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Plus Long Island New York.
I got rid of most of my LEGO last year, and now just buy sets I LOVE, and try to stick to a handful of themes. For me it is modulars, superhero minifigs (not sets), and then a couple of the cars (Back to the Future, VW Bus, Ghostbusters.) I have a VERY specific shelf space available for LEGO, so anything I own MUST fit on that shelf.
This means I have to "let go" of the idea of owning other really cool sets. Little to no Star Wars (even though I love the theme, no Simpsons house (even though it looks cool), etc.
Setting self-imposed boundaries really matter here.
My discounts have been slowly drying up.
After Christmas sale at Lego? Gone.
Good after Christmas at Walmart after Christmas and in the summer? Basically gone.
Target sales? Eh. I lucked out this year, but it was sheer luck.
Barnes and Noble discount? Gone.
10% off coupon at the Lego store? Gone.
Overall it is frustrating, and I have now been buying less. There are still some deals out there, but it is much harder.
I never buy more than one of any set, I'm not into selling them for profit or breaking them up for parts. So I either save up for what I want, or I layby. It's the easiest way to go.
For entertainment, we often relax on our screened porch and listen to the birds while watching the plants grow. It is much more refreshing than going to an expensive and noisy film. Working in the garden is relatively inexpensive and great for the soul.
As to LEGO, mostly I buy from Bricklink the specific parts needed to build something after doing research as to pricing on eBay, etc. I rarely buy new LEGO sets; they have to be very special to end up in our house.
If I see a set with a big discount at the store, I ask how much I need the set or the parts in it. I try not to buy doubles unless I really need the parts and they are priced cheaply.
It is difficult exercising restraint when buying LEGO, but once your collection fills up more than the available space, it is time to quite buying for a while. And to figure out what you can get rid of or how to make space for more LEGO.
It is hard to understand how resellers develop enough restraint to make choices that produce profits and not buy dozens of each set marked down.
Sure, I buy some bricklink and the occasional new set, but I spend most of my free sorting and building with existing bricks.
But then, I am not a collector.
Cable is outrageous. I just got rid of all my premium stations. We have Netflix and Amazon Prime. Netflix is a must if you have kids. I may only go to the movies once or twice a year. I mostly watch movies in our theatre room.
As far as Lego itself; what everyone else said. Sales, prioritize and possibly selling to fund this expensive hobby
Thanks for your charming and sincere hospitality, by the way. I mean that. Your hotel staff are the best in the world.
I worked as a batman here in the UK for over a year, I got virtually f*** all in the way of tips, most people tend to just round up to the nearest £ maybe the nearest £5 if you are lucky, and that only applies to meals. If someone is just buying drinks the best you might get is someone buying you a drink.
Fortunately, (I believe) our minimum wage is better than the US so that helps balance it out a little.
That sounds like a sound LEGO strategy!
One of the most skilled builders I know has a very small collection and only buys what he needs for each build. I am happy to loan him pieces for a build if he does not want to buy them because my collection is just sitting in the LEGO room waiting to be used.
In the US, we tend to equate bigger with better, and this can lead to too many of anything and everything including LEGO. I am just as guilty as others.
Some of the best things in the whole world are tiny or have no permanent physical presence. Think of the last smile you received from someone you care about. It is a question of values, and each of us get to make many of those decisions every day.
I think the gist is to collect what you want and enjoy the hobby. If you buy to resell or fuel your hobby then keep that in mind, but otherwise just enjoy it.
The way I save the most is by being patient. Sets are out months, sometimes a year plus before I buy them. I just wait until the right deal comes along. As far as non discout exclusives, I usually wait until double VIP or I sell off the freebie to help buy the set down.
Before LEGO, I was really into high-end audio (stereo equipment), including vintage gear, tube gear, and turntables. At one point, it was just nuts how much I was spending on stuff. It's a hobby where a $1,500 turntable cartridge (essentially: the needle) could be described as "incredibly affordable" because folks will spend so much more on them.
I'm curious what else you folks have been into, and how you would rate it on the "expensive" scale as compared to LEGO.
I think Lego is quite an affordable hobby (addiction), you can get sets from a few pounds/dollars, you do not have to buy the big pricey sets, but they are nice ;)
Owning a sailboat of any size is a good example. Talk about a dark hole to pour money in...endlessly. If it is a big boat, you can figure at least 20K a year for repairs, insurance and a place to park it. And some of these boats only get sailed a week or two each year if that much. (Thank god we know longer own any boats.)
Many in the US own expensive motorcycles....try 40K and up, the price of a Harley trike one neighbor has. (That cost 10K more than my Prius V, which is a lot more comfortable and safer to drive.) He takes his trike out maybe once a month for an hour or two. I used to own motorcycles, and you are looking at least 15K for a decent one. And the insurance will kill you these days if the bike does not.
