A New Decade of Aspirations.

Financial Independence, Minimalism, and Gaming in the 2020’s.

It’s one of my rare Saturdays off. I’m waiting to see the film 1917. My wife isn’t a fan of war movies, so I’m on my own for this one. It’s a real treat to be given this leisure time. After a tiresome week home with my toddler, who’s experiencing his first cold, it’s nice to have a break. So here I go to the cinema close to home, in the chance I needed to be home quickly, as we are not fully on the mend yet.

The theater is in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Dallas, Highland Park. As I park my Subaru, I find I’m surrounded by BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Land Rover, and other luxury vehicles. I also spy a Lamborghini a little further down. The storefronts are strewn with names like Jimmy Choo, Cartier, Leggiado, and plenty of other designer brands that I’m unfamiliar with. I simply know that I cannot afford them. This is doubly reinforced by the doormen I see standing as security by the front doors. Out of curiosity, when I’m home, I check out a few websites for these stores. On their online storefront, I see that Leggiado has “cotton sweaters for sunny days”, and they’re only $295 – $450. Cartier has fine jewelry that ranges from a sizable down payment on a car to around 20% of a down payment on a house. Yowza!

Thanks, but I’ll pass Leggiado. You do you.

None of this really bothers me, but being here definitely puts me out of my comfort zone. This is definitely a world I have no experience in navigating, and I am content with leaving it that way. I could never justify spending $300 on a sweater; such a sum nearly feeds our family for an entire month. If you’ll pardon this long-winded introduction, I promise there’s a point. As I sit and people watch, I see all sorts of status symbols. Whether it be automobiles, clothing, handbags, and jewelry, people buy this stuff! There’s so much disposable income all around me. I have to consider the possibility that perhaps it’s not disposable income but voluntary consumer debt? These companies exist because people purchase their products.

Living My Values Into the 2020’s

During my brief visit to the shopping district in the Capitol from The Hunger Games, I’m provided a good reminder of why we’re pursuing Financial Independence. My wife and I are pleased with our values concerning money and how we choose to spend it. We strive to live into those values pursuant to our larger financial goals. What we value is spending time with our families, being healthy, and getting outside in nature as often as possible. A main aspect of this is avoiding unnecessary purchases that could delay us from achieving our retirement goals. We’ve realized most consumer purchases often don’t bring lasting happiness but a briefly satisfying shot of dopamine. Since we live away from our families for example, we tend to eat 99% of our meals at home, but save restaurant dining for when our families are here. After all, their visit is a special occasion and a few meals out helps us live our values and marks these moments with pleasant memories.

The Monk and the Minister

As far as simple living, I recall JL Collin’s mention of the famous parable of the monk and the minister, in his book Simple Path to Wealth:

‘“Two close boyhood friends grow up and go their separate ways. One becomes a humble monk, the other a rich and powerful minister to the king.

Years later they meet up again. 

As they catch up, the minister (in his fine robes) takes pity on the thin, shabby monk. Seeking to help, he says: “You know, if you could learn to cater to the king you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.”

To which the monk replies: “If you could learn to live on rice and beans you wouldn’t have to cater to the king!”’

JL Collins: A Simple Path to Wealth.

I love this parable. I interpret it partly as being beholden to a system of consumption, based on maintaining one’s image. So, my resolution for this next year decade is to be content with what I have, and to clearly distinguish my wants and needs. I’m not saying we have to subsist on rice and beans, but we’re also not going to go overboard. I don’t want to confuse my material wants as needs. I need clothing for warmth. I need healthy food and clean water to nourish my body. I need exercise to bring a sound body and mind. There’s probably a few other explicit needs that I’m not thinking of at the moment. But for the sake of simplicity, anything additional is a want, and not necessarily essential. Knowing that this is a state of mind I repeatedly find myself in, perhaps it’s time to check out some books about Zen Buddhism! Aside from this, this state of mind has also made me reflect about my goals around gaming for the 2020’s. I came up with these three main goals.

  1. Avoid collecting
  2. Play what I have. Buy Less.
  3. Take a more minimalist approach.

That said, in this new decade I want to strive for simplicity, minimalism, and the essentials. A rare treat — like this matinee-showing of a film, complete with a coke and popcorn, is just that, a treat. I think in the span of our child’s life, I’ve been to the theater twice. It hardly reaches overindulgence. I’m really grateful for this opportunity to sit down and enjoy a film, without having the worry that I need to tend to a hungry, soiled, sick, or otherwise upset baby. We all need breaks. I for one am appreciating and pausing to reflect in gratitude, and tell you about it!

Goal: Avoid Collecting.

As it relates to gaming, I find it rare to play for a long, uninterrupted span of time nowadays. I feel like I’ve covered this topic well in my “Being a Parent and a Gamer series of articles.” Ever since this limitation of time has been a reality, I felt like my identity as a gamer is changing. To compensate for this, I have been feeling a pull to embrace the collector-side of the gaming world. It’s definitely appealing; a leisurely stroll down Instagram can open up a world of amazing game rooms and vast collections of rare games. They’re no doubt awesome and leaves most of us nerds salivating. 

However, a quote from Theodore Roosevelt holds true: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparing my modest collection of games to other collections I find while browsing social media, brings forth feelings of desire and inadequacy. It can also drive impulsive buying urges. “I remember that game! I have to get it. Man that setup is amazing. I want one just like that!” Not only does it fuel impulsive thinking (and occasionally, your decision making), it can be really consumptive of your precious time.

This afternoon in Highland Park has helped me draw a conclusion about my consumption with gaming. Reconciling these thoughts and feelings, I know collecting would hinder me from reaching my goals and living my values. For that fact, I think collecting would leave me with guilt, disappointment, and regret. Though I don’t know the exact sums that are sunk into large collections, without a doubt they’re usually significant. I know that any spending on amassing a collection is money that’s not getting into our path for financial freedom. The opportunity cost is apparent: I can amass a collection, or that money can be invested and build wealth. Instead, for the past three years, I’ve not spent any of my own money on games I’ve wanted to play. I am still able to enjoy the games I’m excited for without incurring costs. This is a practice that I’m continuing into this next decade. 

Goal: Play What I Have. Buy Less.

I want to be clear in saying that if people really value and get joy from having a large collection, go for it. I’m not trying to “Yuck!” someone’s “Yum!” My goal isn’t to rob someone of the joy and satisfaction they get from collecting an entire NTSC Nintendo 64 set. However, when I look at game rooms with thousands of games stacked on shelves, the reality is my values aren’t aligned with collecting. If I had thousands of games in my collection, I’d argue that’s simply too many games that I can thoroughly enjoy in my lifetime. I don’t want this to come off as didactic. Collecting gaming and playing games are not diametrically opposed. It’s simply a matter of different choices, values, and goals, not opposing viewpoints. I just can’t personally enjoy collecting anymore.

I know if I purchased en-masse, a large collection of games, it often meant a large backlog. Deciding what to play would be hard. I’d simply be paralyzed from all the choices available to me. Say you’re eating out at a restaurant. When it’s time to order, you’ve been trying to narrow down from 100 different entrées on the menu. How would you handle that? For me, that is very overwhelming. I’ll likely fall back onto something pretty standard, or ask for a suggestion. That’s how I view a backlog, it becomes hard to narrow down exactly what it is I want to play. Perhaps I have esoteric interests and tastes, but I think there’s beauty in simplicity that comes with fewer choices. So, I purchase games only as often as I’m able to play through them. I end up saving money this way, as I don’t rush into most games on their initial day of release. I also end up being able to play down my backlog.

Goal: Take a More Minimalist Approach.

This blends into my other goal, that I have not directly named yet. I believe it goes hand in hand many ways with financial independence, that is the goal of minimalism. With tens of thousands of games out for the masses to enjoy today, if I have a “collection” at all, I want it to be curated with my favorite games on a system. I once had almost 200 of the 248 US-released Dreamcast games. The realization I came to was that within that library there were a number of excellent, good, and poor games. Some of them weren’t the money or time I put into acquiring and playing them. So, I cut out the poor, mediocre, and even some of the good games. I let go of the goal of having a complete Dreamcast set. 

A Dreamcast checklist. I once had 200 Dreamcast Games. I wanted all 248.

I conceded that while a complete Dreamcast library may look good on a shelf, it also takes up a lot of space. This is further compounded when I’ve got other systems, each with their own library of games to choose from, all occupying their own space in our home. Being in a somewhat temporary living situation (we’ll move again within the next 3-4 years to a more permanent location), I don’t want a collection taking up too much space in our abode. This comes with the added burden of having to lug across the country, in a few years time. It is what it is. I also have a little one that delights in innocently pulling these off the shelves, much like the books on his bookshelf. 

So now, I have around 70 Dreamcast games, with my favorites, the heavy hitters, and system defining games. I also have a number of other consoles that I was gifted, grew up with or purchased as time and life went on. At times I’ve felt like I have too much of a collection, and I’ve contemplated trimming down to the games and systems I truly love, left with the games and systems that consistently get played and replayed. I’ve also had the thought of shedding all of the physical software and becoming a gamer that plays games exclusively digitally, be it Steam or e-shops.

https://imgur.com/user/flizzzipper – A really sharp game room.

