I found an old Toys “R” Us gift card while cleaning, and was happy to discover that it still had 59 bucks left on it. I hope the card enjoyed those eight months under our microwave.
This left me with three options. One, I could save it until the Christmas season, when I’m due to blow hundreds of dollars on gifts anyway. Two, I could put it towards one extravagant item that I wouldn’t be able to afford without a 59 dollar assist. Three, I could immediately drive to TRU and blow it all on goofy crap.
An easy decision. Let’s go on a shopping spree!
My TRU visits are usually fruitless. I’ll go in, look around, want stuff, but ultimately leave empty-handed, confident that groceries and rent are more important than a few extra Ninja Turtles.
By contrast, a gift card shopping spree is an open invitation to be six years old. Even so, fifty bucks doesn’t go as far as it used to, and if I wanted an overstuffed shopping bag that fired on every cylinder, I had to play it smart. I had to be choosy.
The hardest part was keeping track of my total. These days, almost nothing in TRU wears a price sticker. I had to continually run back to that little scanning-zapping-thing for mental math. (The reason this became a $55 shopping spree rather than a $59 shopping spree was my own paranoia. I didn’t want to spend one cent of my own money, so at the last second, I removed the big bag of Peanut M&M’s. As it turned out, I could’ve bought them and still been under my limit. Damn.)
I didn’t just stick with my usual three aisles. I covered every inch of that place, looking for sales and clearances. (And also Sea-Monkeys, which are now so well-hidden that an entire game show could be forged around challenging contestants to find them in TRU.)
The results are below. I wasn’t just aiming for cool stuff, but a variety of it.
NECA Gremlins Figures!
Price: $13.99 each
Almost half of my funds went to this pair of Gremlins figures, from NECA. Newer additions to their series of Mogwais, I think I’ve finally accepted that I was born to own all of them. Pound for pound, there are no figures I enjoy more than these.
Gary was my first choice, because, simply put, I NEEDED Gary. An all-white fuzzball who betrays his inner devil with a mean brow, Gary never appeared in any movie, but was rather based on concept art from Gremlins 2.
After placing Gary in my cart and wandering the store for another 30 minutes, I realized that no other option was better than two Mogwais. So I threw Patches in there, too. She strikes me as a female, and like Penny before her, it’s another Mogwai that I just can’t picture as being evil.
TRU used to carry the entire Sea-Monkeys collection. Last time I checked, there was practically a whole aisle devoted to overpriced tank kits, with themes ranging from meteors to miniature golf. Not sure what happened, but this was all they had left.
It’s the smallest Sea-Monkeys kit available, but that’s okay — it’s the one I was after, anyway. Finding it was tough! No longer having dedicated space for Sea-Monkeys stuff, I eventually found the kit hiding behind weird craft sets that let kids build sparkly bee bracelets out of something approximating clay.
I haven’t opened it yet. Since the kit doesn’t come with a plastic tank, I first need to decide which drinking glass will never be used again. My Pac-Man glass is currently in the lead, because I think it’ll be interesting to watch tiny shrimp parade across the frosted glass version of Pac’s first level.
Star Wars Lightsaber Ice Pops & Razzles!
Price: $2.99 + $1.99
I grew up treating green and red Fla-Vor-Ices as lightsabers, so officially pairing them with Star Wars seems only natural. These are already in my freezer, and the box is already half-empty. I can confirm that “Dark Side Punch” is the best in the box, both for its flavor and because eating one makes me look like I can kill anything.
The Razzles were a bit overpriced — all TRU candy is — but as I find myself with so few opportunities to chew Razzles, all of them must be explored. If you’ve forgotten the magic of Razzles, they’re hard candies that transform into gum after you bite them a few times.
Proper way to eat Razzles: Get through four or five pieces quick, so you have a big wad of gum going. Then, each additional Razzle should be enveloped within that wad before you continue chewing. This makes the newly-added Razzles distribute their flavors in measured bursts, which extends your enjoyment and gives you a chance to treat bubble gum like Play-Doh.
Nature World Animal Figures!
Price: $2.00 each
If you haven’t been to TRU in a while, most stores now have “cheap junk bins” somewhere near the front. It’s similar to what Target does with their dollar bins. This is where you’ll discover the most garbage and the best treasures. The prices rarely exceed $3, and nowhere else in TRU will you find plastic animals laying on top of Silly Putty laying on top of Genericastic brand markers.
I selected two dinosaurs and a lion. In a rare case of lions being more interesting than dinosaurs, note how the poorly painted nose accidentally suggests a big lion mustache. (Also digging those Audrey II teeth!)
I’m gonna work with the theory that these figures are to scale. There’s no way a 13 foot mutant super lion isn’t the king of his jungle.
Crashlings are basically Trash Pack figures with an outer space theme. They don’t look to be quite as creative as the Trash Pack characters, but this is made up for by the fact that they arrive inside plastic comets.
This set was on clearance for four bucks. Even at that price, I was still paying a dollar per figure. How much more was this set originally? I think TRU only uses “clearance” to denote things they’d rather not have in their stores anymore. It doesn’t necessarily mean “severely reduced prices.”
Crayola Crayons 24 Pack!
Sure, I already own hundreds of crayons, but none of them are fresh, and there’s nothing better than fresh crayons. Whenever I buy a new box of Crayola crayons, I imagine my feelings are similar to how real artists get when they buy new canvases. Suddenly, I’m so inspired.
I can’t wait to color evil robot seagulls attacking the Lost Boys boardwalk.
Total spent: $54.09. (And there’s still enough left on the card for two more packs of Razzles!)
When I got home and spread everything out on the floor, it was just stuff, but the thrill was in the hunt. How could I appeal to every part of me on a 55 dollar budget? The answer could only be pieced together after combing through every aisle ten times over. Not until every security guard in TRU had me on watch would I know for sure.
If you have a gift card — even one for a different store — give this game a shot. It’ll turn a nothing day into a something day. If you’re lucky, you’ll spend the night crayoning badass robots while sucking down cherry lightsabers. Life will be good, at least for a while.