimes before they even come out.

2. Choose Your LEGO Sets Carefully: When you have decided to get a new LEGO theme coming out, you’ll want to spread out the cost by buying a few sets at a time. Most small LEGO sets, especially impulse-sets, sell out first. Generally, it’s a good idea to get LEGO sets under $30 first and save up for the big ones. Most of the large ones will sit around on the shelves for a while because they are beyond most people’s budget.

3. Wait for Sales but Watch Your Spending: It’s always good to buy LEGO on sale, if at all possible. But it’s real easy to buy more than you really should because the discounts can be really sweet. If a deal is too good to pass up, weigh the consequences of going over budget. Are you willing to eat ramen for the rest of the month? Or is that interest payment going to be worth the savings? If the savings greatly outweighs credit charges, it could be worth it. Though you have to be dedicated to paying it off the following month or else the charges will eat through whatever money you saved from the sale.

4. Ask for LEGO Sets as Gifts: A great way to enjoy yourself at your birthday or for the holidays is to get LEGO as gifts, but make sure you let people know exactly what you want – especially from non-LEGO people. Giving the set name and number is definitely a must; otherwise you better be happy with that Mega Bloks set! Also, if there is a big LEGO set you want, suggest that people should go in together to buy it for you. They’ll enjoy pitching in for a big gift and you’ll certainly get what you wished for.

5. Know Your Credit Card: This is a little trick I’ve picked up over the last year, but it must be done wisely and carefully. Check when the periods end each month. Then, if there is something you really want, but know you won’t be able to pay soon, wait till the period is over and buy it. Then you won’t owe on that for a couple of months.

For example, the period ends on the 5th of every month. So the period from July 6th to August 5th should be due around September 5th. Wait until August 6th, buy what you want and it won’t be due until October 6th. Just remember that you have to pay it then because you don’t want the interest to build up and make your LEGO all that much more expensive.

Now, I can’t say I’m all that good at following all of my own advice, but I certainly haven’t gotten into as much trouble lately as I did when I first started this hobby and didn’t control my spending at all. It’s a really good feeling to space out my LEGO buying because now I’ll always have something to look forward to. Plus, always having something on the radar to buy means that I’ll be able to jump on those great sales when they come up. It feels great to buy LEGO at a discount and know that if I hadn’t waited, I wouldn’t have gotten such a good deal.

LEGO Brand Retail

Now it’s time for you, readers, to let me know your triumphs and trials of budgeting your LEGO purchases. Is it easy for you to wait and space things out? Or do you have this burning need to buy everything as soon as it comes out and you just can’t say no?

Let me know in the comment section below what your normal modus operandi is. Is it something you want to change or are you happy just the way it is? 🙂

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

YTjedi August 11, 2011 at 10:58 PM

Growing up I always had to rely on getting LEGO for gifts at Christmas and birthday. In recent years, I’ve been able to buy my own LEGOs, and by following a handful of LEGO blogs I have been able to buy them almost always on sale. As I’ve watched the past several years I have realized patterns in sales and availability of merchandise.

First, rarely does a LEGO set disappear immediately after coming out. Even if a Walmart or Target runs out, ToysRUs always has a more complete selection (though usually with a slight markup). For those not near stores, LEGO Shop@Home has all the LEGO sets that are in production, but not often on sale unless they’re clearancing them out.

Second, many retailers have sales on LEGO seasonal. Easily some of the best hauls I’ve had are on Black Friday. You can pretty much expect at each Target, Walmart, and TRU will have a $100 set for around $60. Kmart usually also has a Buy 2 Get 1 Free on Black Friday.

LEGO S@H will discount a lot of sets online the day after Christmas. Good discounts usually sell out quickly, but if you’re fortunate enough to live near a LEGO Store they usually have the same discount prices and a more available stock (if you get there early enough).

TRU, while not the cheapest, will sporadically have BOGO50 sales throughout the year, with the applicable set lines varying. It happens often enough that you can almost always at least wait for a TRU sale. They will also discount select sets for 2-3 days at the ends of random weeks. They also have special offers and discounts during Bricktober, a month-long tribute to LEGO.

Target usually has select sets at 25-30% off the week or two before Easter, with all other sets in the line of select sets 5-10% off.

Throw in the random online coupon for Barnes & Noble or brief discount from Amazon, there are very few times during the year when you can’t get a LEGO set on some sort of discount.

Third, strategize your purchases. If you decide to hold out for a BOGO sale, make sure you have sets in mind that are equal or very close in price to maximize the savings.

