If you’re a gaming enthusiast, you may find that the costs of your favorite activity add up quickly. As technology and equipment become more sophisticated, gamers’ expectations rise, as does the expense of bringing new products to market.
The ever-increasing cost of gaming can be particularly challenging for budget gamers who need to watch what they spend. However, don’t despair if you’re one of the many gaming fans who are trying to rein in their spending.
You can enjoy gaming without breaking the bank if you know some insider secrets. Here are nine tips every budget gamer should know, to have their cake and eat it too.
While you may want to rush out and buy everything on your gaming wish list, this is rarely a sound plan. Instead, do your research on those items first. This can save you from making costly mistakes and buying gear you don’t really need.
The most important research you can conduct is reading reviews of any product you’re thinking of buying. Don’t just read magazine write-ups, though, especially if the product being reviewed may be paying for the advertising.
Read evaluations by consumers just like yourself. You can find these on gaming sites that sell games and systems, on Amazon.com, and gaming chat boards. Don’t forget about social media too (more on that below).
Of course, another great way to research games and equipment is to try them out yourself. If you have a friend who is a gamer, you may be able to test stuff first-hand, before committing.
You can also rent games and gear before you buy them, which is a newer trend in gaming. This is an ideal route if you’re looking at an expensive purchase. Think of it like test-driving a car before plunking down big money for it.
Renting games these days is as easy as renting a movie from Netflix. Multiple streaming services will let you use a game temporarily for a small fee or subscription.
You can also rent physical games from Redbox, which has movie rental kiosks in storefronts across the U.S. Redbox is ideal if you have a PS4, Xbox One, or Xbox 360 console system.
The same businesses that offer rent-to-own furniture and electronics often also rent video game systems. While you may pay more in total, this method may be best for you if cash flow is a problem. You don’t have to wait to save for a system and can buy it a little at a time.
If you want to try a console system for the weekend to see if you like it before taking the permanent plunge, check out party stores. Many of these shops rent consoles on a short-term basis. You’ll pay to experiment, but it may save you from making a bad purchase in the long run.
Gaming is one of those activities where new games and systems are coming out all the time. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and feel like you have to buy every new hot thing.
However, there are advantages to waiting about six months before buying the latest release. There will inevitably be bugs or complaints about certain products when they initially hit the shelves. Additionally, the price may drop a bit once a game or console has been out for a while.
By holding back for a few months you can see if the item is free of issues. Did you know there’s even a Reddit sub devoted to gamers who like to patiently wait to play a new game?
Other options for saving money include:
Shopping online generally yields a bigger selection and lower prices than brick-and-mortar places. Nevertheless, it’s wise to check out all your options and ask about upcoming sales before buying.
Have you ever been to a sporting event that was a complete blowout without much competition? Not much fun, was it? Buying a game that you can eviscerate in a week feels kind of similar.
If you purchase a game that’s too easy, you’ll just get bored with it soon. Guess what: your buddies aren’t going to want to play it with you then either.
Sometimes gaming on a budget isn’t about buying the cheapest product. It may be better to buy a pricier item you can use for a long time, just like a classic suit or a leather sofa.
When purchasing a new game, be sure to consider certain factors, like skill required, the number of levels or features to unlock, scene or player variety. You want to have somewhere to go over time, and you want it to stay challenging (think Candy Crush).
Finally, consider if the manufacturer has announced that they will be releasing upgrades or adding levels in the future. That way you can count on new elements once you reach the top of an existing game.
To be honest, do you have a cabinet full of old games and gear you no longer use? Turn that stuff into cash for new gaming supplies by selling it. You’d be surprised at how many things you find uninteresting are like gold to another gamer.
Let’s talk about computers and systems for a moment. Aside from the value to gaming newbies, those machines are vital for people who repair and refurbish equipment. They may want to cannibalize your gear for parts, and you’ll still get money for it.
“If you haven’t played it, it’s new to you.” That’s the mantra for games, which, like movies and TV shows, are a novelty to those who haven’t tried them before.
Make a list of everything you’re not using, even broken stuff. Now go online or ask your gaming friends what it might be worth. Then, hold a sale or offer it up on Craigslist to the highest bidder and put the proceeds towards new items.
Other places to get rid of unused games and gear include:
You’ll be happy you cleaned out your gaming room once you have more money and space for new products. Put the money you earn from selling your gear in a designated account or home bank and don’t spend it yet. (See Create a Budget, below.)
As you get more into gaming, it’s a good idea to develop a relationship with gaming retailers. If you have a local gaming store, be sure to chat with the owner or manager. They may be able to tell you when there’s a sale, a news release, or someone looking to sell a coveted product.
You can establish a rapport with big-box retailers too. Join loyalty programs, look for coupons and rebates, and ask about layaway plans. Don’t forget about store cards either. You may be able to get discounts, rewards, and cash back that way.
Do you really want to get in with gaming retailers? Take a job with one. Even if you already have a nine-to-five career, a side job may give you a deep discount on merchandise. Plus, you’ll know before everyone else when there are sales and new promotions.
When applying for a job at a mom-and-pop gaming store, you need to stress your gaming experience, helpfulness, and reliability. You’ll need those skills with a big-box store too. In addition, let them see how you can deal with crowds, inventory programs, cash registers, and employee management.
Your gaming system may depend on a few factors. If you like to game with friends in your rec room, or if you have kids gaming too, you probably have a gaming console. You’re likely to be familiar with a popular console brand, like Nintendo, PlayStation, or Xbox.
