Feeding Your Board Games Habit on the Cheap
You like board games. No, you love board games. That much is obvious.
But there's only so much money in your bank account, and most of that goes for boring-but essential things like rent and food. Your gaming budget is feeling pinched.
As much as you might covet that new $49.99 release, the money's just not there.
So what can you do to get your gaming fix?
Just because you're broke doesn't mean you can't have fun! Here are some ideas for places to find inexpensive board games:
Yes, I know what you're thinking – kids games, complete with drool-soaked game boards and missing pieces. And the blandest, most generic "family" games in the world. And you're right: that's 90% of what you'll find at garage and yard sales. But that other 10%? There's no telling what you'll find! Old out-of-print classics, newer games that took too long to learn, Euro games that a collector lost interest in. There's no telling what you might find. But shop carefully, and watch out for missing pieces. Don't worry about missing rules – these can generally be found online.
All the fun of garage sales, but condensed. There are still plenty of crappy games, but there are almost always some treasures as well. The same "beware of missing pieces" caveat applies here, but at least there are fewer thrift stores to check than there are garage sales. I've found many great games at great prices at places such as Goodwill and Salvation Army.
These often take place at drive-in movie theater or stadium parking lots, and like garage sales, the selection and quality can be hit-or-miss, but the savings can be incredible.
Craigslist is a great source for board games (and just about anything else), if you have the patience for it. It does take time to browse through the listings, and you may go weeks or months between finds, but the treasures are out there, just waiting for a buyer. Remember that the price shown is the "asking price" – you can often negotiate a better deal.
This is one you might not think of, but antique stores (many of which are not much more than flea markets) often have good selections of older games. If it's too old you'll pay a premium, of course, but there are certainly deals to be had, if you keep a watchful eye.
The great thing about eBay is that nearly every game ever made is for sale by someone – there's a huge selection! The bad news is that 1) you often have to bid for games, so it takes time, and 2) you'll often pay a premium for hard-to-get games, and 3) you'll need to pay for shipping (and wait for the game to arrive). But there are certainly deals to be had. If you're in a gotta-have-it-now mood, this is not the place to shop. But if you're OK with delayed gratification, eBay can be the best option for finding vintage board games.
Amazon has a great selection of board games in it's own right, but often great deals pop up in the outlet store, the deals & bargains section, or via their deal of the day promotion. Also note that, mixed in with their regular board game listings, are used games from individuals or third parties, often at substantial discounts.
The Bargain Bin
Your local board game shop, mass-market retailer, or online superstore usually has a selection of limited-quantity closeouts that they're trying to clear out of stock, often at substantial discounts, compared to retail, for a brand new, never-opened game.
The Return Bin
Many local board game retailers (and some online shops as well) offer used games. Some of these are returned by customers who simply didn't like the game, others are games that loyal customers have traded-in for newer editions or new releases. Not every shop has a trade-in policy, but many do. (This is another tactic to acquire new games – sell or trade in your old ones.)
Many public libraries carry board games that you can check out, take home, play, and return in a few weeks. Though there may not be a huge selection at your local library, they often carry popular or award-winning games, often with an "educational" slant. If a game is really popular, you may need to reserve a copy and wait a few weeks for it to come in. But the great thing about library game sis that they are completely free! And you can try out a game before spending your hard-earned cash on a game that may turn out to be less fun than you'd hoped.
Board Game Clubs or Groups
If you're a member of a local gaming club or a group that meets to play games, ask around to see if any of the members would be willing to swap games. Most of us have unused or seldom-played games that we'd be happy to part with in exchange for something different (or for cash). The great thing about this option is that you know you'll be getting a game that's been properly cared for – no torn up games or missing pieces! And the games will probably be great quality, even if the particular person didn't like it.
Ask your family – parents, siblings, cousins, in-laws – if they have any games they'd like to get rid of, sell, or trade. Game quality may be iffy – expect lots of generic kids games – but even if that's the case, think of it as an opportunity to expose your family to "better" games. You might just inspire an interest in the hobby, which could future family gatherings a whole lot more interesting!
Being broke or on a tight budget doesn't mean you can't play new games – it just takes some ingenuity to find ways to afford them!