Fourth, save up wisely. When it comes to the really big sets, they do usually hang around for awhile, but are hard pressed to go on sale. To get the really big sets on sale you’d have to buy them online as often they’re not sold in retail stores. When TRU.com does have them on sale, they’re usually gone quick. My advice for buying large sets is be fast or stock up on gift cards. I agree that asking for LEGO as a gift from non-LEGO fans is more a good way to get spare parts rather than actually fill in your collection. Asking for gift cards is a great way to save up and soften the blow of a large price tag. I essentially got my Death Star set for 30+% off with the gift cards I used.

Overall, you would think that by waiting for sales and discounts one’s purchases would be fewer and far between. But with the resources and communities that are available online constantly on the look out for deal, I start to feel weird if I haven’t bought a new set every other week or so.

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Sarah August 13, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Wow! Thanks for the great addition to this blog! That’s a lot of great advice and I can see that you’ve thought it out very carefully.

I agree that I don’t feel right if I haven’t bought a LEGO set every other week or so. Thankfully, with my new strategy of holding off to buy when I have a discount means that there will always be something I want.

I’m currently waiting on most of the new Ninjago sets. I want them all very badly, but I’m waiting for good sales and also so that I don’t go over-budget this month since we already pre-ordered the collectible minifigure series 5 from TRU.

I did buy the Lightning Dragon set from TRU when I had a 30% off coupon. That’s a TRU exclusive so I knew I wanted it sooner rather than later so it was great that the coupon came along.

Thanks again for the great comments!

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admin August 17, 2011 at 6:58 AM

Excellent info, YTjedi! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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Jason August 12, 2011 at 12:34 AM

Utilizing the bogo sales at toys r us is key. The best part is they honor these bogo sales for past purchases also so always save your receipts and they will give you the money back for the difference.

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YTjedi August 12, 2011 at 8:39 AM

Very true, but this particular policy is under the discretion of each store. Usually they’ll honor it if your purchase was in the last week or two, but depending on the store it could be longer or not at all, so be sure to ask your store’s policy in advance.

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Sarah August 13, 2011 at 12:52 PM

It’s also a good idea to talk to a store manager as some employees don’t know anything. 🙁

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Sarah August 13, 2011 at 12:52 PM

I didn’t know that about the TRU purchases, but I can see that different stores will honor it differently. We’ve already had experiences with the different TRU in our area and we’ve already labeled one as the good store to go to and the other as the bad store to go to. There’s one other that is far to drive to, so we don’t go often, but they tend to have stock much later than the other two so every now and then we make the long drive.

Thanks for reading and for commenting!

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Gabriel December 5, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Your LEGO shopping savvy is inspirational — including the commenters. Thanks for posting!

Since the LEGO VIP program came along I basically get everything online or at the not-so-local LEGO store (it’s an hour away). I recently bought the Millennium Falcon for $70 because I had $70 in VIP rewards saved up and they had that 10% off sale on shop.lego.com. It has been really nice, but I suspect that I am not saving as much as the sale shoppers. Still, you can’t argue with the LEGO shop’s selection.

I subscribed to Brickmaster and Master Builder Academy so that if the urge for new LEGOs came along I could simply remind myself that it’s only a month or two away. That fell flat on its face because I still want all the cool new sets.

After reading this article and the comments I think I might give Toys ‘R’ Us another chance.

Where do you go to get information on LEGO sales?

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YTjedi December 5, 2011 at 4:25 PM

I follow Brickset.com and ToysNBricks.com and they pretty much cover every sale that’s out there (in the forums of ToysNBricks you find information about coupons circulating for stores that sell LEGO even though it may not be their main focus).

As for Toys R Us, they have become notorious for marking up their prices 1) a couple weeks after a set shows up online and 2) during a sale for particular sets. Often this turns an advertised 40% off into something closer to 20-25%. I really only buy from them now when there are discounts that can stack, like a certain set it 25% off, and free shipping, and an extra 20% online off orders of $100 or more (something like that, which is rare).

In general I could comfortably say that if you watch the prices closely enough and use the resources out there, there you shouldn’t have to be paying more than 75% MSRP on average for the large majority of sets you buy during the year.

Happy hunting!

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admin December 5, 2011 at 5:52 PM

YTjedi, yes, Brickset and ToysNBricks are great resources for LEGO deals! I’m subscribed to their feed and check it every morning. 😉

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admin December 5, 2011 at 5:17 PM

Gabriel, yes, the LEGO VIP program is great at rewarding LEGO fans! I use it all the time as well.