With this thought in mind, I’m swept into various minimalist Instagram accounts, admiring their small collections and sleek, clean setups. In the process I’m falling into the mental trap of comparison again. “That’s such a nice room, I have way too much stuff!” Then, I also realize that a lot of these video games I own come with the powerful nostalgia of my childhood. It becomes that much more difficult to part with them. I also don’t want to regret selling something, that later on, I’ll wish I had back. At an impasse, I write down on a notepad that this isn’t a decision that needs to be made now. I simply need to get the thought out of my head. For now, I can occasionally brainstorm a more refined idea of a collection or game room, at the next place we call home. For now, I’m fine with where things are at, and stop swirling about possibilities that simply aren’t feasible at this moment in time..

Bringing it home…

I know that I am a quirky person. Mrs. TWG can certainly attest to that. I’m but one of the billions of other people who have their own interests, values, behaviors, and personalities. On a species-wide basis, I find it interesting what we become our hobbies, past-times, or what we choose to spend our disposable income on, if we’re privileged to have it. I’m really trying to hone in on what will continue to be important to me in the future: my family, creating memories together, and planning responsibly so that we have “enough”.

Sure, games are great as a pastime, and I hope to be able to enjoy gaming as I grow older, but they’re hardly essential. Right now, if I had to choose between spending (on a semi-regular basis) $60 of my own money on a new game or dropping that same $60 into VTSAX, it’s not a difficult decision. That $60 will have more potential having time to grow in the market.

For now, I am aspiring to become more minimalist (both materially and mentally) and keep pursuing FI. I am also aspiring to keep these two goals intertwined into my gaming hobby, starting with 2020, and reflecting when I reach the next year. Thanks for reading my outpouring of thoughts, and I hope to hear what you’ve thought about it too!


Andrew (Tightwad Gamer)

PS: 1917 was awesome. As a lover of history, I thought it was a really cool tale of the First World War. If you haven’t seen it, you should! 


Pursuing Financial Independence as a Gamer.

The Intersection between Hobbies and Financial Freedom.

One of the biggest goals my wife and I have is to be financially independent. What I mean by this is having secured enough money to do whatever it is we want with our time. We’d no longer be dependent on any job solely to sustain our livelihood. Make no mistake, the career I’ve had the past ten years has been fulfilling, rewarding and engaging. However, I believe human beings can sometimes stumble into the pitfall of anchoring so much of our self-image and self-perception on what we do for a living. In turn, we ignore or mute other parts of our life that can be equally important in defining who we are. For me, even though I’ve been an educator, I’m also a husband, parent, gamer, and lover of the beautiful game of soccer. I also enjoy traveling, being outside and consider myself a lifelong learner. If I never had to work another day in my life, these things would be my main focus during the remaining time I have on Earth.

With that in mind, my wife and I began a journey a few years ago pursuing FIRE, which is Financial Independence / Retire Early. We wanted to get to a place where if we wanted to retire, we’d have the financial means to do so without being dependent on a job for our livelihoods. In turn, we can prioritize our time in the ways that we see fit. Whether that be spending time with family, exploring and traveling, volunteering, or pursuing hobbies, FIRE is something that we constantly have in the back of our minds. For the sake of this article, I’m going to write from the assumption that you’re aware of FIRE and its general principles. But for context, FIRE involves these very basic guidelines:

  1. Avoid debt.
  2. Set a budget and spend less than what you make.
  3. Invest the remainder, preferably in low-cost index funds rather than mutual funds or individual stocks.
  4. Stay the course and don’t let market fluctuations test your resolve.

Rather than prattle on about what I think FIRE is, I will refer you to some fantastic resources that are both entertaining and packed with tons of great learning materials. For an audio format, the Choose FI podcast is wonderful, perfect for commutes or road trips. Mr. Money Mustache is by far one of the most popular bloggers on the topic and has a great sense of humor. If you’re more of a socialite / forum user / redditor, I’d point you to the /r/financialindependence subreddit. If it’s a good old-fashioned book you’re after, Your Money or Your Life, The Simple Path to Wealth and The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing are both great reads (not affiliate links!). These are all great ways to learn more about the FIRE movement. I hope you take the time to use some of these resources because they can be truly empowering in your own life. So, how does this all line up with my interest in gaming? 

Gaming and Its Meaning to Me.

From a very young age, video games have been a part of my life. I love the creativeness that games bring. I really enjoy a great story unfolding in front of me, delighting my senses. Exploring the imaginative world of an action game or an RPG is fun. The satisfaction of completing a gripping, suspenseful game is a great feeling. I love to support the smaller studios that bring new innovative gameplay and unique aesthetics to the field. I like the technological innovations that new systems bring. I love revisiting games from my childhood on older systems. If it hasn’t been stated enough, there’s just something wonderful about video games that I deeply appreciate. Some of my favorite series include: The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, The original Halo trilogy, Animal Crossing, and the Team Ico games (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian). I think it’s a hobby that often brings people together, too. Game nights hanging out on the couch with friends is still a pastime that is important to me, though it happens less frequently as I get older.

Yet, I take issue with a few things in the current state of the gaming industry, several of which I think are counterproductive to the goals of FIRE. I’d say the current climate is focused on consumption. It vies for your precious hard-earned dollars. Be it systems, games, or the dreaded in-game purchases, you can drop a fortune on gaming without giving it much thought. There’s the nonsense about games needing day one patches to fix issues that should’ve been resolved before hitting the market. Practices like this make me feel the money I put in isn’t providing a comparative amount of value. I also think it’s horrible that some companies take advantage of their employees, forcing them to work extremely long hours during crunch time before a game’s scheduled release date. However, even with my minor gripes about the industry, I still show my love of video games by purposely not supporting studios and companies whose practices are abusing consumers’ trust. To that I say: vote with your wallet.

Personally, I used to frequently buy games on release day or shortly after, paying the full retail price for games. Sometimes carelessly and without much mindfulness, I could easily drop a few hundred dollars on games I was excited to play. When the new gaming systems came out, I’d eagerly pick one up, seldom waiting for a price drop or Black Friday deal. These were moments in my early twenties where living in the moment was my focus. Amassing a huge collection of games as quickly as possible seemed exciting. I allowed my spending to get the best of me, and setting a budget often wasn’t something in the back of my mind. Sometimes, I think I was operating from my own fear of missing out. There were times I’d lose my sense of time to the point of affecting my overall wellness. I learned I needed to set limits on how frequently I played. It took a while, but I needed to establish some healthier habits involving my time and money.

Financial Independence with a Gaming Approach.

Do we as gamers not seek to master the games we play? Of course we do — we look for secrets, tips, and tricks to gain an advantage against the AI or another player. We’re constantly seeking more efficient ways to solve problems or puzzles, or easier solutions to the boss we’ve been stuck on. We like those achievements and trophies that pop up along the way. We might also consult a guide or FAQ when we get stuck. Thinking about my finances as a video game, I considered some critical details about my financial life. I had five figures of student loan debt after graduating in 2008. Over a span of five years, I set a goal, timeline and budget to aggressively pay off my student loans and get out of debt. This is where Dave Ramsey’s Budgeting Forms and Debt Snowball was really influential. My key takeaways here were setting a budget, developing strong habits of self-discipline around spending, and keeping my goals in mind. By November 2013, just shy of five years after graduating from university, I became debt free. Shortly after, my wife and I had to buy a new car just before our wedding. We did take on a small car loan but didn’t incur debt for our wedding or honeymoon. We used the same approach as we did with my student loans to pay off our car quickly. In full transparency, we were each making around $30,000 a year in our mid to late twenties.

Soon after, still newlyweds and newly debt-free, we realized there was much to be learned about the world of retirement savings. It’s amazing we’re never given much of a personal finance education, especially considering how much of the investing world tends to be laden with jargon and confusing details. Dave Ramsey’s expertise, though excellent guidance for paying off student loan debt, wasn’t necessarily geared toward FIRE. I read a few introductory books like The Millionaire Next Door and The Richest Man in Babylon (both great for philosophy and principles), but the most influential and step-by-step resource book on retirement investing proved to be The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing. This ignited our thirst for more knowledge and brought us to other resources like the ChooseFI podcast, Mr. Money Mustache, Paula Pant’s Afford Anything, Go Curry Cracker, and more. It really started to feel like there was a lot of knowledge here that we could apply and fine tune in our lives. From the many resources above and fellow people within the FI community pursuing the same goal, it felt like we were tapping into a strategy guide toward a financially independent future.

