Build-a-Bear and the Frugal Fail

One thing I know about my child is that she is reward-driven….sometimes. Once she sets her mind on something she really wants she can be inspired to change. And, clever mom that I am, I can use that to my advantage to get her behavior to change.

My daughter had finally stopped needing GoodNights to sleep in, and she really wanted a trip to Build-a-Bear Workshop. I figured getting rid of a $30 a month expense was worth a little reward.

If you haven’t been to a Build-a-Bear Workshop, it’s an experience, especially for a little kid.

You pick an unstuffed animal that you think you would enjoy as a stuffed one. You then get it stuffed. You can customize your critter so that it plays songs or has a heartbeat or makes another noise. You can pick out clothes or other accessories for it. You can even make it smell like strawberry or banana candy.

Once you’ve customized and stuffed your bear, you fill out a birth certificate and your grown up pays for him…generally about half again to twice as much as they would for a similar critter elsewhere. But it’s your bear. It wouldn’t exist without you, and it wouldn’t be exactly the same. Everyone knows custom jobs are more expensive.

I knew the basics of Build-a-Bear, so I agreed that once she had slept in regular underwear for at least a month, we’d go. I was willing to pay a month’s worth of GoodNights for a lifetime of not needing them.

Last week, Little Bit got to cash in.

Naive Mom goes to Build-a-Bear

I really tried to be smart about Build-a-Bear, but I made some silly mistakes.

The first mistake was not scouting out the store. I had no idea what the cost would be, but figured that I could manage with a budget of $40. A quick trip to the store or even the website would have told me that $40 would cover a basic Build-a-Bear with one sound or one outfit, but that there was a lot of room to go up from there. The animal alone can cost more than that, depending on what the kid picks.

With my $40 budget in mind, I went on Swagbucks and shopped gift cards so that I could at least get something back on what I was going to spend.. I had a choice between a $25 card and a $50 card and picked up the smaller. (Should have bitten the bullet and bought the larger.)

I forgot to go look for a coupon first, too, despite having read regular warnings on Clever Dude that there’s almost always a coupon available if you look hard enough. Sure enough, a quick search later found “Save $15 when you spend $50.”

Ooops. Admittedly, the coupon would not have covered the Honey Girls that Little Bit immediately drifted towards. With coupon in hand, though, I feel certain I could have reoriented Little Bit to a different critter.

I had plenty of time to make these moves. I just didn’t do them.

So, naive mom and hyped up kid went into Build-a-Bear. Mom was grimacing at the noise and chaos of the mall, and Little Bit was happily chattering away when we went into a store packed with kids, moms and grandmas. Little Bit picked up 3 or 4 before finding the Honey Girls, a stuffed girl rock band. She was in love.

The Honey Girls were $28 for 1 or $35 for $2.

Little Bit looked at me. “Mommm, please can I get 2? I really want the blue one and the purple kitty.”

Sigh. Budget, bye. I notched my expected expense up. “You may have to spend some of your own money if you want to get an outfit.”


Little Bit noticed kids and parents huddled around a couple of booths.

“That’s where you can get a noise or song for your critters. It looks like the songs cost $6-$8. You can either get noises or you can get outfits for your bears, because we only have so much money.” I knew which one she’d pick.

“Outfits!” I have to say she accepted the fact that there were limits to what we were going to spend easily and and without complaint.

I had no idea what the outfits were going to cost. The ones she picked out were $13.50. I let her get one, and a $7 tshirt for her other bear, with the understanding that Little Bit would give me the $12 she had saved for the last two weeks. Those Honey Girls had to look fierce!

The final tally at the cash resister was $59.50, two thirds AGAIN what I had budgeted for the trip. Little Bit seemed happy enough to kick in for her new friends, but a little research and forethought would have saved us some money. I went in to the store with no advance information and no plan, and it cost us.

A Valid Reward, Despite the Frugal Fail

I will say letting my kid help stuff her bears and watching her go through the ritual of activating the little cloth heart and spirit stars to insert in her critters was very cool. (We decided the purple kitty would be “creative” and the blue bear would be “fearless.”) Little Bit’s eyes got big. You could see the maternal pride shine in my little girl as she brought her new toys to life.

She loves her new pals. They’ve even displaced the stuffed koala that’s shared her bed since she was a baby.

And she’s motivated. She asked me when she can go to Build-a-Bear again. I’ve told her that since Build-a-Bear is expensive, we can only go for really big reasons. If she wants to go again, she’ll have to…stop sucking her thumb. (visions of the permanent teeth coming in and braces!)

When she came home, she had her dad wrap her thumb up in Scotch tape. She’s never seriously tried to not suck her thumb, but that experience has her locked on to a goal again.

If we’re lucky, she’ll stay on target and decide that another trip to Build-a-Bear is worth growing up a little. I hope, with that in mind, there will be a next time.

But next time, I’ll be smarter. I’ll check the internet for coupons first. I’ll check the prices online and have a more reasonable budget based on actual real facts and not random speculations.

Next time, there will be no frugal fail.


6 Responses to “Build-a-Bear and the Frugal Fail”
  1. Miss Thrifty 03/28/2016
    • Emily Jividen 03/28/2016
    • Emily Jividen 03/29/2016
    • Emily Jividen 03/29/2016

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