Besides, I really like Amazon. Its no-tax, free-shipping and excellent prices can hardly be beaten. Please note that I have a link to their LEGO sales-page in the right-hand side-bar for easy access. They call this the LEGO best-seller list, but this is in fact a list of discounted LEGO sets. That’s why they sell the best! LOL! 😆

Also note that I have a few other hotlinks in the same place in the right-hand side-bar. For example there is one to the LEGO Shop’s sale page. This is going to be VERY useful on the 24th of December, when remaining LEGO sets at the LEGO Shop go on deep discounts! Keep in mind that everybody is looking out for this sale and everything desirable gets bought up within minutes! I have watched it last year. It was crazy! 😈

Also, an interesting surprize this year was that Barnes & Noble beat everybody else’s sale. Their 50% off of any one LEGO set was amazing! And you could actually take advantage of it more than once by having a family member or friend shop for you. (At local stores you could just go right back into the store after your purchase and buy again!) This is why I added their link to the side-bar as well. Now they are pretty much out of everything, but it was the best Christmas sale I have seen! 😀

With TRU, the best strategy is to know the regular prices and take a calculator with you. I actually take my LEGO catalog and use that as a guide to see how much they mark up prices. Their sales can still be excellent if you are fully aware of the prices and what is worth to buy. So, they are great, you just have to work more for a good deal. 😉

With TRU, you can also sign up for their email newsletter and you will get immediate notification of all sales. I really like this feature as they put LEGO on sale often. Especially this time of the year this is very useful!

Happy shoppin’! 🙂

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Sarah December 7, 2011 at 9:44 PM

Well, YTJedi and the Admin said everything I was going to say. Know how much the true price of LEGO is. Sign up for emails from TRU and other stores. Compare online prices to in-store prices and just try to look for coupons or discounts.

And it really comes down to how much you want to spend. If there’s something you really want and can’t afford it, save up for it. Sometimes paying full price is worth getting it rather than waiting for a sale and missing out on it because it’s sold out.

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admin December 8, 2011 at 9:39 AM

That is a ver good point, Sarah! Sometimes it is worth getting something full price, or maybe getting a bit of discount and be happy, rather then missing out all together. Don’t ask me how I know! 🙁

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Sarah December 8, 2011 at 12:04 PM

We both know because we’ve done it. 🙁 Getting a discount is all well and good if you can get the item, but waiting too long can mean that you won’t get it at all.

For instance, LEGO almost always has a huge sale after Christmas. But I don’t wait until that sale to get something I really want. I go to the sale to see what’s available and if there’s anything I want, I go ahead and get it. But I never know what’s going to be left at that point or who will beat me to the punch.

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admin December 8, 2011 at 3:22 PM

Sarah, yeah, I’m planning to write about the after Christmas sale. But it is so crazy! I watched it last year, and huge amount of sets disappeared from the online LEGO store within minutes. I’m just not into that mad scramble. But some people like it! 😀

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Sarah December 8, 2011 at 8:25 PM

I don’t care too much for it either, but it’s hard to resist the sale. When we went last year, it was later in the day and a lot was already gone. There was a couple at the register that had nearly half a dozen large bags of LEGO. My eyes nearly popped out of my head!

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admin December 9, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Maybe when you have a LEGO store nearby it is not so bad as online, as you can walk in, see what’s there and buy what you want. 🙂

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Konstantin May 17, 2012 at 1:19 AM

I got the Hogwarts Express for $5 at K mart.

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admin May 17, 2012 at 9:44 AM

Konstantin, that’s a great find! 😀

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Sarah May 18, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Kmart can have some great prices, but it’s very hit or miss and varies from store to store, and usually isn’t marked on the shelves or boxes. Makes for a long hunt, but can end in some great deals.

When did you get this deal? I checked the Kmart near me a few weeks ago and they still had some Harry Potter stuff. Not the train though, but maybe some of the other sets have gone on sale.

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Eric at A Lego a Day August 13, 2012 at 10:33 AM

I only buy Lego on sale. While it is a quality product, and worth the money, it is a luxury good to be sure. I can’t justify buying Lego with family funds, either. When I do find a good sale on Lego, I usually buy a few copies of sets I pick up. I then save them until they’ve been out of production for a while, and sell them on Bricklink or ebay. It becomes a self supporting hobby.

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admin August 13, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Eric, yes, the most sustainable way to continue in this hobby is to somehow make it self-supporting; either sell extra minifigs, sell discontinued sets, or sell some custom creations. If you can manage any of those, or a combination, your hobby can last for a lifetime without financial strain. 😉

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SKOUTLAW FOR LIFE ( THAT MEANS I AM A FAN OF SKYLAR LAINE ) October 17, 2012 at 3:36 PM

theres a tru 2 mins from my house

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Shari November 2, 2012 at 3:26 PM

I am super new to Lego- my son just turned 7 and is starting to get into them. I feel like a fish out of water. I’m trying to find him some sets for Christmas on a tight budget but don’t know what to start with. He really likes Ninjago and the Marvel sets. What do you look for in a “good” set? And how can I get notice of all the good sales you guys are talking about? Thanks a lot for the good advice.