From the insights gained, we really honed our strategy over the next few years. We could have easily chosen to indulge more with our hobbies (me – gaming, my wife – photography), traveling, eating out, or purchasing other consumer goods. All of the money I had been throwing at loans for the past five years wasn’t allocated to anything now. This is where the FIRE journey truly began, and how I started to look at this like a video game. We scrutinized our budgets and cut a lot of the excess. We adopted an aggressive strategy towards our retirement savings. This entailed how much we wanted to invest each year and investing that money into low-cost index funds as opposed to actively managed mutual funds. In many ways, our pursuit of FIRE felt like taking a complex problem or puzzle, not unlike one you would find in a video game, and applying strategies to reach our goals. However, real life doesn’t necessarily mirror the speed of progression you find in a video game. Real life moves far more slowly, more incrementally. It can be hard to see your own progress and easy to lose sight of the big picture, so it’s important to find tools that help you keep track. Personally, I get a lot of enjoyment out of tracking performance and progress, usually through our budgets, spreadsheets, and graphs. With our goals clearly defined and practices in place to help us reach a financially independent future, I wanted to examine my gaming hobby and wondered if I could apply similar strategies.

Applying a Financial Independence mindset to Gaming.

Here’s how I’ve applied a FIRE mindset to gaming. I set specific goals for spending and firmly stick to my budget. The habits I’ve built around delayed gratification and avoiding impulse purchases have been key to my success. I have found I enjoy gaming more when I am selective about what I purchase. I usually skip release day; but if there’s a game or two I buy at full price, I do it through Gamer’s Club Unlocked (RIP, the program has since been discontinued by Best Buy), which offers a 20% discount. I frequently seek out and wait for deals, like the Summer Steam Sale or Black Friday, or I simply wait until I can find a game used where it will usually be heavily discounted. I’ve learned to refurbish and resell games and gain a reasonable profit to fund my purchases. I’ve become much more cognizant about how frequently I game and how long individual sessions last. I’ve learned to be much more efficient with the time I have and be intentional about what I want to play. I think all of these strategies have become even more important because of two key factors: I’m now a stay at home parent and we are currently a single income household. Both our financial resources and our time are a bit more limited.

While being a stay-at-home parent is definitely a full-time, demanding job, it’s undoubtedly changed how I view my time. It has felt like a sabbatical from the grind of a 9 to 5 job. Even further, this experience has felt like a glimpse at life when perhaps both my wife and I are FIRE’d. I’m getting to take care of a tiny little human dependent on me for his every need, but with that I’m also getting to enjoy lots of little moments: taking him to story time, going to the park, and watching him learn and play. That’s time in his life I otherwise would’ve missed out on had I been working full-time.

I’m also enjoying this amazing opportunity to spend time in between his needs doing what I want, even if gaming is obviously taking a backseat. We’re valuing our health, exercising regularly and I’m cooking healthy meals during the week. Likely when our son begins school, I’ll jump back into the workforce and we’ll have two incomes to use to better our financial future and achieve FIRE. My point is that for these past five months, I’ve had control over my time. I’ve been able to make choices that have led to a healthier, more balanced me. So, what has gaming looked like this year, you ask?

The past several months with limited time and money has made me more appreciative of the time I do spend gaming. I’m still getting the opportunity to enjoy video games from time to time (occasionally when kiddo is napping but mainly when he is put to bed for the evening), be it visiting my local arcade down the street or firing up my Switch for an hour or so to unwind a couple evenings a week. This has been a refreshing experience because I can actually look forward to sitting down and enjoying a game with some very real finite time limits in place. In the past, gaming was a mindless activity that occupied my time and (occasionally) teetered towards the unhealthy side. In some ways I think spending my own money on games meant feeling obligated to play them, even when my enjoyment started to fade. It was a vicious cycle I don’t care to repeat. I don’t see myself going back towards overindulging; I am appreciative of the balance I’ve found and want to stick with it.

Similarly, I’ve yet to spend a single dollar of my own money this year on gaming, which is a goal I set each year and helps keep FIRE front and center. I still enjoy the games I have. In fact, I’ve beaten 9 games this year already, and only purchased 3. I have ditched the collecting aspect that sometimes goes hand in hand with gaming, playing games that have been in my backlog instead. My point is, you can enjoy gaming immensely and it doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby. It can actually be a pretty affordable source of entertainment. So if you’re pursuing FIRE, are already financially independent and/or retired, or simply trying to reel in your gaming-related spending and stick to a budget, there are plenty of ways to enjoy gaming without impacting your budget, bank account, or retirement savings.

Closing: Gaming and our Financially Independent Future.

When we achieve FIRE some time in the future, I am hopeful I’ll still be interested in video games as a hobby. When that day arrives, I plan to continue keeping a budget and finding clever ways to help keep costs on gaming to a minimum. As long as the hobby is still affordable, gaming shouldn’t be an issue. I’m looking forward to the satisfaction of completing new games, revisiting past favorites, hosting game nights, playing games with my children, and discussing them online and in person. I’m trying to keep an open mind; I might not enjoy the hobby as much as I did when I was younger, and that’s okay. 

Still, it’s exciting to picture a life where a full-time job/career isn’t occupying the majority of my week. Instead, we can explore, travel, spend time with family, play games, play soccer (c’mon knees, stay healthy!) learn new things, whatever it is we want to do. Those prospects are really the driving force for the future we want to build. To accomplish our dream of FIRE, we’ve been making some deliberate and intentional choices now. To reiterate, those include saving an aggressive percentage of our income, being frugal and budget conscious (reducing our cost of living), and avoiding impulsive spending that could set us back from our goals. It’s a constant exercise in delaying gratification and being disciplined about how we spend our money. I’ve found a lot of enjoyment and challenge in my very own Tightwad Gaming side-quest. Exploring ways, tips, and tricks or hacks to make my gaming hobby affordable helps me keep FIRE in mind while also not feeling like I’m living a life of squalor or deprivation.

Overall, I have to say the path to FIRE has been a great adventure so far. I’m sure there will be lots of great lessons along the way and wonderful people we can learn from and swap stories with. I’ve shared a lot about our journey, but would love to hear your own thoughts. Are you pursuing FIRE? Are you also a gamer? Had a question to ask? I’d love to hear from you!

Pokemon Paid For Our Couch.

Buy Cards. Sell Cards. Acquire Comfortable Furniture.

When I first saw SÖDERHAMN, it was love at first sight. We had spent the entire day, and the better half of a week, looking for furniture for our new apartment. We visited one-too-many dodgy department stores with far-too-eager salesmen. There was also the amazing (no sarcasm) experience we had with Nebraska Furniture Mart. It was the largest store I think I’ve ever been in, which is worth a tale of its own. However, this arduous task seemed impossible and my wife and I were starting to lose hope. Alas, our final stop of the day led us to IKEA. 

And there it was! SÖDERHAMN, the beautiful sectional couch. The couch that had the exact dimensions for our living room. All other sectionals were too big and far too expensive for our budget, but not you, SÖDERHAMN. You were made for us. We immediately found the salesperson (thanks, Steve!), and asked him what we needed to make SÖDERHAMN ours. If you’re not familiar with IKEA, they give you a list of items (most large items come in several packages) to take with you down to the warehouse. List in hand, we found another IKEA staff member in the warehouse, and completed our order. SÖDERHAMN, in all its glory, wasn’t going to fit in our Subaru, so we scheduled a delivery for a very reasonable fee. If you’re still reading this riveting tale of furniture retail and wondering how on earth Pokemon are involved, I’m getting there.

This is Soderhamn. Glorious. Not ours specifically, but you get the idea.

We moved in January to a completely new city and a new, unfurnished, apartment. We had just started off on our own and needed several pieces of furniture, namely the essentials: a bed, couch, and kitchen table. Additionally, we dropped down to a single income while I stay at home with our infant son. With tons of new circumstances in our lives, I wanted to think of a creative solution to offset some of these costs without dipping into our savings or taking on excessive consumer debt. This is how I started wheeling and dealing Pokemon Cards, and how they have paid for our kick-ass couch.

An aside: Yes, we could have purchased a used couch. Yes, it is suboptimal in terms of keeping large purchases to a minimum in order to pursue financial independence (a goal my wife and I share). No, it’s not great for the environment. All valid reasons, I hear you. To be fair, finding one used was pretty tough in the middle of winter. We just wanted a couch that was comfortable, reasonably priced, and whose quality would hold up with a baby (soon to be a bumbling toddler, and then full-fledged kiddo). I have strong feelings that SÖDERHAMN will not disappoint us in those departments. After all, it has machine-washable, fashionable cushions.

The Pokemon Trading Card Game

Some of the original Theme Decks from the early WotC Pokemon Sets. Gotta catch ‘em all!

The Pokemon Trading Card Game (TCG) has been around since I was in middle school (late 1990’s for those who aren’t familiar). It was originally produced by Wizards of the Coast, the same company that acquired vast piles of gold by creating the Magic the Gathering card game. The Pokemon TCG has its own set of rules and play mechanics (similar to the video games) and is still wildly popular with fans of the anime, video games, and all things Pokemon. The cards are pretty simple, with only a few card types. Most are the Pokemon cards themselves, containing the Pokemon’s name, image / illustration, and abilities / moves they can use to engage your opponent (requiring energy, another card type), who is another player sitting across from you.

