Gaming on the Cheap
Gaming and a tight budget don't seem to go together very easily at first glance. Buying a certain number of cards or figures to start is almost necessary, and then once you find your favorite style and color, you'll also need to collect items in that vein. Not to mention gaming storage and supplies, like deck boxes, gaming stones, dice, and the like.
But never fear, there IS a way to game cheaply--I've done it, and so can you! Read on to find out how!
Build up your collection of commons first.
Commons are by nature more readily found and cheaper to get. Ask around at your local gaming shop; you'll likely find veteran gamers who are more than willing to help you get your collection started by donating cheap cards or figures they don't personally play. You can also go online and purchase "grab bags" of various rarities for what will often be a much cheaper price than buying each card individually.
Looking for "lots" on eBay or other selling sites is also a good option for building your collection more cheaply. Figures or cards sold as part of a lot will often be much cheaper, as long as you're okay with the condition they are listed in. See my article on Buying Online for more tips on purchasing gaming items online.
Once you've built up a good collection of commons, you have a better selection with which to trade other gamers, which leads to my second tip.
Trade, don't buy.
Especially when you're starting out, it's important to get a feel for the game first before you start buying lots of cards or figures. Trading allows you to see what kinds of cards are in others' collections, so that you know what's available. While trading, you can also mention the types of cards or figures you're looking for, and they can direct you to other items you might never have heard of. This is all great information for when you DO want to buy something.
Also, in trades, things can be a little more relaxed, value-wise. Depending on who you're trading with, the person may want the trade to be based precisely on the item's market price, or they may do a simple rule of "three commons equals a rare, two commons equals an uncommon," etc. Trade carefully and go by the system the other person prefers (unless you are being cheated, in which case it's best to end the trade before anything changes hands). Relaxed trading is a way to get some of those rares and uncommons that you might never have gotten otherwise.
When you DO buy, buy only what you absolutely need.
Stay away from booster packs, generally speaking; there's only a chance of an item you want being in there! Buy singles of the items you REALLY want, either from your local gaming shop or online.
Also, price-checking and comparison shopping work great for finding deals. Browse my lists of MTG Online Stores, HeroClix Online Stores, and Star Wars Minis Online Stores to start your bargain shopping!
Don't buy TONS of gaming supplies.
To reduce costs further, get only the amount of gaming supplies you absolutely need to start off:
Repurpose cases and boxes you already have.
Check around your house for shoe boxes, shipping containers, tins, old toolboxes, sewing cases, or briefcases, or anything else that could potentially be a "gaming box." This is an excellent way to save money! Check out my Portable Gaming Storage article and the links listed in my Alternative Solutions to Gaming Storage section for more ideas.
In the event that you can't find anything to repurpose, you can ask around at your local shop to see if anyone has a deck box, sleeves, or gaming case they don't need--you'd be surprised at what somebody might be willing to donate to you.