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photo credit: Sharon Lepellerre
I kept the enemy at bay for a long time. I was no stranger to stepping on sharp little pointy plastic pieces in the middle of the night; I had little brothers. So, I told my sons that we were not going to have Lego.
Duplo is what you can build with, said I.
It lasted for awhile. I think my youngest boy was about a year old when I grudgingly accepted a bag of garage sale Lego from my mom. The older boys, aged 8, 5, and 3 were thrilled. And so it began.
Today, almost nine years later, we’ve survived the onslaught of at least 100 sets of Lego. We’ve got buckets and boxes full of bricks. The tinkling sound of Lego pieces being sorted and scooped is a happy sound to me, a remembrance of hours and hours of intense, creative play by my sons.
Nowadays, the interest has not waned in our home. My older boys invest in discontinued sets and have successfully sold for profit on eBay. (In case you didn’t know, investing in Lego is more profitable than buying gold.)
And I haven’t hurt my feet too badly in the process.
One of the things that does cause me pain, however, is the current cost of Lego at the stores. I’m stunned at the high prices they are charging these days. Just Wow.
Think outside the boxed set.
Children are naturally creative. They don’t need a special set in order to build great things. In the old days, we didn’t even have “sets”. We had bricks to build with and imaginations to use. My Uncle Pat, about 12 years my senior, gave me his original Lego set. (He regrets that now. Imagine what THAT would go for on eBay!) I think we only had a handful of colors, too, but the little plastic bricks provided hours of creative entertainment.
My kids love Lego. Many of them will receive some Lego-related gift this Christmas. But, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on “sets” when I know that, when challenged, my kids could build something bigger and better than what’s in the set. Yours could, too.
Look at what our friends put together!
Saving Money on LEGO
Recently, I realized that my girls could use their own little collections of bricks. We were at our friends’ house recently when FishChick5 played for two hours building with Lego! Two hours! She doesn’t do that at home because I’ve never set her up for it. Sure, the boys could do that all day long, but she’d never played with Lego. Weird, huh? The best part was that she was using her imagination and creating her own things, namely ice cream sundaes.
This year, we’re setting folks up for some brick building — without spending inordinate amounts of cash. While specific sets are great, there are other ways to please your Lego-maniacs. Here’s how, you, too, can save some pennies on Lego.
1. Buy in bulk.
My friend Sharon is an expert at building and buying LEGO. She explained to me a couple great ways to save money on bricks. While a set is great, having a variety of pieces to build with on your own is even better.
photo credit: Sharon Lepellerre
Enter the Pick-a-Brick wall. Located at your local Lego store, the Pick-a-Brick wall offers a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors of bricks at bulk pricing. You can buy a large cupful for about $15.
There are tricks to filling the cup so that you maximize your purchase. For instance, fill the little rim at the bottom with tiny pieces, then add your large, expensive pieces, then add smaller and smaller pieces. Top off the cup with the itty-bitty pieces that shake down into the crevices.
You can also order individual bricks from Lego.com, but the wall in the store gets you a better price. Another option for bulk buying is to order on ebay or from sites like BrickLink. (I’ve not done the latter, so I can’t verify the success of that approach; please use caution in your purchases.)
2. Give a Lego book.
One of the advantages of sets is that there are specific instructions as to how to assemble the pieces. If a kid is really stumped as to what to build, he or she can turn to the growing number of Lego books that are available.
No Starch Press has published a number of Lego books from coffee table photograph compilations to step-by-step builder’s guides. Over the years, they’ve sent me a few to review. My favorites are The LEGO Adventure Book, volume 1 and volume 2. These full-color books show brick-by-brick how to build the different models. They are a little simpler than the more sophisticated The Unofficial Lego Builder’s Guide that I bought the boys a few years ago.
Giving a child a book of building plans is akin to giving new life to the bricks you already have in your possession. Go one step further by containerizing a bunch of bricks the kids have forgotten about or sitting with them to organize their current collection.
Your child will have a renewed interest in the things he already owns and you won’t be adding more stuff to your household. Well, besides the book. But, they are available on Kindle, so you can save space that way, too.
3. Buy a brick box.
Thanks to Sharon’s advice, I bought the girls a large pink brick box. The brick box contains starter pieces for building that can be combined in a number of ways. It doesn’t lock the child into building one particular thing, like the Shelob Attacks set that FishChick7 requested.
They’ll have a starter set that’s their own so that they don’t have to squabble with the brothers. Plus, if I’m completely honest, though I have a philosophical objection to pink legos (Lego was not a boy thing to start with!), I know that my girls will like having some pastel pieces in the mix.
4. Find a sale on sets.
Some of my peeps really did have a specific set in mind or style, such as The Hobbit. With the older boys, I’m much more willing to invest in sets since I know they keep better track of their pieces.
I ordered Lego from Toys R Us, going through Ebates first. I’ll get 2% back from Ebates, plus Toys R Us has a number of specials going on where you get $25 off any Lego purchase of $100 or more. Among all my kids gifts, I was able to make a sufficient purchase to drastically reduce our cost. Go together with a friend or shop ahead for birthdays to maximize your savings and not overbuy just for Christmas.
5. Build a Lego table.
Last year Anne shared with us her tutorial on how to build a Lego table with a LACK table from IKEA. Depending on pricing in your neighborhood, this project should cost less than $35. If you already have the table and plates, then it will be free.
Either way, the table provides the child with a building location and a renewed interest in creating without purchasing an expensive Lego set.
6. Regift old or used Lego.
Yes, I know that sounds silly. Many Lego maniacs will sniff you out. But, lots of kids don’t really care where the Lego come from. Mine certainly didn’t. They were thrilled with this random bag my mom picked up at a garage sale for a few bucks.
If a child receives bricks in a cool bucket or container, even if they’ve been played with before, they’ll still be thrilled. I know I sure loved that set from Uncle Pat.
There are a number of ways that you can give the love of Lego without losing your shirt. I’d love to hear your tips for saving money on Lego, so meet me in the comments.
How do YOU save money on Lego?
This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.