It’s hard to come up with anything more addictive than gaming. Unfortunately, controlling flashing pixels with your thumbs is depressingly costly when you step back to evaluate all the funds you pour into your habit.
Be honest – did you spring for your giant flat screen because you wanted to see the period detail in Downton Abbey, or to get a better look at your Black Ops II loadouts? Do you opt for high-speed Internet because you get so much work done at home, or because you were sick of lag in Madden showdowns? What made you think that extra $350 that was left in your checking account late last year was better spent on a Wii U than a Roth IRA deposit?
Do you buy your Xbox 360 more unnecessary gifts than you do your significant other?
Don’t answer. It’s rhetorical. Just admit you spend too much on video games. You could save money by abandoning the pastime. Right. And you could save even more by avoiding eating. Let’s forget about such nonsense as quitting gaming and explore ways to do more of it while spending less.
1. Take advantage of GameStop‘s one-week free rental offer.
The used games giant makes so much money because too few people use it as the lending library it tries to be. Thanks to its generous return policy, you can “buy” a used game, then return it within a week for a full refund. With a little diligence, you’ll be able to power through the campaign of most any shooter within that span.
2. Sell, don’t trade
Used game stores may be helpful when it comes to selling used games, but they’re punks when it comes to buying them off you. At best you’ll get $30 in trade-in credit for a game you dropped $60 on – most often you’ll get far less than that – but you can unload the same game on Craigslist or eBay for $40 or more. Don’t sacrifice the convenience and ease of a trade-in for the lucrative action of the open market.
3. Book and game rule
This one not only lowers your gaming costs, but knocks out the guilt that tends to crop up when you spend too much time teabagging fools on Halo maps rather than making progress on your unfinished summer reading list that’s been mocking you since high school. For every game you finish, force yourself to read a book before you allow yourself to start the next one. This may make it tough to keep up with annual Assassin’s Creed releases, but at least you’ll be more productive.
4. Borrow, don’t buy
Your best investment as a gamer would be to befriend a best pal who always has to have the newest, hottest thing. When he gets bored with it, that’s when you come knocking on the door, asking to borrow it for the next few months. If you’ve got no such sucker/pal, always rent and see if you can get your fill of a game before it’s due back before you decide to double down and make a purchase.
5. Never buy new
Used games are almost always significantly cheaper than new ones, and that remains true when taking the premium price of DLC codes into account. Buy used from a reliable source, purchase the code for the extra DLC or online access straight from the company through your console and you’ll subvert the system.
6. Play the waiting game
Finish the games you have before going after new ones. I’ve never met a gamer who wasn’t plagued by a frighteningly large back catalog. Do your best to remain satisfied with what you’ve got. The longer you wait, the cheaper the latest and greatest titles that catch your eye will be.
7. Avoid the free-to-plague
The PC and smartphone scenes are loaded with games that pretend to be free, but are plagued with hidden costs meant to siphon money from your credit card with small purchases that add up the longer you keep playing. Better to part with a larger chunk of cash up front rather than submit to the death-by-a-thousand-cuts misery of microtransactions.
One last thing
Although games are sometimes good investments, most of the time their value plummets steadily in an all-out race to the value bin. With all the money you save on gaming, you’ll be able to buy Friendship is Magic DVDs at will. And maybe even something for your significant other. And by significant other, I don’t mean your PS3. Or maybe I do.
Do you have any helpful tips to make gaming more affordable?