My Money Saving Tip: Computers & Games

Peter's picture

I really like computers. I love to play computer games. I also like to save money. This is not an ideal combination of wants and desires. If you've ever compared computer prices, you'll have seen that the "Gamer PC" is almost always the most expensive by far. I've got a new policy though that allows me to regularly upgrade to a way better machine and play new games, but I only pay a fraction of the price. I'll let you in on my secret.

Computers Are Poor Investments

As far as assets go, computers are near the bottom of the list. Computers lose their value incredibly quickly. This is somewhat due to Moore's Law which predicts how fast processing technology advances. Since technology is advancing so fast, what is top-of-the-line today will be bottom of the pile in a few years. In the end, your computer will only have value to you, since you could never expect to get much from selling it. So how can we use this to our advantage?

Mental Time Shifting

OK, maybe you just read that heading and thought: "This guy has played one too many computer games!" I'm not talking about some geek super power though. I'm talking about a change in your perception.

This is my trick: I stay at least three years behind the computer technology wave. If I was going to buy a computer today, I would get what was cutting edge three years ago. Since my current machine is about five years old (and still works very well), this would be a significant upgrade for me. I would feel like I have a way better computer than my last one but I didn't have to break the bank to get it.

The same goes for my computer game hobby. When I buy my top-of-the-line-three-years-ago computer, I also buy some three-years-ago games out of the bargain bin at the computer game store. Instead of costing me $65 each, these bargain games usually cost $15 to $25 each. Sometimes you can get them for under $10. Since they are older games, my top-of-the-line-three-years-ago computer will run them really well. Since the games are new to me, I'll enjoy the experience of playing a new game.

Each time I upgrade I'll get the same "new computer" experience without the "new computer" cost.

How To Save

So, here's how you can do this:

  • Buy a computer that was top-of-the-line at least three years ago.
  • Write down the specs for what is top of the line now i.e. processor type, RAM, hard disk size, video card, sound card, etc.
  • These specs will be your buying guide next time you need a new computer in three years (or longer).
  • On your way home drop by a local game store and check out the bargain bin.
  • Also, note which games are hot today so you can pick them when you upgrade next time.

If you want even more savings you can extend the delay by a year or two. You might run into trouble finding old computers for sale if you wait too long though, so watch out for that. Another option is too buy used parts off of other people who are upgrading to the newest stuff. They might be happy to get a few bucks for their "out-of-date" hardware ... and games! They might even be willing to just give them away.

There you have it. A rewarding computing experience for a fraction of the price. Enjoy!


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Hmmm, interesting idea but

Hmmm, interesting idea but there are some practical issues which may derail your plan. Now a days game publishers will release a game but then fix bugs or add new content in the form of patches. I've bought some games that wouldn't even run on my system until I downloaded the patches. If you wait 3 years to play a game you're going to have a heck of a time finding those old patches. Also, if the games you like to play are MMORPGs then three years from now you may find the server you play on has few players left.

I also like to play video games but I tend to reign in my costs by not upgraded my entire system everytime. Monitors, mouse, keyboard, speakers, CD/DVD writers and cases can be salvaged between upgrades. Lately my disk space needs aren't growing nearly as fast as hard drive space so I've salvaged my old hard drives as well. This only leaves the motherboard, CPU, RAM and perhaps a video and sound card to upgrade. That's much more economical than buying a whole system.

It sometimes makes more

It sometimes makes more sense to just buy a current day low-end machine because they usually have similar or better performance to what was top of the line three years ago for about the same price. And then play three year old games. You then don't have to worry about product support being discontinued.
As well top of line systems are generally major "power-hogs" because they are focused more on raw performance and not necessarily efficiency. Anyway just some thoughts.

Peter's picture

Thanks for visiting. First

Thanks for visiting.

First Commenter: My experience with patches is that they aren't that difficult to track down. A lot of games these days have a "check for updates" features that helps with that too. You've got a point about multiplayer games ... there won't be as much activity three years later, so that is a downside. There will likely be enough people still playing to get some good games in though.

Sasha: Yes, buying an equivalent low-end system is also a good idea, rather than trying to find the exact model three years later. The idea is to get more computing power for your buck than you do when you buy cutting edge stuff.

Interesting concept.

Interesting concept. Unfortunately for me, I have never been able to enough find good used computer equipment.

Best Wishes,

Peter's picture

D4L: Yeah, it can be tough

D4L: Yeah, it can be tough to find used computer equipment. A good source for me has been friends who are upgrading to the latest stuff. Another good source is "refurbished" computers. These are usually corporate lease computers that are being replaced with the newer model. You can often find a place that sells these quite cheaply. A place I check out regularly in Ottawa is Refurb Computers. You might be able to find something similar in your area.

If anyone reading this knows

If anyone reading this knows David Farquhar please inform him that I am his father Ralph C. Farquhar's cousin Doug who spent many, many great times at the farm in Doylestown, Pa., as a kid and would like to reconnect with Dave's dad..

Peter's picture

Doug: I don't know David

Doug: I don't know David personally but I a couple of days ago he posted a link this article. I'll see if I can get in touch with him and let him know you are interested in making contact. I'll post back here if I get anywhere. Good luck reconnecting with your cousin!

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