Some dollar-store items, such as toys and power cords, just aren't worth buying despite their super-cheap prices.
Games and Puzzles
What's not to like about cheap games and puzzles? They never go out of style, they teach kids about fairness and losing gracefully, and they provide hours of interactive fun. Two of this season's hot new games for boys and girls are Lego's Creationary (starting at $30), a Pictionary offshoot that requires players to build objects with Lego bricks, rather than draw them, and Mattel's Loopz (starting at $30), an electronic Simon Says-style game. These two are priced slightly above our Cheapism cheap games niche, but are worth knowing about. If you prefer to stay within the cheap games segment, however, you'll find plenty of alternatives that retail at half the price and are just as engaging.
Cheap Games and Puzzles Buying Guide
The makers of the award-winning cheap word game Bananagrams (starting at $15) introduced two cheap games for girls and boys in 2010: Appletters (starting at $12) and Pairs in Pears (starting at $12), both of which introduce young spellers to Scrabble-like strategy. Milton Bradley's updated Connect 4 x 4 sells for a starting price of $17, but the original Connect 4 is available for as little as $7.
Board games and puzzles are an excellent way to introduce concepts of fair play and strategy to children. Cheap games help them experience winning and losing in a non-threatening environment that just happens to be fun, as well. And, as we found during our in-person toys reviews, cheap games are a particularly good choice for children with siblings because most are appropriate for a wide range of ages. Spot It, a favorite of our child testers, appealed not only to our 7-year-old tester, but to her 9-year-old sister, 4-year-old brother, and even her mom and dad. (See our full review and video review.) Bananagrams, Appletters, and Pairs in Pears also have cognitive value; as one parent points out in a toys review on Epinions, these cheap toys for boys and girls can help youngsters with word-building and spelling.
See also our full review of Scrambled States of America, an educational game.
Cheap games are often quite durable, and we didn't notice any negative comments in toys reviews about how our choices hold up. Perhaps the only significant downside to cheap games for girls and boys is that they can't be played alone. If the intended recipient prefers to play on her or his own, or doesn't have siblings or lots of play dates, a cheap game may not be the best choice.Back to top »
Under the right circumstances, an allowance can be a learning tool for kids, but how much is right for your child?
After the holiday extravaganza, take our February challenge and make this month a no-buy month. Purchase only the bare necessities and soon you'll see the savings grow.