Rounding it up
Gaming gear isn’t cheap but understanding how the market works and what you want can help you budget appropriately.
If you’re looking to invest in a gaming PC, building your own can be a way to lower costs and have fun.
Console systems are more affordable, but less customizable.
Budgeting for something doesn’t necessarily mean that you buy the most affordable option; it means planning ahead for what you’ll spend.
Gaming gear isn’t cheap, especially if you want to be able to play the newest flagship games. From rigs to monitors, input devices to streaming setups, getting yourself some hardware, even if you’re just gaming on one of the platforms, can set you back several hundred dollars. And, if you’re a PC gamer, things get even pricer; the latest and greatest video cards can often set you back nearly $1,000 CAD. Yikes.
Fortunately, you can create a budget for a new gaming setup; you might be surprised to find out that it isn’t always the cheapest option that’s best for your budget. Read on to learn a bit more about what we mean.
Scarcity & Scalping
Scarcity has been headline news in the gaming world for the last 18 months or so. Do you want the newest Playstation 5 console? Good luck! Your only chance is either sitting on a store website hitting that refresh button over and over or paying well over retail price, sometimes over $1,000 CAD for a console. Looking for an Nvidia RTX 30-series video card, widely considered the best and most cutting edge piece of computing hardware in the world? You likely can’t get it separately – many folks are now resorting to buying whole machines just for the card alone, which would set you back over $2,000.
So how is this happening? The continued value and popularity of cryptocurrencies have made high-end GPUs, or video cards, tough to come by. This is because cryptocurrencies can be “mined” by completing complex calculations that support the blockchain. These calculations require very powerful computers and GPUs. This has resulted in a massive shortage, exacerbated by the ongoing chip shortage the global economy is facing. PS5s and other platforms are tough to come by simply because of their popularity. When they were first introduced, they were snapped up immediately and resold. Manufacturers haven’t been able to get ahead of the demand, meaning the only way folks were able to get a console was to purchase them through a third-party seller, who often charged well over MSRP.
How can you get around this? In short, make a plan and be willing to compromise just a bit.
First, decide what you want
As with all purchases, it doesn’t make too much sense to go around willy nilly buying things without a plan. Sit down and really consider what you’re looking for in a gaming console or system. A few things to consider:
The major consoles will be cheaper than a PC even if you’re forced to purchase from a third-party website. Several hundred dollars compared to several thousand dollars all said and done is quite the difference
If you’re looking for something plug-and-play, right out of the box, a console is for you. If you’re a little more comfortable making updates and ensuring games work for your computer, you could consider a PC.
Some games are only available on certain platforms. Halo Infinite, for example, is only available on Xbox, whereas God of War is only available on Playstation. Similarly, you’ll never find a Mario game on any platform other than Nintendo. Know what you’re going to be able to play before swiping your card.
I want a console!
Great! This is a fairly easy budgeting process. The three consoles, MSRP, run anywhere from $300 to $500, from the Nintendo Switch to the Playstation 5. Out of the box, this gets you the console itself and one controller. You’ll have to shell out additional dollars from additional controllers (usually in the $50-$65 range) and any other peripherals you’d like. Games are also necessary and purchasing a console without a game really doesn’t make much sense. Games usually run between $20-$70 each. At the end of the day, a console starter pack (the machine, an extra controller, and a game to get you started) will run you around $500 for a Nintendo Switch and $700 for an Xbox or Playstation5.
Got it? Great! Skip that next section and head on down to the budget tips.
Nevermind, I want a PC!
Here’s where things get a little sticky. Consoles are so popular because you can plug them in practically anywhere and play games. PCs can take a bit more effort to get running but you’re able to tailor and customize them a bit more to the types of games you want to play. For example, if you want to play the latest AAA games on the market, like the popular Battlefield or Call of Duty series, you’ll need a more expensive PC with higher-end components. Interested in running a middle-of-the-road game like World of Warcraft? You can tone the machine down a bit. Love retro games? Visit the bargain bin at your local computer store and you’re square. There are two main ways to purchase a PC for gaming.
First, you can buy something ready to rock out of the box. There are a number of great websites that allow you to purchase a premade gaming computer that requires little effort or computing knowledge. Many of the hardware companies, like Dell’s Alienware line and HP’s Omen line, also offer high-end machines right out of the box. There are also several websites that allow you to customize and build your own PC. You can start with a base set of components or start completely from scratch.
Second, you can buy PC components and put your own computer together. It may sound daunting, but if you’re really into saving a few dollars and can do a little bit of homework, putting together your own machine can be fun as well as affordable. There are loads of different plans and instructions online and you can purchase components as you can afford them, spreading out the cost burden. Given today’s plug-and-play style computing, actually connecting the pieces isn’t terribly difficult but ensuring that the pieces you’ve purchased work together can get a little tricky. The possibilities really are endless, though; heck, you can even build your gaming computer into a fish tank.
Some Budgeting Tips Regardless of System
There are a few last tips to consider regardless of whether you’re buying a console or a PC. Sticking with these will help ensure you get the computer you want now and that it will last into the future.
Sales & Clearance
Find your local computer shop or big box store and head to that back corner of the store where the bargain bin is. Peruse the options and Google what you find, and you might potentially save quite a bit of cash. Retailers also often have online clearance sections that can help lower the overall cost of your computer. Gaming consoles rarely go on sale, but components and games definitely do, so keep an eye out.
Budgeting for something doesn’t mean you buy the cheapest option. It means that you plan to buy the most affordable option given the length of time you want the product to last. This may mean spending a bit more money on up-front but it will guarantee you can use the computer for gaming system for a longer time.
You’re about to make a rather large financial commitment when purchasing your PC or console, so consider purchasing insurance to go with it. There are plenty of insurance options out there and the small upfront cost may save you a whole lot of heartache in the future. Got kids or pets? Insurance is probably an even better idea for you. Check your homeowners or renters policy, as well as credit cards, for additional coverages.
Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other sites are great sources for used computer pieces and peripherals. As always, use caution when you’re buying something from the internet and ensure it works before you pick it up.
Get those points
If you’re going to be spending money on video games and systems, wouldn’t it make sense to get rewarded for it? Of course it would. The KOHO Gamer card offers 5% cash back on a number of different gaming purchases and 1% back on eating and dining. So you’re covered for your pizza and Call of Duty streaming night. Plus, you’ll get a free spending and savings account with no hidden fees. Check it out and earn cash back when you shop at retailers such as the Nintendo, Playstations, and Xbox stores.
Budget with the purchase, not for it
Budgeting and saving for a gaming PC or console is a great idea. Consider, though, that it’s just part of your overall budgeting, not the only aspect. If you’ve set aside a few hundred dollars for that new console but your car breaks down, you likely need to wait a bit longer to game. However, a good plan and budget will help you get the gaming rig you want for the long haul without having to sacrifice in other areas of your budget.
Dan is a runner and writer living in the Washington, D.C. area, where he currently works for a financial services trade association as the Communications Director.