How did I do it? Well, research really. I spent the last several years playing MMOs and spending money in cash shops. I've made plenty of buying decisions that I regretted later, so let my sufferings serve as example for you.
Why all this waiting? The answer is simple: You want to get a deal any time you can manage one. In fact, the theme for today's column is have patience. Different publishers might run a special that says if a player uses a certain card, say from a certain store like Wal-Mart, the card will come with something extra like a cool sword. Keep that in mind. Of course if it gets down to the last 30 seconds of your current subscription before you scratch off that little gray strip on the back, you're waiting too long. Be patient, but don't be paranoid that you might miss something literally at the last minute.
Be weary of brand-new items in the shop, as well. That awesome new mount will call to you, this I promise, but it's very possible that the same mount will be half off once the next set comes out. Do your research and make sure that you know the last date possible if the item is time-limited. You might ask customer service if the item will be removed from the shop altogether, change prices, or just pushed out of the spotlight by a new item. One of the easiest ways to get virtual shopper's cash is to offer him something super-awesome and tacking on a "limited offer" or special price on it. The shop will likely keep the item around after the introductory sale and just tempt you with a new one.
If you're going to go for a look, try to have a reason for each piece. Make each piece a part of your character's story or find a way to make it mean something. If not, you'll easily spend all of your dough on every new piece of seasonal clothing. Don't get me wrong; I'm perfectly happy if you'd like to get a new outfit every week, but I tend to be a bit more frugal. When I buy my appearance armor, I'll use it for a long time, and I accentuate the holidays only with timeless bits that can be stored easily.
As many of you know, I tend to play a lot of different games. One of the best feelings is to return to a game I haven't played in some time to find money still waiting to be spent in the cash shop. I didn't spend all of my credits in Wakfu, in a recent example, and was able to spread my purchases out over a few months. I snagged some deals and fed myself a slow trickle of purchasing pleasure without allowing my senses to be dulled, all because I decided to spend only some of my money back then.
While I would love to see all of my readers gain the ability to spend wads of cash in their favorite game, I know that for many of us a virtual shopping spree is about as common as a real life one. It's just smarter to be patient with our money, watch for deals, and keep a little tucked away for a rainy day.
Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!