Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Frugal Gamer: An Oxymoron?

I saw an article recently that talked about the incredibly high price tag that comes from being a gamer. Quite frankly, I found their estimates to be completely ridiculous (not to mention some of their "must haves" are acknowledged by most gamers to be a complete waste of money), but it got me thinking... there are a lot of things we do (we meaning my husband and I) to meet our wants without totally slaughtering our budget. Potential blog post material!

So, I figured I'd go through a few of them partly in case anyone is interested and partly because I'm interested.

Warning: this is rather lengthy.

When we first got married, we owned a PS2 and some games (part of Nathan's contribution). About 3 months later, he really, really wanted an XBox 360. Enter rule #1: never pay full price. So Nathan scoured the interwebs and found a decent deal for an XBox 360 Arcade (Arcade versions had a tiny hard drive but were otherwise pretty much the same as the regular consoles). We evaluated our budget and decided we could afford one on sale, but I knew that the problem was not the system itself - it was all the accessories and games that go with it. So we made a deal. We could buy the XBox 360, but only if Nathan didn't buy games at full price. (I may have set a limit of how many per month too, I can't really remember.)

Enter rule #2: use Goozex. Goozex is a game trading site. Essentially, Nathan took all of his PS2 games that he never played anymore and traded them online to people who did want them. Each game was assigned a point value, and then you could use those points towards other games. Point value is based off of how new the game is, how often it has been traded, how much demand there is for it, and factors like that. The minimum point value is equivalent to $5, which is honestly better trade-in value than you'll get at most stores like Gamestop for old games. Because he had so many PS2 games to get rid of, he built up a horde of points, which he then used to get pretty much every game he wanted systematically. He requests a game, plays through it, and then usually trades it back within a month or so (sometimes longer, depending on the game and how much free time he has). The points go back into his horde, and everyone's happy. He even gets relatively new games (within the first month of release) if he puts a request in right when it becomes available.

He still does this, too. It has literally saved us hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. I kid you not: he has received 162 games and sent out 167. If we had bought each of those new for $60 a pop (standard new game price), that would have cost us $9720. Now granted, we never would have bought some of them at all, and many of them we would not have bought at full price, but the fact remains: that's a lot of money saved.

On the rare occasions we do buy new games (Portal 2 and Skyrim being the latest examples), we still don't pay full price in the end. Both those games gave at least $10 back in Amazon credit for preordering. Others, like Mass Effect 2, we got within weeks of release on sale (that one was $40 on Ebay literally the same week it came out). Point being: even if you absolutely must have this game right this very second, you can still be a savvy shopper and find deals that save you money. A lot of those deals are online, but you can find them in stores too if you keep a sharp eye out. And if you prioritize your wants to only buy the most coveted and longed for items new, it's a lot easier on your budget than if you throw down $60 every time you see a game that might be worth owning. (Let's be honest. Most of them aren't that cool.)

Gamestop is another great resource. They have a 7 day return policy, so if you find a game that you're not sure you will like, you can buy it, play it, and return it if it sucks. They also occasionally have sales that are buy two get one free (an okay deal) or when they get really desperate to clean out their inventory, buy one get two free (they did that with all music games in December; we got Guitar Hero Metallica, GH Warriors of Rock, and GH 5 for under $20).

There are so many other little ways to save money too: if you want XBox Live Gold, buy it on sale; buy Microsoft points on sale; buy refurbished controllers instead of new ones (don't buy used controllers from Gamestop though, they don't last as long); scour craigslist or your local want ads for deals (if you live in Utah, KSL has a great database); watch for sales on XBLA games instead of paying full price... there are more, I'm sure. Nathan uses this forum as a primary resource for finding deals, because they have whole threads dedicated to great gaming-related deals.

I almost forgot rule #3, which is if you want to upgrade, set a price goal for how much more you're willing to spend. For example, we got a 27 inch TV as a wedding gift. It was a great TV, and it met our needs quite well. But when we got Rock Band, Nathan was itching for a bigger one. So I told him we could upgrade if he could sell ours and buy a new one for $50 or less out of pocket. Using KSL, he found a 37 inch TV in Salt Lake that was the exact price he wanted, met my challenge, and upgraded. It took a month or so of searching, but it was worth it.

Another thing to consider is this: what other "fun" expenses are you willing to give up to get what you want? We don't have cable. We will probably never pay for cable. For us, video games fill the same type of need that TV does for other people. If money is tight, what other expenses can you cut so that you can meet your wants without going into debt?

I guess the point of all this is, if you have a hobby or a passion, regardless of what it is, you don't have to spend tons of money to get it. There is (almost) always a way to fulfill those wants and still be financially savvy.

What are some ways you are frugal with your hobbies?


  1. Great tips Bec! We never pay full price for games either but that's probably due to the fact that we usually only buy games once a year the day after Thanksgiving. We enjoy our games though we're not big gamers. The kids are starting to get into it more though so that may change. We DO however love us a good tv show. We have never paid for tv/cable/etc. at all and only bought our first tv within the past 8 months. It was a super sweet deal and, considering that they took forever to set up the install, they upgraded our mounting system for free. We pay about 7-8 dollars a month for Netflix, watch the basic tv channels that are free, and hook up our laptop to our tv if we want to watch shows online.

  2. It seems to me that the writers of that article titled it incorrectly. It should have been "The Real Cost of Not Having Self Restraint, and Always Paying Full Price for Everything". I have a high-end gaming PC and I paid roughly half of the price that they listed for the PC, and it's likely that my computer is significantly more powerful than the one they list.

    You're right, it is quite easy to stay within budget if you put any effort at all into it.