Thrifty Alternatives for American Girl Dolls

dear santa So, your little one is just longing for an American Girl doll. You’d really like to get one, but the price tag is about 5 times what you can afford this Christmas. Are you going to have to crush your child’s dream? Well, that depends.

Is your child extremely name brand conscious? If so, the only help I can offer is a suggestion to request a gently used doll through Craigslist for around $20. Then, head to the American Girl website and shop the sale page for a reduced outfit so she’ll have something brand new to open. There is usually a sale code of some kind floating around, so you should be able to at least cover shipping costs. (Or check out outfits that fit American Girl dolls on Etsy. There are some adorable clothes there!)

However, if you are shopping for a child who isn’t fixated on name brands, you can find very similar dolls on sale in the $20 price range. They will fit American Girl clothes, including the matching outfits for dolls and girls. (There are many other similar doll lines out there, but they seemed to be almost as expensive as American Girl dolls and I’m trying for thrifty here!)

target our generation doll At Target, we found a really nice line of Our Generation dolls. They are on sale in stores this week for $19.99 and on the website for $21.99. In person, they were cute enough that my mom ended up buying one for a five year old little girl who’s requested an American Girl doll who looked like her. (If you’re planning to buy crackers and cookies for school lunches anyway, you may want to hit the grocery section first for the buy 5 selected Keebler products, get a $5 gift card sale and then use the $5 gift card to pay for your doll.)

At Toys “R” Us, we found an 18″ Madame Alexander doll line for $29.99 that looked very nice. We actually preferred it, but decided that the child my mom was shopping for would prefer the Our Generation dolls, which came with more accessories to start. These very nice looking dolls are on sale this week for $24.99.

Do you have any thrifty tips for little girls with American Girl wish lists? I’m assuming the desire to own one will spread like the plague on Christmas morning when the other girls see this one’s doll. One thing I am planning is to start sewing some outfits for the doll for a birthday gift. (and maybe at least one matching outfit for her new “mama” as well.) I did this when my sister wanted an American Girl doll when she was little. My home ec teacher was quite impressed because I turned in two pieces for one assignment. I bet I even have the patterns somewhere…In fact, I just found free patterns to download online!

Doll photo courtesy of

Dear Santa photo courtesy of Steve Woods

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    • JL

      I love this blog and I’m a thrifty girl, but this idea is so incredibly awful. There’s nothing worse than when your parents gets you the generic version of the gift you want. I still remember my cheap mother doing that, and I always threw away the generic toys. Just cut some other stuff from your budget and get the damn doll. Wow.

    • Katelyn Thomas

      Unfortunately, in the current economy, the only things many parents have left to cut from their budgets is food, shelter, or clothing. There simply isn’t an extra hundred in their budgets for a single toy.

    • karen

      wow jl, you must have been a joy….threw your toys away? would have been the last toy i bought you, that’s for sure.
      i agree katelyn…with the economy the way it is some parents out there have nothing left to cut.

    • J

      Hi Katelyn,
      I first received the American Girl Catalog when I was 10 in 1990. Back then it was still owned by the Pleasant Company. My first reaction was complete embarrassment. After all, I was 10, a Baby-Sitters’ Club fanatic and I certainly didn’t need poorly crafted generic dolls to peak my interest in stale easy-reader books. But then I got the the back of the catalog and read Pleasant T. Rowland’s letter. I went to embarrassment to wonder in ten seconds. That woman conveyed so many wonderful things about history and girlhood and beauty.

      And now that the company is owned by Mattel, I just have to wonder what’s left? All I see now are the poorly crafted generic dolls and stale easy reader books that so greatly embarrassed my 10 year old self. It’s sort of like the junk version is all we have left.

      So . . . I think in the spirit of what the Pleasant Company used to stand for, searching out higher quality/better value books and dolls is more true to the original intent than the current brand name. Just make sure that you talk to your daughters about the way that dolls and doll-play connect all young girls throughout history and heirlooms-quality is conferred through care and love for your most treasured possessions not by brand name or expense.

      That’s what the original intention was.

      Merry Belated Christmas.