The early cards are also pretty collectible, for a variety of reasons. They’re a cool piece of history for Pokemon fans. There are fantastic holographic cards that spark nostalgia and joy. The series is still immensely popular and as millenials and Gen X’ers have kids of their own, the series is making the leap from one generation to the next. Finally, there are a variety of unique cards to chase down. I personally loved collecting the cards and playing the games as a kid, so for these (and probably a plethora of other) reasons it makes sense why people still collect them.

Selling Pokemon Cards: My Plan.

Besides the collectability of these cards, I chose to sell them, as opposed to other products, for a few other reasons:

  1. As far as inventory, they don’t take up a ton of space. A small section of my side of the closet was plenty of room.
  2. They’re also fairly inexpensive to package and ship. This helped maximize profits.
  3. Lots can still be found for a rather inexpensive sum. This helped with the profit margin.

I started tracking down some of these cards to see if I could, in turn, pay for some of the furnishings in our house. I looked at wholesale lots on eBay that were mis-listed (either by spelling or category), had few pictures (but often had itemized lists), had a low auction price (usually avoiding most buy-it-now listings), and those ending at bizarre, early morning times. Any combination of these factors were ideal listings for me to bid on. Side note: I had a baby who wasn’t sleeping through the night at this point, so trying to win late-night auctions wasn’t a problem. Trust me, I’d have preferred the sleep had it been an option at the time. Prior to this, I spent some time researching what cards had held their value, what sold best, and determining my max bids so I could get a decent return on investment. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t overpaying on the inventory I was building.

I’ll admit, there was a bit of luck involved in all of this. When lots were arriving to my door, I was often looking for mint cards. After all, collectors do not want scratched, damaged, or bent cards. Thankfully, many of the individual lots had some really fantastic cards, helping me acquire many of the sought after holographic cards and build complete sets to in turn sell to prospective collectors. I marketed cards in creative ways — sets of uncommon/common cards, individually sought after cards, complete sets, played card lots, etc. After a few months, I had a sizable and quality inventory. I put together listings with great images, detailed card lists, free shipping, and stated I would pack safely to ensure the cards would arrive in the condition the buyer would expect and appreciate.

Booster Packs from the three sets I was trying to collect.

I had a few fantastic finds along the way. If you’re familiar with the early series of cards, there’s a Base Set, Jungle Set, and Fossil Set, which are the first three sets in the game. My luckiest finds involved cards from the base set. As I mentioned before, there’s an illustration of the Pokemon on the card. In virtually all printings of the first three sets, there’s a shadow-effect on the frame around the Pokemon’s picture. There was one instance in the printing of the base set that the shadow effect was missing from all cards. They have a unique copyright date and are noticeably different from their shadowed counterparts. These cards are commonly referred to as “Shadowless” base set cards. Some of these individual cards can fetch hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, and a complete set can cost a fortune.

This is a Shadowless Charizard card. Luck would have it I found one.

Profit! And a Free Couch!

Over the months, I happened to come across a few hundred Shadowless cards, most in surprisingly good condition. My luck hit its pinnacle when a lot I bought contained a shadowless Charizard (one of the most popular Pokemon and the most sought after card in the Base Set). This card was in condition worthy of professional grading, so I sent it off for a small fee to help pinpoint its true value.Turns out I had a card worth around $300 based on its condition. I combined it with other shadowless cards and found a buyer interested in the lot. I had purchased that lot of cards for $50 on a listing that lacked any photos but had a list of the cards within, Charizard being one of them. In total, that lot netted me around $400 of profit, even after eBay, Paypal, and card grading fees.

Over a 4-month period, I sold a number of cards, sets, and other things on eBay. The main goal was to pay for the couch and see how far this little side-venture could take me. I’m happy to report that I’ve well exceeded this goal, nearly paying for all our furniture purchases through this eBay venture. Does SÖDERHAMN seem more comfortable after this fun and challenging endeavor? It sure feels that way. Overall, this was a fun little project. I found a product that had value and got to revisit childhood memories of collecting and playing while sorting through the cards. It didn’t take much time. I dropped off orders to the post office a few times a week. Collecting the fruits of my labor was as simple as transferring to my PayPal account. I sold the last of my Pokemon cards (a complete set of Base, Jungle, Fossil, and Theme Decks) to a buyer who was quite excited to find the small collection I had assembled. Having caught all the Pokemon, it was time to retire the Pokedex and flop on the couch to enjoy a game. Thanks for reading!

Tightwad Gamer Reviews – Star Wars Destiny: RIvals.

Draft play is on the way. We gave it a spin!

Today, we’d like to review an exciting new addition to the Star Wars Destiny dice and card game, the Rivals Draft Set. This set releases on February 15, 2018. We will be evaluating if the new draft format adds depth, enjoyability, and value to Destiny.

If you’re unfamiliar with Star Wars Destiny, this is a dice and card game that was released in 2016. From Fantasy Flight Games’ website: “Star Wars™: Destiny is a collectible dice and card game of epic battles across the Star Wars universe. In the game, two players must gather a team of heroes or villains from throughout the saga, pitting them in battle against your opponent. With a set of premium dice and a deck of cards to support your characters, you must build your forces, launch cunning tactics, and deal damage to your enemies. The last player with characters left standing wins the game.”

A game of Destiny plays by alternating turns between players, each making decisions from choosing from a set of actions spelled out in the rules. Many of the characters from the Star Wars series are represented with their own unique abilities and dice. The game itself is designed to play as if you’re in a duel on the battlefield, in true Star Wars fashion. It was something that drew me to the game initially, and is what still holds my interest in the game, being a fan of the Star Wars universe.

Mechanically, Destiny requires a constructed deck of 30 cards. These 30 cards do not include the character, plot, or battlefield cards you also pick from you collection. Players can build these decks through purchasing starter sets for $15, or booster packs, which retail for $3 each. A starter set includes everything necessary to experience the game: rules, cards, dice, and tokens. Boosters are purchased for $3 each and contain 5 cards, and 1 die. These are used to build up a player’s choices in building a deck. Cards that have dice are often choices of characters, weapons, abilities, vehicles, and titles used to build synergy with other cards. Like Magic: The Gathering or other Customizable Card Games (CCG’s), Destiny players build custom decks for a format called constructed. Often in building decks, players seek the strongest cards suited for their playstyle.

Players looking to be competitive in organized play often seek to purchase individual cards that are pulled from packs, sometimes at a premium price, or purchasing packs whose contents are randomized. This can quickly add up if you’re looking for specific cards to add to your deck. For around $100, a box of 36 packs, or $3 a pack, you’re possibly dropping some serious cash without a guarantee of getting the cards you want. This is where I believe Rivals was a necessary addition for those who don’t want to purchase boatloads of packs.

Rivals allows for two ways to play: Draft Play and Sealed Play. Draft requires the Rivals set and six booster packs, and Sealed requires the Rivals set and eight booster packs. Draft is what you would expect for a draft — players open their packs, choose a card, and pass the remainder until all cards have been chosen. The player then makes a deck of 20-30 cards from rounds of drafting and the cards contained in the Rivals set. Sealed requires a player to open all eight packs and assemble a deck from the packs they opened.. My review highlights my experience with a night of playing Draft Play.

(Courtesy FFG) All rights reserved.

I was able to play at my favorite local game store, with 7 other players participating in our first draft. Everyone arrived, bought their packs and draft set, in total we each spent $31. We all sat down and began the process of drafting. This was my first draft experience and I found it really exciting, trying to be strategic around what cards I selected to construct my deck. I ended up with a deck that went 2-2 in four matches. Here are my reflections:

  • The Rivals set: There’s a good variety of cards that are included: some excellent characters, battlefields, and other cards that help supplement what you’ve already drafted. Many of these cards I believe will end up in constructed play as well. My one criticism is that there are no tokens included. This is not inviting for new players who may want to learn through a draft.
  • Draft: Overall, this adds a new degree of dimension. You can have as many of the same card in your deck as you want, as long as you draft them, which is exciting. A minor gripe I have is that 6 packs out of 36 in a box contain a legendary card, which can include some great characters and upgrades. Additionally, during our draft, characters were rare, and may limit variety across matchups.
  • Number of players: In hindsight, having one additional round of draft may have allow for some greater choices in drafting. This adds a little to the cost, but should be a consideration if you’re playing with more than six players..
  • Price: $31 for an initial start in the game is decent. Later drafts don’t require anything more than the packs required. Having the ability to draft cards that I need in my collection is a way to mitigate cost and build a collection.
  • Enjoyability: This was a really fun experience. It was a fun evening. Drafting is a fun strategic element. Our decks were all over the place. Sometimes they were comically bad and didn’t work the way we have intended. I felt this was a fun new way to play the game with a whole new set of dimensions added.

Overall, this set does add a really interesting way to jump into Destiny. I believe that it adds a lot of variety to the game, and is something new, compared to the meta of constructed play. If amassing a large collection of cards doesn’t seem interesting to you, if you enjoy the fun factor of a draft, then I think it’s worth giving the Rivals set a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I rate the Rivals set 8/10.

