Smart Gaming: Tips for Maximizing Fun and Minimizing Cost

As a lifelong gamer, I’ve always been passionate about chasing that next high score, beating that final boss, or exploring the vast landscapes of a new open-world title. However, I found myself confronted by a boss fight I hadn’t expected – the menacing specter of a rapidly dwindling bank balance. It seemed the price tags on the latest games, consoles, and equipment were leveling up faster than my character in a RPG. And, like a poorly planned speedrun, I was often left feeling under-equipped and out of pocket. And this has been compounded by the squeeze on the cost of living across the world.

I realized that to get back in the game, I needed to strategize. So, I went on a quest, not unlike looting for legendary gear, to uncover the best ways to game more and spend less. The result? This ultimate guide to frugal gaming, a map filled with cheat codes to make your gaming life better and more affordable.

In this epic journey, we’ll raid the dungeons of:

  • Setting a monthly gaming budget
  • Buying used games and hardware
  • Staying a console generation behind
  • Optimizing your PC gaming performance
  • Delving into the realms of retro gaming and free-to-play titles
  • Leveraging your back catalogue and borrowing games from friends
  • Picking cost-efficient hardware and waiting for sales
  • Building a gaming PC with mid-tier components
  • Avoiding in-game purchases and games that are pay-to-win
  • Managing your digital accounts and considering cloud gaming
  • Optimizing your internet connection for gaming.
  • And even more tips and tricks to save you money.

Just like any epic quest, it’s not about the destination, but the journey. So, press start and let’s embark on this adventure together to unlock the achievements of being a frugal gamer!

1. Set Yourself a Monthly Gaming Budget

Like managing mana in a complex boss fight, you need to balance your in-game and real-life resources. Setting a gaming budget can help you avoid spending all your hard-earned gold coins in one place.

  • Understand the importance of budgeting for gaming. Just like you wouldn’t blindly walk into a boss fight without a strategy, don’t go into gaming without a financial plan.
  • Set a reasonable gaming budget, one that fits your overall financial situation. It’s a balancing act, similar to managing your in-game inventory.
  • Use tools like Mint, YNAB, or a spreadsheet to track your gaming expenses. Think of these tools as your companion NPCs, guiding you through the murky fog of financial management.

Setting a budget is the single most important thing you can do to save money on your gaming. By creating a hard limit on your game spending, you know exactly how much your gaming is costing you per month, and you can adjust that budget accordingly.

2. Buy Used Games

Hunting for used games is like searching for hidden loot in an open-world game. It’s an adventure in itself, with treasures waiting for you.

  • Purchasing used games is a practical and budget-friendly strategy. It’s like playing an RPG, where you choose the most cost-efficient gear to get through.
  • Platforms like eBay and Cheap Ass Gamer are excellent places to start your search. They’re the in-game merchants offering you the best deals.
  • Always inspect the game’s condition, its case, and any potential region locks. It’s like checking an item’s stats before adding it to your inventory.

3. Buy Used Hardware

Buying used hardware is a smart strategy, akin to picking up a second-hand magical artifact with its own storied past.

  • Used gaming hardware can be a cost-effective option, similar to using a well-crafted piece of equipment that’s already seen a few battles.
  • Pay attention to the specs, overall condition, and the return policy when buying used hardware. It’s like planning your build in a strategy game.
  • Websites like eBay and Craigslist offer a plethora of options. Just like the expansive markets in MMOs, you can find everything you need if you search wisely.

I never buy games new if I buy the physical edition. I usually use websites like eBay to find absolute gaming bargains. For example, I recently bought Mario Tennis for the Switch on eBay. If I wanted to buy this game digitally, it would have cost me £50. If I wanted to buy it new physically, the cheapest I found on Amazon was £40. But I managed to grab a copy for £20 on eBay.

Now I know £20 is still a lot of money. But Mario games tend to hold their price. And by buying the game for £20, I made a saving of 60%!

4. Avoid Buying the Latest Hardware

Just as a new weapon isn’t always the best choice in an RPG, the latest hardware isn’t always the best choice for your wallet.

  • The latest and shiniest gaming hardware can seem like an epic loot drop, but the hefty price tags might not be worth it.
  • Value-for-money hardware, much like a trusty sidekick, can provide performance without draining your resources.
  • Opt for hardware that’s a generation or two behind, or consider reliable alternatives like cloud gaming. Like switching to a different strategy during a tough battle, sometimes changing your approach can lead to surprising victories.

Just keep in mind that the latest hardware often offers marginal gains compared to the previous generation, especially when it comes to PC hardware such as CPUs and GPUs. You’re better off skipping a few generations then upgrading.