    • Margie

      My niece wants an American Girl doll for her birthday. My brother has been out of work for a year. He was laid off last christmas with a new baby and a new house to pay for. I actually think that this has taught all the kids that they don’t need top quality things. She was looking through my LTC Commodities catalog the other day and came across dolls that are the same size and look exactly the same as American Girl Dolls. I told her I would get her one. She is really excited and can’t wait to get her doll. She told that it was okay that she get a ‘almost american girl doll’. she actually told the girl next door that she was getting an ‘almost american girl doll’ and got the girl (who has 4 AMG dolls of her own) all excited about them. She understands whats important. It brought tears to my eyes and I have since thought about getting her the REAL American Girl Doll but this doll means so much more now. I have went out and got her some real clothes to go with the doll. I am so proud of my niece. Its not about the money with her! So If anyone is looking, these dolls from LTD Commodities are great looking! the ‘almost’ American Girl Dolls.

      • Diane

        I have a question. I am considering buying an 18″ doll form LTD, do the original American Girl clothes fit this doll? Thanks for your reply!

    • Julie

      I grew up loving American Girl Dolls but never had one because they were too expensive. My best advice is to buy a used a one and fix it up like new. I bought five of them off craigslist very cheaply and proceeded to spend a few days washing, ironing, scrubbing, steaming wig and recurling, and rebraiding wigs with amazing results. There are many online resources available telling you how to restore an American Girl Doll. The cheap versions are simply not the same in the eyes of a kid. With a little patience and elbow grease you can really bring an old used doll back to life!

    • Emma

      I have two girls that would love American Girl Dolls for Christmas. However, on principal I refuse to buy them. It is rediculous that kids think that they need $100 toys to make them happy. I feel my kids need to be thankful for what they get and if an expensive toy is that important to them then they need to work for it. I will be buying the afore mentioned dolls from Toys r us for them and they will not even know the difference because it is not a big deal in our family. We down play any brands and up play gratitude. That is the real meaning of Christmas!

    • Michelle

      Just wanted to share that the Our Generation dolls have AWFUL hair. The one I bought for Christmas was wadded up in a big knot by February.

      The Tuesday Morning store often sells Gotz dolls (Gotz is the original maker of the American Girl dolls) for $30. MUCH better quality. Their 18″ Precious Day dolls are the same size/shape as the American Girls and the Maxi Muffins are the same size as the Bitty Twins. My daughter has had her Muffin for 7 years, since she was 2, and she is still in wonderful shape. You can even machine wash the Gotz dolls!

      The Our Generation accessories are fun though. I prefer their horses to AG. Be forewarned the shoes are plastic though and not always a good fit. Long sleeved clothing also does not always fit AG (or Goetz)because the Target dolls have a bit smaller hands.

    • Katelyn

      I’m going to have to check into the Gotz dolls. They sound really nice. So far, a year after my mom first bought the Target doll for the child she was shopping for, its hair still looks nice. However, I don’t think this little girl is into doing hair and it looks like she never took the original braids out. I remember redoing my dolls’ hair first thing when I got them so I suspect she doesn’t play with her dolls as hard as most little girls do.

    • Candy

      I have been looking into these type of dolls for my niece. She is at the right age now that she would take care of something like this. However, when I went looking at the AG dolls website and seen the dolls I decided against those dolls at least. I cannot imagine anyone spending the kind of money people do for those dolls. They are not any cuter (the teeth in fact are downright scary), and they certainly are not made any better than some of the alternatives out there.

      In looking at many forums talking about it you get someone that insists you need to buy AG dolls because kids would somehow be mortified at having a “generic” doll. I have a few suggestions for these parents. First, maybe if your kids were not spoiled brats they would know that they are fortunate to even have a doll at all. Secondly, maybe if you as a parent were not so brand conscious your kids wouldn’t even care. Thirdly, I hope your kids eventually outgrow your example of constantly having to have the most expensive “brand” of something to be happy or they are going to join the throngs of in debt consumers out there that never learned to be happy with less. Yes, these “premier lifestyle” dolls are a great example to set to kids…. not.