Enjoy Star Wars Destiny (or any CCG) on a Budget

A not so long time ago, in a local game story nearby…

Jumping into a Customizable Card Game can be an expensive endeavor. This can be exacerbated if you want to stack up to other players. CCG’s often have a valid criticism that the games can be pay to win; someone shelling out the most cash can afford decks that dominate constructed play. In my experience, Star Wars Destiny helps alleviate some of these concerns. Whereas Magic: The Gathering relies only on cards that are expensive and powerful, Destiny adds a dimension of play by adding dice rolls to cards in play that helps level the playing field. In this article, I share some positive experiences I’ve had while playing Star Wars Destiny, through the lens of a competitive player with a budget in mind.

If you’re unfamiliar with Star Wars Destiny, it is a dice and card game that was released in 2016. From Fantasy Flight Games’ website: “Star Wars™: Destiny is a collectible dice and card game of epic battles across the Star Wars universe. In the game, two players must gather a team of heroes or villains from throughout the saga, pitting them in battle against your opponent. With a set of premium dice and a deck of cards to support your characters, you must build your forces, launch cunning tactics, and deal damage to your enemies. The last player with characters left standing wins the game.”

A friend and I first decided to jump into Destiny in April of 2017. My friend Sam had recently taught me how to play Magic. However I was overwhelmed with the amount of mechanics involved in the game. Instead, we decided to try out Star Wars Destiny, since it was a new game and a local player base was popping up in our area. One thing great about Destiny is that the community in our area has been excellent. The game brings together Star Wars fans, card game lovers, and board game lovers alike.

We started by purchasing a starter set each (approx. $15.00), and played a few games to grasp the basics. Afterward, we collectively bought three boxes, one each and splitting the third ($150). I decided on exclusively wanting to play hero themed decks, and Sam decided on playing (not exclusively) villain decks. After trading around some duplicates, we had assembled some pretty solid decks and began to be competitive in our area. I managed to take third place in a local store Championship in June and won a cool playmat (see image). In total, I spent a huge sum of around $900 into the game. That’s a ton of cash spent that I simply would not be okay with. But I didn’t spend this out of my own pocket. I used a number of strategies to think frugally, come out $250 ahead by the end of the year, and still enjoy a really fun game. Here are my tips and tricks, which may be applied to other card games as well:  

  1. Decide on what your spending limit. Set your budget.
  2. Decide on what you want to play. I exclusively play hero decks, simply because the characters appeal to me. This put any villain cards I pull right into a sell/trade pile.
  3. Decide on 1-2 decks to play. I wish I could put more time to it, but picking two decks to play has reduced how much time and money I put into the game. Who wins each week tends to rotate around. I at least have a good time with the people I’m with and win a fair amount of matches.
  4. If possible, sell and trade to reduce what you pay from your own pocket. I feel like this is an essential step. I understand that people may have different amounts of disposable income, and different ways of purchasing items for the game. I have a local game store that buys and sells video games, card games, and board games that accepts trades for store credit. This was a huge win for me. I had some old MtG cards, and traded some rares for $40 store credit. I found a large bunch of video games through a local moving sale and sold and traded those for far more than what I paid for them. In total, I spent nothing out of my own pockets during 2017 for anything gaming related, but amassed a good set of cards to play with. I don’t anticipate replicating this each year, but I do try and keep my budget for gaming as close to $0 as possible. It might require a little work on your end, but it has been rewarding knowing that I am enjoying gaming virtually for free.
  5. Be strategic and capitalize on release day of new card sets. Dovetailing with #4, people tend to want cards that you may pull from the newest packs. Trade for cards you want for decks you’re building. Sell any cards you don’t need when demand is at its highest.
  6. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the games.

Interestingly enough, a draft format of Destiny is arriving on February 15, for which I’ve drafted an accompanying article. Since this article focused on constructed play, I think it may offer some additional insights on enjoying the game, one that doesn’t result in purchasing boatloads of packs. Check it out next week! Thanks for reading!

The Do-It-Yourself Solution for Storing and Displaying Video Games.

Storage and display should not cost a fortune.

You’ve spent hard-earned money on games. Now how will you go about displaying them? Some gamers proudly display their expansive collection of games in their library. There’s something charming about perusing shelves and reading the titles on the spines. Others go for a sleek minimalist look, desiring ways to keep the collection out of sight. The truth is if you’re going to dedicate a space in your home where you play games, you should enjoy the look of it.  This article discusses some of the benefits of do-it-yourself projects that cleanly display your collection without busting your budget.

The art of woodworking.

An average shelf at Ikea will cost you around $40-60. Carpentry is an incredibly useful skill in contrast. You can make a variety of practical pieces of furniture at a very affordable price, often with better craftsmanship. The best part is the satisfaction that comes from building something yourself, learning new skills in the process, and later admiring your handiwork. For these reasons, I often choose to build things on my own, using sturdy but cheap (sometimes even free) building materials, borrowing tools, and assembling and finishing pieces, often with a good friend. The only costs incurred are the time designing, building, and finishing the product, along with some of the materials that I don’t have on hand.

You may be thinking, “TWG, I don’t have any tools or equipment!” I will let you in on a little secret: neither do I. Beside your basic home all-in-one tool set, I personally don’t own any saws, clamps, drills, etc. I’ve asked friends or family to jump in and help with projects, and in return do a favor or chore to help out. If that’s not an option, you can see if there’s a local woodworkers guild or workshop where you can rent tools. Whether you’re a novice or experienced, it is highly recommend to take health and safety precautions, like wearing proper personal protection equipment like gloves, goggles, and earmuffs. Make sure that if you’re a beginner you’re doing the construction with someone, this includes getting instructions on how to use the tools safely and effectively. For example, I didn’t make any of the initial cuts with the table saw we used on my first woodworking project. I was able to observe proper cutting technique and safety measures, before practicing myself. Be sure to consult someone with experience if you’re unsure!

What are the benefits of building your own furniture?


You can design and build to any specification your heart desires. Are you trying to fit your complete GameCube collection on a shelf? No problem! NES carts? Easy-peasy. You can build storage and display units that have the perfect amount of space in between shelves for any type of game case, etc. Simply measure the height of the case, add xxx inches for some wiggle room, and you’re good to go.

Beyond shelf height, you can also customize the overall size of the piece of furniture. Most of us don’t have unlimited space for our video game collections. By building your own custom shelving, you can tailor your design to the specific height, width, or depth that you need for your unique gaming space.

Finally, how many times have you brought home a bookshelf, only to find that it matches none of your other furniture? One of my favorite aspects of custom built game storage is  finishing, which includes staining and applying polyurethane to the untreated wood. You can choose what look you’re going for that matches your room, and create multiple pieces with exactly the same aesthetic.

The customization factor is awesome.


Depending on the materials you use, what you build has greater strength and will most likely last longer than anything you can buy in a furniture store. Most bookcases and media stands you can buy are a thin layer of veneer underneath MDF (particle board). They are prone to damage from moisture and over time begin to sag if there’s a lot of weight rested on them. When choosing materials for your custom project, consider oak or maple. These types of materials will ensure your storage will stand the test of time, which will also save you money in the long-run.

Price: On average, building your own will be much cheaper than most manufactured furniture. As long as you’re not using super-expensive cuts of hardwood, you’ll find you can build cheap, durable and good-looking furniture at a portion of the cost. See below for some specifics on pricing and materials.


Carpentry is a wonderful skill to learn, if you’re willing to be patient and take your time. It’s both relaxing and gratifying to build something with your hands. It will make you think more about the items you own and make you more likely to build something that will last, rather than something you are likely to throw away. There’s a wealth of resources on YouTube to make it simple and demonstrate before you begin.

Any drawbacks?


This is the biggest con, so weigh this out. If your time is valuable to you and sacrificing it is too costly, this might not be for you. Most projects can be completed in a couple of days but some range to a week or two, depending on how much time you have available. However, it can be well worth the time to have a beautiful, custom storage solution that may come in well below retail price.


Waste can be a potential drawback, so it needs to be mentioned. If you don’t plan well, or double check your measurements, this is what can run you into trouble. There is tons of wisdom in the saying, “measure twice, cut once.” If you’re not paying attention and don’t double check your math, you can venture into territory that will incur extra cost. So, make sure your measurements add up, have someone spot check your measurements and how much material you’ll need.

Tightwad Gamer Budget Categories for DIY Furniture:

Ultra Low-Budget Category: Re-purposed Pallets.

Most often, groceries, retailers, and other businesses receive their goods via shipping pallet. If you’re polite and ask, they’ll be willing to let you take a few off your hands for free. Most are made from safe, treated wood that can be used in a woodworking project. Before you use a pallet, check to make sure it’s not treated with formaldehyde or methyl bromide. This website provides a good guide. I’ve found excellent pallets that are made of maple, pine, and oak.

A caveat to using pallets is that the wood is rough cut and is often not planed or sanded. If you’re using a sander, however, you’ll make short work of this issue. Sometimes the pallets can become warped from repeated use, so check to make sure you’re grabbing pallets that are nice and even. Last, be careful of removing nails from the pallets; sometimes the elements can eventually rust the nails, so take proper precautions like wearing gloves (and having an up-to-date tetanus shot!) It’s for your health. 🙂

I’ve used pallets in several woodworking projects, leading to some awesome shelves that display my entire video game collection. I built these for around $10 each, where all I purchased was a box of screws, a can of stain, and some polyurethane.

