The official Wizards of the Coast Dungeons and Dragons miniatures can be quite expensive, especially for the rarer models, but rarity isn’t the only thing that increases the price tag: demand does as well. As previously mentioned I believe that purchasing individual models is more fiscally responsible since you will hopefully only purchase miniatures you will use. You can also save significantly more if you purchase models from other miniature games.
World of Warcraft Miniatures
WoW miniatures are very good quality and come at great prices, but the size of the base of the miniature is around 50mm (2 inches) rather than the 1 inch of DnD miniatures. This means that they can’t really be used for medium creatures but are perfectly sized to be large creatures.
A few notable warcraft miniatures are the elementals (Fire, Water, Air, Earth) and the Ironfur bear which works well as a general large-sized bear. Warcraft does not have a large selection of miniatures, but I am a fan of the quality and especially the price. The average warcraft mini is only 49 cents.
Mage Knight Miniatures
Mage Knight has a rather large selection of miniatures for your perusal which can fill a variety of roles within your game. There are a very fair number of humanoids and other creatures that you can use, most costing around 49 cents each. Solonavi makes an excellent lich and the Specter is excellent for a shadow creature as well. Really there are hundreds of usable appropriate medium-sized miniatures available from the Mage Knight game, most of which will cost you less than a dollar.
There is one miniature in particular that I feel should be pointed out. Now, the latest expansion of miniatures from Wizards of the Coast, the Lords of Madness expansion, is very high quality and comes with some very interesting miniatures. One of my favorites is the Trapped Chest which is a $2.00. Within the mage knight miniature set you can find over 50 different treasure chests with moving parts. There is a nob on the lid and the base that changes the difficulty of opening the chest (using mage knight rules, but you can adapt these) as well as the contents of the chest. Not only that, but the chest can be labelled as trapped internally as well. Also, unlike the DnD miniature this one has a functional lid and actually opens. Each one costs a mere 49 cents (if you buy a mage knight booster it automatically comes with one) and can serve for all of your treasurey needs.
Reaper Miniatures are generally crafted out of pewter which means they are significantly heavier and significantly more expensive. However, there is a set of prepainted plastic miniatures which can serve functionally well for dungeons and dragons. There are many packs of three minis that work well for minions or other mass mobs, such as skeletal soldiers, skeletal archers, and orcs which can save you a bit in the long run if you are looking to create a small army.
Your own Miniatures
If you already have miniatures from some other game or system you can save a lot by just using what you already have. When my group started playing we originally just used decorative counters colored with permanent marker to represent miniatures. We upgraded later to using Lego Minifigs and then one of our player’s Warhammer 40k miniatures. I decided I wanted actual miniatures for certain monsters and for bosses and from there I essentially got carried away, though I do proxy my monsters often still. The best way to save money is to not spend it at all.
One Thing Not To Do
If you are trying to save money don’t think you’ll get lucky and get the monsters you need buying random booster packs. You will end up getting random creatures that you’ll force yourself to squeeze into your game that are inappropriate. Having a miniature makes you want to use it because if it isn’t used then it is just wasted money.