Toys on a Budget
|I get asked all the time
"how do you afford all those toys?". While I wish I were
rich, that's far from the case. Like you, I'm an average guy, with a
wife and kids, a cat and a dog, and a mortgage to match.
course, it helps for my reviews to have lots of friends that collect toys
as well. They allow me to photograph and review items I would never
have bought myself, which also means I can review things that I might not
think are good enough to spend money on. Then there's those
unfortunate times when I spend my own money to be all too disappointed,
but that's another story.
There are some tips and tricks to getting
your toys at least cheaper than normal retail, if you're willing to be
patient, buy on-line and at stores, shop around, and pay attention to
coupons and sales.
Tip 1: Set a monthly budget
and track your purchases. While some folks stick to their budget
with absolute firmness, I'm not such a big fan of that idea. There's
often little opportunity for you to control when certain figures and lines
come out, and if you don't buy some things very early you'll be out of
luck. But having the budget will give you something to shoot for,
and more importantly, tracking your purchases will help you get a handle
on what you're really spending. It can be very surprising for most
folks - it only seems like 5 bucks here, 10 bucks there, but it can easily
add up to 200-300 dollars in a month without realizing it. The first
step to controlling any sort of purchases is to understand just where the
money is going.
It's also a good idea to review this once
in awhile. If you're doing it on a monthly basis, go back a few
months and look at what you bought. Was it as great as you
thought? Was it something you kept and have been happy with, or
something you thought was a mistake? This kind of retrospective
review can help you make better decisions down the road.
Tip 2: Whenever possible, wait
for sales and clearance. Consider all the Star Wars items we've seen
at 25% or less of their original cost. Yes, sometimes this can be
nerve wrecking, and I don't suggest it for those things you simply can't
wait to have. But for those items that you're iffy on, wait and see what
Target or kbkids.com ends up doing with them.
A perfect example for me right now are the
Dexter's Lab toys at Kaybee toys. I want these, but not badly enough
to spend 9 bucks each on them. I'll wait, as I know that they'll end
up at 3 for 10. It takes patience, but it pays off big time in
Target is the single best store for
clearance items on the shelves. They cut their prices fairly soon
after items come out, working to keep their inventory turnover high.
This is extremely smart, by the way, and is one of the reasons Target is
moving up in their market share while stores like Kmart are sinking like a
rock. One of the keys to timing your Target purchases is
understanding the markdowns. When the price reaches $XX.X4 - that
.04 being the magic number - the item has reached it's lowest point, and
you better snatch it up pronto.
Don't forget Kaybee Toys either.
They markdown a wide variety of action figures, and their discounts can be
quite good. The on-line store sometimes has deals that the bricks
and mortar stores don't, so check both places.
Tip 3: Coupons! Most
on-line stores offer some sort of coupons on a regular basis. For
example, Amazon.com always has some sort of $10 off $30 coupon, and since
they have merged with the Toys R Us on-line site, their toy selection has
improved tremendously. I picked up the Where The Wild Things Are
toys from them long before they reached our local stores for less than $8
each, even including shipping. These on-line stores do get their
figures early at times - the Mcfarlane Yellow Submarine Series 2 toys are
already at Amazon.com, while they have reached very few stores.
If you're looking for coupons, there are
plenty of great sites on the web. I always check Amazing Bargains
then check out Flamingo World (www.flamingoworld.com).
And Bobbi Boyd over at about.com runs a page as part of her Action Figure
Collecting site (http://actionfigures.about.com/hobbies/actionfigures/)
that covers coupons and deals. Oh, and certainly don't forget my
page here called Mr. Cheapskate!
|Tip 4: Don't be
afraid of on-line buying. I've already mentioned Amazon.com
and Kbkids.com, but don't forget sites
like Fandom (www.fandomshop.com)
that use coupons, or Action Ace (www.actionace.com).
And if you're looking for an alternative to buying Diamond exclusives from
your overpriced local comic shop, there are tons of on-line
alternatives. The one I use regularly and highly recommend is New
Force Comics (www.newforcecomics.com).
The prices are great, as is the service. I haven't used Toy Republic
yet (www.toy-republic.com), but
I've heard some good things about them as well.
|Tip 5: Don't
forget the odd stores. Big Lots, Factory 2 U, Dollar General,
Mazel's and other odd lot stores are selling more and more mainstream
toys. They are often at great prices, and sometimes you'll find
items there that you never saw at full retail. That's because many
times the last figures in a series or line get produced after the market
for those figures is already dead. The normal retailers won't pick
up these 'tail enders', but the odd lots stores do. Nothing beats
getting something cool at a great price!
|Tip 6: Combine
with your friends for greater savings. Sometimes folks are concerned
with shipping costs with buying on-line. This is where getting
together with your friends can really help. Often on-line shops will
cut shipping costs for larger orders, so if you combine your order with
one or two friends it will allow you to not only reduce shipping, but
perhaps take advantage of coupons only available with more expensive
orders. Also, buying cases of figures can reduce the cost of each
individual figure, but you have to make sure you have enough folks
interested in ALL the figures and not just the short packs.
|Tip 7: Never,
ever, ever, under any circumstances, succumb to Ebay to buy a new
toy. What in God's name was the person thinking that paid over $100
for a Smithers when he first started shipping? Did they really think
that Playmates wouldn't make any more? Sometimes you may find that
hard to get toy does turn out to be impossible to find at retail.
But 3-6 months later, you'll still be able to find it on Ebay and at toy
shows, and certainly not at the extreme inflated prices that they will be
in the first few days on Ebay.
|Hopefully some of these tips
will be useful. If you have some suggestions and tips of your own,
I'd love to hear about it. Drop me an email, or head on over to the Message
Board and let me know!