      • Ruthie

        Geez. A bit bitter, aren’t you? My daughter has two AG dolls and she is NOT a spoiled brat. She is an extremely loving, caring and respectful 8-year-old who helps out around the house, never talks back, does well in school and is very generous and loving. Just because I buy her American Girl dolls does not mean she’s spoiled. If you don’t want to buy one, fine. but don’t critisize those who chose to do so. And unless you have actually held one, you can’t appreciate the quality. They are a WORLD better than generic versions and they will continue to have value for years to come. I would much rather spend money on a doll that’s going to last through her childhood and into her children’s childhood than have to buy a piece of junk that will most likely need replacing down the road even before she outgrows it. I could care less what kind of doll someone else buys their child so why do you care so much? You sound like a judgmental busybody to me. Stop critisizing others for the choices they make. Every girl who has an American Girl doll isn’t spoiled. Actually, every girl that I know who has one is NOT spoiled and I know quite a few. I am not even rich like you probably think I am. I am lower middle class. I worked overtime to buy both dolls and some accessories, one for last Christmas and one for her birthday and I just used a bonus from work to buy AG accessories and clothes for this Christmas. And yes, I spent a LOT for her AG stuff this Christmas – over $300 – and I don’t mind a bit. My daughter came to me after the earthquake in Haiti and wanted me to send them her piggy bank full of pennies and the few dollars she had in her little purse. My child is NOT spoiled because I buy her nice things and I have no problem buying a child who would do this an American Girl Doll. I am sorry, but people like you make me mad. Stop critisizing other people that you don’t even know.

    • justicewilks

      ALTHOUGH i’m 10,i still have a hard time finding clothes for my doll
      she’s a B.F.C INK doll and i have the black girl with
      the cute glasses.but i manage to find some things around the house
      to make her a coat or something like that… please reply!
      by justicewilks
      colombus oh,

    • Cleo

      The American Girl dolls are definitely overpriced but worse is that they are just not that pretty. I like the Kathleen McKenzie doll and the Violet Travilla doll from the now defunct A Life of Faith product line. I am haunting ebay because these dolls can be had for much cheaper if you are willing to wait.

    • Alisha

      Wow, I honestly think that some of you that are acting holier-than-thou are more clueless than some of the poster INSISTING that they have to be American Girl dolls. Let me explain something. Offering your child a knock-off doll might work, but ONLY if they haven’t been exposed to American Girl that much prior. I didn’t get my first American Girl doll until I was 16. But up until then, my life was saturated with American Girl catalogues, their books (which were actually pretty exciting even if it’s at a grade-school level), and of course the incredible movies with those darling child stars. I looked through an American Girl catalogue the first time many years ago when there were five dolls and American Girl Today hadn’t been conceived. I became obsessed with them. Barbies and the like couldn’t compare for me, and I would’ve been ticked if given a knockoff doll. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t an ungrateful child. I knew we were kind of poor, and I was thankful for everything I received. But I knew what I wanted, and I explained to my family that I’d rather hold out for a true AG doll (especially before Mattel bought them and the quality was higher–gotta love German dollmakers!) than try to be content with something that, even now, I know I’d never want. I appreciated quality then and I appreciate it now, especially now that I’m an old lady (okay, almost 21 years old) that requires it even more now as her dolls will mainly be models for 18″ doll clothes that she’ll be making. I mean, have any of you seen the hair/faces of a lot of the Our Generation dolls??!! Scary! It doesn’t matter how beautiful or well-made the clothes are, the doll in them can make all the difference. Not that I wouldn’t make clothes for someone that wants them for their Our Generation dolls, but you get my point, right?

      Back to Kirsten, my doll. I received her when I was 16, from my grandfather, who unwittingly picked her up at a garage sale, not knowing what American Girl was, and definitely didn’t know what I was talking about when I called him in excitement after I’d realized what he found. Still have her, in still pretty good condition since I haven’t touched her much. It’s mainly her hair that’s the problem. But now that my interest in dolls has been renewed, I found a great article about how to restore hair, so hopefully I’ll have her recognizable in no time!

