Am I the only one who doesn’t like spending a lot on children’s toys? Not only do I purchase toys for my daughter, but I also find myself acquiring toys for the daycare I co-run with my mom. Especially when your kid is rough with toys, forking over the money to buy the latest and greatest toys can be a little hard to swallow. I know in the daycare we go through toys like it’s nothing. Curious kids will break toys, some parts to toys get pocketed making them unusable, and the rest get beaten up on a daily basis. I’m lucky that my daughter is pretty gentle when it comes to toys, but I still have a hard time buying her a Hatchimal when it’s $60. I felt like it would be a good idea to compile a list of places and techniques that I’ve learned of over the years of being frugal to share with my readers.
One of the best places to get cheap toys is thrift stores. Places like Goodwill or small mom and pop stores will have toys for a discounted price. Be wary of buying used toys, be sure to inspect them as sometimes they can have harmful parts of be broken. Some of the toys at bigger thrift stores can be leftover from clearance sections at big stores. A lot of the time, I will find unopened toys for as little as $2 each. It’s a steal and I always stock up on toys for the daycare when I find toys like that. Another time, I found an unopened Wonder Woman Jet and Doll for $15, originally $40. I bought it for my daughter and she loves it. You have to be lucky when you scour through the thrift stores and check back often.
Gifting Facebook Groups
This is another source that I utilize to the fullest. Search in your area to see if there is Pay It Forward groups or free groups on Facebook. I belong to a couple and one group in particular is constantly giving away toys. Now, my daughter doesn’t really need more toys than she already has, but for the daycare I am constantly grabbing toys groups are giving away. Of course, if you use this option, you should also give back. Do a purge of toys or household items to give away on the same group. I have a 1:1 rule, you give one you get one. We have gotten a Jumparoo, a tummy time mat, and some baby toys from groups like this when I didn’t want to go out and purchase my own for the daycare (they are expensive!) A lot of the time, if an item is getting a lot of attention, the giver will do a drawing or just pick one. Don’t get discouraged and always be gracious when you are chosen (or not).
Please only do this if you feel safe doing so. There are so many people who post on Craigslist that just want to get rid of their toys. Like the others, this is one that you need to scour daily to see what you can find. Be careful though, sometimes you will not get the best deals on Craigslist and so it pays to do some research. See what it’s selling for on Amazon or eBay, compare that to the price you see it for in regards to the condition, and don’t be afraid to barter or ask questions! Just keep in mind that politeness goes a long way. If you are nice and polite to the seller, they might be willing to cut you a better deal.
Make Your Own (Pinterest)
It may not seem like it, but Pinterest is a great place to find cheap and DIY toys and activities for your children. While I suppose these aren’t toys per se, there are lots of sensory activity ideas that can be made. We have made quite a few for the daycare, and you can find the board in which I save all those activities here! A lot of pins specialize in Dollar Store activities and cheap to no cost activities. It’d be worth it to take a look (and maybe pin a few more recipes and home decorating ideas that you know you’ll never do.)
This is something that you can do while you’re doing your shopping, which makes it convenient, although I do suggest you don’t bring your kiddos with you when you do this as you will be treading in dangerous territory. When you are out and about, casually check the clearance sections for toys. A great tip that I learned is to buy off-season. A lot of stores clearance their seasonal toys to make way for the next season toys. Buy off-season and store them away until next year. You can save so much money this way and the toys are perfectly fine. You can find other toys this way too, but more than likely it will be off-season toys.
You’d be surprised at what you can find at dollar stores. While the selection for toys seems to be geared more towards younger kids, you can find all sorts of items for around $1 each. Some of the toys will be cheaply made so be careful and if you have young kids, make sure they are supervised at all times with the toys unless you thoroughly inspect the toys. The Dollar Store is a great place to get craft supplies, figurines, dress up stuff, and dolls. Keep in mind, their selection is limited and some of the toys might make you question what you’re doing there (I find that is the best part and quickly snatch them up for my weird collection) but you can’t beat the price!
It may be hit or miss, but garage sales can be a gold mine if you go early enough. A lot of garage sales are filled with hidden gems that people just want to get rid of. Bring your bartering skills and maybe an umbrella if it’s drizzly and remember to bring cash. A lot of sales will have a free box that can be filled with random small toys and a lot of people will sell books and toys for less than $1. Look to see if your city or neighborhood has a large community garage sale and go crazy. Again, you might want to keep the kiddos at home for this one because you never know what someone might be selling and you never know what will catch the eye of a child.