Are video games frugal?

When people find out that my husband and I play video games, most of them say “Well, that’s not very frugal!” Actually, it’s more frugal than you think or at least it can be.

This week, Bethesda released Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This is a role-playing game, which because it is a new release we paid $59.99 for. Yes, I know 60 bucks is a week’s worth of groceries in our house. Yes, I know $60 is the price of three pairs of jeans. There are a lot of things $60 could buy. Sixty dollars is also the price of a decent dinner out. Sixty dollars is two trips to the movies. Sixty dollars is a night out playing pool and having a few drinks.

A $60 video game like Skyrim is hundreds of hours of play time over the next six months to a year in our house. The last game my husband purchased was Fallout 3: New Vegas (another RPG) which he played for approximately four months. We purchased the game used for about $20. Now when I think about all the things my husband could be out doing on a Friday night (things I will not mention because I try to keep things clean) and the money he could be spending, I’m pretty cool with video games.

To make things more frugal, we generally purchase games used and trade in old games toward the purchase of new ones. Skyrim is the first game in a long time that we have purchased new when it first came out. Most games we purchase are $20 or less and we only purchase 3 or 4 games a year. After trade-in credits, we probably spend about $100 a year on games. That’s about the price of a monthly Netflix streaming subscription. It’s much less than cable or going to the movies once a month.

Most of the games we play together, switching back and forth. We laugh together and make silly comments while we play. Many of the games we play have great stories and require you to make decisions and figure out puzzles. They require strategy and thought. Sometimes you even have to do math! Oh the horror!

The best thing about video games? They get my husband to do laundry! What is better than that?

P.S. If you are trying to decide if you should get Skyrim, you should. It’s awesome. We are having so much fun playing it.

Why frugal?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days updating  the layout of my blog, including adding more pictures. It was a nice reminder why we live a frugal life. I’ve been thinking about this post for a few days and then I noticed that Katy had also written a post on the topic.

People ask me all the time why we are so frugal. We don’t spend money on fancy cars or expensive clothes. We don’t have the latest and greatest new thing that comes on the market. We don’t eat expensive dinners out or go to lots of shows.  So why are we so frugal?

To have moments like this:

Pointing to Naples

This is Jeff on the balcony of our room pointing to Naples. Being frugal got us here. We saved for this trip, which is something we’ve wanted to do since we first got together twelve years ago. We decided that this year, our tenth wedding anniversary would be the perfect time to go. Was it an expensive trip? You betcha. Did we enjoy every moment we spent together in Florence, Rome and Naples? Absolutely. Jeff and I love to experience life together, whether it’s at home or in Italy. We put more value on our time than our money.

We all have different reasons for being frugal. We’ve spent the last few years paying down our debt so we’d have more money in the future. I have one year left on my contract at work, so for the next twelve months the plan is to try to live on my husband’s income and use all of mine for to pay down debt and save. When my contract is up, I won’t have to worry about finding another full-time job. I can figure out what I want to do and see where life takes me. That’s the beauty of being frugal. We don’t need two full-time incomes. Yes, we could probably do a lot more traveling or have nicer cars if I continued to work full-time, but then I wouldn’t be around to make dinner or volunteer my time. I wouldn’t be as relaxed as I am today. I like the flexibility that our lifestyle provides. Plus, if we traveled all the time, I’m not sure pictures like the one above would be as special.

Christmas Shopping

I’m pleased to report that most of my Christmas shopping is finished. That doesn’t mean all the Christmas knitting is finished, but I’m pleased with my progress.

The biggest problem I have each year is the nephews. The nieces are easy. I knit them something pretty and they always love it. Nephews don’t seem to like anything that doesn’t involve a video game or flashing lights. As the boys get older (2 in high school and one in the high single digits), they are harder to shop for. Since we don’t have kids yet, we don’t know what the latest cool thing is. Plus, have you seen the prices for the latest cool things? Yikes.

So, I call out to you, my frugal clan to ask for your help. How do you satisfy the male children in your life?

Time vs. Money

Life is a balancing act, just like your budget. Most of us have to make a choice between time and money at some point in our lives. I was forced to make that choice a few years ago.

In July of 2006, my husband and I were just getting back on our feet after  he changed career paths. He was making good money again after nine months of living mostly off of my income. I was working a lot of hours plus I had just finished my master of science in accounting and taxation two months earlier. I am a whirlwind kind of person. Ask my friends; I’m always moving in 800 different directions. I was starting to contemplate what I would start next. I had been feeling kinda crappy but pushed through most of it to finish my degree. At one point, I was working full-time plus taking classes full-time. I was never home and missed my husband tremendously. We spent a lot of money on groceries and eating out because we always needed a quick dinner solution every night. I was burnt out and I was miserable.

Then I got a kick in the pants, telling me to slow down. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I went from speed of light to complete stop in one afternoon. I started treatment immediately and stopped working. I was lucky to have a disability plan at work, even if it wasn’t much for the first 13 weeks. It was enough to pay for our health insurance with a little left over. We got into some serious debt during this whole thing. We tried to sell out house but couldn’t. I sat at home, sick and worried about money.

Then, I started to do something. I started clipping coupons again, something I hadn’t done since we bought the house.  I started planning meals. I started to enjoy cooking again. I looked for other ways to cut our budget. When my treatment was over, my husband and I sat down to discuss what was next. My doctor really did not want me going back to work as a full-time tax accountant. It was too stressful for my Type A personality. He was concerned about the risk of reoccurance. Jeff and I looked at our budget. I knew I could start up a small tax and consulting practice, but doing so would mean a serious cut in pay. We decided that we could make it. My husband works for the state now and we have great health insurance.

I work more than I planned when I first started this venture. I have my accounting practice, plus I teach a few classes a semester at a local college. I’m doing the blog. While I still whirlwind around, I now have time to get dinner on the table almost every night. I have time to do little errands during the day so that Jeff and I have more time together. I also have more time to help us save money. We still have approximately the same lifestyle while I make a lot less money and have a lot less stress. I really enjoy what I’m doing now and I think our marriage is better than it’s ever been.

In the last few years, the frugality debate has been about my time and my health. I chose time over money. Being frugal gives me more “me” time and more “us” time. It allows me to pursue things that I never thought possible, like teaching. Getting cancer really opened my eyes to what is important.

My husband worked with a man who worked so hard his entire life. He worked long hours and sacrificed his family life to make a living and build retirement savings so he and his wife could have the time of their lives. He was planning to retire when he was 55. That would give them plenty of time to make up for all those lost years. A week before he was scheduled to retire, his wife died unexpectedly. He spent all those years building a wonderful life for them and never got to enjoy it with her.

You never think it could happen to you. I hope it never does. I hope it doesn’t take an illness or some other catastrophe to get you to start thinking about the possibilities in your life. One of my favorite quotes is from a paper weight my sister gave me when I graduated from college. It states “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” I started my own business, cut back my hours, started doing something I love, got a little more frugal and spend more time with Jeff and the cats.

What would you do? Are you balancing time and money right now? How is it going for you? Do you find yourself stressed with all the daily obligations of your life? How can you change things? Have you already made the change? Tell us about your story.