5. Stay a Console Generation Behind

Like your favorite retro title, older consoles still have a lot to offer.

  • Gaming on older consoles is a cost-effective way to experience a plethora of games you may have missed. Think of it as playing through an older, yet still thrilling, story campaign.
  • Older consoles often have a vast library of games that come at a reduced price. It’s like finding a treasure chest filled with gold and rare artifacts in a dungeon.
  • Always check the console’s condition, game compatibility, and update support. It’s like carefully selecting your gear before a major quest.

6. Lower Your PC Gaming Resolution

Consider your game’s resolution like the texture detail in a beautifully rendered game world. While high detail is nice, it’s not always necessary to enjoy the experience.

  • You need better hardware – which is more expensive – to run games at higher resolutions. So aim to run your game at 1080p.
  • If you have a 4K TV, try using DLSS set to performance mode on your Nvidia GPU. This uses AI to upscale 1080p to 4K, which means you can have comparably lower power and chapter hardware.
  • Adjusting your game resolution to a lower setting can lead to better game performance without buying expensive gear, a strategy reminiscent of optimizing your character’s stats in RPGs.
  • Remember, you’re gaming for the experience, not the pixels. Like a low-level quest with an unexpectedly engaging storyline, sometimes the simpler option can provide an equally enriching experience.

7. Aim to Game at 60fps and No Higher

Just like hitting the perfect sweet spot in combat, maintaining your FPS at 60 can provide the ideal balance between performance and cost.

  • FPS, or Frames Per Second, is like your attack speed in a fast-paced combat system. While faster can seem better, there’s often a sweet spot that provides optimal performance.
  • Super High frame rates need very powerful hardware. So aim to hit 60fps.

8. Lower Graphic Settings

Adjusting your game’s graphic settings is like customizing your character’s loadout; sometimes, minimalism is the key to success.

  • Graphic settings can significantly impact your game’s performance. It’s similar to tweaking your character’s abilities for optimal efficiency in different scenarios.
  • Lowering graphic settings can provide smoother gameplay at a lower cost. Think of it like cleverly using your environment to win a fight, rather than relying on flashy, expensive abilities.
  • Again, lower graphics settings need less power hardware, which costs less.

9. Get into Retro Gaming

Retro gaming is like exploring the lore-filled history of a long-standing game series. There’s a wealth of enjoyment to be found in these classic titles.

  • Retro games offer unique experiences often absent in modern titles, like returning to simpler mechanics in a beloved old-school RPG.
  • Classic consoles such as the NES, Sega Genesis, and others are generally more affordable and boast an extensive game library. It’s like exploring a vast, classic game world filled with hidden gems.
  • Websites like RetroGames provide easy access to numerous retro games. It’s your one-stop-shop for all things classic gaming.

10. Wait for Games to Come on Sale

Just like waiting for the opportune moment to strike in a strategic battle, waiting for game sales can save you a significant amount.

  • Game sales are an opportunity to nab hot titles for less, akin to earning bonus rewards for completing a challenging quest.
  • Tools like IsThereAnyDeal can help track and predict game sales. It’s like having a detailed quest guide to help you navigate the bustling markets of game sales.
  • Keep an eye on platforms like Steam, GOG, and Epic Games Store for their regular and seasonal sales. They’re like recurring events offering rare loot!

I have bought many, many games when they are on sale. One of the best bargains I’ve got over the years was getting God Of War on PS4 £12. Which I thought was an absolute steal at the time.

For comparison’s sake, God of War was £50 new here in the UK. So by waiting for a sale – roughly one year after the game was released – I was able to get it for £38 less, or a massive 76% off!

11. Make the Most of Your Back Catalogue

Making the most of your back catalogue is like utilizing every tool in your adventurer’s kit – you never know what might come in handy!

  • Rediscover the magic in your existing game library. Like finding an old but powerful piece of gear in your inventory, you may stumble upon a game that offers a whole new experience.
  • Organizing your game library can reveal titles you’ve forgotten, akin to unearthing a long-lost magic artifact.
  • If you have games you no longer play, consider trading or selling them. It’s like exchanging old gear for something new and exciting!

If you are anything like me, you probably have hundreds of games in your Steam library that you never played. Go through them, and add 5-10 of them to your favourite list, then set aside 2-3 hours to experiment with each of them. You might just find a game type that you didn’t know you’d love.

12. Get into Free to Play Games

Entering the world of free-to-play games is like stepping into a dungeon filled with treasures, all for the taking.

