I approach buying Legos on Bricklink like generals approach a war. Making a large purchase (as I am about to do for my Skull's Eye project) is like storming an enemy's beachhead; poor planning or execution will cost you... Dearly. Ok so I exaggerate a little bit but the point holds. With the plethora of stores hawking their plastic studded wares Bricklink can be overwhelming to those looking to pinch pennies as I am. Here is how I do it.
My Bricklink purchases are made after hours at work. No, this is not because I am trying to hide my Lego addiction from an indignant spouse (my wonderful bride is the biggest supporter of my habit God bless her!). It is because my work computer has 2 screens, and I am going to need them. I open up no fewer than 8 windows (4 per screen to start) each to the homepage of Bricklink. I then do a search for the 8 pieces that I think are going to be the most rare.
|Filling the carts|
I start with the ones I have labeled as exclusive (as per my earlier blog entry) and then move into the mid-range pieces filling in however many remaining windows I have choosing the parts based on my past experience with their exclusivity.
These become my 8 starting stores and I then search for my Wanted List in each one of them. 9 times out of 10, if I have done a good job of parsing out the pieces into the 3 categories, this will yield all of the parts I need being in the carts of these various stores. If not then I find stores that have the missing ones until I have all of the parts accounted for. Obviously the is a lot of overlap and by the time I have all the pieces accounted for my carts are swelling with repeats. Thus begins the slashing (and why I want the 2 screens). Like some sort of perverse reality show I begin eliminating repeats leaving only the most inexpensive offering for a given piece in the cart of it's respective store. Along with the cold numerical considerations there is also a certain amount of judgement which must be employed at this stage. Yes a given piece may be cheaper in store A but if that is the only piece that is cheaper and store B has that same piece for a mere few cents more then it is not worth the shipping to buy that single part from store A. Often whole stores will get eliminated for this reason because even if I can save a couple of bucks on pieces it isn't worth the 7 or 8 dollars I would have to pay in shipping. Judgement is also needed as it relates to the size of pieces. Baseplates or other large specialty parts are going to require a larger box for shipment, so packing more small parts (even if they are a bit more expensive) in with the larger ones that are going to have to be shipped in a larger box anyway can potentially save you money somewhere else. So really my technique is part science and part my gut instinct mixed with past experience.
When it is all said and done this time around I am left with items in 6 stores and the sense that I have had a mind numbing out of body experience. Bricklink does not have a lot of automated tools to assist me in my technique, I have to track which pieces are accounted for on my own as there is no online tool that lets you fill your wanted list with the cheapest option across multiple stores (at least not that I have found, if someone knows where this feature is please let me know!). At the end of one of these crusades (which can take, on a project like this, multiple hours) my head is spinning and I am always wishing I had enough money to just order from the first stores that come to the top of the list. But I have the parts I need and the supreme satisfaction of feeling like I have won a battle.
Normally, completing my orders would usher in the time that would find me bouncing around with the anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve waiting for all the parts to come in so I can build the new set. This time, however, I have a task to occupy my mind and hands: the sails.