How To Actually Save Money In The Toy Sales

The mid-year toy sale frenzy by major Australian retailers kicks off this week, with online lay-by offers and other deals to tempt reluctant shoppers. Are they really the best way to save money on those essential kids' presents?

Annual toy sales are getting earlier each year; last year's didn't kick off until the end of June. Here's what the major retailers have planned for 2012:

  • Big W allows online shopping from 1201AM on Thursday June 21, and in-store purchases from Thursday June 28, with the 132-page catalogue sale running until Wednesday July 11. It has a no-deposit lay-by scheme online; under that, you have to pay for goods by October 11 (via regular deductions) and they'll be delivered by December 7. (Though caution is advised here; see below.)
  • Target begins its sale on Thursday June 21, running for three weeks to Wednesday July 11 with a 72-page catalogue. Some stores have a VIP night pre-sale on the evening of Wednesday June 20 from 6PM, and you can also lay-by online from that time. Target requires a minimum 10 per cent down payment, and offers two options: in-store pick up from November 12 or home delivery from November 30, or in-store pickup from November 26 or home delivery by December 14. You have to pay at least 50 per cent of the value by October 1
  • Kmart begins its sale on Thursday June 28, and won't actually be showing its catalogue online until June 21. Quite frankly, that would seem to put it at a disadvantage.
  • Even ALDI is getting involved in a minor way, with its Wednesday special buys for June 20 mostly being unbranded toys.

Choosing the right tactics

The most important thing to remember about the toy sale frenzy is this: not everything is actually on sale. Some items are exactly the same price they will be at other times of year. Fighting your way through the crowd (or going online and watching servers crash) only makes sense if there's actually a bargain on offer. Comparison shopping is definitely in order; Big W and Target both say they have price-matching in place. Once you have a list of possible items in mind, do some online comparison research to work out if you're really getting a bargain.

Online shopping is getting a heavier emphasis this year, with early online ordering and lay-bys very much the norm. That can be handy if you're ordering something large and saves you having to hide presents for month, but be careful: there's always a risk your delivery won't come. Big W was left red-faced last year when some online orders got delayed just weeks before Christmas.

Finally, while we're always in favour of early planning, remember this if you're shopping for Christmas: it's half-a-year away. The taste of your kids could easily change in that time, and if they have a birthday in-between, someone else might purchase your carefully chosen gift.

What bargains are you eyeing at this year's toy sale? Or would you rather wait until December for the inevitable last-minute sales? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


    As a survivor of many Target Toy Sales during my high school and uni years, let me say what a wonderful thing online ordering is. Working in a toy department during events like these is HORRIBLE!!!

      I had the pleasure of being a casual layby assistant during a toy sale one year.

      Unfortunately, we didn't have a manager at the time, so I was lumped into the void left in her absence.

      My schedule for the week was as follows:

      Wednesday - College from 8.30am to 5pm, then some free time until 11pm when I had to get ready for work, starting at midnight.
      Thursday - worked through to 7am (only on +30% penalties between 12am and 5am mind you) before going home and getting ready for college, starting at 8.30am. College then finished at 4pm and I started work at 5pm, to work through until midnight.
      Friday - I slept from about 1am when I got home until 7am in the morning, when I went to college from 8.30am until 4pm, to work from 5pm to midnight again.

      I also worked all day Saturday and all day Sunday.

      I was told the pay would be great. It really wasn't. I was told it'd be fun. It really wasn't.

      To all you bogan mothers dragging your kids around the stores at 1am, take my advice, the next time you think it's okay to drink Coke off the shelf while in line, and let your kid take a dump in the aisle, remember the poor students working their arses off for next to no money, draining themselves just so they can keep a job. They really don't want to do all that as well as clean up after you, you disgusting pigs.

      So yeah, I hate mid year toy sales. I quit not long after.

      (And seriously, nothing is on sale anyway. You can get everything cheaper online.)

        What did that actually have to do with saving money with the toy sales? This isnt Bloggspot.

    Mums are very smart shoppers. If the item really is a bargain you have to get instore 1/2 an hour before it opens otherwise its usually sold out. Except Target where the shelf is empty and the excuse is they have not received the shipment yet or its on the pallett still. Sure it is.

      That actually does happen. Customers always demand we "just get it from the back" but they don't realise the restock of pallets take a whole 8 hours overnight, not to mention the pallets can be behind multiple others out the back which would take an hour just to move them around to get to a certain one.

        I appreciate it can happen but it has happened often enough to be cynical, especially just after store opening. Customers make an effort to get to the store for an item and if its not there than you remember that. That's why I LOVE online shopping and dislike certain stores. Fellow ex Dick Smith shoppers can relate.

    How to save money on toy sales: Learn to say no to your children...

      ^ this all over

      I have gotten a few bargins from the toy sales in the form of nerf guns, but apart from that the rest of it is crap on sale. Lego is still far cheaper by buying it online, most everything else for childrens presents i make myself. Clothes are much more welcoming then a toy that will get broken.

        Kat: where are you buying your Lego from online? I've been looking around for some stuff lately, and I haven't been able to find anywhere that will a) ship it here for b) a price that doesn't make it end up more expensive.

          Barnes and noble have a lot of Lego on sale, add some coupons and you'll get some pretty cheap lego

    Kmart does price matching as well, just remember to bring the competitor's catalog.

    Something i noticed working the last few years at these sales, is that people would line up for 10-20 minutes to purchase items that were the normal price anyway. I think a lot of people come in expecting everything to be some ultra discount, but in reality it's just a large range of items at normal or moderately reduced prices. Occasionally you get really cheap things, but most of the stuff isn't that great.

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