  • Free-to-play games offer a wealth of entertainment without the price tag. It’s like an epic quest line that’s generously free of charge.
  • Some popular free-to-play games offer high-quality experiences, like discovering a hidden gem in a sea of average side quests.
  • Look for free-to-play games on platforms like Steam or Epic Games Store. Think of them as the bustling taverns where adventurers gather, offering a range of quests to suit any player.

Though I, along with the rest of the world, hate microtransactions, free-to-play games do offer a huge amount of value. If you can get into free games like Fortnite, Valorant, or the hundreds of other free-to-play games out there, the cost of your gaming will dramatically drop.

13. Borrow Games from Your Friends/Family

Borrowing games from friends or family is like joining forces with other adventurers. You get to share the experience and cut down costs at the same time.

  • Sharing games within your circle is a great way to experience more titles without spending more money. It’s like joining a guild and benefiting from the shared resources.
  • Remember to treat borrowed games with care, and always return them. It’s all part of maintaining good relations in your guild!

14. Avoid Known Brand Hardware

Avoiding branded hardware can be like opting for the crafty, underestimated underdog in a game. Sometimes, these options pack a punch!

  • Branded hardware often comes with a hefty price tag, much like top-tier items in a game shop.
  • Lesser-known brands can offer comparable quality at a fraction of the cost. It’s like finding a low-level item with surprisingly powerful stats.
  • Do thorough research before purchasing. Check out reviews on platforms like Reddit or TechRadar. It’s akin to doing a recon quest before the big raid.

Yes, I know, a lot of people love their brands. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. One that I know from my days doing content marketing. Brands are simply designed to leverage your ego and desire for social status. They actually add nothing to your functional experience. For example, people don’t buy BMW cars because BMWs are better – I know this to be true because I’ve owned both a Z4 and Seat Ibiza FR, and the Seat was a miles better car. People buy BMWs because BMW has done a good job of establishing BWM as a premium brand that egotistically communicates to others the owner’s upward social status.

It’s the same with gaming gear. I’ve used Razer mice and Chines brand mice, and I hardly notice any difference. Yet, the Razer mouse will cost 5x more! Largely just so that I can say, “Look at me, I have a Razer mouse!” I don’t pay for functional quality. I’m paying more for social kudos. What a waste of money!

Don’t get caught up in brands. See through the bull. Try different products from unknown brands, and get a product that suits your functional needs. Not one that shouts out your social status to people you don’t even know and won’t even care.

15. Download Price Comparison Plugins for Chrome

A price comparison plugin is like a trusted companion NPC, always ready to help you find the best deals.

  • Extensions like Honey and PriceBlink can help you compare prices across different platforms in real-time. They’re like magical artifacts that instantly reveal the best loot.
  • These plugins can also alert you to coupons and ongoing sales. It’s like having a secret map that leads to hidden treasure!

16. Build a Gaming PC That Use Mid-Tier Instead of High-Tier Components

This is like constructing your in-game base with efficiency and resource management in mind. Bigger isn’t always better.

  • Mid-tier components can offer excellent performance for most games without breaking the bank. It’s like selecting balanced stats for your character – effective without unnecessary excess.
  • Websites like PCPartPicker can help you find compatible components and the best prices. Consider this tool your blueprint for a well-crafted base.

17. Avoid In-Game Purchases

Resisting the allure of in-game purchases is akin to withstanding a siren’s call. It might seem attractive, but it can lead to your downfall.

  • While tempting, in-game purchases often provide fleeting satisfaction. They’re like consumable items that seem beneficial but quickly deplete your resources.
  • Focus on mastering the game with the resources available. It’s like beating a tough boss using skill and strategy, rather than relying on pricey potions.
  • Remember, games are designed to be enjoyed even without additional purchases. It’s the journey through the game world that counts, not the shiny trinkets you buy along the way.

18. Avoid Games That Are Pay to Win

Much like choosing to fight the boss with your skill rather than an overpowered artifact, opt for games that prioritize skill over wallet size.

  • Pay-to-win games often create an imbalance favoring those willing to spend more money. It’s like a rigged match where gold, not skill, determines the winner.
  • Many games offer a fair playing field without requiring hefty in-game purchases. Seek these out – they’re the true test of a gamer’s mettle.

19. Add Funds to Your Digital Accounts Then Remove Your Credit Card Details

Adding funds to your account and then removing your card details is like stashing away a set amount of gold for your adventure, reducing the temptation to overspend.

  • By doing this, you set a hard limit on your gaming expenses, akin to managing your rations during an expedition.
  • Platforms like Steam allow you to add funds to your wallet. It’s like stocking up on supplies before setting off on your quest.

