How to Make a Budget Gaming Setup: Effective Money-Saving Tips

budget gaming setup

You can get great quality even if you’re on a budget. These are my most effective tips on how to make a budget gaming setup and save A LOT of money your desk, PC, peripherals, and games.

I love tech, gaming, and setups, which is a very costly hobby. On top of that, I am obsessed with getting the most value for my money. To me, this means getting a product that delivers quality essentials without paying for a lot of unnecessary extras and by making smart choices. Consequently, I have accumulated quite some money-saving tips over the years.

Here’s how to make a budget gaming setup without compromising essential quality. I share tips on how you can save on your desk setup, PC, peripherals, and software.

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Tips for saving on your desk setup

All setups start with a good foundation. This means furniture that makes the shell of your setup. You don’t need designer furniture or a Herman Miller office chair, but you do need basic quality. Here are my budget tips for your furniture.

Get the LINNMON / ADILS desk

The absolute cheapest desk you can get that also has decent quality is the IKEA LINNMON tabletop with 4 ADILS legs. If you can live without drawers, a fairly thick tabletop, and small surface dimensions, you have a desk for 40 EUR / 55 USD. At any other store at this price level, I would say that you are risking your setup because the legs might not hold. IKEA is, to my knowledge, the only store that offers a desk at this price level without compromising robustness. You can of course spend a bit more and get a larger tabletop, e.g. IKEA Lagkapten, which I would recommend, but at 55 USD / 40 EUR as a baseline, you know the money-saving party has started.

Buy adjustable standing desk legs from a company sale, then add your own tabletop

If you want a quality adjustable standing desk, you might be able to find a company that needs to get rid of its office furniture. I bought my standing desk legs from a company that moved headquarters, which actually happens quite often in larger cities and then I simply added my own tabletop, so it looked as new. The tabletop that came with it looked very used, but the condition and quality of the standing desk legs were much better quality than any consumer-targeted standing desks I could find at the same price level.

Get a quality second-hand office chair from a professional outlet

I got my quality Kinnarps 6000 Free-Float office chair as second-hand from an outlet at literally 1/5 of the price as new. The condition was guaranteed by the outlet with a 2-year warranty, just like if I’d bought it new. I could try the chair in their showroom and they delivered. I believe the professional warranty and the fact that these outlets live on their reputation (making them go out of their way to satisfy you), makes it a superior choice compared to buying second-hand from private people. The outlets also only sell real quality brands, as their margins on cheap brands will not be worth the effort.

Make a DIY desk shelf

I’ve written a post on how to make your own DIY desk shelf in 5 minutes at a cost as low as 13 USD / 11 EUR! Sure, the one costing you 300 USD will maybe have a slightly better finish, but oh boy that price… for a small piece of wood.

Get the BURHULT / SIBBHULT shelves

Yes, I’m a huge fan of IKEA. Not for everything, but for things where the difference between their budget options and something that costs 10x more barely matters. The BURHULT / SIBBHULT shelf combination is such a thing. As soon as you have mounted these on your wall and put your stuff on them, you won’t notice the difference between these and much more expensive designer shelves. Shelves are not the highlight – the things on display are. One shelf will set you back a mere 5 USD / 4 EUR.

Buy beautiful A4 frames and print your own posters

If you think about it, posters are just a piece of paper with some creativity behind them. It’s not hard to imagine that running a store, buying equipment, negotiating with designers, marketing, and distribution will add quite a lot to the costs of this. You can bypass that by simply printing your own. You will most likely only be able to get them in A4-size since that’s what consumer printers support, but if you have a large wall, you just print some more. Then you add some frames of your own choice, e.g. in oak or bamboo, and your wall will lighten up. You can also easily swap out your posters when you want to renew your look because the frames can be reused. Read my post on how to easily design your own posters if you feel like being creative.

Here’s the foundation for your budget gaming setup at 219 USD / 190 EUR!

FurnitureModelUSD costEUR cost
Office chairKinnarps 6000 Free-Float135 USD125 EUR
Desk shelfDIY in white – single monitor13 USD11 EUR
2x display shelvesBURHULT / SIBBHULT5 USD4 EUR
2x A4 oak framesDIY posters11 USD10 EUR

See how some of the furniture looks in a tour of my setups

Tips for saving on your gaming PC

A large part of your budget will be your PC, where in particular the graphics card will be costly. Here are my tips for saving one your gaming rig.

Buy a desktop

I’ve had several gaming laptops and never really got hooked. Despite technological advances, they are still huge compared to productivity laptops, their battery life is terrible, and the displays are usually dark. This means they aren’t great at transporting or gaming outside your home. You get much more bang for your buck if you buy a desktop instead. You will get gaming at a far better price with a desktop. You get better performance, it doesn’t have a battery that will degrade and it is easier to upgrade and repair.

