By Michael Romano
Our family loves to play games together, but like many other families, our budget is tight. Some would say that games fall cleanly into the Wants category, and not Needs, and while that might be true, spending time bonding with your family over an interactive and (usually) intellectual medium like a board game can be very important. Between careers, kids’ sports, Boy Scouts, dance classes, and everything else, the time we find to spend with each other is precious. Watching movies or TV together can certainly be fun, and there are a few shows that we enjoy together as a family, but those often don’t teach us some of the skills that games do. Father Geek does a great job of highlighting skill sets that your children can benefit from just by playing games, like counting and reading, for example.
For us geeks, games are obviously an enjoyable and important part of our lives, but hey, they can be very expensive, too! Of the four in my family, my son and I are the more “hardcore” of the gamers, and typically the ones to pick which games to purchase. As our budget right now only allows for 1 or 2 new games a month (with an average cost of $50 each), we employ a few means to help research and save for those games.
To find which game to buy next, we like to read reviews on such sites as Father Geek or Board Game Geek, and then look those games up on YouTube and see if there are any play-through, review, or introductory videos available. Many times there are, and often times they really give you some perspectives that you can’t get just by looking at a few pictures and reading the reviews alone. For instance, how turn sequences might flow during an actual game. Some games that look neat can turn out to be real clunkers if there’s no flow, or just too complicated for younger players.
We like to ask questions, too, or talk to owners of the game either on the web or at our favorite local game store, which are starting to become rare around here.
I joined a Meetup.com group last year for gamers in the area who organize local meetups at coffee shops. This has provided us a fantastic opportunity to try before we buy. As an added bonus, the meetup group has a Trading forum. I’ve already turned a few unused Warhammer 40,000 miniatures into a couple of new games!
While we are researching what to buy, we use an envelope system to save for the games. We take a few envelops, and as we have extra (hah!) money or gift cards, we place it into the envelope for safe keeping. My wife actually uses this method for other expenses, like birthdays and Christmas funds, and entertainment and sporting events, for example. At each pay period, we will dole out a small amount into several different envelops after the bills are paid.
My little geeks are displaying a level of patience in saving for games that I know I didn’t have when I was their age. Heck, this is still even a trial of patience for me, as I have always been an impulsive spender. My very financially smart wife has helped me curb most of those bad habits, fortunately. I believe our children are benefiting from our saving methodology, too. They are starting to understand that we do not have unlimited funds, and are appreciative when they see us contributing to the “fun envelope” alongside them. I hope that what we do will help them develop and strengthen their own set of decision making and budgeting skills as they grow up.