20. Consider Cloud Gaming Instead of Buying the Hardware

Cloud gaming is like accessing a powerful mage’s spellbook. You get all the power without having to carry the weight.

  • Cloud gaming services like Nvidia’s GeForce Now or Google’s Stadia let you play high-end games on modest hardware. It’s like casting mighty spells without needing the hefty tome.
  • While cloud gaming does require a stable internet connection, it can significantly reduce hardware costs. It’s akin to a teleportation spell that bypasses the need for expensive gear.

21. Get a Slower Internet Connection

Opting for a slower, stable internet connection can be like choosing a trusty steed over a temperamental dragon. It may not be as flashy, but it gets the job done.

  • Not all games require super-fast internet. A reliable and stable connection often does the trick, just like a dependable sword serves a knight better than a finicky magic wand.
  • Understand your gaming needs and choose an internet plan that suits them. It’s about finding the right gear for your character, not necessarily the most expensive one.

Here’s a fact for you, you can play multiplayer games over the internet on a very slow internet connection. At home, I’ve got a 500mb/s line with Virgin, and my partner’s parents have a 56mb/s line with EE. I’ve noticed ZERO differences between them when playing online on a PS5.

Companies try to sell you ultra fast broadband speeds for a number of reasons:

  1. Faster speeds download games quicker. You could set your PS5, console or PC to download games overnight. So by paying for a faster internet speed over, say 100mb/s, your essentially paying more for your lacking of patients.
  2. People like big numbers. 1000mb/s sounds much better than 100mb/s! And I’m only paying double for 10X the speed! But you don’t need that speed. Especially if all you do is play online multiplayer free-to-play games. I can get 150mb/s internet for £20 a month. Or I could get 1000gb/s for £70. Yes, the speed looks tempting. But I don’t need it. And I’d be paying £600 a year just for the privilege of speed. Think of al the extra games I could actually play instead with that £600!

22. Only Sign Up for GamePass if You Are Certain You Will Play Many Games

Subscribing to services like GamePass should be like committing to a long questline. Be sure you’re ready to make the most of it.

  • GamePass can be a great deal if you play many different games, much like an all-you-can-eat buffet is excellent value if you’ve got a dragon’s appetite.
  • If you only play one or two games, buying them outright can be cheaper. It’s like opting to hunt for your food instead of paying for the feast.
  • Calculate the costs based on your gaming habits. It’s akin to planning your route through the game, optimizing for the best outcomes.

23. Avoid Upgrading Your Hardware Constantly

Resisting the lure of constant upgrades is like not chasing every shiny new sword. Sometimes, your old gear is still perfectly fine!

  • Frequent upgrades can lead to substantial costs. It’s like constantly buying new gear in a game, only to find the old stuff was just as good.
  • Understand your needs and only upgrade when necessary. Like a wise quest hero, choose your upgrades strategically and with purpose.
  • Remember, it’s about the gameplay, not just the graphics or hardware. At the end of the day, it’s the thrilling battles, the hard-earned victories, and the shared adventures that truly define the gaming experience.

24. Join a Library or Club That Loans Games

Joining a library or club that loans games is like signing up for an adventurers’ guild. You get to share resources, experiences, and of course, the games themselves.

  • Libraries and clubs offer an affordable way to experience a variety of games. It’s akin to a shared treasure chest full of diverse artifacts.
  • Services like GameFly let you rent games for a fraction of their retail price. They’re the guildmasters offering a range of quests for you to embark upon.
  • Remember to return games on time to avoid fees. It’s like fulfilling your guild duties – a small effort that ensures continued access to the shared loot.

25. Save Money by Taking Advantage of Game Bundles

Game bundles are like a treasure chest full of goodies. You never know what you’ll get, but it’s usually worth more than the price you paid.

  • Services like Humble Bundle offer a selection of games for a significantly reduced price. It’s like finding a magical bag that spawns multiple items for the price of one.
  • You might not be interested in every game in the bundle, but it’s a cost-effective way to expand your library. It’s akin to looting a hoard of varied gear, offering you more choices for your gaming adventures.

26. Buy Physical Games and Trade Them In Once You Finish Them

Trading in games is like passing on a completed quest item to another adventurer in need.

  • Physical games can be resold or traded in for store credit once you’ve finished playing them. Think of it as a way to recycle your used equipment for a new piece of gear.
  • Retailers like GameStop and platforms like eBay often accept used games. They’re the busy marketplaces where old relics find new owners.

27. Have Patience, Don’t Buy Games When They First Come Out

Waiting to buy a game is like biding your time before striking a powerful boss. Patience can pay off!