(I built this shelf on the left out of a single pallet, to display my Dreamcast games)

Low-budget Category: Pre-cut lumber at your hardware store.

If you’re not all about the pallet option, you can also pick up higher quality, finished boards that you can assemble into a quality storage unit, entertainment center, or battlestation. Your local hardware store will have a variety of both hardwood (birch, poplar, maple and oak) along with softwood (usually white or red pine). If we’re sticking with the theme of a shelf, you might need a two 10’ 2×4’s or 2×6’s, a ¼ “ sheet of plywood for a backing. Most Lowes and Home Depot will actually rough cut the boards you need on site, so past that all you’ll likely need to do is assemble and finish. When all is said and done,, you might be in the ballpark of $20-$30 a shelf, depending on size..

Mid-range Category: Hardwood veneer plywood.

Now we’re starting to venture into the pricier options. Hardwood is it if you want a board that takes stain well, is heavier and heftier, and is less prone to dents and damage. You have the choice of buying specific lengths and cuts of hardwood boards. You can find decent deals on hardwood veneer plywoods. You get an excellent piece of wood that is affordable and is able to be finished with stain and poly. You can often find oak, birch, poplar, and maple plywoods. For this option, I choose birch plywood. A 4’x8’ sheet at Lowes  costs around $55. A single sheet allowed me to build a “consolecade,” which looks like a classic arcade machine that I use to play and display all my gaming consoles. I also used a second sheet to build both a computer desk and entertainment center for our TV. For around $120, I was able to assemble an entire set of furniture in the gameroom. These are quality cherished pieces that I’ll be able to keep for the long-run.

Parting thoughts:

I hope this article helps inspire you to get started on your next project. I’ve been able to build some functional, durable, and affordable custom storage at the cost of my own time at a vastly cheaper expense. For around $150, I’ve been able to piece together all the furniture I wanted for our gameroom: it’s custom, fits our collection and my space perfectly, and it matches everything else. If you have any ideas for projects, or perhaps you’ve actually built something that you’d like to share, please leave a thought in the discussion below!


5 Affordable (and Awesome) Card Games Worth Your Time!

You won’t pay a lot, but you’ll get a lot out of these games.

You might say we’re in a renaissance of board and card games. There’s no shortage of quality games, but the amount of choices can lead sometime be a bad thing. You may be spending time with friends and there’s interest for playing a new game together. It can be hard to introduce a new game to a group of family and friends. You often want games that at their core, they are fun, has straightforward rules, and has an easy learning curve. Games that are simple to pick up and play, even for a newcomer are wonderful and inviting. If after playing the first time, your first instinct is to play again, merely from enjoyment factor, different strategies to try, or there’s still time for another round, then you’ve got a great game on your hands. Today we’ll focus on some affordable card games that are easy to learn, are awesome, and can be enjoyed in a relatively span of short time. They’re all ones I’ve personally enjoyed and I hope this is a helpful article.

Sushi Go (GameWright)

MSRP: $12 (2-5 Player); $22 (2-8 Player)

This is a great little card game that can be learned in the span of about 5-10 minutes, which is really playing through a single round. Sushi Go is all about assembling an ideal hand of different sushi cards that reward points based on the combinations you can assemble. Everyone is dealt an equal number of cards. The game starts by everyone choosing a card they’d like to keep.. Everyone then reveals the card they chose, and passes the leftover cards to the left. The round ends when everyone chooses the last card, and points are tallied for the round. At the end of the third round, the person with the highest score wins.

The scoring is very simple, with the point values and how they are earned clearly printed on the card. There’s a few variables to keep in mind. Some sushi require specific numbers of cards (that other players might be keeping tabs) in order to get some or all of the points. For example, sashimi rewards a player with 10 points if three sashimi cards are revealed. If you don’t assemble three of those cards, you receive no points. Additionally, a player may reveal chopsticks, shout “Sushi Go!” and then choose two cards from their hand. After, they place the chopsticks back in the hand from which they were chosen. By watching what others are playing, you get a good idea of what strategy you should use to win.

The illustrations on these cards are absolutely charming and adorable. There’s sashimi, nigiri, maki, tempura, wasabi, chopsticks, and pudding. The play is fun and lighthearted, and is fairly simple to pick up and learn quickly. This is an outstanding game that is easily enjoyed by players of all skills and abilities. Sushi Go retails for $11 for a 2-5 person game, and the deluxe 2-8 party version retails for $22.

Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars. Fun, enjoyable, and definitely affordable, Sushi-Go is an amazing little card game.


Love Letter (Alderac Entertainment Group)

MSRP: $11.99

Love Letter is a simple game of deduction, reasoning, risk-reward, and a little bit of luck, built for 2-4 players. The player’s goal is to pass a love letter while at a party, and beat out the other players trying to do the same. You do this by enlisting the help of others at the party, by playing cards from a very small number of cards. The game consists of a 16 card deck. Each card has a character, corresponding value that ranges from 1 to 8, and a specific ability printed on it, complete with elegant illustrations of the characters.

At the start, every person is dealt a card, which they look at and keep in secret. Play starts to the left of the dealer. On their turn, a player will draw a card, then play a card from their hand face up. Playing a card means performing the exact action that is written on the card. For example, playing a “Guard” card allows you to name another player and the type of card they are holding (I think so-and-so is with the Baron!). If you’re correct, that player discards their card and is out of the round. The round ends when either the last card from the deck has been played, to which all remaining players compare the card in their hand with everyone else’s — the highest value held wins, or when only one player remains after everyone else has been eliminated. The first player to win three rounds wins!

With the limited number of cards in the deck there’s a finite number of each card, which feeds into the deduction and reasoning aspect of the game. The risk-reward comes from the choice you have to make during your turn on which card to play. It’s really easy to learn, the rounds go pretty quickly, and I’ve never had a bad time playing it. When I want to break the ice with folks who are usually not too keen on board games, this one almost always does the trick. Love Letter Retails for $12.00, but you can usually find a great deal online. (Not an affiliate link). There’s some fun edition, such as The Hobbit, Batman, and Archer, which incorporate the same premise with a few slight twists.

Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4 / 5 Stars. Love Letter is a nice little compact game that’s sure to delight. It’s simple yet refined, and I enjoy the card-counting and strategy elements.


Lost Cities (Thames & Kosmos)

MSRP: $20

Lost Cities is a tremendously fun card game for two people. Coming from a person who adores strategy games like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan, Lost Cities offers similar gameplay of planning and tactics that can result in an enjoyable experience in a very short amount of time.

Each player represents an adventurer about to set off on one of five different expeditions, with each expedition represented as a color of cards within the deck. Each player is dealt 8 cards at random from the deck, and the cards have either a number value between 2 and 10, or a $, which denotes an investment card. Play is simple: play a card, then draw a card. You play a card by either laying it down on an expedition in ascending order, where it remains, or by discarding a card to a respective discard pile (there’s one for each color). Starting an expedition has a cost value, which you hope to negate by playing additional cards from your hand and drawing into others you can play. Investment cards allow you to double, triple, or quadruple the profits or losses of your expedition, but can only be played prior to starting the expedition. The game ends when the last card of the deck is drawn, and score is tallied.

I personally enjoy lost cities for the quick rounds, something that usually results in, “C’mon, one more!” types of exchanges. It’s a great game for couples during a weeknight where something fun and simple comes to mind. I also love the simple thrill of strategy of which expeditions they’d like to pursue. It’s a little less involved than planning your routes in conjunction with your destination tickets in Ticket to Ride for example. So given with how short the games can be, how easy it is to pick up and play, and an overall fun playing experience, Lost Cities is one that you should definitely have in your cabinet.

Tightwad Gamer Rating: 5 / 5 Stars.


Utter Nonsense (Utter Nonsense, LLC)

MSRP: $25

This a game we recently enjoyed. Utter Nonsense is a fantastic card/party game in gameplay that is similar to Apples to Apples or Cards against Humanity. There’s two card types, accent cards and phrase cards. At the start of the game, all cards are shuffled and all players are dealt 7 phrase cards. A player is chosen to start as the Nonsense Judge, and chooses a card from the accents deck. This is the chosen accent from the round, and each player will choose and read aloud a phrase card in that specific accent. Some of the phrase cards pair well with the accent card, but more often than not they don’t. After each phrase is read aloud, the Nonsense Judge deems which accent and phrase was the funniest. A player wins when they have won five accent cards.

I haven’t enjoyed a game this much in years. In the first round, I was in tears. A half an hour into the game, I had received a full ab workout from my fits of laughter. The game balances a good sense of humor and interactiveness. Some people are good at accents, and then hilariously bad at others. As long as you’re comfortable in your own skin and don’t mind being ridiculed, you’ll probably enjoy yourself. I watched my brother in law give a passionate speech in the accent of chicken. He later had to do an Australian accent which came out sounding more like someone from New Jersey, which we didn’t let him live down. I had the pleasure of entertaining everyone with a French accent and an awesome phrase card: I shared about my recent trip to Kalamazoo where I played the Kazoo for all of my zoo friends. Very often the cards are just fun to act out, watch people really go for it, and laugh together in the process.

