Rounding it up
The best tip? Save your money to ensure you can buy the hardware and software you really want.
Consoles can be a bit cheaper, but if you go with a PC, you’ll be able to control exactly what goes into your gaming system.
Watch out for microtransactions; these can add up, so pay attention to costs and budget for these as well.
Set a budget and make a plan to purchase your gaming console.
It can be tough to play the latest and greatest video games nowadays. If you’re into console games, it can be next to impossible to find a system unless you’re willing to pay well over retail price. The Playstation 5 is going for nearly $800 as of this writing, $300 more than its MSRP. If you’re more into PC games, things aren’t much brighter. The computing power needed to produce high-end graphics and laser fast gameplay is monumental and, you guess it, monumentally expensive.
So what is a budget-minded gamer to do? You can still have a great time playing games without breaking the bank. Let’s take a look at a few of the best tips for gaming on a budget.
It kind of goes without saying but if you’re a little bit low in the money department, you may want to stop and think about budgeting in general before you try to game on any budget. A good budget should include your income, expenses, and savings for both a rainy day and retirement. It should also include any unfixed costs you have each month, such as money to go out to eat or for groceries. If, after you’ve accounted for all of that, you have some money left over, a nice expenditure could be a gaming system of some kind. If you don’t have the money right away, put aside the leftover each month to save up for the system you want.
Is PC your game? Make some compromises
Maybe you don’t like consoles. You’re part of the r/PCMasterrace subreddit. You wouldn’t dare put your hands on a controller; a keyboard and mouse are all the tools you need. Does this sound like you? Fair enough! You’ve selected, however, one of the most expensive ways to get into gaming. In order to play the latest and greatest AAA games, like Battlefield 2042 or Call of Duty, on their highest settings, you’ll need a pretty darn zippy machine. And that makes gaming on a budget slightly more difficult.
There are a few things you can do to remain budget-conscious and get yourself a great rig. First, make some compromises on components. Yes, it’d be great to have the hottest video card on the market, but they can cost nearly $1,000. Instead, get a GPU that’s just a few levels down for a few hundred dollars. You’ll enjoy similar performance for far less money.
Additionally, consider building your own PC entirely. By doing so, you’ll be able to purchase components as you can and will save a lot of the upcharge that a store or computer company may pass on. Finally, keep an eye out for sales on games. Popular video game platforms like Steam or Epic offer sales all the time on a variety of different titles. You won’t find the latest and greatest games this way, but you’ll be able to get quite a few of the older ones on your wishlist.
Consoles instead? Switch it up
Console gaming is slightly cheaper than PC gaming, but at the end of the day, only by a bit. Let’s say you enjoy playing your Xbox with several friends. Not only are you talking about purchasing the console, but now you need controllers for each player, plus the games you want to play. You can quickly get into the same realm as PCs, shelling out near $1,000 to get started. If you’re just looking for something to pass the time and have some fun, consider Nintendo’s Switch. It starts about $100 cheaper than its Sony and Microsoft competitors and the games tend to be slightly less expensive. Moreover, the console comes with two controllers built right in and you can take it on the go!
Consider other games
One of the most frustrating parts of gaming on either a console or a PC is purchasing games. It can be hard to stomach shelling out several hundred or thousand dollars for a new gaming system only to then have to spend another $60 to get just a single game that you want to play. Consider instead getting some older, but well-reviewed games to get you started. If you enjoy shooters or sports games, consider getting the previous generation or year. Doing this will save you lots of money and get you started.
Watch out for microtransactions
Free-to-play is only present because of microtransactions that are now seemingly built into nearly every game we play. Even games that aren’t free, like the newest Halo installment, have microtransactions that allow you to purchase different armor customizations. These purchases are often made with an in-game currency which makes it difficult to understand how much you’re spending. If these purchases are important to you, be sure to include them in your budget. If you really need a hand controlling these small expenditures, consider using prepaid cards, like those from KOHO that allow you to deposit a set amount of money each month, insead of a credit card.
If you find that you’re purchasing lots of in-game items and not really wanting to do so or spending more than you intend, consider switching off microtransactions altogether.
Need streaming gear? Price shop
Are you even really gaming if you’re not streaming it? It seems like anyone, playing everything, from Call of Duty to Solitaire, streams their action to sites like Twitch. Whether you’re planning on making money or just streaming for fun, the gear you need to be successful can, in many cases, be more expensive than the PC or console itself. First, make sure you’re realistic about what you’re doing. If you’re hoping to make money on a stream, you may need some higher-end equipment. If you’re just looking to have fun, save yourself a few dollars and buy some cheaper, or used gear. Additionally, whatever you decide, be sure to price shop and compare products across different websites and stores.
Clearances and Sales
Stores have sales here and there but the digital platforms have lots of them. Be sure to check out places like Steam or the Epic store for what’s available for a nice discount. In addition to having titles on sale all year, these stores also have seasonal blowout sales where it’s possible to realize some fairly huge savings. Be sure to plan ahead as well; if you see a game on sale that you might want to play later, consider purchasing.
If you can’t afford a console or PC, cloud gaming may be your answer. Here, all you need is a computer (any computer will do and even a tablet can work) and a reliable, fairly fast internet connection. Your game will stream through a client as you play, much like a movie streams to your computer while you watch. This area of the video game world is still in its infancy so there are hiccups. However, most major companies, including Microsoft, Sony, and NVIDIA offer cloud gaming services.
Stick with it
This can be hard to do. There’s nothing more difficult than seeing a bunch of friends raving about a certain game that you can’t afford or run on your computer. You may want to head out and immediately get the hardware necessary to run it. But you shouldn’t. Sticking with your budget plan will help ensure that you are able to continue gaming at all.
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.