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How to Budget for a Gaming PC

If you’re building a PC for the first time, it’s natural to wonder how much to spend on each component. As you’ll see in this guide, even if you have a rough idea of your total budget, when you budget for a gaming PC, it involves assessing many factors.

FYI: let’s bust some of the common PC gaming misconceptions.

Decide on Your Maximum Budget

Budgets for gaming PCs are often like project deadlines – always in flux. It’s always better to keep things under control by fixing your ceiling early in the process. Decide how much you can afford to spend on a gaming PC, irrespective of whether you’re buying a prebuilt or custom PC. Once you have the budget, shop around on the best custom PC builder websites or online marketplaces.

Having a fixed budget allows you to be careful about your choices. You can allocate the bulk of your budget to the graphics card, followed by the right CPU. Once these are done, consider the motherboard, memory, and storage. Lastly, make sure you leave enough room for a decent power supply, PC case, and CPU cooler.

Tip: starting your PC building journey? These are the things to consider before building a gaming PC.

Be Honest About How You’ll Use It

Choosing the best parts for a given budget is one thing, but you also need the choices to be in line with your exact needs. Not everyone will benefit from blowing most of the money on the most powerful GPU in the budget. Maybe you’re a gamer who enjoys CPU-intensive strategy games as much as GPU-bound story-driven titles. Or maybe you want a gaming PC that can also handle occasional productivity workloads, like video editing.

This helps you avoid overspending or understanding with regard to your gaming PC. It’s better to be brutally honest with yourself rather than regret your purchases later. Take enough time to decide the level of gaming performance you want from your PC: watch gaming benchmarks on YouTube, and consume product reviews from trusted publications. This way, you will be sure about the performance class and prices of the GPU and CPU you should buy within your budget.

FYI: confused about the processor? Find out what to buy: a 6-core or 8-core CPU.

What Features Matter the Most to You?

Performance is obviously a big factor when buying gaming desktops. But you also need to be cognizant of the features that you want in your machine. These could be things like integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a high-speed SSD, plenty of expansion ports, front I/O ports, or RGB lighting.

It could also be things like how long you want your rig to last. If you’re someone who likes to upgrade your processor every two to three years, you may want a motherboard socket that will be compatible with future CPUs. If you wish to upgrade to a PCIe 5.0 NVMe SSD down the line, your motherboard needs to have a PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot. Take stock of your desired specs list, and make the best choices around it.

Tip: buying a new gaming PC? These are the gaming PC building mistakes to avoid.

Consider the Cost of Buying a Console

A gaming PC is a versatile device: you can play games, use it as a work device, create content, indulge in DIY projects, etc. But if your goal is to simply get a gaming device, you shouldn’t make any decisions before considering the alternatives. For instance, for around $500, you can get a pretty powerful gaming console like a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. These consoles even have ray tracing and 120Hz support.

Moreover, you can also buy the Steam Deck or a Steam Deck alternative for under $600, if portable PC gaming is more your thing. The point is that there are far more options for PC gamers today than just a few years ago. Gaming PCs will cost you at least $800 if you want to play the latest titles at 1080p, so it’s worth considering if an alternative would be better suited to your gaming needs.

Good to know: going with a console for gaming? These are the best gaming consoles you can buy.

Factor in the Cost of Games, Software, and Peripherals

The amount of money you spend on a gaming PC isn’t limited to just the seven or eight components inside it. You would also be spending on a gaming monitor, gaming keyboard, gaming mouse, gaming headphones (optional), games, and other software. You may already have one or more of these. If not, factor in the cost of a decent monitor and peripherals, plus a Windows license and a few games to get you started.

These costs can eat up a lot of your budget, considering a decent Full HD gaming monitor can cost you around $150, peripherals around $200, and a Windows OEM key around $20 to $50. Plus, AAA games cost $60-$75 per title. Ignoring these costs can later come to bite you in the worst way possible.

Good to know: just got a new PC? These are the best games to benchmark your new gaming PC.

Don’t Get Distracted by FOMO

PC components come in various shapes and forms. Although you don’t necessarily need them for performance or functionality, you can outfit your build with things like AIO coolers with LCD screens, case fans with LCD screens, PC cases with LCD screens, water-cooled graphics cards, monitors with insane refresh rates, and RGB cable extensions.

It’s easy to start feeling that you need to buy one or more of these fancy, overpriced components to craft a “great” PC, but this can soon lead to wasteful spending that can hurt the thing that matters the most: performance per dollar. Unless you have an uncapped budget, it’s always better to get the basics right first – and only then think about fancy parts, provided you have some room left in your budget.

What’s the Right Budget for a Gaming PC?

There’s no single answer to how much you “should” spend on a gaming PC. You can spend as little or as much as you want – it’s your money. If you’re someone looking to maximize the value, there’s a certain process you can adopt to budget for your gaming PC.

In my opinion, you should spend at least $1,000 on a gaming PC to get a powerful machine that can run most modern titles at 1440p. Stepping it up to around $1,300 to $1,400 can get you the best value gaming PC. Whatever you’re spending, make informed choices, and buy the hardware that’ll actually fulfill your needs, performance or otherwise.

Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Tanveer Singh.

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After a 7-year corporate stint, Tanveer found his love for writing and tech too much to resist. An MBA in Marketing and the owner of a PC building business, he writes on PC hardware, technology, video games, and Windows. When not scouring the web for ideas, he can be found building PCs, watching anime, or playing Smash Karts on his RTX 3080 (sigh).

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