Want to save money and keep gaming during the cost of living crisis? Here’s how

Practical tips and tricks to maximise your video game budget

The Week in Games is a weekly column where Vikki Blake pulls apart the biggest stories in gaming each week. This week, as the cost of living crisis deepens, she discusses how we can all save money on games. 

Pardon the interruption, but I’d like to do things a little differently today. Most of the time, I love what I do – writing about video games? For money? For real!? – but it can be a challenging thing to do when the world’s going to shit. Who cares about what Sony is doing when inflation’s through the roof and there’s a devastating cost of living crisis?

So instead of sitting down and ranting about my usual bollocks, this week I took to Twitter to ask the great British public for their ideas on how you can keep justifying your video game spending. No, you won’t finish up May as a millionnaire (although if you do, could you tell me how?); but it may help us get through some tough months without resorting to parting ways with our favourite pastime: gaming.

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First up, the hardware itself. If you have a swanky next-gen console, those babies suck up a lot of energy, so if you do nothing else, opt out of standby mode. Microsoft recently introduced an Energy Saver mode for both Xbox Series X and S that will now let you download game and system updates without leaving your console on standby – which is much better for you and the planet.

Xbox Series S
Xbox Series S. Credit: Microsoft

If you’re desperate for a next-gen system but are struggling to pull half a grand together for the privilege, don’t forget about Microsoft’s Xbox All Access program. You can buy a brand-new Series S or X (and the significantly cheaper S is a fabulous way to get next-gen games for half the price of an X or PS5) in monthly instalments, as well as secure 24-months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, too. There’s no upfront nor early repayment fee, but it is a line of credit, so bear that in mind.

I’m a big fan of digital games – mainly because I never put anything back in the right case and am very, very lazy (get up from the couch to change a disc? Please) but buying physical games is better for your wallet. If you physically own your game, you can sell or swap it once you’re done. Played it for 80 hours and completed every single side quest? Sell it. Played an hour and hated it? Sell it. Forgotten you even owned it and it’s still in the wrapper? For Christ’s sake, sell it.

I’d recommend you shop around – different places offer different prices – and if you don’t mind the slog to the nearest Post Office, you’ll likely get even more if you’re open to selling on auction sites like eBay. If you’ve got some codes for digital items you’ve never redeemed, they may net you a little something, too; earlier this year, Destiny 2 players were selling the limited edition The Witch Queen emblem code for hundreds of pounds and presumably, some people were prepared to pay that. So check your emails and collector’s editions for any codes you may not have redeemed – well, it’s worth a punt, right?

Destiny 2
Destiny 2. Credit: Bungie.

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As for buying games? Well, that depends upon what you’re playing on. Nintendo, for example, is notoriously tight when it comes to sales so you may have to wait a while if your preferred console is the Switch, but if PC is your weapon of choice, Steam sales and Epic Game Store freebies crop up with delightful regularity, as do sales on the Microsoft and PSN store. Whatever it is you fancy, shop around or consider pre-owned – that includes your local supermarket, too – and ensure you’re paying the lowest price possible. Oh, and follow the social media accounts of your favourite games and developers –  you never know when someone may be running a giveaway.

A great way to save money is to hold off from buying new games on release day – which is hard on the developers who make the games, I know; I’m sorry! – and focus on cutting down on your pile of shame before you pick up anything else. Places like r/patientgamers wait for a full 12-months to buy something new to avoid release-day prices and early-release bugs.

Breath of the Wild.
The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Credit: Nintendo.

If you’re desperate to play the latest big game, though, have you considered a rental service? There are several serving the UK right now, with a range of price plans. Alternatively, if you have a lot of friends that game or work in a big-ish organisation, it may be worth establishing a swap meet if one doesn’t exist already. Set up a Discord or What’s App for your colleagues and/or buddies and arrange to share and swap your games. It could save you hundreds.

Don’t forget about subscription services, too. If you play a lot and have a reasonably broad palate, diving into Xbox Game Pass or PS Now (shortly to become part of PS Plus) can save you loads, especially when it comes to taking a chance on a game you may otherwise have never tried. There are some drawbacks – if you don’t keep your subscription live, you’ll lose the games already in your library – but it’s a great way to find new titles, and if you and your pals subscribe to the same subscription services, you know everyone will be able to play it.

Conversely, are you using your Xbox Game Pass or PS Now enough to justify the monthly cost? Like most things, it’s only worth it if you use it. If you don’t spend at least £11 a month on buying games, play a lot of multiplayer, or routinely forget to add the games to your library, then it might be worth cancelling, along with any other subscriptions you don’t use much.

Nintendo Switch Sports. Credit: Nintendo.
Nintendo Switch Sports. Credit: Nintendo.

There’s more, too. Microsoft Awards. Dusting off your old Xbox 360 or PS2 and hunting down dirt-cheap retro games. Do you have old, spare headphones, controllers, or other accessories kicking around the house? Flog ’em. One person’s trash is another’s treasure and all that.

Let’s face it: the next few months are going to be really, really hard, and no one’s coming with a magic wand to make it all better. When I look back at the toughest times in my life, games were my comfort blanket. My safe space. The idea of any of us losing that scant comfort in such desperate times makes me sick to my stomach.

No, the tips above won’t fix our broken government or the cost of living crisis. They may, however, keep us gaming when we need it most… and that’s enough for me. For now, anyway.

Vikki Blake is a freelance journalist and columnist for NME.

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