The only way I can justify the expensive hobby that is videogaming is to know that I’ve edged out the absolute best cost/value ratio possible on every purchase I make. In fact, some days, doing so might even be more of a hobby than actually playing the games, but that’s another story.
What follows are my golden rules for gaming on the cheap, but first a definition of terms: I use new to refer to packaged, never played games, not recently released games. For tips on playing hot-off-the-press games, you’ll have to hold your horses. Speaking of which…
Rule #1: Patience.
While being one of the most impatient people I know, when it comes to a deal I can wait forever. Frugal people know patience is a virtue, because prices invariably drop. If you aren’t patient, and haven’t already stopped reading, you may as well do so now, since essentially everything that follows requires it in spades. Patience is the cardinal rule of budget gaming - without it, you will only get games cheaper, not cheaply.
Rule #2: Find the sweet spot.
Some games, like some books and records, eventually go out of print, and it is possible to watch a game disappear from the market while waiting for the price to drop. The absolute lowest price for an item before it becomes discontinued and subsequently practically impossible to find is the sweet spot. There is a sweet spot for pretty much any durable good, but it can vary. Sometimes the sweet spot can be so good that it feels like the item is paying you to buy it. Other times, the sweet spot becomes a compromise when you find yourself paying a little more than you feel the object might be worth, because you know it might not last long enough on store shelves to survive another price cut. For example, a few weeks after I bought my limited edition red Xbox 360, the price of the Elite dropped another 30$. I paid a premium for an item that was already difficult to find, but since I know I found the sweet spot, I can live with that. Once you know how to find it, the sweet spot will help you get the absolute best price on everything from clothes and books to consumer electronics and even groceries.
Rule #3: The 20$ mark.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but I will very rarely pay more than 20$ for a game. In fact, I can count the number of games that cost me more than 20$ on one hand alone. This isn’t an arbitrary number, of course. When it comes to gaming, 20$ is the most easily identifiable and mostly universal sweet spot. Sure, there are less expensive games, but most popular, good quality games don’t drop very far below the 20$ mark, which is why it represents my buy-in. Additionally, I wait for the most complete edition of the game in question to hit either the sweet spot, or the 20$ mark before I buy in. Which brings me to…
Part II, which will be posted right here next Tuesday, so stay tuned!