Gloomy, frightening...that's what economists are talking about nowadays regarding the world economy. It is pretty much self-evident on the high street (or main street for your own purposes) with shops closing down, making a firesale on their remaining stocks right after the holiday season, people getting their pink slips, these are desparate times. We just hope it won't get any worse, and we are all crossing fingers. In the area of Airsoft, we have some tips for you to save while still enjoying the game. If you've got other suggestions, we're open to these.
It never hurts to shop around. Small shops sometimes sell cheaper because they pay cheaper rent, but large shops sometimes sell cheaper because they bought more and got bigger wholesale discounts. Some shops sell at double or triple the retail price, just waiting for an uninformed newbie to walk in. So check at least three sources everytime you plan to buy something. Don't forget to check sellers from your forum community, or even eBay listings.
Wait one month before buying
Make a wishlist or dreamboard. Whenever you feel the need to buy something, put the item's name or photo on it with the date you put it up. Now wait at least 30 days before buying it. This gives you time to think about the purchase, read reviews, shop around or change your mind. Fight the urge to impulse buy.
Try second hand stuff
Some used G.I. gear, like belts and BDUs, are cheaper than brand new repros. There are tons of LBV suspenders and pouches available too, and those look better a bit tattered than brand new (especially if you like the distressed-look). Take care about buying used guns though; avoid guns that have been over-upgraded. You'll find yourself paying a lot more on repairs and replacement parts after a few months of use.
Buy in bulk
If you belong to a team it will be easy to pool your money and buy wholesale. This will save you a lot of money in the long run especially when buying BBs and gas cans.
Consider price vs quality
Most airsofters don't really need 1000D Cordura gear. At the most you'll only use it a few hours every weekend. Sure they're tough and will last a long time, but they cost 2-3 times more than gear made from other materials. At the same time, cheap nylon or cotton will tear for almost any reason (and sometimes for no reason at all). Plus the cheapest gear are usually downright ugly. Find something in between—cheap but good enough for your needs.
Minimize maintenance costs
Keep your FPS low. Using stronger springs introduces more stress on other components, meaning you'll need to replace more stuff more often. 'Reinforced' parts are more expensive and still vulnerable to wear-and-tear. Keeping your FPS under 360fps (M110 springs) minimizes broken parts. Getting it above 400fps (above M120 springs) requires expensive reinforced replacement parts, even more maintenance and repair costs. With lower FPS you'll force yourself to use better tactics and teamwork to win. Plus it's much more satisfying to get close and shoot them in the face!
Stick to .2g BBs. The math is simple: heavier BBs cost more per shot. Considering the price is the same for every 1kg bag of BBs you get: 5000pcs of .2g, 4000pcs of .25g, 3570pcs of .28g, and 2780pcs of .36g BBs. Heavy BBs will also need high FPS so that kind of defeats the tip above. One shot snipers benefit more from using heavy BBs, but for everyone else .2g is fine.
Avoid Li-Poly batteries. Although small and can fit anywhere in your gun (avoiding the need to provide a battery carrier like ANPEQs), these babies are expensive and require expensive chargers. These also don't last as long as nickel batteries, expect capacity to drop significantly after one year of use. The higher voltages can really damage the motor and possibly other parts, especially if the gearbox isn't tuned perfectly (which is pretty hard to do anyway). It's a lot cheaper to stick with NiCd or NiMh batteries. An Intellect 8.4v 1400mah or a stock Jing Gong battery pack is small enough to fit in an M4 handguard but packs enough power to surprise you.
Practice proper maintenance. Relax the spring by firing one shot in semi before storing, avoid dry-firing, apply silicon oil, learn how to charge your batteries, and other proper storing and handling of your gun will greatly improve its lifetime and keep maintenance costs down. One well-maintained gun is cheaper than having several spare guns.