The concept of buying in-game currency has touched on many gamers' minds throughout MMO history. The reason is simple: Those with the most gold have the easiest gaming experience.
I'll be examining the scenario of buying and selling to answer the question: Is it really worth your money?
The pros are easy to think of: buy BoE gear, epic flying, six mounts; never having to worry about repairs...
And the cons: bypass fun encounters; meeting fewer new people; missing opportunities to learn your class better; chance to get banned; loss of RL funds; supporting illegitimate trade, gold site spammers, farmers, etc...
In this scenario, we'll imagine a gold-farming company selling 1000g for $15. We'll also say that I have a job that pays $7.50/hr, and I can farm 400g in one hour when I put my mind to it.
If I go to work for two hours, I'll come home with $15, which I can spend to buy 1000g. That's 500g per hour I've made.
If I stay home and farm gold for two hours, I'll end up with 800g. That's 400g per hour (as noted) I've made.
In this case, you're better off buying gold if all other factors are equal. If you hate your boss, and your job is boring, and your co-workers are mean to you, and you have to deal with angry customers all day... then you're probably better off taking those two hours and just farming gold. You can talk to guildies, watch tv or listen to music, and generally have fun (as long as you're earning on schedule, of course).
The following chart shows when you should buy gold, as a function of the amount you can farm per hour and your hourly wage. This chart is based on a 1000g for $15 price. It doesn't vary a whole lot for the $12-14 price range.
|$6.00||B U Y||Buy||Farm||Farm||Farm||Farm||Farm||Farm||Farm|
|$7.00||B U Y||Buy||Buy||Buy||Farm||Farm||Farm||Farm||Farm|
|$7.50||B U Y||Buy||Buy||Farm||Farm||Farm||Farm||Farm|
|$8.00||B U Y||B U Y||Buy||Buy||Farm||Farm||Farm||Farm|
|$8.50||B U Y||B U Y||Buy||Buy||Farm||Farm||Farm|
|$9.00||B U Y||B U Y||Buy||Buy||Farm||Farm||Farm|
|$9.50||B U Y||B U Y||Buy||Buy||Farm||Farm|
|$10.00||B U Y||B U Y||B U Y||Buy||Buy||Farm|
|$10.50||B U Y||B U Y||B U Y||Buy||Buy||Farm|
|$11.00||B U Y||B U Y||B U Y||B U Y||Buy||Buy|
|$12.00||B U Y||B U Y||B U Y||B U Y||Buy|
|$15.00||B U Y||B U Y||B U Y||B U Y||Buy|
|$20.00||B U Y||B U Y||B U Y||B U Y|
With this trend, if you make $20/hr, you shouldn't farm your own gold until you can farm well over 1000g/hr. That's a lot! I personally can make anywhere from 400-600g/hr, so I don't ever buy since I don't value my [unemployed] job skills above $8.00/hr.
Other factors apply. Not everyone can secure a job (which means you're stuck farming anyways), and not everyone is privy to accepting extra hours.
As well, it's tough to accurately measure the amount of gold you make. You have to consider items that you're auctioning, the money looted, grey items vendored, and then cost for flight and repair.