Top 10 Tips for Shopping for Toys Online This Christmas

Shopping for your children at Christmas isn’t always about buying the most popular new toy. Here are 10 tips that will help you find the perfect gift for your kids this Christmas.

10 tips for shopping for toys online

Shopping for Toys Online Saves Time and Money if You Use These 10 Tips:

Shopping for your children at Christmas isn’t always about buying the most popular new toy. Here are 10 tips for shopping for toys online that you might not have thought about that will help you find the perfect gift for your kids this Christmas…

1) Buy the Hottest Toys Early

It is always good to start your Christmas shopping as early as possible (unless you are waiting for some big sales – see below). This is even more important when it involves shopping for toys online.

Regrettably, some toys end up being so hot and sought-after that they are completely sold out long before Christmas. Even worse, when you do find them in stock, they may only be available from third party sellers who have purchased the toys early and raised the prices to ridiculous levels, because they know that you will pay anything to get that “must-have” toy.

We know you don’t want to disappoint your kids, so start your shopping as early as possible and as soon as you know what they really want. If they have not given you clear directions, we have some suggestions that will help you make an educated guess about what they might like(see below). Change your mind? No problem, as long as the store you’re shopping at has a good returns policy.

Another benefit of starting early when shopping for toys online is that your gifts will get delivered on time. If you wait until the last minute, you’ll be at the mercy of harried store employees – and delivery services – to ship them on time.  This means more monitoring on your part, and higher prices as well. Shopping for toys online as early as possible also means you can take advantage of bargains, resting assured that everything will arrive before Christmas day. Although next-day delivery is often available, it isn’t always available and you may find yourself facing a backlog of up to a few weeks.

2) Use Lists of Hot Selling Holiday Toys for Inspiration

If you’re shopping for your own child, you probably already know exactly what they want. But if you want to give them a surprise, or if you’re buying for children who don’t know that they want, then the holiday hot lists are a good place to start.

What exactly is a “holiday hot list”? It is a forecast published by a number of retailers on what toys they expect to be most popular this year. At least part of a holiday hot list is wishful thinking, because they want to sell you the hottest toys! But it’s also based on what’s currently popular with kids. While these hot lists usually showcase some really expensive toys, they also usually include some economical toys also. Take a look and get some inspiration from these lists before you go shopping for toys online this Christmas. A good place to start is with our reviews of new toys for Christmas 2014.

3) Shop Sensibly

It’s always important to shop sensibly no matter what you’re shopping for toys online. In the case of hot Christmas toys, you might have exercise even more caution than usual. Here are a few tips:

  • Always check the MSRP before buying from a third party seller. It is not unreasonable to pay more when toys go out of stock, but sometimes the prices are jacked up beyond all reason.
  • If you must buy from a third party seller, only buy from websites with buyer protection in place (e.g. Amazon and eBay).
  • Only buy collectibles from trusted merchants to be sure they have not been opened or their collectibility compromised.
  • Always check reviews of any retailer if you’ve never bought anything from them before.
  • Never enter credit card information on a website that is not secure. Once in the shopping cart, you can see if the URL in your browser starts with “https://” – or shows a lock icon (see the image below for PayPal).
  • Read the reviews of the particular toys when shopping for toys online – some might fall apart quickly and lead to disappointment. Also check the manufacturer’s warranty information, if any. This is all the more reason to purchase only from a reliable retailer with a good return policy.

4) Shop Around and Compare Deals

If you want to save money, it isn’t necessary to buy everything from one store. Shopping for toys online means you don’t waste any time or gas running from store to store. Amazon might have the best prices on one toy, and then Toys R Us might have better prices on another. Do your own comparisons!

The good news is that there are a number of comparison sites and reviews sites that will do the hard work for you, and give you an automated list of where to go to get the best prices.

When comparing prices, don’t forget the shipping charges. Some sites offer free shipping when your order equals a certain dollar amount (usually $25). For smaller orders, shipping costs may be as much as the price of the toy. Expedited shipping can also be very expensive.  Be careful! 

5) Ship in Plain Packaging

When you have found the perfect gift for your child, there is nothing like the feeling you have when you see the expression on their face when they open it! That’s why you want to know in advance if your gift will be shipped in its original packaging. The surprise will be ruined if there is an image or name of the product on the box!

