Home > Saving Money
Published: June 23, 2019
Does building a computer save money? Yup - it's fairly common knowledge within the PC gaming community that building your own PC has many benefits compared to buying a prebuilt gaming desktop at your local store (or online), with the most well-known advantage being the fact you can usually save a stack of cash by building your own.
How much can you save when you build a PC?
It'll vary from case to case (pun intended) based on various factors such as the current state of the PC components market, how savvy you are in crafting a cost-effective PC parts-list, and how much you're spending on your computer. Generally speaking, the larger your PC build budget the larger potential there is to save money compared to buying a prebuilt desktop. For example, with smart component selections you could easily save a few hundred bucks when building a top of the range $3000 gaming PC for instance, whereas you might only be able to squeeze out $50 to $150 in savings when putting together a $500 budget build.
Become a smarter shopper to save more.
But beyond the rule numero uno of building a PC - cleverly choosing good bang for your buck components based on the current state of the market (in other words pinpointing where the value is right now) - there are a bunch of additional money saving strategies you may wish to consider to further lower the cost of your build. In this guide we'll thoroughly cover how to save money on a PC build all the way from well-known fundamental buying tips to some lesser-known creative hacks and tricks that you might also want to consider if you're building on a budget. Hope these may potentially help you save money when building a gaming PC, and if you know of any tips that we missed then please do let us know in the comments.
Let's start with an obvious way to save money on a PC build, and what most builders will do naturally anyway - fine-tuning your component choices for the games you'll be playing. Not all games are created equal, and they vary greatly in how graphically (or processor) intensive they are. So if you're building a PC for Overwatch for example, all you need is a very basic cheap system, whereas on the other hand building a PC for Battlefield 5 will require much greater firepower if you want good performance because it's a much more graphically-demanding game.
By first looking little into the hardware requirements of the specific games (and/or work applications) you'll be running, you can choose PC parts that will handle them well and avoid spending your money on an overly powerful system that you don't even need. In our main menu up top we have game requirement guides that list what exact minimum hardware you'll need to get smooth performance in various popular games, with new guides being created all the time (check our PC building blog for the latest guides).
You can easily get away with building a cheap gaming PC for less demanding games like Fortnite
If all you're using is a standard 1080p (full HD) monitor then you won't need a high-end graphics card or CPU and can get away with building a cheaper gaming PC than you might realize, especially if you don't mind turning down the graphics settings in the more demanding games (most gamers don't mind). Higher resolutions above 1080p demand a lot more power from your PC to perform smoothly, but 1080p is still a good quality screen resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) and still the current best PC gaming resolution in terms of value for money.
For those on a really tight budget, you may want to consider dropping down to lower resolutions like 900p or 720p, especially if you're playing games that is all about the gameplay and much less about the graphics (eg Minecraft, CSGO, League of Legends, and even Fortnite). That would mean you can get away with building a super cheap entry-level gaming PC and not lose out on the fun.
Same goes for PC gaming refresh rates; if you're aiming for the most cost-effective gaming PC you can muster, skip the expensive 144Hz monitors because they will also require much more performance from your system to be taken full advantage of (ie for you to get up around 144FPS). Stick to the standard 60Hz (or 75Hz) monitors if you want to save the most money as you won't need anywhere near as much graphical (and processor) grunt.
Gaming in lower resolutions like 720p may still be just as fun for you
If you already have a desktop computer then you might be able to salvage some scraps and include some of its parts in your new PC build. Anything is fair game, assuming that it's going to be compatible with the new components you'll be buying, all the way from your previous graphics card (perhaps it's still decent and your new build is mostly about getting a new CPU and motherboard) down to little things like reusing the case fans or cable ties from within your previous case. We wrote a full guide on how to reuse parts for a PC build where you can learn handy tips on reusing any of your old parts.
Keeping your old accessories is another obvious way to save money on your new gaming computer build as many people will have an old keyboard or mouse lying around somewhere, and if not you're bound to know someone who does. Most gamers don't mind using basic no-frills accessories for gaming as only pro, aspiring pro, or cashed-up gamers have any real business using fancy, high-end devices with all the bells and whistles like RGB lighting, programmable buttons and macro keys, high-end tracking performance, etc. For the average casual gamer busting out a session of Fortnite or DOTA2, you're not going to see a difference, so don't rule out that dusty 10 dollar keyboard lying around the house unless you've dreams to become the next pro gaming Ninja (in which case you'll need a good gaming mouse for pinpoint accuracy, control and comfort).