However, if you tend to enjoy sophisticated solo games, sequestering yourself from your household, you may have—or want—a PC system. PC gaming also gives you better graphics, more games, and lets you upgrade your hardware whenever you like.
Gaming consoles may be easier to use out of the box, but they’re essentially obsolete once you buy them. They can’t be upgraded or improved as a PC system can, and those little annual fees for multiplayer console use can add up.
While gaming consoles may seem like a good buy for budget gamers, remember the advice above. Sometimes it’s better to pay more for something you’ll use longer and can grow with. That might mean a PC for you.
Unless you need your gaming PC for a host of other functions, you’re better off looking for a desktop or laptop exclusively for gaming. Use your mobile device for checking email and surfing social media.
Why dedicate a PC solely to gaming? You’ll be able to put your money into components and features that enhance your gaming. And you won’t be paying for bells and whistles you don’t need.
You can set up your PC system however you like, focusing on speed and graphics. You can also configure your accessories, such as the mouse and keyboard, specifically for gaming as opposed to regular computer use.
You’re probably worried that a gaming PC will cost you a fortune, but it doesn’t have to. Many gamers upgrade their systems every year or so. You could get a secondhand, one-year-old PC for a bargain if you keep an eye on ads and your local computer shop.
You can also build your own, although it will take a bit more patience and know-how. If you’re concerned this will run into thousands, fear not. You can build a solid gaming PC for about $750.
If you’re new to gaming and/or trying to figure out how to game on a budget, break out your social skills. You don’t have to join an “in-person” gaming group, although that’s a great resource. Likewise, conventions, clubs, and get-togethers with friends are beneficial.
However, many gamers find gaming appeals to them precisely because they aren’t the most extroverted folk. If that sounds like you, there are plenty of online venues where you can learn about budget gaming.
The first place to look is dedicated chat forums for gamers. Simply search under “gaming forums” or terms more specific to your niche. You can also find many articles that review gaming sites and forums, and aggregate lists for you.
Certain social media platforms lend themselves better to gaming discussions than others, however, they can all yield fantastic resources if you know how to search.
For example, you’d think Twitter, with its quick “tweets”, wouldn’t be appropriate for gaming chat. But if you search by hashtag (the “#” sign), you can find everyone on the site who is talking about “#gaming.”
You may also find designated chat times on Twitter. For an hour or so, everyone following a certain hashtag exchanges ideas, pics, and links. These hashtag chats can be the perfect way to find accounts to follow and attract more followers of your own.
Facebook has become huge lately, and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. That’s where Facebook “groups” come in. These are usually private online “clubs” of people with the same interest, including gaming.
You may have to apply for acceptance to some groups and read the rules for each group carefully. Some don’t allow commercial links of any kind, but others are ideal for selling and swapping gear.
Reddit is particularly well organized for gaming discussions, and there are tons of gaming subs there already. If you don’t find what you like, you can create your own subreddit to focus on your unique area of interest.
Like Facebook groups, Reddit subs have rules, so check them out before posting. Many Reddit subs allow both video and text posts, so you can get ultra-specific with screenshots and game footage. This is especially valuable if you are looking for assistance.
Reddit is also home to hundreds of computer-related subs. If you’re searching for help buying gear or configuring your own system, you can get lots of free advice there. In fact, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole and emerge hours later, so keep an eye on your Reddit clock.
You might think Pinterest is just another Instagram with pretty pictures for travel and fashion buffs. Think again. Pinterest has a powerful search function, which lets you drill down any topic.
Many Pinterest “pins” are linked to informative articles. In a few minutes, you can set up an account, find gamers to follow, and pin gaming how-tos. You’ll also find inspiration there for setting up a gaming room, storing gear, and displaying collectibles.
Pinterest also has group boards, which you can apply to or be invited to join. If you don’t see the group board for you, you can start your own and ask others to participate.
Want more free and detailed answers about specific gaming questions? Head over to Quora, which originated as a Q & A site for Silicon Valley. You can get the information you need from experienced gamers and also answer questions yourself to help other budget gamers.
Now that you’ve read all the tips above, it’s time to put them into action. But before you spend a dime, you want to create a gaming budget that you can adhere to.
After assessing your current gear and your wish list, figure out what you need in the way of “capital purchases,” or big-ticket items like systems. Next, make a list of games and accessories you’d like to buy.
Now take a look at what you can spend on these items. Is there a shortfall? If so, you need to cover it one way or another.
If your day job allows you to save a little regularly, you can create a gaming account and put money away. While you could store it in a coffee can at home, it may be better to put it straight into a savings account. Try not to dip into that account until you reach your goal.
If saving isn’t possible with your current income, consider a side hustle. Lots of people do this to support their hobbies, from rebuilding cars to collecting antiques.
You’ve already read about getting work at a place that sells gaming products, which is ideal. But any second job will do, whether related to gaming or not.
If you have your heart set on a gaming gig and there aren’t any shops hiring near you, it’s time to get creative. Can you repair gaming computers? How about writing gaming reviews or testing games for extra cash?
You probably won’t make big money doing this, at least not right away. But if you can make some extra “cha-ching,” it can’t hurt to try. Being a budget gamer is all about using your smarts to do what you love in a way you can afford.
Marcus has a graduate degree in computer engineering and has many years of experience in cutting-edge technology research and development in both startups and Fortune 500 corporations. In his free time, he enjoys RTS gaming.
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