Geek Life On a Budget

The hobby of board games, card games, dice games, and the mixing of all three is not a cheap one. In fact, you can expect to pay at least $20 for a game and from there the price skyrockets. It is not unheard of for games to be as expensive as over $100. That might seem like a great deal of money (and in all honesty, it really is), but for those who are passionate about the hobby, the money is well spent.

But money does not grow on trees, sadly, and every dollar we earn must be budgeted towards something, be it bills, luxury products, or simply tucking it away for the proverbial rainy day. My family is no different, and during such interesting and challenging economic times, every dollar that comes into my house is earmarked for something. With three little geeks who are growing every day, downing gobs of food, and outgrowing their pants I SWEAR fit them last week, our buying power goes to them first, then to the family as a whole, then to Savings, college funds, and retirement. Whatever is left over, which isn’t much, is “play money”. A bit set aside to frivolously spend on something that is only a “want” and can never be associate with any “need”.

Admittedly, my family is luckier than some. We are blessed with health and reside in a part of the world where the cost of living is reasonable. My brothers live on the West Coast where their cost of living is much, much higher. I often talk to them about that and we always come to the same conclusion: we do what we can with what we have. This attitude is most likely the direct result of my family’s financial status (middle class, at best) growing up. We were raised to appreciate the value of the dollar, the elasticity of it, and the importance of saving and shopping smart. Such lessons have stuck and serve my brothers and I well to this day.

That being said, I am as much a slave to my geekiness as the next geek in line. I love games and the desire to purchase them is a strong one. Not so strong as to lose my head, however, and I am very lucky to have a partner in life, my wife, who has a talent in the area of budgeting. She collects and uses coupons in the same way that hardcore Baseball and Football card collectors research, buy, and sell small bits of cardboard for profit. I think it’s pure Voodoo, personally, and I have attempted several times to grasp the complexity and thought that goes into the seemingly meaningless 5 Cent off coupon. To me, it seems like more work than payoff. In the hands of a Coupon Ninja, like my wife, it saves the family serious money.

It is for this reason that I often refer to my wife as “Sensei” as the she has much to teach me. She has, for example, taught me how to maximize my purchases at a local Big Box store to get what is commonly referred to as Catalina Coupons or “check-out coupons” that reward me for purchases by giving me much money back. Once you understand the system, it seems like child’s play to buy what you need and walk out with money in your pocket. And speaking of children, we teach our little geeks how to look for deals, buy quality for the right price, and shop around. We have made our weekly trip to the grocery store a family affair where all the little geeks help out. Sometimes it is helping to find a product or two. Sometimes it is to determine which product is better than another. We also make sure our little geeks know that everything we put in the basket costs the family money. That means a loaf of bread and a candy bar are both taking money from the family wallet. Such knowledge might seem a bit heavy, but you can never start the lessons of proper money management too early, in my opinion.

The little geeks help the big geeks make family decisions - shopping is a great way to get them involved and thinking

My family goes to the store with “value” and “price” in mind. We have used many products and have determined which ones are best for our family and our budget. Some might refer these as the “essentials”. Products such as Band-Aids and cavity fighting products like Listerine, for example. These are products that inevitably, when used correctly, can improve and help my family, be it a comforting G.I. Joe Band-Aid on my son’s bloody knee after a fall on his scooter or ensuring that my family’s oral health is as good as it can be by completing our nightly ritual of brushing teeth with a quick swig and swish with mouth wash.

These product cost money and one must balance “needs” and “wants” with the family budget. We do this by trial and error. Knowing which products work best for our family at the right cost. Johnson & Johnson, just to name one company, and many others provide quality products for our family at a cost that is reasonable and affordable. Lucky for us, they are also highly accessible, too, and often go on sale. In fact, you can go to a web site called Healthy Essentials to get coupons and savings (up to $190) right now to use during your next trip to the store.

Helping Each Other Save and Give

Times are tough for some of us. Lack of jobs or poor paying ones can put a tremendous amount of stress on a family, both financially and emotionally. Not a day goes by I don’t feel fortunate that I can feed my little geeks good food at the table and I have a career that helps me provide for my family’s needs. Some parents are not so lucky. There are a number of financial aid programs available to families who are in need of little help, but you can help, too.

Johnson & Johnson’s Family of Consumer Companies in partnership with FEEDING AMERICA™ are donating meals to families in need for each “Healthy Essentials” coupon redeemed between January 8th and January 15th. The current estimate is up to 1 million meals will be served. That’s a lot of little boys and girls, moms and dads getting food on the table. You get a coupon that helps you save and a family gets a hot meal during tough times. How is that not a good deal?

Speaking of good deals, you can always find them. Do shop around when looking for games and anything your family needs or wants. If you put the time into it, are patient, and know a good deal when you see it, you can really stretch your family dollar. Also keep in mind that owning things is not the goal. What is really important in life is happiness and health. If you have that, you are truly rich.

Father Geek wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Dad Central Consulting on behalf of Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies and received products to facilitate the review and a promotional item to thank the Father Geek team for taking the time to participate.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Geek Life On a Budget

  1. Jason says:

    Nice article for practical tips on saving $$ with an everyday necessity! There are hundreds of these tips that can go a long way to adding up to bigger savings than one might imagine at first. In entertainment, for example, we never go to the theater to see a movie. With even a modest sized family these days, it’s just ridiculous to pay $8+ for each person and then price-gouging soda and popcorn on top of that. Instead, just rent or pay-per-view the flick and get generic soda and microwave popcorn in the comfort of your own home – all for right around $10 for the whole family.

