Gaming on a budget: An exhaustive guide

Gaming is expensive, plain and simple. With the price of a new game being around $60, it’s hard to justify spending that kind of money on a new title that you really want when your budget can’t compete with it. However, with a few tips and simple methods that you can keep in mind, you’ll soon be doing some hardcore gaming with only a fraction of the cash it normally takes.

Note: When I refer to any kind of console gaming throughout this guide, I’m referring to the Xbox 360, since that’s what I use and have the most experience with. However, most of the tips that you’ll read about are easily transferable to any console.

The Number One Tip

Before I dive any deeper into this guide, the number one tip that you must remember when gaming on a budget (or doing anything on a budget) is to never pay full price for anything. If there’s one thing that you learn from this guide, I hope it’s this. There’s no reason to pay full price for something, even if it’s brand new. This might seem obvious in a way, but too many gamers will go ahead and pay $60 for a game when they easily could have gone online or waited a few weeks and bought it for less.

Find a console (or computer) for cheap

Image Credit: YuMaNuMa

First thing’s first: You need a console (or a computer) to do your gaming on. If you already have either one of these things, skip to the next section. However, if you’re just getting into gaming for the first time (either console gaming or computer gaming) and don’t have a machine where you can stick game discs into, then you’ll want to stick around.

Gaming Consoles

There are tons of places where you can buy used gaming consoles, and some of these places I cover later in this guide, but I’ll give you a quick overview. eBay, Craigslist, and even Gamestop offer used gaming consoles. You can sometimes even buy brand-new gaming consoles at a discounted price. All you really have to do is wait for a seller who’s desperate for cash that needs to sell his just-purchased console because his car broke down. I’ve seen plenty of never-been-opened Xbox 360 Kinect bundles sell for around $250 on eBay (retails for $300), and I’ve even spotted one for $200 brand new on Craigslist.

Computers

Just like gaming consoles, there are tons of places to find used computers or even used computer parts to build your own custom rig. I’ve had great luck with eBay finding used parts for my gaming rig, and I probably spent half the cash it would’ve taken to build it brand new. However, some computer builders get nervous buying used parts from random strangers on the internet. The only solution to this is to either buy from a trusted friend, or wait for a sale at a reputable e-tailer and either buy brand new, or refurbished for an even bigger discount.

Be willing to compromise

I can tell you really want to play Forza 4, and it’s old enough now that you can get it used for around $30. But do you really need Forza 4 or could you get by with Forza 3? It would still be an excellent game and you can grab it for as low as $5 on eBay or Half.com. One of the biggest things that you must do in order to game on a budget is to be willing to compromise. You probably don’t need the latest and greatest sequel that’s out, especially for a series that releases a new title every year. Go with a game in a series that’s a year or two old in order to save some major cash.

Be patient

This sort of goes along with compromising, but to save yourself a lot of dough, be willing to wait a few months or even a year before buying that new release — it allows time for the used copies of a new game to start appearing on eBay and such. I can’t even tell you how much money I could have saved if I just waited to buy Call of Duty: Black Ops once Modern Warfare 3 came out. Usually when a sequel to a game comes out, you can get the prequel for a lot cheaper.

I’ve been finding a lot of great games for under $10 on eBay and Half.com recently. Titles like Forza Motorsports 3, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, Grand Theft Auto IV, Mass Effect 2Halo 3: ODST, and Batman: Arkham Asylum all were under $10 each at various online spots and stores. Sure, they’re older games that might have lost their hype, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their appeal.

Places to find cheap games and gear

eBay

eBay is easily one the best place to get cheap used games and gear. However, the best things to buy on eBay are huge lots of stuff.  You’ve probably heard the saying that it’s much cheaper to buy in bulk, and the same concept applies for big bundles of stuff on eBay. A lot of sellers simply throw all of their games and accessories in one listing and sell it at a single price. This is what we bargain hunters refer to as a “jackpot.” It’s much cheaper to buy a ton of games at once than to buy ten or twelve single game. Plus, whatever games you don’t want out of the lot, you can simply put back on eBay to make back a few dollars.

Half.com

Half.com is another awesome place to find cheap games. However, I would only recommend it if you couldn’t wait for an eBay auction to end. Half.com allows you buy cheap games right away, but sometimes you can find it cheaper on eBay if you just wait a few days for the auction to come to a close.

Amazon Marketplace

The Amazon Marketplace is a great alternative to Half.com. Prices of used games and gear are very competitive, so if you prefer doing business the Amazon way, there’s nothing to lose. You can still find some great deals through Amazon’s offering as you would with Half.com.

Gamestop

Gamestop wouldn’t be my first choice for looking for cheap stuff, but it’s at least worth a mention. Most pre-owned games they have can usually be found for a few bucks cheaper online, so I tend not to go to Gamestop too often. However, don’t cross it off your list completely. They do have a plethora of games under $10 and even a few for as little as $3. You can even find great deals on pre-owned gaming consoles. During my last trip to Gamestop, I spotted a used Xbox 360 Slim with a wireless controller for $130.

Steam

If you’re a PC gamer, Steam is pretty much your go-to place for awesome, cheap games. They have numerous free-to-play titles, as well as tons of games under $10. You can also find crazy sales going on year-round on A-list titles, especially during the holidays.

Humble Bundle

This is also another computer-only option for budget gamers. The Humble Bundle offers an assortment of 5-8 indie games for a price that you choose. That’s right. Pay whatever you want for a bundle of games. Only thing is, the Humble Bundle comes around only a few times a year.

Craigslist

Just like Gamestop, Craigslist isn’t my first choice to look for used gaming stuff, but you can get lucky at times by finding a good seller who’s selling his gaming gear for cheap. And like I mentioned earlier, a lot of Craigslist users get desperate and need money fast. Thus, you can grab some great deals.

Garage Sales

Garage Sales are a hit or miss when it comes to used gaming gear. Actually, I should be more specific. Garage sales are a hit or miss when it comes to good-quality, used gaming gear. Sure, you might find a couple of beat-up gaming systems bundled with a few B-list games, but you’ll have to look a little harder to find the good stuff. However, when that time comes — that time when some ignorant old lady is selling all of her grandson’s unused gaming gear for really cheap — that’s when you pounce.

Auctions

Same thing goes for auctions as with garage sales. It’ll be a little bit more difficult to find the good stuff, but once you do, you’ll be the proud new owner of some awesome gaming gear that you bought for mere dollars.

Conclusion

Gaming on a budget certainly takes a little bit of effort. It’s not as easy as just going to your nearest store and simply purchasing a game off the shelves. In order to save a lot of money, you have to be patient and be willing to compromise in order to get not only the good deals, but the best deals. Hopefully this guide will help you for your future budget-gaming endeavors, and if you have any of your own tips or tricks for saving money on gaming gear, let’s hear them in the comments!