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How do you buy LEGO on a budget?



  • icey117icey117 Member Posts: 510
    edited December 2012
    Instead of complaining about high LEGO prices, let's gather all the ideas for keeping our hobby costs down... of cause stopping to buy LEGO altogether is THE cheapest solution, but since that's not really an option, here's a few alternative ones.

    THE DISCOUNT options
    1) Live on EBAY or make alot of autosearches on EBAY.
    2) Get RSS feeds to all Amazon watchlists.
    3) Train your patience and only buy outdated themes... being alert around toyshops generally pays off!
    4) Become good friends with someone working on a LEGO factory... or any toyshop!
    5) Get your salery from a Norwegian company - for doing a work that involves a lot of travels to the US!

    THE FREE option
    6) Add only LEGO sets on your christmas and birthday wishlist.
    7) Enter any LEGO competition you'll find in the name of all your kids (evt. also pets) and hope to win. Chances should be greater than in LOTTO!
    8) Get hired at TLC and wait for Christmas!

    THE SECOND HAND options
    9) Buy a book with overview of the local fleemarkets... and a toothbrush and some soap.
    10) Be friendly to the ladies in any secondhandshop in your area - get them to reserve any LEGO they are getting in... (toothbrush and soap)
    11) Be nice to all your parents friends around the time their kids move away from home... but before they get grandkids. (toothbrush and soap)

    THE HABBIT options (the boring ones)
    12) Don't get hooked on the licenced themes.
    13) Get rit of your inner completist-collector!
    14) Tell your wife about every single purchase you make! That'll often slow you down!

    THE BUSINESS option
    15) Buy sets, sell the minifigures and/or other parts on ebay... mainly works with licenced themes!
    16) ...or go big start your own brick shop at Bricklink or ebay! Works good combined with point 3.
    17) Buy multibles sets - store them for a long time - hope they increase value.
    18) Hunt down exclusive sets from brandstore/events/newspapers... and get some profit!
    19) Start yet another LEGO blog - hope for revenue from commercials etc. (good luck on that one, there's a reason this one is last)

    .... did I miss any?
  • AanchirAanchir Member Posts: 3,044
    One thing I do is for any theme where I have specific "goals" I want to meet is make a spreadsheet listing exactly which sets I need to get to meet these goals. That way, I can cut unnecessary sets out of my budget. As an example, in the first year of Ninjago, my brother and I set a goal of getting all the figs, all four golden weapons, and all four dragons while buying as few "spinner sets" as possible (though we did end up getting a lot of spinners from the "special edition" model sets). Sounds like a lot of money to spend, but it's certainly better than buying every set in a theme. Then again, we ended up getting some of the sets that weren't on our list as gifts anyway, so it's not like the list did too much good. =P

    Additionally, here's a strategy I've used for many years, and I guess it falls under the "habit options" (though it's not an option to everyone). If you live with other FOLs, divide up the purchases among yourselves so collectively you get all the sets you want, but individually you only get a fraction of the sets. For many years I would divide up all BIONICLE sets between myself and my two siblings, and we've recently done something similar with Hero Factory (since the sets have gone back to being divisible by three). Overall, if you can come to a consensus about who gets what sets, then not only do you spend less, but you ensure that you only get the sets you want most. Then again, there can be conflicts when dividing things up, and of course this wouldn't work as well for married couples as for siblings since you'd likely be working from shared finances and presumably would share all your sets anyway if you're both AFOLs.

    And in the "free" option, let's not forget some of the opportunities within the AFOL community like online building contests! You do mention "LEGO competitions" but it sounds like you're talking specifically about raffle-type competitions rather than talent-related ones.

    Not sure if this is a "discount" or "habit" option: when you have an opportunity to get LEGO at a significant discount (~30-50% off, for instance), get as many of your LEGO purchases for the year done at that time as possible, and then hold off building them until your LEGO craving really requires you to build a new set. I tend to save as much of my LEGO spending as possible for Brickfair, during which the LEGO stores in Virginia offer discounts staggered by total cost of registered attendees' purchases. That way I ensure I will be spending enough to get the highest discount (30% off). It's ideal if you know the discount will be happening in advance, so you can always put off "impulse purchases" knowing that there will be a better opportunity in the future!