The accents seldom veer into the inappropriate/harmful territory. I think the designers had this in mind. The phrases, at least in the adult “Naughty Edition” version of the game, are definitely offensive. I haven’t played the “Family Edition” but can imagine it’s toned down a little bit more for younger players, ages 8 and up. The game is purchasable online and in store through Target, retailing for $25.

Tightwad Gamer Rating:  4.5 / 5 Stars. Utter Nonsense is downright hilarious. My first few plays have been some of the most fun I’ve had in years with a card game. I am hoping the creators start to add little expansions here and there.


Star Realms (White Wizard Games)

MSRP $14.99 (base game, expansions available).

Star Realms is a fantastic two player spaceship, combat, deck-building card game. This is similar in some respects to many deckbuilding games like Dominion, but combines elements from games like Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone, in having a set number of health to start, labeled authority points. The first person to drop down to 0 authority points loses.

Each player starts with a set number of cards representing different spaceships you control that either have a trade value or a combat value. Combat values make people lose authority points, whereas trade values help you build up your deck through purchasing more valuable and powerful ships, outposts, and base, which come from a shared deck both players purchase from on their turns. As you buy new cards for your armada, they are placed in your discard pile, then reshuffled back into your deck to play once you draw the last card from your deck. As the game progresses, you acquire a bigger fleet which can branch into different factions with their own color, abilities, and play style. It really becomes about outlasting your opponent by battling it out!

I really appreciate Star Realms for a fun sci-fi setting and exciting gameplay. It’s straightforward to learn and still challenging to master. This is a great game for someone who wants to have a fun card game experience at a fraction of the cost for a constructed card game such as Magic or Hearthstone, or other deck building games like Dominion, Ascension, or Legendary. But if you want to have a unique card-game experience at a fraction of the cost, Star Realms can’t be beat. (Also not an affiliate link!) It does have some additional expansions you can pick up as you go on and want some new space adventures!

Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4.25 / 5

Honorable Mention: Joking Hazard.

Since Utter Nonsense was already mentioned, I still want to tip my hat and give Joking Hazard an honorable mention. Joking Hazard is another game to be successfully Kickstarted. Joking Hazard plays very similar to Apples to Apples and Cards against Humanity. However, it comes from the popular webcomic Cyanide and Happiness and a round consists of making a three-panel comic. In this awesomely funny game, everyone has 7 cards which resemble a single frame of a comic. The cards have funny illustrations, complete with expressions or dialogue written on them. A judge flips a card from the top of the deck, and then takes one of their own cards and adds a second frame to the comic. All players then play a card of their own face down. The judge flips up each remaining panel, and chooses the winner of the round. Play then rotates. There’s plenty of other play variants too. It’s hilarious, it’s obscene, and it’s great. Joking Hazard sells for around $25, has lots of replayability, and has a few expansions out already. It’s worth it.

Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4.5/5


If you have any other enjoyable games that you’d like to recommend or think I should give a shot, please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

All games and images referenced in this article are the respective intellectual property of their owners, and this article and all content this site is generated for entertainment and informative purposes only. Thank you!

Free Yourself From Gaming Debt, Slash Your Backlog!

Cut the backlog. Play games. Save money.

Through many years of enjoying video games, one issue has quietly and slowly crept up on me. This little villain is called a backlog. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? My backlog didn’t really emerge until I was out in the workforce, earning more disposable income. I would buy games that I was really excited for, usually at full price upon release. My backlog gleefully accepted my wallet’s sacrifice in its name. In the midst of earning this money, I found I had less time to enjoy these newly purchased games. Bit by bit, I found myself finishing fewer games and getting less enjoyment, but still purchasing more and more. By that time, my backlog had grown to a point where I had to set aside  considerable amounts of time to try and conquer. Has this ever happened to you? I, for one, am tired of backlogs.

Your experience might be vastly different from mine. Let’s visit a time in my past. Growing up, I had a Sega Genesis and my friend down the street had a Super Nintendo. Out of necessity, we simply played whatever game we had on hand, be it rented, borrowed, or owned. This wasn’t a bad thing by any stretch. I can recall moments being glued to the TV while marathon sessions of Super Mario World, NBA Jam, Street Fighter II, and Streets of Rage 2 dominated the living room. It was very easy to learn the ins and outs of games due to the amount of time you’d spend trying to master them. Regardless, new games weren’t something that I acquired very often. I only ever received new games from three possible special occasions:

  1. A birthday.
  2. Lengthy saving of an allowance.
  3. Christmas.

So, if the celestial bodies aligned, I might see three new games in the span of a year if I was lucky. To be fair, back then there was also the opportunity to rent games from your video store or borrow one from a friend. But, there was no such thing as a backlog. I played everything I had.

Getting my first job in high school opened up a world of possibilities. With no relative expenses to worry about (other than gas & car insurance), my newly found disposable income increased the number of games I could play through in the span of a year. This was undoubtedly awesome; I started working at the end of the Dreamcast and the rise of PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube. Still, I found very little competition for my time, with school, sports, and work being the only priorities over gaming. College didn’t feel that much different either, with LAN Halo nights on the campus network being a highlight.

Back to the original point. Now that I’m working full-time, have a career, and married, I have more responsibilities in life. I wish I could play more, but I can’t. There’s no way I can match my pace in playing with the pace games are released. The lesson I wish I would’ve learned earlier is not to go overboard in my spending, steadily increasing my backlog. Because of this, I’ve been seeking a new budget-friendly model, which led me to the goal I created for myself this year:

This year, I will beat more games than I buy.  I will channel those simpler times, getting the most out of one game at a time, and playing games off a backlog I’m determined to shrink (it’s right around 20% of what I own). Combined with my approach to setting a budget and sticking to it, I’ve actually managed to earn $270 on my gaming hobbies from flips and trades, while only purchasing 6 games this year and beating 9. If you have a backlog and decide to play through games from it instead of buying and playing new games, think of the money you’ll save! Perhaps it’s time to show some love to those games that have been collecting dust.

What are your opinions of backlogs? Do you have games piling up? Or is your backlog nonexistent? Is it easy to pick a game in it and dive right in? Or do you find it difficult to play what’s next? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments!

Spend $0 of Your Money on Gaming

Embrace the Flip, Master the Trade.

(Updated April 4, 2020)

Hobbies are expensive. Rather, they can be. What do you think the average gamer spends on their hobbies a month? $50? $100? What if I told you that I have spent $0 of my own money the past four years on gaming? This has been a goal I have been pursuing, and I’m willing to share my simple strategy with you. The premise is this: I think any person should embrace the practice of flipping. So, if you’re patient and willing to stick to a strategy, you can self-fund your own hobbies from selling and trading, and in turn cut down on the amount of cash that comes from your own pockets. Perhaps this can lead you to a path where you break even – or find yourself with extra cash in your pockets – at the end of the year. This guide is meant to share some tricks with this in mind.

A brief overview first. Flipping is the act of purchasing something, then selling it to turn a profit from your original investment. There is money to be made on items in demand. This can be as simple as flipping games you find, as they say, “in the wild,” or locally. Within this approach I include trading games into my local mom & pop game store, always for store credit. There is also value in flipping something you purchased cheap or on sale that might be a treasure in the rough. I think there’s often a resentful attitude towards flipping. The term “filthy reseller” gets freely tossed around by many. Suspending my own judgment; some people make their living from reselling electronics, places in line, and/or the latest must-have item. Their livelihoods may rely on flipping and reselling — I acknowledge that. With that said, it’s not in my or others’ best interest to gouge people. But, there’s a fair way to go about it. I’ll use a few examples.

Simple Strategy: Buy Low, Sell…Reasonably

Story time: throughout 2013 & 2014, I went on a bit of a spending spree. I stepped up my playing and collecting for the Sega Dreamcast, trying to fill out my collection and play a ton of games I never played when I got the console in high school. On eBay at the time, you could purchase cheaply priced lots consisting of games and console for under $100. Once it arrived, I pulled out any of the games that I wanted, then recouped most of my costs from individually selling the remaining games back on eBay. My net result on average: anywhere from $5-$10 out of pocket; sometimes $10-$20 profit. It was nice to fill out my favorite console of all time, but I was still going out of pocket.

Consider another tactic. With the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 in full swing (though the latter two are making way for their successors: the Xbox Series X and PS5), the Wii U, PS3, and Xbox 360 have made their way into the last generation of consoles. There are plenty of rare games for these systems that collectors are trying to get their hands on now that they’re harder to find. Some of these are priced at GameStop below their actual value. It’s time to take advantage of your Power Up Rewards Pro memberships. You can help people fill in their collections, and be compensated for your finders fee.

Expand your flipping horizons!

