You don't NEED any more LEGO
If you ever find yourself thinking Do I need this set in my collection? the answer is No. However, the question of Should I still buy it? isn't as clear-cut.
Yes, I'm a LEGO YouTuber who wants to convince you to buy less LEGO. The irony is not lost on me here.
Need, in the sense of, have to have in order to survive, cannot be used for LEGO. The bricks aren't a necessity, they are a luxury item. Therefore any LEGO set you want is exactly that - a want, not a need.
Having wants is fine. You are allowed to want things. Should you act on these wants? It depends. I'll try to summarize on what it depends in Claire's guide to economical LEGO buying.
Claire's Guide to Economical LEGO Buying
If you have practically unlimited funds and storage space, feel free to stop reading and go buy whatever you want. For all the rest of us, here are some questions I like to ask myself before I buy a set.
1. Why do I even want this? Is there a specific part I want, do I like the set because I love the movie or do I want it simply because the hype for it is trough the roof?
The LEGO community can sometimes be overly enthusiastic about either new sets that are going to come out or retired sets that now only resellers have in stock. Your life isn't going to dramatically change for the better if you buy any of them. They will only lead you to wanting more and an empty bank account.
If you're only on the hype train, admit it to yourself and get off. If it's something else, keep asking questions.
2. Can I buy only the interesting parts? Sometimes, you only want that minidoll or that opalescent goodness. There are cheaper and better space saving methods to get only the desired specifics. Bricklink and Bricks and Pieces (not available everywhere, the link is to the German branch; others might require some searching) are the ones I use the most.
Bricklink sellers are located all over the globe selling individual LEGO pieces as well as sets
Recently, I was collecting a sample of each color LEGO has currently in use and the only representative of Satin Trans-Bright Green was a LEGO Vidiyo shoulder pad. The set was expensive and otherwise uninteresting for me. On Bricks and Pieces I was able to get 3 of them for under 2 € total.
Did I make a Bricks and Pieces order just for this part? You'll never know.
3. Am I buying the parts for a MoC? Do you know exactly what you want to build and when you're going to have time to build it? Are the colors going to go together? For sure?
I once bought 400 € worth of Reddish Brown bricks. I wanted to build an underground Fairyland. And a fairy tree. Lots of fairy related stuff. What I didn't do is check if the colors I wanted to use are going to work together. And then it turned out they didn't. I had to abandon the project and the bricks are just hogging space.
An unsuccessful attempt at creating an underground Fairyland
Be smarter than me. Check everything and, if you need to abandon ship on a project, do it before ordering.
4. Can I afford it? This one should be obvious, but it's also crazy important so I'll still mention it. Regardless of if you're looking for a whole set or just a few pieces, keep your finances in mind.
There was a time in my life when I couldn't write off LEGO sets as a business expense and I didn't know Bricklink existed. The LEGO Friends debuted and I wanted all of them. I couldn't afford all of them. Instead, I set a new goal - get one minidoll of each of the main Friends. I created a table, with a little help of Brickset, of what girls are in which set and how much do the sets cost. I calculated the cheapest way to collect the 5 minidolls and bought only those sets. Mission accomplished.
LEGO Friends sets from 2012 on Brickset
5. Can somebody else get it for me? Use those birthdays to your advantage. Friends and family members can each get you a smaller set, or pool the money to get you a bigger one together.
My achievement with the LEGO Friends minidolls brought me much joy and a lesson. Namely, soon my friends and family caught on to my little obsession and got me a set for every gift-giving occasion. That expanded my collection significantly and made me realize I could have outsourced all of the set getting from the beginning. You save money and get only the presents you want. Win-win.
All 2021 LEGO Friends minidolls that I collected throughout the years
6. Can I get it cheaper? You'll probably be able to buy a recently released set in a few months with a discount. Following discounts at multiple stores in your area will help with this. In Germany, we have a website Brickmerge that shows you where a particular set is available and at which price. You might have something similar where you live. Google will help you with this search.
Older sets are trickier to get ahold of. You might be able to find them in boxes of LEGO that people sell for cheap when they no longer know how to have fun. These listings may pop up on Ebay or any other local marketplace. A word of caution: the sets are often missing parts and the ones that are there can be damaged.
7. Where will I put it? This question is the most overlooked one. I regularly forget it. Where are you going to place the built set? On the shelf over there? The one that's already full?
Sure you can squeeze in a couple more bricks, but do you really want to? There is a point of set density at which a shelf stops being "Nice!" and starts being "Oh, so you collect LEGO. You most definitely have a lot." Just in case you missed it - that was not a compliment.
A shelf that theoretically could, but shouldn't hold any more sets
Don't buy things you have no room for. And I mean that in general. I struggle with this point the most and my answer so far was mostly to move to a bigger apartment. That is no longer an option. I will need to get rid of some things before I'm allowed to buy anything new.
Right after I build this beauty.
Elsa, why do you tempt me so much?
The point of these questions is to help you filter out the sets you really want and can realistically afford. And to then be satisfied with what you have. I've developed them the hard way and I'm sharing them with you so you can take the easier way. One that doesn't lead to a life full of regrets and a house full of stuff you don't need.