Not only can you reuse hardware and accessories, but your operating system may also be something you can keep from your previous system which could be really helpful in saving money on your gaming PC build as buying a new copy of Windows will cost you around 100 bucks minimum. The bad news though is that not everyone is going to be able to reuse Windows and it'll depend on your edition/version that you have on your previous setup. Learn whether you can or can't reuse Windows for your build in our reusing PC parts guide.
To save more money when building a gaming computer, don't forget a bit of good deal hunting. End of year holiday sales (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and December in general) may have the best tech deals of all, but that doesn't mean you can't find decent hardware and accessory deals throughout the year.
We list the best PC hardware deals that we find in our ongoing research of the market which may come in handy, but we're mere mortals who can't find every possible deal under the sun so for a more thorough day of deal-hunting check places like Reddit BuildAPCSales (USA), BAPCSalesCanada (for Maple Leaf Master Race enthusiasts), BAPCSalesAustralia (for fellow lit and 1337 gamers in 'straya), BuildAPCSalesUK (I'm out of meaningless one liners), and whatever else you can find in the deep depths of the internet.
A fairly large chunk of people who buy tech online these days buy from Amazon due to their super competitive prices and vast range of all the leading brands. They really have completely taken over online shopping in a big way with no end in sight, but their monopoly of online Ecommerce doesn't seem to be such a bad thing due to their super convenient service and their ruthlessness in business domination being seemingly well-balanced with a genuine focus on consistently good customer experience.
No, they don't pay me to say any of that (just my objective opinion based on having used them for so long), but while Amazon is a good bet to find the best price, if you want to maximize the money you save on your custom PC then you'll want to compare with other popular online stores for PC parts in your particular region. Speaking of which, we've rounded up some of the best sources to buy hardware:
If you don't mind not having the latest and greatest graphics card or CPU, you can save a bit of cash by opting for a slightly older model instead of the current new release whilst not sacrificing on performance too much. Older parts are typically priced more competitively compared to newer models in terms of overall bang for the buck (though not necessarily all the time). A good example right now would be AMD CPUS; new ryzen chips will be released later on in 2019, but current generation AMD models are at very attractive prices right now so it's a close call between waiting it out for the new generation, or getting a model from the current-crop at a nicely discounted price where you'd save money but not lose out on too much performance.
This isn't for everyone, as most people will want to buy parts that are brand new, but buying a refurbished component is the next best thing. It's essentially buying second hand (it's a product that's been returned either faulty or not), however the part has been checked that it's working just fine by an official seller (ie Amazon). See our full guide to buying refurbished PC parts for helpful tips if you want to know more.
OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts are essentially bare parts that just come with the basic hardware and no additional packaging or extra things that might come with the full retail product (such as cables, documentation, manuals, etc). OEM parts might also have a shorter warranty and limited technical support (or none at all), but may be worth it for certain components if you want to cut costs. Learn everything you need to know in our guide to buying OEM PC components.
Buying second hand hardware components (or accessories) is another easy way to save money when building a new PC, but you do want to be wary when doing so as you never know what a component has really gone through in its previous owner's lifetime. Plus, a used part probably won't still be under warranty.
If you're comfortable buying used, most PC parts are fair game, and you could really save a stack of cash. Especially on the more expensive parts of your rig like the graphics card or CPU. Although there certainly are parts you want to really avoid buying used IMHO such as motherboards (too many potential failure points plus it's the base of your new build that all other parts rely on), traditional hard drives (they have finite lifespans and moving parts which could easily fail), power supplies (not worth the risk as a dodgy PSU could fry your other parts), and liquid coolers.
Where you scour for used computer parts will depend on where you live (google around), but a few places you could start off the top of my head is Reddit HardwareSwap, Ebay, and Amazon. Local meetup sites like Craighlist or Facebook Marketplace could also be worth checking, and give you potential added peace of mind if you can actually see a part working first before buying.
Yet another option in your arsenal to save money on a gaming PC build is looking at barebone kits. Barebone kits may mean a combo of parts, but they also come in the form of already-assembled bare desktops that come with a few parts already installed (and you add whatever is missing). Barebone systems and kits can save you money, but they aren't all that common nowadays so it really depends on what's available at the time of your build. You never know though; see our complete guide to the best barebone gaming PCs and kits to learn more including what they're all about, whether they're worth buying, and our top value picks right now.
