by David Bakke
Whether you have children, have friends with children, or have occasion to cross paths with children, you know one thing: They sure love toys. Even at a young age, they all want the latest and best thing out there. Sometimes they don't even care what the actual toy is, they just want something new.
While we do our best to defer such requests, there are times when the young'uns are just too cute to ignore. So, if you must shell out, here are some ways to save at the toy store:
1. Shop Online
A new day has dawned: Buying online is frequently cheaper than shopping at brick-and-mortar retailers, even after you factor in shipping. Plus, many online stores are now even throwing in shipping - and if one particular merchant won't, you can generally click around to find one that will. Of course, you'll have to wait until the package arrives, but sometimes the anticipation adds to the fun.
Amazon and eBay have virtually anything you want, and be sure to check out their "gently used" listings as well. Oftentimes, you can find a toy that's virtually brand new but listed "used" because it's an open-box item or has some unnoticeable defect. Kids often won't know the difference, and you can save a bundle. When shopping at other websites, always perform a quick Internet search for a coupon code. Even if you only get the shipping or tax knocked off, it's worth the effort.
2. Use the Right Credit Card
"Cash back" is the golden goose here - if you're going to spend, you might as well get something back. Many credit companies offer actual money back when you use their cash back credit cards, but be sure to use them wisely. Don't buy anything you can't pay off before interest accrues, or if you must, take advantage of a 0% balance transfer offer. The Target Redcard is a great deal. You get 5% taken off the purchase price at the checkout counter and it's a debit card, so you're not borrowing.
3. Make Homemade Toys
If you're around young kids a lot, you know they can get a lot of playtime out of common household and seemingly throwaway items. Kids will even pass up an item you just bought in favor of what it was packaged in. Homemade toys are far easier than you may think and you can come up with various arts and crafts ideas for kids. For example, I've built homemade rockets out of old paper-towel tubes, with some construction paper for the cone and wings. We've played animal bowling with stuffed animals and a tennis ball. The only constraints here are the limits to your creativity, so let your imagination soar.
4. Sell Your Old Toys
You would be amazed what people will buy, and as the saying goes, one person's junk really is another's treasure. If you have toys that are still in good working condition, you can make money by selling them. Even if you only get a few dollars, it's a fun and interactive way of getting some of the funds you need to buy new toys. Plus, it's a great way to start teaching kids about money management. Open an account on either eBay or Amazon; both can yield great results. And of course, there's always Craigslist. Package all items securely, and ship them fast. This will minimize returns and maximize positive customer feedback.
5. Hide Some Current Toys
This one is a no-brainer. Kids often get tired of what they see every day - who wouldn't? So consider socking away half the toys laying around, and then break them out as you put away others. Your child's excitement will amaze you, and this reduces the need to buy new toys. Simple, but genius.
We all want the children we love to have smiles on their faces. But that's not to say you need to break the bank in the process. If you are mindful of your finances, you can have happy kids <em>and</em> a healthy bottom line. That way, you'll have more funds to contribute to things that your child will appreciate down the line, such as a 529 college savings program. Now, that's worth a lot.
David Bakke is a single father of one young boy and resides in Atlanta, Georgia. He writes about money saving tricks on http://www.moneycrashers.com/.
by David Bakke