Things I've Found in the Past Week for About $11 Total
If you're a Nerfer on a budget, then the cheapest way for you to build up a collection outside of someone just giving you blasters is through thrifting. It is possible to get blasters for a fraction of a price they'd go for in retail stores. This is a general guide to make thrifting easier for everyone.
First, you need to understand the hidden cost to thrifting; gas. In essence, you pay your gas cost for the chance to get something for cheap. With gas prices where they are, a thrift store only 15 minutes away could cost $1-2 per trip. That doesn't sound like much, but if you go every day for a week, that's possibly $10 you're spending just for the chance to find something. Finding a Nitefinder for $1 doesn't seem so great when you spent $10 to get it.
Costs are relative, however, and there are plenty of ways you can cut yours down. The best way is to find a grouping of thrift stores. Hitting multiple thrift stores within a five mile radius of each other not only increases your chances of finding something, it also decreases the relative cost of gas to go to each one.
Finding a grouping can be tough and there may not be one all that close to where you live. In that case, plan to visit your grouping when other errands take you to the area. Making a five mile detour while your already out is cheaper than driving the 20 miles it would take to drive out there and back.
When you find your grouping and visit it for the first time, you may want to consider rating your thrift stores. You may find that your grouping consists of too many thrift stores than your time would allow, or they may be spread out intermittently over a large area. In any case, you'll probably want to rule out some thrift stores and skip them on your next run. Some things to consider are:
How large is the Toy Section?
Almost every thrift store has a section for toys and you can judge the relative probability of finding something based on how much space they devote to them. Thrifting is a numbers game at its core and the more stuff that comes through, the greater chance there is that some of it is Nerf.
Have you had Success Before?
While not necessarily a great indicator, finding something once means that the store definitely does get those kinds of donations. I have two Goodwills near me; both get about the same number of donations, but one almost always has something while the other rarely has anything.
Is it Close to the Others?
You might find that in your grouping, there is one store that is further away from the others or that it's located in a place that makes it awkward to get to. You might decide to skip it totally or maybe just to go less frequently.
Remember, just because you haven't found anything doesn't mean they won't get anything and just because you found something once doesn't mean that they'll always have something. Again, thrifting is a numbers game; you can stack the probabilities in your favor, but at the end of the day it's mostly dumb luck.