You never need to buy a Lego set for full price.
I’m still new to the Lego scene but I’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks on how to get started building out my collection in a more affordable way. I think a lot of you reading along with Paperwave are also dabblers, so I thought it might be worthwhile to pass along what I’ve learned.
I am not some crazy coupon guy working angles to stack 30 different deals. I don’t have the time or patience for that. This is normal, pretty basic stuff that anyone can take advantage of. No need to hyper-coupon to get a few more cents off.
Lego.com Gifts and Offers
Many of my most-wanted Lego sets are Lego.com exclusives - Harry Potter Diagon Alley, Super Mario 64 Question Mark Block, and plenty more. They won’t be sold on Amazon, Walmart, or anywhere else.
The bad news: Lego.com almost never runs actual sales or discounts. The good news: There are other pretty good promos and offers to take advantage of. Here’s what you need to know:
Lego.com has a completely free program called Lego VIP. Signup just takes a couple seconds. Lego VIP gives you 5% cash back on every purchase. So if you buy Pirates of Barracuda Bay for $200 you get $10 credit toward your next purchase. It’s not much, but it’s free. Theres’s no reason not to do it.
Several times a year Lego runs double VIP point offers, where every purchase gives you 10% cash back instead. So Barracuda Bay would give you $20 credit. Unless you really need a set right away, you should always wait for double points to buy Lego.com exclusives.
Every month Lego.com also offers different free “gift with purchase” offers. The details vary, but spend over $60, over $120, or sometimes over $200, and you’ll get a smaller bonus Lego set free with your order. Every month Lego releases a calendar of that month’s free gifts and offers.
Here’s where things get interesting: these gifts-with-purchase always stay live “while supplies last,” and sometimes multiple free gifts can stack up at the same time as double VIP point offers. I took advantage of this in July when I bought Assembly Square for $280. I got $28 in credit toward a future purchase, and got two free gifts, worth about $40 should I want to resell them (which is admittedly a hassle):
There’s another way these gifts can stack. Sometimes gifts are limited to only certain Lego lines, and can then stack up depending on what you buy. An opportunity like that is live right now, in fact. Harry Potter purchases over $100 earn you one free gift, and any purchase over $120 earns you another. It isn’t double VIP points right now, but it’s still a decent time to buy something like the expensive $400 Diagon Alley set, for example:
You’d get $20 credit and two freebies. Since it’s a Lego.com exclusive the only thing to consider is whether you’d rather wait get $40 credit during a double VIP Points promo, instead of 2x free gifts.
Consider Cash Back
This is getting closer to “crazy points guy” territory, but it’s worth pointing out that most credit cards will give a blanket 1-2% cash back on every single purchase. Mine gives 1%, which isn’t great, but I can’t be hassled to open a 2%+ card.
Additionally, more and more coupon and cashback sites like Honey, Retailmenot and various Chrome extensions have been offering Lego.com cashback offers (as well as Kohls, Walmart, even Amazon - other places you might be buying Lego online).
It’s pretty simple - make a Lego.com purchase with one of these Chrome extensions installed and you’ll get the cash back directly in the form of a Paypal deposit, directly from this third party.
The bigger ones like Honey, RMN, and Rakuten/Ebates are very established and legit. I can’t vouch for the smaller ones.
You have a couple of choices with these cashback offers - set up one that has a smaller, always-on Lego.com cashback offer, like Rakuten. They give you 1.5% cashback on all Lego exclusives and 2.5% cash back on other purchases. No fuss, no muss - just set it and forget it, and get a little cashback.
Or you can bounce around between different services, to maximize your $ at the expense of your time. Hoopla is offering 4.5% cashback on Lego.com purchases right now. Retailmenot offers an eye-popping 10-15% cashback on Lego.com purchases a few times a year, which is pretty darn great if you planned on making some Lego.com purchases anyway.
(Disclaimer: I work at IGN as my day job, which is owned by the same parent company as RMN).
If you’re making a big purchase like Diagon Alley, getting $40 Lego VIP credit, getting a free gift with purchase, getting $8 back from your Credit Card and $16 back from a third party cashback offer are all very realistic “every day” scenarios that don’t require a bunch of time shopping around. If you do want to shop around, the website Cashback Monitor will tell you who has the best cashback offer active now for Lego or any other online store.
I personally just keep Rakuten installed + use a 1% cashback card. It’s lower $$, but less hassle.
Regular Lego Sales Happen All the Time
Although Lego.com exclusives basically never go on sale, for everything else, normal discounting rules apply. Amazon, Walmart, Costco, etc. almost always have some Lego sets on sale deeply enough to trump all of the store credit, free gift, and cashback offers outlined above. Especially during times of year like Black Friday.