    Hobbies can be very dangerous to a budget – and this one is no different. Those intent on collecting as many titles as they can never play – just so they can say they own them – either have lots of money to burn or may have a problem they need help with. However, on the whole, this hobby can be a much better value than most others; if you approach it practically. Even if paying up to $50 for a game, you have a durable and re-usable product for years to come that will get a good return on entertainment for cost. One of our other favotire entertainment options is going to the zoo. But after gas to St. Louis, parking, tickets to a couple attractions, and lunch – we’re dropping a lot more money than the price of one game and that’s just for a one day thrill! Even our local, small zoo costs us the same as an average board game, but still one-and-done!

    • Cyrus says:

      Excellent comments, Jason!

      To save even MORE MONEY on movies and music, go visit your local library! They have DVD’s, BlueRay’s, and CD’s you can borrow at no additional cost to you. If your local library has a web site that allows you to search through their catalog and reserve, you can do the exact same thing that people do on NetFlix for free! Some libraries are even purchasing video games to lend out, too! Our local library does this and has become the most cost effective way to watch movies, listen to new music, and play video games with the kids.

      You hit the nail right on the head when you said that our hobby is “durable”. Board games will last as long as they do not get overly damaged. True, games are susceptible to everyday wear, but if you treat your games right, they will last forever. You might try visiting your local Goodwill or Savers (or any thrift) store to see if they have games for sale. I’ve found a number of great titles that I can purchase for as little as $1! DO CHECK the game for completeness, however, as not all games are put on the shelves with all the bits. Hardly an issue for the creative geek, however, as you can always make due with bits that are not there or make your own to substitute.

      Long story short, you can live very comfortably on a very little if you are willing to put aside the idea that “new” and “flashy” equals “happiness”.

      Thanks for reading, Jason!

  2. I am so glad to see a great personal look at the life behind the scenes of Father Geek. It is nice to know that one of my favorite blog writers also struggles with the choices between buying new games and buying a gallon of milk. I admit that sometimes I spend more than I should on my gaming but the most recent game that I have is Stone Age and that was released in 2008. I am definitely not a Cult of the New by any stretch but it would be nice to fill in the gaps with some of the great games that founded this amazing industry. So, like you, I have to pinch my pennies and try to buy the games when I can find a good sale going on.

    My wife is the same way with the coupons. She and my sisters get together talking about Super Double Days and Bonus Bucks and I just get lost. However, when we go to the store and I see that we have saved over $150 on an originally $200 grocery bill I know that it is worth it and she is doing a great job.

    Thanks for the great article. I am very happy to see how the Father Geek is growing and I wish nothing but the best for this great venture.

    • Cyrus says:

      Thank you very much, David! Your kinds words mean a great deal to me. It warms my heart to know that people actually read what I write.

      The Cult of the New is a hard one to ignore. I have fallen to its sweet, sweet siren song too many times and each time I always tell myself, “NEVER AGAIN!” I’m just as susceptible as the next geek and am proud to say I am hardly perfect. I’m working on it, though…

      There are so many wonderful games on and off the market today. What makes the gaming hobby so exciting is that there is litterally a game for EVERYONE! The trick is finding it, however, but the journey to finding your “perfect game” is a road paved with fun and exploration. If you can join a gaming group, DO IT! This is the best way to try new games. Speaking of which, I HIGHLY recommend you always try before you buy. Everyone has an opinion on a game and no one is an expert, me included. A game that is found to be poo-poo to one person can be THE GAME you’ve been looking for all your life. Long story short, you won’t know until you try it for yourself. Game conventions are a great way to try out a lot of games. If you can make it to one that is close by, I highly recommend it. And if you are going to attend GenCon this year, let me know! I’ll buy you a coffee. 🙂

      I am always flabbergasted at the amount we save using coupons. Why more people don’t take the time to cut and collect them is beyond me. I’m right there with you in regards to the level of excitement and feeling of fulfillment I have when I look at our final bill and see how much we saved. Sometimes, it is downright criminal.

      Why there isn’t a game themed on saving money with coupons is beyond me….

    • Goodwill is definitely a good place (Sometimes) to find cheap DVDs and Games. Before I got my full-time job I would frequent there a couple times a week. We have two local GWs and a Salvation Army that would regularly stock games. Most of the time these were Milton Bradley games and Monopoly clones. However, I have run across some Euros as well. I have yet to find any Euros that I have on my wishlist on the BGG but they are still a nice diversion. One of my best finds ever was a copy of Crossbows and Catapults in the box with all the expansions shoved inside as well. I got it for the low price of $.50. My nephews and I played that for weeks and eventually we got bored of it and I sold it on eBay for about $180. I was very happy.

      So, any local thrift store is worth checking out at least twice to see if they have something you can use. Especially if you are trying to pinch your pennies. Now, if I could just get my wife to start finding a way to get coupons for the FLGS.

    • Cyrus says:

      Coupons for the FLGS? Hmm, seldom. They might have sales, however. For example, my local Games by James participates in a “sidewalk sale” every year. Some great games can be found on sale anywhere from 10% to 20%. Still a bit higher than you might find online, but I like to buy from the local FLGS from time to time to support them.

      And if you should find coupons, do share them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *