Some time before Diablo 3 was released, I talked about obtaining free storage space in the game, without paying a lot to expand your shared stash. I would like to expand on that idea, especially now that I've had time to play around with several options.
In the end, I bought all the space in the first shared stash tab, for a total of 40K gold. That's not a huge amount considering that I have over 500K gold and my Demon Hunter is only level 38. On the other hand I don't want to pay 400K to unlock the rest of the shared stash. I'll do it later but now's not the time.
Your first character, or your main, will be a trailblazer and will literally make the game much easier for your alts, by equipping them with the best equipment she finds in her adventures. You will find out soon enough that there's a lot of equipment that you will want to pass on. There needs to be a way to manage all this chaos.
So I've come up with a method that works really well for me. Here are the steps.
Create your main. You do have a main class, don't you? My main is the Demon Hunter.
Create your 4 other characters, one of each class. You are going to try all of them eventually, are you not? I have:
Demon Hunter - male
Monk - male
Witch Doctor - female
Barbarian - male
Wizard - female
Create 5 more toons for the remaining character slots. These are the mules. Create one for each class. As a suggestion, create the opposite gender as your actual characters. For example, if your actual character is a male Demon Hunter, create a female DH mule. I named mine MULEONE through MULEFIVE.
The reason why this works for me really well is twofold. First, I can locate them visually very quickly by their portraits. Second, because their names are in all caps, they are easy to spot.
Play each mule to level 2. Reach the point where you get the quest "Rumford at the gate" where Leah asks you to go back to the gate and help Rumford. Complete the quest by killing the Wretched Mother and the zombies outside the gate. Once the quest is done, log out. Pick "Change quest" from the menu and make sure to select "Rumford at the gate". Then you can log in to your mule.
The reason for all this is that this quest places you the closest to the shared stash as you'll ever be.
Step 5 (optional)
Buy all the space in the first shared stash tab. Believe me, this is highly indicated. It will be much easier to transfer stuff between characters and mules.
Now that the initial setup is done, you can start transferring stuff back and forth. I like to be organized so I will send Dex equipment to the Monk mule, Str equipment to the Barb mule and so on. When I need an upgrade for my alts, I can just log in on the appropriate mule and select whatever I require. This way I won't have to clutter my alts' inventories with gear that will only be usable in 5-10 more levels.
For example, once my Monk turned 10-11, I transferred items up to level 15 from the mule to his inventory. At level 15 I will transfer more items, this time up to level 20. By doing this, I will ensure that he always has access to nice upgrades when he levels up.
Eventually, once all of your characters reach level 60, you won't need these mules so much because there won't be a lot of hand-me-downs. Instead, this is the moment when you can make full use of the shared stash. After all, the method I outlined can be a bit time-consuming if there are lots of items to be transferred, but the biggest advantage is that it keeps everything organized, by class, making it extremely easy to pick the items you need.
One final tip that I'd like to share is that you can see all the items on all your characters at a glance from the Auction House interface. Just look under the "Sell" tab. The only caveat is that you can't see any details for items that are not fully repaired (they will appear in red).
I'd like to hear your thoughts on this but I find this method very convenient for me. It certainly beats spending 400K on the shared stash. Suggestions and improvements are welcome!