      I’m starting to like the A Life of Faith line more even though it’s no longer manufactured and harder to find, since the quality of the products are noticably better and they aren’t retiring characters left and right (which was the real pet peeve of AG for me). I’d love to find out if you’ve been fruitful in your search, Cleo, but I doubt I’ll be back. But I would still like a few more AG dolls! They were and for the most part, are still a great brand, no matter what the fundies say about them (see Girls Inc. incident). I can see why a girl would want them, so if you’re a bit tight on cash, do as suggested and find a fixer-upper. Not one that’s extremely out of shape, but one like mine that might need the hair fixed and the skin wiped down with a baby wipe. If you’re very broke and are determined to get your daughter a doll, then yes, go ahead and purchase an alternative. Chances are she’ll be very thankful for it because she’s aware that it’s all you could afford. But if you know you can afford it and just refuse to buy it on “principle” (people that try to push their principles on their kids by denying them treats are usually hypocrites anyway, indulging themselves but not their loved ones), then all you’re doing is cutting corners, and yes, your child knows it! If you’re determined to teach your child thankfulness, get a cheaper doll and encourage them that if they take good care of her, you might be willing to fund half of an American Girl’s price, or get a gently used AG doll for them to clean up and that’ll teach them hard work anyway. I know it’s teaching me that! There’s a difference between thriftiness and cutting corners, and I personally believe that getting cheaper doll after cheaper doll as opposed to one pricey doll that’ll last a long time just isn’t thrifty. I’d feel more thankful for a few quality toys as opposed to many cheap third-party toys.

    • Momof3

      One of the bonuses of an AG Doll is that they can be played with online as well. It’s only with new dolls.

    • Deborah

      I totally agree with JL. I would much rather have one quality gift (ie..American Girl Doll) than some cheap version whose hair is so thin you can see the colored scalp that matches the dolls hair.

      • Bon Toy

        It’s very exiting to find your web site.
        Aw, this is a really quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done.

      • Riley

        I totally understand what you mean; however, Madame Alexander is certainly not cheap (quality-wise and occasionally price) and extremely adorable as well as creative.

    • randi

      Does anyone know if the BFC Ink Doll Clothes from Target fit American Girl Dolls?

    • wrenyk

      for nice clothes that fit your budget….go to Joanne’s or Michael’s they have nice outfits that price around $5 each, depending on where you live

    • Riley

      If you really want an American Girl doll, i highly recommend Ebay; although my mother took my sister and I to the American Girl Place countless times, buying us each a doll each time. Anyway, a lot of people, such as myself, no longer want to keep their dolls and consequently sell them – with clothes – for a shockingly low price. I have, however, kept one doll, my favorite one. I don’t know her name. Anyway, before you do anything, do check Ebay if the child specifically requests an American Girl doll. Although I can’t speak for others, I took remarkable care of my dolls, even at age three, and I assure you that they look(ed) brand new.

    • Mersera

      If you want a really good alternative to American Girl dolls, then buy a Springfield doll. They’re not that high in quality, but they’re cheap and beautiful! You could get them at Michael’s and Jo-Ann or you can order them online. Each doll costs $20 and sometimes they reach 10-15 dollars during sales! It’s not like I am advertising for them or something like that, but I am recommending them for people who cannot afford AG dolls. Their hair, unlike American Girl dolls, is rooted. There are some bald spots when you style their hair but it’s fine if your little one doesn’t care about the doll’s hair. If it’s for a girl who is picky about how a doll looks like, then just buy a used American Girl doll from Craigslist or Ebay and send it to the American Girl doll hospital. They’ll fix it for you and send it back just as if it is new. Another great alternative to a high quality doll is Madame Alexander. They don’t seem to have rooted hair but rather wigged hair. Although they might be a bit over your budget, they’re worth buying. They start at $59.95 and you could buy them online. To be honest, one of the best dolls that I found online is the Gotz doll. They look very beautiful and have thick hair. They cost 85.49 dollars per doll but I believe that they’re worth it.

      Some more good alternatives that I am too lazy to review: Corolle (you can find them on amazon), Today’s Girl, Harmony Girls, Journey Girls, Maplelea, Our Generation, and more!

    • Mandy

      i know wat u mean my parents are the same way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • justicewilks

      actualy yes they are i’m 10 and i love
      them!00() so girls that still like dolls,
      well that just shows that there is at least
      alittle inasence in the world.

    • justicewilks

      and what was the …not about
      oh,wow by justicewilks