  • Prices usually drop a few months after release, much like the cooldown period after a massive in-game event.
  • If you’re not desperate to play a game on release, waiting can lead to significant savings. It’s like stalking your prey, waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

28. Buy Gaming Gift Cards When They Are on Sale

A discounted gaming gift card is like finding an enchanted scroll that gives you more gold than it costs.

  • Retailers occasionally sell gaming gift cards for less than face value. Consider these like rare loot drops that grant extra currency.
  • Stock up on these cards when they’re on sale. It’s like storing mana potions for a big fight, giving you a powerful boost when needed.

29. Embrace Indie Games

Indie games are like undiscovered lands, filled with unique and often better gameplay experiences.

  • These games are usually cheaper but can offer innovative and enjoyable experiences. It’s like embarking on a side quest that turns out to be more fun than the main storyline.
  • Platforms like Steam and have vast collections of indie games. They’re the quaint taverns where the local folk share tales of the lesser-known trails.

30. Use a Game Swap System

Game swap systems are like rotating quests. Once you complete one, you exchange it for another.

  • Websites like Reddit’s gameswap or allow you to exchange games with others. It’s like swapping tales and goods with fellow travelers at the inn.
  • This method can be a cost-effective way to experience a variety of games. It’s like continually acquiring new maps to different adventures.

31. Buy Game Codes from eBay, G2A, or CDKeys

Purchasing game codes from platforms like eBay, G2A, or CDKeys can be like acquiring keys to various treasure chests at discounted rates.

  • These sites often sell games at lower prices than mainstream platforms. They’re like black market dealers offering elusive artifacts.
  • However, be careful when purchasing from these sites. Make sure the seller is reputable to avoid getting scammed. It’s akin to ensuring the merchant isn’t selling you fool’s gold.

32. Try Mobile Gaming

Mobile gaming can be like finding a hidden path filled with free adventures.

  • Many mobile games are free or cost significantly less than PC or console games. It’s like discovering a realm where the admission fee is significantly lower.
  • Platforms like Google Play and Apple App Store have countless games. They’re the bustling marketplaces filled with wares to suit any adventurer’s tastes.

33. Grab Completely Free Games When You Can

Free games are like gifts from the gaming gods, unexpected but always welcomed.

  • Various platforms periodically offer free games. It’s like happening upon a festive event in a game where the rewards are plentiful and free.
  • Platforms like Epic Games Store often give away games for free. They’re the generous guild leaders bestowing gifts upon their members.
  • Staying updated on these giveaways can significantly expand your game library without spending a penny. It’s like adding countless new quests to your log without any additional burden.


In our epic adventure, we’ve journeyed across the vast and treacherous lands of frugal gaming, sharing wisdom and tips to help you game more and spend less. This odyssey was not about avoiding the thrill of gaming but learning to navigate its expensive pitfalls and traps. In the end, we discovered that being a frugal gamer is akin to being a strategic hero, making smart choices and enjoying the vast gaming landscape without emptying our coffers.

  • We learned to set a strict money limit for our gaming with a monthly budget.
  • We explored the world of used games and hardware, discovering their value and cost-effectiveness.
  • We talked about making strategic hardware choices, like not always going for the shiny new gear but staying a console generation behind.
  • We uncovered the value of older games, like the forgotten lore that adds depth to our gaming experience.
  • We found out how to turn our back catalogue into a trove of endless fun.
  • And lastly, we learned the importance of patience, a virtue that can save us a significant amount of gold in the long run.

Now, fellow adventurer, before we part ways, let us share one final piece of wisdom with you.

What Next?

As in any epic journey, we always want to leave you with something actionable, a set of quests you can embark upon right after reading this guide.

  • Take a look at your current gaming budget and expenses. Identify where you can make cuts and save money.
  • Set a monthly gaming budget, now.
  • Explore online marketplaces for used games or hardware. Try platforms like eBay or Craigslist.
  • If you’re a PC gamer, try lowering your game’s resolution or graphic settings. See how much it affects your enjoyment.
  • Revisit your back catalogue. Choose an old game and give it another playthrough.
  • Finally, exercise patience. Resist the urge to buy that new game immediately. Wait for a sale or price drop.

Implement these steps and watch as you continue to enjoy the gaming world while keeping your coin purse full. Good luck on your journey, fellow adventurer, and remember, in the realm of gaming, the most valuable victories are often the ones we strategize for the most.


Nick Sinclair

Nick Sinclair, a gaming aficionado since the Commodore 64 era, studied Creative Computer Games Design in university before founding his own gaming company. Discovering a passion for content creation, Nick now helps gamers squeeze every drop of fun out of their favorite gaming hardware

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