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Monday, November 11, 2013

Creating a budget and mentally preparing for the Steam Holiday Sale

So Steam's Halloween sale was a couple of weeks ago, and I am proud of myself because I didn't give into temptation. But a sale on Steam is like the sun rising. Within any given month a game or two (or fifty) you want to own will be discounted and your wallet is constantly take a beating as a result. I know because it's been happening to me all year. But I want to change that. I don't want to keep checking every day for their daily sales, every Wednesday for their midweek madness sales, every weekend for their weekend sales, and every week for their weekly sales. Not to mention their gimmick sales like this Halloween one. I want to throw my money at ridiculously priced discounts on my own terms damn well when I feel like it; cause I'm a man.

So I am creating a budget.

Hear that Steam? I'm going to be fiscally responsible and there's nothing you can do about it, but wait for me to spend my money. I've bought some games in the past few months on Steam, most recently Arkham City for 75% off. As much as I am satisfying that need to claim an amazing deal, I am simultaneously encouraging a horrible habit: adding games to my backlog.

You all ready know what a backlog is, because if you are part of the gamer 99%, you have one. Obviously the best way to not build a backlog is to not buy games until you play what you own. But I'm a human being. I have weaknesses and I succumb to base desires when they are easily obtainable. The next best thing I can do is compromise.

The Halloween sale looks great and all, and sure there are games there on my wishlist, but I know what's coming in two months: the Steam Holiday sale. Two weeks (usually) of madness where everything is discounted and every game you want/need/don't need but going to buy because YOLO - is discounted anywhere from 10% to 90%. Sometimes Portal is free. Sometimes there's a four pack of a game for $5 so you can be generous and gift it to your friends. Sometimes you sit and stare at your computer and think, "I shouldn't have bought {insert name here} a gift this year because I would have some extra cash lying around and besides what have they done for me lately!"

So this Halloween sale got me thinking, of all the sales Steam has year round, there are only two I should wisely invest my money in: The Holiday sale, and it's summer cousin appropriately named the Steam Summer Sale. So, I decree, from this day forth I will only gleefully spend my hard earned money on these two major sales events of the year.

"That's crazy," you scream. "Yeah, uh, whatever," you scoff. "You'll never be able to do it," the voice inside my head echoes. Well, I hope I can prove you  myself wrong. Honestly my backlog can't take the pressure of all those games piling up anymore, even if they are digital. So I've created a guideline for myself of important things to remember for the upcoming Steam holiday sale and beyond. I am using this as motivation to keep my game purchases at a minimum, and to not succumb to the sweet temptation of all those 75% off deals I see literally every other day. I'm serious about this one guys. I'm gonna do it!!!

Important things to remember for 
Steam Holiday Sale 2013

Stick to budget

My budget is going to be $60, now and forever. Why $60? Because that's usually the standard cost of a new game. I want to get the most for my money, and for the price of one new game you can easily buy five during these sales. I all ready own a lot of games I don't play enough of though, and theoretically, I probably shouldn't even be spending any money on a new game. But we've established I'm a weak human with no self control. Also, if I do stick to this plan of only buying games during these two time periods of the year, surely that gives me enough time (about six months between each sale) to play those new games, right? Right?!? I'm so scared right now, TELL ME I CAN DO THIS!!!

Prioritize deals by savings 

50% is great and all, but 75% is better. As is 80% and 90%. The higher the percentage the better the savings, duh. Recent releases in October and November show up in the Holiday sale, but again, why spend $40 on one game during a time when that amount can get me so much more. Also, it's not like that game won't ever be on sale later on for less...or will it?

Will it?

I don't have to get every game on my wish list... or shouldn't I? 

I currently have 34 games on my Steam wish list. When the sale hits, every single one of these will be discounted. I know this because that's what happened during the Summer sale. It's hard not to get something, but even harder to choose what to get. But my goal should not be to try and get as much of these as possible. The goal is to get a good value on games I really want to play, and I am likely to play right away/for a long time. The Witcher 2, Metro: Last Light, the original Half-Life, BioShock Infinite, and Gone Home are all games I really want to own and know I will commit myself to playing. BioShock Infinite I all ready have for the Xbox 360, but I want to add it on Steam so I can take screenshots and videos (i.e. have an excuse to play it all over again a dozen times on another platform because I LOVE THAT GAME.)

Save some for the Summer sale

"What do you get for the Man who has everything?" If I buy everything on my wishlist now, what am I going to get excited about later? I am not at the point yet where I am starved for games (honestly I never was) Hopefully I will be one day, because then I will feel confident and proud of all the games I have completed and had great experiences with, as opposed to feeling ashamed as they fill up my Steam library with never played next to their name. With Steam sales happening every second, it can be easy to lose excitement when the offers constantly pop up. Also, it's not like these games are going anywhere. Why spend money on all the games now; I can put that money to better use elsewhere (like taking my wife to a nice restaurant). $120 is not a bad amount to spend on discounted games throughout the year. Besides...

I have to play these games sometime, you know? 

That's what all this is all about anyway. I want to control my spending habits so I actually have time to play and enjoy my new games. Also If I can better budget my spending on my most passionate hobby, it can help me reassess financial decisions I'm making on other important things in life. Because let's face it, games aren't they only things I'm probably spending too much money on for no reason. I also need to be realistic: too much games and not enough to time to play them is still a terrible habit, even if I am limiting myself to $60. Yes, that's my budget, but it wouldn't be so bad if I have a couple of bucks left over, or maybe I can spend some of that money not just on myself, but gifitng to friends and strangers on my friends list. pay it forward you know? It is the holidays after all.

The point is: if I keep overspending on games the way I do now  I'll end up with a bunch of digital paperweights. The main reason I want to space out my purchases is so I can use the time between sales to play my games, create community content, and not feel ashamed of my backlog.

I am fast approaching 100 owned games on Steam, and that is a collection I built in a short amount of time. It's all too easy to do so. But how many of those have I played? It's an embarrassingly low number which makes me question why I spend money on games in the first place. I don't want these Steam sales to be a reminder of how I obsessively spend. I want them to be a reminder of how responsible I am with my money, and reflect the discipline I have in playing the games I buy. But I need to start somewhere. I have an ideal goal for all of 2014, but the real test is only a few weeks away.