Frugal Guide to Buying Toys

Toys are expensive. These days it seems even cheap toys are expensive. Whether or not Christmas is just around the corner or you can still see it in the rearview mirror, parents are always buying toys. Why? Besides birthdays, we celebrate just about everything these days. For some reason we feel these celebrations should come with a gift. To a kid, a gift is a toy, not a new pair of shoes or money for the college fund. My son got an electric ride-on Gator for learning to poop on the potty!

When I was a kid, you only got toys at Christmas and on your birthday. Birthdays were most family and a couple of friends. As a kid I never understood why I was only allowed to have a couple of friends. As a parent I understand. Every kid at your kid’s birthday party is eventually going to be the birthday boy or girl. If you throw a bash with 12 kids then you’ll be buying 12 gifts before the school year is up. When I was a kid a birthday gift would be something small. Nowadays, it’s at least $20 if not $50 per gift, if you don’t want to look like a cheapskate.

Buying toys isn’t something that is going away. When my kids are older the toys will become fewer in number but higher in price. In the meantime, my kids are both elementary school age and that means my wife and I will be hitting the toy aisle soon and often.

Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the past couple of years. Hopefully they’ll work for you and you’ll spend your dollars wisely. If you get lucky, you’ll even save a few bucks.


It bothers more than it should when my kids get a toy, play with it for a day or two, and then forget about it forever. What a waste of money. I’ve learned to ask questions before making a purchase. When it’s close to a gift-giving time, we look at catalogues or websites to see what’s out there. They tell me what they like and I make a mental note. Know that just because your kid likes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or My Little Pony doesn’t mean they like every character or will like any toy associated with the brand.


People on the internet love to share opinions. I’m doing it right now and I must say I enjoy it. There are countless sites featuring in-depth reviews of every toy out there, even ones that have not yet been released. Sometimes a toy looks great in the package but is actually poorly constructed or difficult to use. Reviews can be really helpful for choosing decent toys.

Buy Quality Toys

My wife always says the cheap man pays twice. It’s an old saying but I know she’s referring to me. Every time I go for the knock-off or the lowest price tag, the toy barely makes it out of the packaging before it’s headed to the recycling bin. Quality toys are often more expensive but most times they’ll last long enough for you to get a good price when you host your annual garage sale.

Go For the Timeless Toys

Some brands have been around forever. There’s a reason for that. They’re good toys.

Avoid the One-Trick Pony

Some toys have one obvious and simple purpose. Once your child has figured this out, the novelty wears off quickly. Often these one-trick ponies are packaged and marketed spectacularly. In the long run, toys like action figures, dolls, vehicles, and building/construction pieces are a smarter purchase.

Buy Used Toys

I would never purchase a used toy to use as a gift for a school-friend birthday party. Likely, I would never buy a used toy to give to one of my own kids as the main gift for any occasion. There is something very exciting about opening the packaging of a new toy. However, buying used toys is a great way to grow an existing set or series of toys without breaking the bank.

Stock Up When They’re On Sale

There is always a birthday party around the corner. Rather than going out last minute and buying whatever you can find at whatever price is available, shop the sales and buy in advance. We have a bin downstairs with a small collection of toys for that reason. We’ve been doing this for a couple years now and it reduces stress and saves us money.




The Beginning
About James Hudyma

Dad. Husband. Teacher. Canadian. Guitar Picker. Songwriter.

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