In the past few years, I’ve refined this strategy a bit more. I’ve found decent deals at local antique malls, used book store, and the occasional yard or moving sale. I’ve picked up games for a buck or two, and done one of two things: sell them online, or take them to a local game shop. Mrs. Tightwad Gamer found 50 PS3 games for $50 from a colleague who was moving out of town. I hung onto a few, played them, and traded the rest to my local store. The end result: $50 spent amounted to $120 in store credit. We helped a friend lighten their load for a cross-country move. I played some games and made some trades. Lovely!

Also, occasionally scout around for a deal. Seriously. The best deals I’ve had were local finds I later sold online. I found an old antique oak flower seed box in a booth at a local antique mall. It looked old, but the wood and metal clasp looked to be in great shape. The booth had 25% sale. I bought it for $5.75, not knowing if it was worth anything. I found later these seeds boxes are particularly sought after by collectors, made in the late 1800’s and into the 1920’s. They regularly sell anywhere from $40 to $75. The one I found didn’t appear in completed/sold auctions, so I listed it for $40. The auction ended at $135.49. Unbelievable.

I found a copy of Brave Fencer Musashi for PlayStation 1, sealed at a local book store. After trading in some old books and CDs, and using a coupon, I bought it for $30. I sold it for $200. I netted $135 in profit. The deals are out there, sometimes it does boil down to luck.

The point from these three stories: always keep your eyes peeled for a deal. If you’re patient, you’ll find a great treasure that can net you some cash!

Keep it reasonable. Keep your dignity.

Don’t rip off the folks hosting the yard sale. If someone’s got something particularly valuable and it’s priced pretty low, let them know what they have. Be honest about it. Buy the whole lot (if there is one). Offer a few extra dollars if they change their price. Make it so that the seller and you, the buyer, gets a fair deal. Buying things at yard sales and moving sales helps clear space in someone’s house, so be polite, fair, and move along. Bottom line, be respectful about it all.

Manage your time well. If you’re always on the hunt, it’s more likely you’ll burn out or feel compelled to make an impulsive, costly purchase. Watch out for decision fatigue. If you’re spending every single weekend hunting, you’re burning time, money, and energy. Can it take away some of your enjoyment? I think so. So, when I run errands, I relax, suspend my expectations and enjoy the random drop-in to my local store. I’ve been more surprised and grateful over what pops up along the way. That, and making time to play what I already have.

If I had to share a final thought, stick to your budget. I’ve felt the urge to splurge after netting some deals, but fight that impulse. Thanks for reading. Do you have any tips and tricks to your hobby-related purchases? I’d love to hear what works for you.

Skip Release Day!

Delay the urge for instant gratification, and spare your wallet.

On this site, we offer you some pretty common sense type of articles. Gaming is often a joyful, relaxing hobby. We love the fun that comes with gaming. However, on our site we are going to examine spending norms that exist in our hobby, many of which are heavily influenced by advertising, consumerism, and profit. This isn’t a bad thing, by any means – companies exist to make money. Our intention is never to be condescending or insulting of anyone’s values based on their habits in any way. Our core focus will always be to share some pretty honest tips that can save you money. One of these tips we’re discussing today is why you should skip release day, and wait on those hot-new releases.

In my experience, it’s easy to get hyped up in pre-release news for the newest games. It can be exciting to read early impression articles, watch release trailers, and try out demos. My next urge is to make a list of all the games coming out over the course of the year that I simply have to play. Retailers are also dutifully there to tell me which games appear on their “Must Own for 20XX” lists. I could be looking at buying a minimum of two to three games, setting me back $120 – $180+tax. However, what’s the impact if I were to ignore an urge for instant gratification and delay a gaming purchase? Why do millions of us settle for the default answer of pre-ordering or buying a game on or shortly after release, paying $60 or more , simply because it is new?

There are plenty of arguments to be made about why a game is best when it’s first new. I will share rationales and strategies to save money buying new. Still, there are compelling points to hold off buying most newly released games:

Pros of waiting on a purchase:
  1. Paying drastically less simply by waiting a couple of months.
  2. Many games have bugs upon release, resulting in day 1 patches.
  3. Hype and reviews can settle down, allowing for clearer opinions on a game’s quality.
Cons of waiting on a purchase:
  1. Fear of missing out.
  2. Online functionality: starting new with everyone else usually means a level playing-field. Also, see #1.

What if I told you that just waiting two months into the new year to buy a console game  originally released during the holiday season, you’d save on average 45% off the $59.99 MSRP. Here’s the data crunch for the biggest titles released during Holiday Season 2016:

New Video Game Releases: October, November, & December 2016
Game: October November December January February March April May June
Battlefield 1 (PS4) $59.99 $39.85 $47.66 $39.98 $35.00 $35.75 $33.94 $31.00 $28.29
Titanfall 2 (PS4) $59.99 $35.00 $36.66 $32.99 $28.49 $22.00 $18.50 $17.00 $20.99
World of Final Fantasy (PS4) $59.99 $49.99 $46.85 $40.96 $31.09 $29.50 $29.99 $29.99 $30.37
Gears of War 4 (XB1) $59.99 $42.22 $28.33 $28.97 $27.32 $25.25 $24.61 $21.40 $21.25
Final Fantasy XV (PS4) $59.99 $40.00 $35.00 $34.00 $31.00 $31.00 $30.00 $29.99
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (PS4) $59.99 $35.84 $30.72 $31.00 $22.50 $23.50 $20.49 $21.44
Dishonored 2 (PS4) $59.99 $50.40 $44.54 $41.80 $41.80 $29.99 $29.99 $29.89
Watch Dogs 2 (PS4) $59.99 $49.67 $35.33 $32.51 $27.99 $30.50 $29.99 $24.99
Killing Floor 2 (PS4) $50.00 $40.25 $39.00 $38.99 $35.99 $32.99 $31.49 $27.99
Pokémon Sun / Moon (3DS) $39.99 $37.84 $35.99 $34.99 $35.99 $35.99 $35.11 $33.99
Mario Party: Star Rush (3DS) $39.99 $35.38 $34.77 $32.64 $30.00 $29.95 $29.09 $27.26
Assassin’s Creed: Ezio Collection (PS4) $59.99 $39.68 $32.13 $24.78 $28.74 $28.28 $27.31 $28.50
Darksiders: Warmastered Edition. (PS4)** $19.99 $19.02 $19.97 $18.97 $18.95 $17.50 $17.83 $18.95
The Last Guardian (PS4) $59.99 $39.15 $34.99 $31.00 $32.00 $27.90 $27.85
Dead Rising 4 (XB1) $59.99 $30.44 $31.81 $27.42 $26.29 $24.99 $25.00
Super Mario Maker (3DS) $39.99 $36.75 $34.99 $32.95 $32.50 $31.50 $30.00
October November December January February March April May June
Average, Console: $59.99 $51.70 $41.53 $35.96 $32.50 $30.05 $28.33 $26.87 $26.37
(% Saved) 0.00% 13.82% 30.77% 40.05% 45.83% 49.90% 52.78% 55.22% 56.04%
Average, Handheld: $39.99 $37.74 $35.84 $34.21 $32.98 $32.81 $31.90 $30.42
(% Saved) 0.00% 5.63% 10.39% 14.46% 17.53% 17.95% 20.23% 23.94%

Here’s a graphical representation:
*All games are standard edition, and all prices shown (after release month) are lowest at end of month. Prices are pulled from Tracktor & VGPC.

[visualizer id=”441″]

The savings you can get by pushing off the urge to get the newest games is clearly significant. Again, if you wait until February, you’re going to get around 45% off the cost. Wait until May, and most games are less than half-price. My point is this: when a lot of the AAA titles released have glitches, issues, server problems, and more upon launch, is the premium you pay a satisfying experience? I think there’s plenty of room to ignore the buzz and hype of pre-ordering and release-day purchases.

When should you buy on release day?

  1. Do you have a favorite franchise that you truly love?
  2. Is there a developer who you really appreciate?
  3. Is there a game that you and your friends made a commitment to play?
  4. A collector’s edition that you really, really want (or will you have buyer’s remorse?)

I feel like these are all legitimate reasons to jump in on release day. For example, the only four games I bought new this year are: Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild for Wii U, Sonic Mania, Yakuza 0, and Yakuza Kiwami for PS4. All three series are franchises dear to my heart, and the quality of the series has been consistent through each title (except for Sonic, who’s had some shaky years, you might say). An important fact is that you should always seek a deal when there’s one to be found, such as Best Buy’s Gamer Club Unlocked and Amazon Prime. The memberships often pay for themselves over time. I often use the latter since we do a lot of other shopping on Amazon, and the two-day shipping can’t be beat. Don’t discount store credit from trade-ins at family-owned local game shops, either. I had a stockpile of credit saved for when Zelda came out and paid $6.88 for it. If there are games you’re really eager to play and GameStop offers a huge trade-in bonus, that’s not a bad time to hop in and score a deal.


You’re better off waiting a couple of months on most shiny new games. Celebrate some delayed gratification. Save some money, but still play the games. Every once in awhile, give yourself that freedom to splurge on a game you’ll play right away. Keep your volume of purchasing reasonable so your budget thanks you.

Are there things you found useful? Anything I’m missing? There’s always more we can learn, so don’t hold back on the comments!