    And one discount option you neglected to mention: VIP points! Save up your VIP points whenever possible. If you have someone in your family who you can share a VIP card with, do so! My dad makes almost all of my family's LEGO S@H and LEGO store purchases, and the VIP points do add up!
  • akunthitaakunthita Member Posts: 1,038
    edited December 2012
    Great list! I personally I use number 15 (buy sets sell minifigs/parts not wanted). Just that one alone covers all of my LEGO purchases. Which means basically I own all my LEGO free and clear and also have a nice LEGO budget every month. In combination with some of the discount, free and second-hand options you mentioned there is absolutely no reason why someone can't manage this hobby. (Unless of course they need the money from LEGO sales to pay the bills - but then a second job or better job may be more appropriate.)

    I also run a LEGO blog, which is your point 19, but I don't use commissions to buy LEGO, so I'm not counting it here. However one nice perk you get as a LEGO blogger is freebies, which can be added to your list. However this would only work if your blog is big enough. I see new LEGO blogs popping up almost daily. I think people don't realize how much work goes into making it work, and hope to get rich quick or get a bunch of free sets overnight. It's not gonna happen. But if someone approaches blogging professionally and provides a valuable service, it could be a viable means to support the hobby. But I can't over emphasize the work involved to make some real money. LEGO only pays a measly 3%. Amazon is a bit better, starting at 4% and it goes up as your sales volume goes up. The point is your blog would have to sell over $30,000 worth of LEGO (and/or other items if you use Amazon) every month to make $1,000.

    One thing you don't have on your list is advertising income from YouTube reviews/videos. I know some kids (and adults) who make a killing with these and can definitely support their hobby and buy any LEGO set they want, or build ridiculiously huge armies of expensive minifigs, or whatever pleases them. It is actually a lot more realistic and faster way to make money then blogging... at least for now... see if Google will kill it just like it killed blogs, but for now it works if you do it right....(c;
  • PicopiratePicopirate Member Posts: 325
    I am still not sure if kids help or hinder. The LEGO store and others have events that kids can get free or cheap bricks. Also, building together can help satisfy the desires of everyone involved. Not to mention the tricks listed above. However, it also means that you will inevitably buy more sets.
  • ^ yeah was doing alright until I found Brickset. It's all your fault @Huw :-)
  • dr_tengdr_teng Member Posts: 101
    Hah, I've definitely gotten more interested browsing Brickset as well. Good list in general though!
  • crazycarlcrazycarl Member Posts: 392
    "How to keep your LEGO hobby cheap!"

    Make more money!!! Ha!
  • HuwHuw Administrator Posts: 7,120
    edited December 2012
    Good post, @akunthita, you are right about blogs, it is hard work and certainly not something that will get you rich or pay for all your LEGO overnight. You need a lot of traffic and to have been established for years before it happens, but it can do.
  • Brick_ObsessionBrick_Obsession Member Posts: 656
    One of the things I do is always offer a price up to someone. One thing I have learned is that no price is set in brick, I mean stone. Whether that item be on Bricklink or Ebay, I will always offer up what I feel is the correct price or the price I am willing to pay. I find myself saving lots of money.
  • akunthitaakunthita Member Posts: 1,038
    edited December 2012
    Huw, yeah, I was actually thinking of you when I wrote that. The amount of work you put into Brickset is exemplary and very inspiring. You are always updating, tweaking, and thinking of how to make Brickset better and more valuable to the LEGO community.

    I wrote a comment (well, more like an essay, lol!) on Bricklink a few days back where members were talking about Bricklink's issues:

    I gave Brickset as an example of what a LEGO fan site should look like and how it should be run. I also predicted that Brickset may take over Bricklink one day...(c;

    Anyway, you are a great inspiration to me personally as an example of what a real blogger/website owner is like, so whatever it's worth, thank you!...(c:
    Huw said:

    Good post, @akunthita, you are right about blogs, it is hard work and certainly not something that will get you rich or pay for all your LEGO overnight. You need a lot of traffic and to have been established for years before it happens, but it can do.

  • mrseatlemrseatle Member Posts: 410
    Yeah, just reading the Brickset forums has really helped me find some bargains. Since it would be really hard for one person to find and keep up with all those retail deals. I don't have time to check all the Walmart, target, TRU, etc websites every day. So I'm very thankful for this one!
  • mathewmathew Member Posts: 2,099
    Brickset is both a blessing and a curse.

    But yeah, I agree about buying on sale and clearance. For example, I'm going through a space fad and was able to pick up Alien Conquest HQ for $50 and then I lucked upon a NIB UFO Abduction set for $16 shipped on ebay. I also flipped a few sets this Christmas and made some money back. I'm not interested in being a large reseller, but it's ok to help pay for the hobby.
  • HuwHuw Administrator Posts: 7,120
    ^^^ I read that conversation at BrickLink, thanks for posting it. It made a change for the community there to say nice things about Brickset and me :-)
  • VaderXVaderX Member Posts: 220
    I use reward visa very often to get free sets. I make all my business/personal purchases with this card and pay the balance off every month so as to not pay interest charges.