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Shari November 2, 2012 at 4:20 PM

I have another question- as of right now, my son doesn’t have any Legos at all. What is the best way to start him out? Should I buy a couple of sets that he might like, or should I get a tub of starter bricks? What about the lots that I see on Ebay, where you get like 500 bricks, is that a good way to go? I’m always really cautious about Ebay- you never know what you’re gonna get. Does anyone have any experience with that? Thanks again for any help.

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admin November 2, 2012 at 5:58 PM

Shari, since you are just starting out, I would stay away from eBay. One of the reasons is the one you mentioned; you may end up with a bunch of junky, dirty bricks. But there is also another reason that is even more important; getting a bunch of random bricks and parts is only going to confuse your son as he would have no idea what to do with them. It is best to start out those new to the LEGO hobby with some guidance and clear instructions.

If in general your son likes to build things – like he is good with other building blocks, or toys that require assembly – I would start him with a starter tub, as you mentioned. If he is more attracted to LEGO because other kids have it, or because a particular theme – like Ninjago – captured his imagination and he would like to role-play, then I would get him a set that is within that theme and comes with good play-features. (Couple of minifigs like a good-guy and a bad-guy, a couple of vehicles or something for them to swoosh around in, some weapons… things like that.) You can get a very solid set like that with lots of play-value between the $30-$50 range.

That should keep him occupied for a while, and because the sets come with instructions he will also learn some valuable building, constructing and engineering skills that will allow him to start free-building. See how he does with his first set, and from there you would get a clearer picture of how he likes to play, what aspect of LEGO he likes the most (role-playing, the minifigues, following instructions, free-building, playing by himself, playing with others, collecting, etc.), and go from there.

Hope this helps some! If you have any other questions just let us know. 🙂

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admin November 2, 2012 at 5:43 PM

Shari, welcome to the world of LEGO. You and your little guy should have lots of fun! 😉

In regards to what is a “good” LEGO set, I would look for sets that have a lot of play-features. For example a set that has a couple of minifigures and some vehicles or ships to swoosh around, along with some LEGO bricks is a good set and will get a lot of use.

I would also say that a good set also depends on the receiver. If your child is more into cars, ships and other vehicles, I would buy a set that has more of those. Whereas if he likes to build structures like houses, castles, etc. I would pick a set that contains those elements.

In between Ninjago and Marvel, I would pick Ninjago. Marvel is a licensed line, whereas Ninjago is LEGO’s own brand. Licensed sets are significantly more expensive due to the licensing fees LEGO has to pay. So in general, buy LEGO’s own themes (Ninjago, City, Castle, etc.) rather than licensed ones (Marvel, DC, Star Wars, etc.) if money is tight. 😉

I would also suggest that you call LEGO and ask them for a Shopping Catalog. This gets sent to you 4-5 times a year, and contains great pictures and details of some of the best LEGO sets. You can go thru the catalog with your son, and see what he is attracted to, then make a decision from there.

Besides price and playability also pay attention to the suggested age that is marked on each LEGO set. This is just a recommendation by LEGO, but they are usually pretty accurate. Especially for beginner builders. So pick a set that is for your son’s age group.

As far as shopping I would highly recommend Walmart. They have a large selection, their prices are not inflated, and they often have sales. Target is also good – although at least in my area Walmart has a larger selection. Stay away from Toys’R’Us though. Their prices are significantly inflated, and even though they advertised sales regularly, it just means that their prices may come down to a reasonable level.

Hope this helps a bit and gives you a start. If you have other questions feel free to ask! 🙂

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Shari November 2, 2012 at 11:16 PM

Wow, thank you so much for the information, it was very helpful. I really appreciate the time you took to answer my questions, and so quickly- thank you! I really never knew there was so much to Lego until I started reading about it!
My son really likes building things and also role playing. He liked the K’nex set we bought him for Christmas last year, but I felt it was pretty limited on what he could do with it. I will start him out on a couple of Ninjago sets and see how that goes. I think he’ll really like that. Again, thank you, and I will definitely visit this site again.

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admin November 3, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Shari, you are very welcome! Have fun! 😀

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Daniel Whitener June 30, 2014 at 12:08 PM

If you sign up for FREE on this website http://www.fatwallet.com/?referral=veedub7761 you can get cash back on many websites…LEGO is normally 2.5% cash back. You go through this site after signing up and click on the LEGO link and make your purchase like normal and later you can request a check sent to you from fatwallet and just deposit it into your acount to buy more stuff 🙂 i have been doing this for close to two years now and i love it.

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