Most online retailers, such as Amazon, will ship items in the proverbial “plain brown wrapper.” Parents will also sometimes warn you in the reviews if package reveals too much. And, if you’re still in doubt, simply give the retailer a call to inquire if they ship in the original box. Another option is to pay a little extra to have the gift delivered already wrapped. This is an excellent choice for a last minute gift, or for parents who are very busy. The retailer will wrap the gift in a the paper of your choice and add a gift tag. The only problem with this is that you won’t be able to check it for any defects when it’s delivered.

6) Get the Best Deals on Shipping

If possible, when shopping for toys online try to buy from places that offer free shipping when you order a certain amount. Delivery prices can really add up if you’re not careful, so this will save you money right away. For people who do a lot of online shopping, Amazon Prime is a good deal for $99 a year.

Some retailers even offer free returns under certain circumstances, and you won’t have to pay the postage costs if something must be returned. This is especially reassuring when you are buying gifts for kids, since you never can tell when they will hate what you bought them.

7) Time Your Shopping for the Best Deals

Although it’s always a good idea to shop for toys early, particularly if there is a concern that they could sell out,  you might want to wait in order to time your shopping for the best deals. Here’s a guide to the best sales periods in the run-up to Christmas Day for shopping for toys online.

Halloween – Early November: This is an excellent time to shop if you’re organized. The retailers are already thinking about Christmas, even if nobody else is! There are many sales running for those who are ready to take advantage. It is well worth paying close attention to sale flyers and ads to see if something you’re interested in goes on sale.

Black Friday/ Cyber Monday: The biggest shopping days before Christmas come right after Thanksgiving. Traditionally,  Black Friday was the day after Thanksgiving, and only applied to brick and mortar stores. But now, some stores have deep “doorbuster” discounts on Thanksgiving Day (or even before!) for those who shop online. If you are willing to shop in the middle of the night, you can score some amazing sale prices!  Online retailers have their own “Cyber Monday”. Amazon, for example, has a number of “lightning deals” – huge discounts on select items for very short periods of time. You have to keep checking back online throughout the day, but it’s well worth it when shopping for toys online if you can save a lot of money.

A Few Days Before Christmas: In recent years retailers have been starting their post-Christmas sales before Christmas, and many last-minute shoppers have found amazing bargains in the last couple of  days before Christmas. This doesn’t usually apply to the hottest toys, which are all sold out before then, so we don’t recommend waiting in case you find a bargain. But you never know when some store clerk will unearth a coveted toy that was hidden on a shelf all season and slash the price to get rid of it before Christmas..

8) Test the Toy Before Christmas

To avoid disappointment when your kids open their gifts on Christmas day, open the gifts up beforehand yourself to make sure everything is working properly.

If adult assembly is required, you may want to make sure all the parts are included in the box. You might even want to assemble the toy yourself before Christmas Day. For an electronic toy, grab your batteries and make sure everything is working properly.

We admit this last one is a real chore, but isn’t it worth taking a few minutes – or even a lot of minutes – to check beforehand to avoid a lot of tears afterwards? Shop early enough to send an item back and get a replacement or refund if it doesn’t work.

9) Confirm the Returns Policy

Sometimes we are dead wrong when guessing what kind of gift our children want, so when shopping for toys online it’s important that you buy from a store that has a good returns policy.

If a toy is defective, all the stores will take it back, but they might not do so if you’re simply returning it because your child doesn’t like it. Most of the well-known retailers have liberal returns policies in place around Christmas time, often extending the returns period until well after Christmas. Third party sellers, on the other hand, often won’t accept any returns at all.

10) Batteries Not Included – or are they?

Dont forget to stock up on batteries for the big day! There’s nothing more frustrating for a child than to open their favorite gift but to realize the batteries are not included. Don’t wait and expect to go out on Christmas Day to buy some. That is one of the few days when just about every store is closed.

If batteries are included with any electronic toys you buy, make sure they work. Batteries that are used for “Try Me” features in the store may be dead by the time you get the toy wrapped and it waits under the tree for a while. Rechargeable batteries should be charged in advance. Sometimes these take hours, and you want your kids to be able to play with their toys right away!

Don’t Panic!

You can find just the right toys for your kids AND save time and money by shopping for toys online. We hope these shopping tips will help you navigate the busy Christmas season.

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