    Plus when you sign up they generally give you bonus cash. I just ordered Fire brigade and another copy of MMV for free with rewards points. Anyone who is not using this is missing out!
  • admiralheinrichadmiralheinrich Member Posts: 12
    I'm in a similar situation. I'd recommend sticking to Pick-A-Brick cups and a select few sets each year that you can't live without. Keeping an eye out for rare polybags and free or obtainable exclusives is a great way to build up a bank of inexpensive items you can trade for larger sets or cash to buy more sets.

    Getting yourself to a point where your hobby can pay for itself is ideal and wise I think.
  • sheppshepp Member Posts: 13
    Seal all your Lego away in storage for a few years, then bust them out and get building. Its like buying sets all over again, and its free.

    As someone that's run into problems with money and collecting in the past, pay off your bills and debts first. Then toss the rest into savings. Mad money should make up less than 1% of your total annual income. Add that into your budget.

    I don't mean family trips or going out to dinner (that's decided on by the entire family, and it should be budgeted), I mean MAD MONEY. Money you use to go nuts and spend on crazy greedy selfish stuff. Like Steam games, or X-Box games, or your own weight in Fun-Dip, or random fireworks, or toys like Lego.

    Take how much you personally (not your family) make in a year. Divide that by 100. That's how much MAD MONEY you can spend within one entire calendar year and still be reasonably somewhat responsible. Make it count.

    While the man-child in me would say that you should take any MAD MONEY not spent within the year and apply it to the following year, the responsible adult in me suggests that you roll that into savings or put it to your mortgage or credit card payments, or pay off student debts or something.
  • sheppshepp Member Posts: 13
    Damn it, missed the editing window. Tried to correct how to end up with MAD MONEY.

    Take how much you personally (not your family) make in a year after taxes and union dues, pension, etc. So your NET pay, not your GROSS. Divide that by 100. That's how much MAD MONEY you can spend within one entire calendar year and still be reasonably somewhat responsible. Make it count. Be 100% complete honest and open about it with your other family members.

    If you hide or obscure purchases, you have a problem and need to step back and ask the people around you who care about you for support in kicking that habit and managing your awesome yet crazed obsession.

    However, it is perfectly fine to run in the door with an armful of swag yelling "THIS IS MY MAD MONEY!!! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!!" providing it actually is from your MAD MONEY.

    At 1% of your net earnings for the year, the financial impact should be negligible.

    When the MAD MONEY runs out, it runs out. So sad, too bad. But, on the other hand, if you manage to sell whatever swag your MAD MONEY got you, you can replenish that MAD MONEY pool within that year.
  • mathewmathew Member Posts: 2,099
    Don't be afraid to let stuff go. Collecting is partly about hoarding. I find it liberating to sell stuff. It's hard to do, but you feel much better afterwards. Part of the fun of a big Lego set is in the building process. Once that's done, it's just another model on the shelf, gathering dust. Of course this doesn't work so well if you're building and then parting out. I've noticed that I've amassed quite a few individual bricks from misc. sets I've purchased (mostly on clearance). I do a little bit of MOCing but not enough to warrant so many pieces being stored away.
  • mathewmathew Member Posts: 2,099
    edited December 2012
    shepp said:

    At 1% of your net earnings for the year, the financial impact should be negligible.

    I have a hard time believing someone who collects Lego and makes $100,000 a year is going to be able to hold their spending habits to $1,000. Doesn't seem realistic. I'm not saying go hog wild, it's just that you have to know what you can afford. Also what about the kid who wants to save up his allowance for a year so he can purchase a Lego Death Star? Shouldn't he put it towards his college tuition? Sure, but to be fair, a kid who can save for a year will probably be able to manage his money long term. It's the people who spend money indiscriminately who have the most problems.
  • crazycarlcrazycarl Member Posts: 392
    edited December 2012
    Craigslist!!!! Got me 2 #4841 sets for $60 each. Got a #4842 for $100. About to ge a #7939 for $160. All sets bought this year!!!
  • FollowsCloselyFollowsClosely Member Posts: 1,382
    edited December 2012
    I am over the 100k mark, and I spend well under 1k a year. So it can be done with some discipline.
  • roguetrader1987roguetrader1987 Member Posts: 45
    edited March 2013
    I briefly shared with ThisIsMyCup recently, just how tough it is to afford any Lego if you are hard up, unemployed, have a family to feed or all three. I and I'm sure many of us have to ditch shopping habits when priorities take over, but the painful part is that we all know:
    If you don't buy sets before they're discontinued, collecting only becomes more expensive and time consuming.
    2012 was an incredible year and by the time I find spare cash I will struggle to catch up so I thought I would share the best tricks and deals I know and get responses and ideas for other ways to save on Lego. Pardon any obvious ones we 'all know'.