Assemble your own PC with parts on sale and demo parts

Assembling your own PC is not as difficult as you may think and there are a lot of tutorials on blogs or YouTube that can assist you. Having assembled my own PC, I have done calculations on the savings. On the one side, a professional will be able to assemble a PC faster and when you buy an entire PC, the store can give you a larger discount than if you buy the parts separately. This means that with a completely 1:1 specification, i.e. the exact same brands and models, you will most likely not save anything by assembling your own PC. However, you will be able to save money on a different setup with similar performance. Your PC store will only offer select brands and models. You, on the other hand, are free to choose from the entire market. Assembling on your own gives you these advantages:

  1. You can choose from the entire market and therefore get almost all parts on sale at some point.
  2. You can buy demo parts that are as good as new with the same warranty, just without original packaging.
  3. You are not locked to the store-specific brands, i.e. maybe a PC store cooperates with Asus, but a Gigabyte motherboard is 20% cheaper with the same features.
  4. You can customize your PC exactly like you want, which means you don’t pay extra for features you don’t need.
  5. You can choose a PC case that looks really cool. A lot of the really gorgeous cases only come with the absolute most expensive specifications if you buy a pre-built PC.

Utilizing these advantages, I was able to assemble a PC and save approximately 20% compared to what the cheapest PC store offered with equivalent performance.

Pick previous generation parts

There is great potential to make a budget build by picking your parts from the previous generation, which usually has a better price-to-performance ratio. These parts are both cheaper and probably also on sale. This applies particularly to GPUs, CPUs, and motherboards. I don’t recommend going further back, as this will be too much of a compromise. You can also consider this for RAM and SSDs, but I’m not sure the savings are as pronounced in these categories.

Buy a quality no-frills motherboard

Picking a motherboard is arguably the most confusing part when you want to build your own PC. There are a ton of different chipsets and features with small very difficult-to-remember names. The fact is, most people only need the basics. You don’t need the ridiculously expensive extra features unless you are a real enthusiast and want to showcase your build. Many features only add to the aesthetics when someone is looking directly into your case. Other features are more technical, but they are only important if your other components are powerful (and expensive) as well. Make sure that the socket is compatible with your CPU and that it has the necessary slots for your other hardware then choose from a quality brand and that’s it – you got the essentials.

Play at 1080p Full HD resolution

Your graphics card is the single most expensive part of your PC by a wide margin these days. Playing games at 1920×1080 resolution will save you a lot of money because you can buy a less powerful GPU and you can manage with a less powerful CPU as well without it being a bottleneck. Moreover, you can save money on your monitor, because it only needs to support 1080p resolution. I would recommend that you buy a smaller monitor because it will give you a crispier picture, as you will have more pixels per inch of your monitor.

Tips for saving on your gaming peripherals

After spending huge on a PC, it’s easy to forget that it’s worthless without proper peripherals. Luckily, you can get great essential functionality on a budget. Here are my tips for saving on gaming peripherals.

Go wired

I really like wireless peripherals, but there is no denying that wireless comes at a premium, and the essential performance of wireless peripherals is at best only on par with a wired counterpart. Getting a keyboard, mouse, and headset with wires will give you the same or better-quality peripherals. I reckon with a saving of more than 50%.

Skip the RGB

Another non-essential feature of most gaming peripherals is RGB, which is something you pay extra for, especially if it comes with a lot of customization software that the manufacturer also has to factor into the price. Yes, it looks cool and can add to the immersion, but it is only a matter of aesthetics. Your mouse, keyboard, etc. will work just as well without. A good example of this is the Logitech G305 gaming mouse.

Get a VA monitor

A monitor with a VA panel is a good choice for a budget setup. IPS will arguably look slightly better, but it is also more expensive. A TN panel may offer higher refresh rates, but the picture quality will be worse. A VA monitor offers the best balance between picture quality, refresh rates for gaming, and price.

You don’t need a Stream Deck, mouse bungy, acoustic panels, studio speakers, or …

You rarely see a setup on YouTube or Instagram without a whole lot of extra bling. Most of which you really don’t need for a good gaming experience. Don’t get fooled to think that these are necessities despite what claims you may hear.

Tips for saving on your software

Lastly, your PC is worth nothing if you don’t have an operating system. For gaming, there’s really only Windows to consider. Moreover, you need some games to fire up your new gaming setup. Here is also savings to be had.

Buy Windows in a digital store that isn’t an official Microsoft partner

Windows licenses come in different types, which can be quite confusing. The essence of it is; don’t buy your Windows in your local supermarket or PC store. I saved up to 70% by buying the license from a legitimate digital store that buys the licenses in volumes but doesn’t participate in Microsoft’s official partner program. This means they are not bound by official price policies set by Microsoft. I got the license by e-mail, downloaded the Windows installation to a USB, and typed in the license after installation. That was it.

Buy older, but great games on sale

Games are very expensive at release, but will quickly go on sale with savings of up to 50%. I made an analysis of when new games go on sale, which indicates how long you will have to wait for a discount. Just because a game is new doesn’t mean it’s better. For instance, it’s still very hard to beat the likes of The Witcher 3, GTA 5, and the Batman Arkham series. All of these are discounted frequently in digital stores.

Play great free games

Nothing is truly free, but quite some games offer great essential gameplay without having to pay unless you want cosmetics. I can e.g. recommend Fortnite, Counter-Strike, Overwatch 2, Destiny 2, Lost Ark, Brawlhalla, Genshin Impact, Rocket League, and The Sims 4. Not to mention that sometimes, you can get full-blown free games for free, which I’ve also written about.

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