Remember brick-and-mortar stores? You know, those physical locations in your town where you actually walk in to browse products on things called "shelves"? I kid you not, such ancient buildings still exist in 2019. Seriously though, while online shopping has now become the norm in society across most industries (not just tech) due to convenience and better prices (primarily due to the low overheads of online stores), you never know what you'll find at a local PC store and it's worth checking out if you have one nearby and you're looking to save as much money as possible on your gaming PC. For example, Micro Center have long been known for their occasional CPU deals, and Fry's have had decent deals in the past on various parts too.
Ain't no mirage or Photo-shopped fabrication of the mind: real-life retailers are still a thing (for now)
Picking the current best value parts on the market right now to save the most money can be confusing, but thankfully you don't have to do it all yourself and there are various resources out there to help you pick great parts and better spend your hard-earned (or begged-for) money. Our very own best custom gaming PC builds for the money series lists a bunch of continually-updated sample builds at different price points as examples of how to stretch any type of spending budget based on the current market, but while we do genuinely believe our builds are a good base to start your research as a beginner you can find a horde of other build ideas online such as PCPartPicker's user builds, the helpful BuildAPC Subreddit, and so on.
Our example PC builds are meticulously fine-tuned to help you save money
This one's probably one of the more obvious money saving tips, as it's fairly common knowledge that SSDs are more expensive than traditional hard drives, so if you're looking to cut costs on a PC build then just go with a regular HDD as you'll get much more storage for the same price. Although it must be said that SSDs are quite a bit more affordable nowadays, so getting a small one in your rig as the main system drive to speed up Windows boot times (and the loading speeds of a handful of programs and games) isn't going to hurt your wallet too much and can really be worth it. Just don't go including a 1TB SSD in your setup and wonder why you haven't much left for your other (arguably) more important parts.
SSDs are super speedy but come at a cost, especially larger ones
If your aim is to save money on a PC build, your primary focus should be getting parts that perform the best - not that look the best. Passing on that awesome looking case with the fancy see-through side panels and super-cool RGB lighting or LED case fans will free up your budget for better internal parts, because it's what's on the inside that counts most, right? It should also go without saying that you should skip on other cool features like water cooling (even closed-loop ones as air coolers are better value) and RGB peripherals if you want to cut costs as much as possible. To be fair though, even a cheap PC build can look great from the outside as there are plenty of very affordable yet good-looking gaming computer cases out there. Just don't waste 120 bucks on a fancy case when you could get something just as practical for half the price, leaving 60 extra bucks to put towards something more important like your GPU.
Performance > Aesthetics, Especially When on a Tight Budget
We don't recommend this to beginner builders or those who aren't too tech-savvy, as Windows is going to be the simpler way to go when building a gaming computer (Linux is more technical and you'll be more on your own), but if you really want to save as much money as possible when building a computer (and you can't reuse Windows as mentioned earlier), you might want to consider diving into the world of Linux as your operating system instead. Because, well... it's free!
If you're still reading this chances are you have higher levels of patience than the average instant-gratification filled gamer, and such a virtue lends itself well when planning and building computers. If you don't need a new system right this second, by holding off on pulling the trigger on your parts-list you can wait it out in case one or two of your desired components drops in price a little or goes on sale. By resisting that trigger-happy urge, you also give yourself more time to weigh up your build options, do more research into your gaming and/or workload demands/requirements, shop around, and potentially build an even better killer long-term battlestation than you initially would have.
But it must also be said that in some cases, such Yoda-like zen patience may actually backfire when building a PC because you never know when components could actually increase in price. The hardware game can be a yo-yo, and if you wait too long on pulling the trigger on that super-duper bang-for-buck parts-list you so cleverly conjured, you might never see those combination of parts at that same attractive price again (or for a long time).
Imagine the look on the faces of gamers who were just about to build a PC days before the crypto-induced GPU price explosion from hell kicked into full gear a couple years ago. One day you were eyeing off that $140 1050 Ti with excitement. A few days or so later? $210 and an angry rant on Reddit.
TL;DR: Generally speaking, mustering up some good old-fashioned patience will make you a smarter PC builder now and for the rest of your merry gaming days.
The green zen master himself reading The Gaming Build Blueprint for some odd reason
For simple questions and help with choosing parts, comment on the Gaming PC Builds hub and we'll help a gamer out.
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Anyway, hope this article helped and good luck with your setup.