How to Resist Buying Games Impulsively

Do you ever feel you’re buying too many games? It’s no crime to possess a growing backlog of games, but if you think it’s becoming a problem, then read on.

I’ve made game purchases I ended up regretting. Not everyone feels the same way, but I’m the kind of person who feels I’ve been irresponsible when I don’t finish a game (unless the game becomes too frustrating or isn’t story-focused). Earlier this year, I decided I’d be happier about my spending and playing habits if I bought fewer games and made less impulsive buys.

Here are 6 strategies that have helped me buy games more moderately. Let me know if they help you too!

For some people, including myself, sales tend to trigger a buying impulse.

1) Ask: What are my triggers?

When do you feel the impulse to buy games you probably shouldn’t?

I’m tempted to buy games I don’t really have time for when sales hit websites like Steam and GOG. I’m especially tempted when old classics go on discount, particularly ones I played and loved 10 or 20 years ago. Who wouldn’t want to relive such precious childhood nostalgia for only $4.99? (Maybe you don’t, but I frequently do!)

Identifying what triggers your shopping impulse could help you develop strategies to resist clicking “Buy Now”. For instance, knowing my trigger is Steam sales, I could decide to unsubscribe to emails notifying me of those sales.

Pro Tip: Putting cash in an actual savings box might curb spending more than digital bookkeeping.

2) Set a monthly limit to spending or playing

If you think you’re overspending on games, could you experiment with setting limits? For example, I’ve set these rules for spending and playing:

Money for buying games can only be withdrawn from my Books & Games fund, and I add a fixed amount to this fund every month. I absolutely have to work within that budget. In addition, I can only play one game at a time on three platforms: PS4, PC, and handheld. I only stop playing a game if I complete the main story (unless it has no real story to speak of).

This reduces game-buying since my Books & Games budget is small and it can take me ages to finish RPGs, which is the genre I play most.

Making books and games share a single budget helps too, since I’m an avid reader. If I spent all my money on games, I’d be deprived of books. The principle behind this strategy is assigning a truly unwanted negative consequence to overspending on games.

3) Watch playthrough videos on YouTube

When I’m tempted to buy a game, I make a point to watch YouTube videos of other people playing it. Pretty often, this scratches my itch and the buying impulse disappears within 10 to 30 minutes.

Sometimes I realize that re-playing an old classic won’t be as fun as it used to be; the gameplay feels clunky, linear, or slow-paced by today’s standards. Other times, I discover that merely watching playthroughs of the latest AAA game is satisfying enough, without having to fork out cash. Plus, I can fast-forward the boring parts!

Often, I find I don’t even have time to watch playthroughs on YouTube. So what makes me think I have time to play the game itself? This deters me from an impulse buy.

On the flipside, if my desire to play a game keeps growing as I watch playthroughs, I may take it as a sign that I’ll like the game enough to commit and complete. I use these feelings as barometers to help me pick which game to buy if I’m choosing between multiple games.

So if you’re tempted to buy a game: Why not watch a few hours on YouTube, then see how you feel about it?

Virtually any well-known game has playthroughs on YouTube. Search for “playthrough”, “walkthrough”, “let’s play”, or “longplay”.

4) Manage sale notifications

Earlier, I mentioned unsubscribing to emails for game deals. This is a great way to reduce impulse buying.

Obviously, you also need to stop browsing stores “just for fun to see what’s on sale this week”. Try limiting your browsing to games you’re really sure you want to buy.

But what if there’s a game you really, really want to buy and it’s too expensive? You could, in this case, set up an email notification that alerts you to price changes just for this particular game. (Websites like NintyPricer offer this function.) Beware, though, of doing this for more than a tiny handful of games. It’s no fun being tempted on a daily or weekly basis to spend money you might, on hindsight, prefer to use differently.

“Email me when the price drops” — a useful function on

5) Consider borrowing (and lending)

This isn’t always an option, but you could borrow games from a friend instead of buying them? Or, could you rent a game you’re interested in, to give it a try before committing to a $60 purchase?

I’ve been lucky to have friends and family who are happy to share their games. By further stroke of luck, I made two acquaintances this year who live nearby and are willing to share Switch games (after discovering our mutual hobby, we started meeting for offline multiplayer sessions).

Naturally, when it comes to sharing games, trust is involved. The lender would need to be comfortable entrusting their precious cartridge to someone, while the borrower needs to keep that trust.

6) Focus on gains, not losses

It’s hard to say no. Denying yourself of a fun purchase could feel like you’re missing out on something good. So, how about focusing on what you’re gaining instead? Such as the ability to enjoy and appreciate the games you already have. Instead of always pursuing the next new thrill, savor what you already own.

Besides, are there other things you want to do with your time and money? Occasionally, I consider how to channel time and money away from games, towards other pursuits in life – such as taking a dance class, studying Japanese, or reading for personal growth. Doing this helps me realize that I’d like to be more careful with the limited dollars and hours I have.

When I say no to games I don’t need, I’m often rewarded by a deep feeling of satisfaction that comes from exercising self-control to gain something better. It’s a pretty awesome feeling, and I hope you’ll experience it too!

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