    1. Do all your regular grocery and fuel shopping at Sainsbury's using a Nectar card and online shopping via the Nectar website for applicable stores e.g ebay. Why? Because when Argos' amazing 3 for 2 offer comes along, you get three equal or very close in price sets and THEN take off about a years worth of Nectar points. This often beats Amazon's best offers. Remember the fuel points are measured by the litre so round up litres not pounds (squeeze every penny!).

    2. Collectable Minifigures ravage your wallet with some of the worst price per piece ratio and as you probably want multiples, a series can end up costing £100+ or much more.
    Always buy these from Boots using a Boots reward card. They offer some of the highest reward points out there and each series can be bought with a discount of points you earnt on the last. Get down to Boots for CMFs (though I would rather not have the competition!).

    3. Amazon: Nothing to add other than wait, wait, wait but not too long. Brickset's wonderful % monitoring is great but I rarely grab that rare 48% off bargain that lasts what, an hour? The Amazon wish list is apparently helpful but I am useless at sitting on Amazon and get bored.

    4. Preloved. The second hand website. I picked up a small 1990s Town set in played with condition for £2 instructions but no box and was most happy. I have yet to grab the sporadic amazing bargains that come along on this site.

    Are TRU points worth anything? What deals do people know?
  • JosephJoseph Member Posts: 629
  • alexwilalexwil Member Posts: 376
    In regards to point 1, get a nectar creditcard as well!! We put all our food and petrol on the credit card and pay it off in full at the end of the month, that way we don't have to pay any interest on it but get twice as many nectar points!!
  • jockosjunglejockosjungle Member Posts: 701
    Amazon CC gives out a better return, works out at 1%
  • roguetrader1987roguetrader1987 Member Posts: 45
    Thank you Joseph, thats an interesting thread on this issue.
    Thank you minifigman11 and jockosjungle. I think despite not liking Credit Cards work I would go with the Amazon one as the Nectar shop would be shared and there is no way in hell that the other half would help load up all those extra points for muggins to go and blow at Argos on Lego! Maybe when I get a more decent income I can indeed try the Nectar CC too.
  • BrikingBriking Member Posts: 768
    edited March 2013
    @roguetrader1987 blow at Argos on Lego
    What does "blow" mean in the context of Lego? Doesn't compute... :-)
  • CCCCCC Member Posts: 20,556

    2. Collectable Minifigures ravage your wallet with some of the worst price per piece ratio and as you probably want multiples, a series can end up costing £100+ or much more.
    Always buy these from Boots using a Boots reward card. They offer some of the highest reward points out there and each series can be bought with a discount of points you earnt on the last. Get down to Boots for CMFs (though I would rather not have the competition!).

    There is no need for a series to cost you £100 or more.

    You can normally buy a compete set on ebay for £35-40, even when new out. But you can normally do better than that. If you don't mind waiting, you can normally get them for £1 after a couple of months, although some stores mess up and do clearance sales early. For example, did minifigs from S9 for a quid a piece about a month ago.

    Plus you probably only need to buy 16-20 and trade on here to get a complete set.

    These days, old series do not increase in price like the early ones did. So even if you miss out on a few from a recent series, it shouldn't cost too much to purchase from bricklink (or again, here).
  • ThegoThego Member Posts: 264
    I have come to the conclusion that the TRU Gold Card is next to useless.
  • roguetrader1987roguetrader1987 Member Posts: 45
    I suspected the TRU gold card was a swizz, thanks for sharing.

    CCC: Thankyou, I have perhaps neglected a deeper web search for CMFs.

    Briking: Of course in our minds no credit, points or money can be blown on Lego :) I was worried about how to interpret that at first.
    I don't know why Argos makes me more nervous as an AFOL than other shops- it must be the anticipation in the waiting area...
  • jockosjunglejockosjungle Member Posts: 701
    Yeh Amazon CC and topcashback which pays out in Amazon vouchers, plenty of money available for lego!
  • jasorjasor Member Posts: 839
    ^^ yep...buying everyday expenses on an Amazon or even Discover card with rewards, and responsibly paying it off every month is a very good benefit. I've got both, and they have lauded me a couple of "free sets"
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