Example: The $200 Lego Ideas Tree House isn’t actually a Lego.com exclusive. And for weeks Walmart was selling it for 15% off - $170. This is a simpler and better deal than anything available on Lego.com. This is the deal I took advantage of:
I browse the r/legodeal subreddit to monitor deals on sets I want. Some examples of active deals live as of this moment:
Lego Bonsai Tree for $40 at Walmart (20% off)
Lego Star Wars Darth Vader Helmet for $56 at Amazon (20% off)
LEGO Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Millennium Falcon for $128 at Walmart (20% off). The Honey browser extension I passive have installed also let me know they’re giving $7.04 in cash back on this specific item, for whatever reason.
Basically, the point is for almost any Lego set that isn’t a Lego.com exclusive you’re likely to find a better deal than 10% Lego.com store credit (aka double VIP points) eventually.
Kohl’s Can Get A Little Nuts (in a Good way)
Last but not least is Kohl’s, which offers best-in-class discounts on uncommon Lego sets, but can be hard to take advantage of. Here’s how it works:
Kohl’s has a program a lot like Lego VIP - get $5 in store credit for every $100 spent (5% cash back). The “catch” is that you only get these store credits credited into your account the 1st day of the following month.
Several times a year Kohl’s offers an additional $10 in “Kohl’s cash” store credit on every $50 spent (20% cash back). The catch here is that you usually only have 7-10 days after your purchase to spend this bonus cash.
What this means in practice is that you can nab a rarely (if ever) on-sale $300 Lego set like Ninjago City Gardens with an eye-popping $75 in store credit coming back to you:
A lot of the time your standard 5% Kohl’s rewards credits and your bonus 20% credits aren’t spendable at the same time. You don’t get your 5% Kohl’s Rewards until the 1st of the next month, but your 20% bonus cash has to be spent really quickly after your purchase. So it may expire before the 1st.
But right now in fact (through the end of today, Oct 31) is an example of when the store credit offers do stack up. You’ll have $15 in Kohl’s Rewards and $60 in Kohl’s Cash, both free to spend, from Nov 1 to Nov 10.
If you missed this sale don’t despair - the two offers line up about half the time and don’t line up about half the time.
One big detail: you have to have something in mind you actually want to spend this 25% store credit on. They sell kitchenware, loads of toys like Marvel, Barbie, housewares… everything, basically. So it isn’t exactly hard to find something to get. But Kohl’s specifically structures these offers knowing some people won’t spend their bonus cash. So it’s worth keeping in mind and having a plan.
Obviously, for our purposes, we want to spend this hypothetical $75 in store credit from buying City Gardens on… more Lego.
Kohl’s’ Lego selection is very good, but not comprehensive. Good targets for the $75 would be Bowser’s Airship ($100), 3-in-1 Pirate Ship ($100), Hogsmeade Village ($80), Advent Calendars ($40), etc.
One final thing to keep in mind: If you're going to spend your 25% credit back on an item that costs notably more than the value of that 25%, you’re actually getting significantly less than 25% off when all is said and done. A real-world example, from me personally:
I considered buying Ninjago City Gardens for $300, and using the $75 in Kohl’s store credit to buy Medieval Blacksmith for $150. Two really awesome sets that basically never go on sale. Saving $75 on them is pretty enticing, right?
But here’s the trick - this deal at first looks like $75 off (25% off) the $300 City Gardens. But because I actually have to spend that $75 to take advantage of it, and in my case I want to spend it on something that costs more - $150 - the final math changes.
I’d basically be spending $375 in total to get both sets, reduced from the $450 they normally cost - 16.7% off. It’s still a good deal, but not the “oh dang drop everything and buy this right now” deal it first seems to be, when it presents itself as 25% store credit back. It’s only 25% off if you spend your $75 cash on something that costs exactly $75. On Lego.com, in comparison, you’d get $45 credit and a free gift (or two) buying the same two sets.
TL;DR - Here’s How to Save Money on Lego Online
If it’s a Lego.com exclusive, wait for double VIP points to get 10% credit back. Or if you’re feeling really spicy, wait for double VIP points and 1-2 free gifts-with-purchase, which happens more often than you might think.
There are simple set-it-and-forget-it cashback cards and cashback services to get you another 2-5% of your purchase back. More if you wanna swap services around.
If it isn’t a Lego.com exclusive, the set you want stands a good chance of being 15-20% off or more in a normal retail sale, trumping any Lego.com offers.
Kohl’s can get kinda nuts and saver you money on sets you can’t save on anywhere but it can be tough to take advantage of and time correctly.
Hope all of this helped and didn’t sound too insane. Happy shopping, everyone!
Sent this to my boyfriend
Thanks for the tips! I'd love to pick up more sets (those modern city sets look great), but unfortunately don't have the space.
Worth noting that some exclusive sets do eventually get a wider distribution eventually, like the NES Lego set. If you check the fine print for the Mario 64 question block set you'll see that it will stop being exclusive some time in 2022 =D