Hubby has enough N scale (very small, thank god) trains to fill a 12 by 12 room if all were set up at once. They cost a lot per train (most are German or Japanese), and it takes a huge amount to fill up a normal table. Hard to put a price on his collection, but a guess would put it at much higher than 90 per cent of our LEGO collections on Brickset.
Many Americans are into collecting and rebuilding old cars. 20K is nothing for a car from the 60's, and one can easily spend that much fixing it up. Folks tend to collect several of these, so the value of their collections can easily top 100K. Then they have to build a garage ($100K up) to park these valuable cars.
Besides LEGO, my other main hobbies are gardening and collecting film scores, which at 8-25US a typical CD, add up quickly, but is still much less expensive than my LEGO collection. Gardening can be quite expensive depending on the size of your lot and the types of plants and hardscape (walls/paths/fences/patios) used. At least it can add to the value of your home. And it can be relaxing if you use mulch instead of lawn grass, which requires too much maintenance.
It seems that having at least two hobbies is a good strategy because it increases the variety in our lives and keeps us from getting bored with just one hobby.
I used go to live concerts and collect and trade shows (on cassette) but that was before kids. The other hobbies I do have are planted fish tanks, reading, and running. But those really pale compared to Lego time with my kids.
Once we had a french employee relations person come to the US to help 'bridge the cultural gap' between the US and France. She commented on how busy busy busy we all seem in a workplace. I asked her how many ads for Mercedes and BMW etc etc are on their TV, and she kind of gave me a blank expression. I responded with that is why Americans are killing themselves at the office, to pay off the debt for all of the crap we buy, and if we do not work that hard, then they simply drive our jobs 'offshore' (what used to be called outsourcing).
I have gotten carried away with 'keeping up with the Jones' as well, but I realized that I simply cannot do it, so slowly I have been trying to cull down the herd and buy only what I am interested in, and try to avoid the sales and whatnot.
I guess that the lack of really big sales and advertisement of such sales is actually better for my wallet than seeing everything on sale.
People have DVR to record and skip commercials. Many, many folks (like me) are starting to skip broadcast television entirely and only watch programs online or via a service likes NetFlix or Amazon Prime that eliminates commercials. I rarely see TV commercials these days, unless I am visiting someone's house and I find them hugely disruptive, yet captivating.
@madforLEGO is right about debt. I submit for evidence the cost of medicine in the US and the HUGE number of TV commercials that tell people to 'ask their doctor' for very expensive drugs for every conceivable condition.
That summed up my previous collecting habits pretty accurately. The need to "complete" a theme and buying sets I had little to no interest in, spending a mint on retired sets, and countless hours waisted searching for eBay and clearance deals. It was getting ridiculous and I was no longer enjoying it.
A few months ago I bought Benny's Spaceship to build while I was on vacation. It was outside my normal collecting parameters and I have zero interest in the TLM theme but it just looked like a lot of fun. And it was fun. Probably the most fun I have had with Lego in a long time. It ended up being a great lesson learned at the same time. I want this hobby to be rewarding - the pay off needs to be that it is something fun I can share with my kids. The mindless pursuit of sets to "collect" wasn't paying off for me. So I changed what my idea of collecting is and it now includes a little bit of this and that, but not everything. Only those sets that will bring out the inner ten year old make the cut these days.
They do vary slightly year to year, but keep your eyes open in your local shops, here on the forum and you should spot the buying opportunities.
Then do most of your buying during the sales and you should get most of your lego at 40% off or better. :)
I use this website quite a bit. They are usually pretty up to date with sales and deals in all the usual locations. I check them about once per day to see of anything is up. The have other related lego need as well.
Along the lines of some of the other comments here though, I always found that the BEST deals meant I had to buy sets I didn't LOVE but merely liked. Or buy multiples, such as Buy 2, Get 1 Free type of deals.
For myself - personally - I buy far fewer sets now, and mostly buy them at retail price just so that I can ENJOY the hobby instead of desperately waiting for a deal, and having to drive around to 4 Targets to try to find a set.
Many foreigners and Americans do not realize how dependent wait staff are on tips. Everyone should have to wait tables at some point in life. Tips make a huge difference as to whether or not their families are able to eat food every day of the month. Ever since that job, I have always tipped well unless the service is deplorable. If Americans in these positions don't receive adequate tips, they will never be able to afford luxury items like LEGO.
So I guess the short answer to your question about why the service tends to be better in the US hospitality industry than it often is abroad, is because tips are too important to the employees to deliver bad service. If we had much higher minimum salaries and decent job benefits like they do in the EU, our service standards might slide as well.
Again American firms have to recognize that paying low wages decreases the number of consumers who can afford their products. So it is self-defeating in the long run for these firms to pay wages that are too low for workers to survive.