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Making Money The Easy Way


Please PM soldyne if you have any questions about this article.

The number one question asked on the forums by many new and old players alike is "How do I make money?" The easy answer is to just give a link to the STEX and tell them to use a money cheat. Well, the better way is to build your city efficiently and to learn how the game works, which is what this tutorial is designed to teach you.

First I must say that I have a ton of plugins going on in my game but 90% of them are for aesthetics. The only mod I have that affects game play is the Network Addon Mod which only affects traffic. Since this tutorial is about getting a city started and how to make money in the early stages, that mod will have little effect on the outcomes.

With that said, this tutorial is designed to be replicated by anyone even if all they have is the vanilla version of SC4. I also try to give a few hints on how to start a new region, what to think about when planning a city and I even give a few city building design tips along the way. For the most part though, this tutorial is about making money and creating an efficent city. City design is really up to each individual player as that is the fun of the whole game.

Before we start, I also want to inform the reader that I have a small reference guide in the Omnibus which will be very handy in developing a new city called Money Saving Tips For Any City Design. The best way to make money is to not spend it!

Also, a quick note on challenge. I always use the easy setting, and this tutorial is done on that setting as well. For a tutorial/experiment on making money with high challenge (or at least not going bankrupt) check out Voar Tok's experimental CJ here Never Go Bankrupt Again!


The first thing to consider when starting a new region is where you want your city to develop. Think ahead as to where your downtown and central business districts (CBD) will be. Then consider the surrounding areas.

Here is a nice small region which is actually the Fairview region included with the game by Maxis:

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I would like my CBD to be along the shore line as many real life cities grow up near water and rivers. Since it will be impossible to get skyscrapers at this point, we need to consider to outlying areas first such as the industrial and suburban areas. These areas will be used to build our region population and to feed demand for our CBD later on.

Here is a good place for a nice bedroom community.

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Right next to it is a great place to start an industrial city with power and trash support for the region.

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It is important to mention that with region play in SC4 it is an excellent idea to segregate your zones right from the start. Keep all the pollution in its own private city square like dirty and manufacturing industry, power production and trash handling. Make neighbor deals right from the start for power and trash as this will help save money in our residential city... no point in paying full price for 6000 MW if we are not going to use it all, right? Not only that, the neighbor deal will help the industrial city pay for the power upkeep and help reduce maintenance costs. it sounds like a good deal all around doesn't it?

In our suburban city, this looks like a very nice open area to start our development

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Since we wish to have our industrial neighbor connected to the east and our CBD to the south we should start in the south east corner of the map.

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The next thing to do now is consider how you want your road network to look. In a suburb, avenues and streets are your main tools. Avenues are your main roadways where your commercial will be. The streets make up your neighborhoods and connect to the avenues. In a suburb we will not want to go beyond low density. In some cases, depending on your design, you may want a few small areas to be medium density, but low density is the main zone size for a suburb. Also, we will probably want to keep lot sizes to 1x1 or 2x2.

If you zone 3x3 you run the risk of attracting R$ sims. These guys give a lot of money, and we want money, but R$ sims have a lot of disadvantages for a new region. They are very demanding, will only work in very particular commercial zones (and High Tech-IHT to some degree) and they take up a lot of space and have a low population count. The main disadvantage of R$ in a new community is the job preference. We are not going to have any jobs for the R$ for quite a while, so what will happen is that they will move in, displace all the industrial workers, then abandon and you have a nice big, dilapidated city.

In other words, R$ is bad news for a new region, so, we will use lot sizes in our suburbs to limit R$ growth. (technically, R$ won't grow without water, but, the job problem is real and will become a big problem later on when we put in water, so, it is a good idea to plan ahead now and keep zones too small for R$ to develop. When we are ready for R$ we can zone bigger.)

I have chosen the following layout for my initial suburb. Notice I have two avenues with connections to the south and the east and use streets for the res zones which are only 1x1 in size. I put a tile between the zones to add parks and trees later on, but for now it will remain as empty space.

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Something else to consider at this point is mass transit. This is something that most people overlook early on in a city's development. Here in a suburb though, mass transit is usually not used to a great degree. I prefer to use bus stops in my suburbs along with highways. I sometimes use subways but not too much. Mass transit will become a much bigger factor later on in our CBD however, so just keep it in mind and dont forget about it.

Now that we have our zones we need power.

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To get power, we need to talk to our neighbor. Here, in Powerton, we can see our avenue connection from suburbia.

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While we are here we can plop a coal plant, an incinerator and make a connection with some wires. One point of interest here is the incinerator. If you drop funding of the incinerator to $0 you can still burn trash but it just wont produce any power. Some people find this to be cheating, but, you will still be paying money for the trash in a "pick up and delivery" charge in your utilities menu. The $1000 maintenance fee is just for the power production which we don't need right now.

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Also while we are here, we can zone for some industial jobs to prepare for our new residents. Let the simulator run for a month or two to allow the game to realize that you have placed a power plant, incinerator and industrial zones. Some of the zones may begin to grow and this is ok. After a few months, save and exit to region. Dont worry about the temporary loss of funds, we will fix that in just a bit.

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Back in Suburbia we start things up and make a neighbor deal. Some people say they have trouble making neighbor deals. I usually don't. If you are having trouble making a deal for power and trash at this point read over this checklist:

For power
- is there a powerline connection to the proper cities?
- is the selling city producing a surplus?
- is the buying city in a deficit? This question is weird. If you have a power plant somewhere in the buying city and the total power produced is enough to power your city (even though it may not be connected) to all the zones then the game will not allow you to buy power from a neighbor. This includes far away wind generators which may be powering distant areas. Make sure that your buying city has a total power deficit by checking the power graph.

For trash
- is there a road or avenue connection to each city and does the selling city have an incinerator/landfill with road access? If there is no road access then no deal can be made.
- does the buying city have a need to export its trash? This is the same situation as described above for power.

Now hopefully, you can make some neighbor deals. At this point I will assume you have and we can move on. Let the simulation run for a bit and you should get some houses popping up. One of two possiblities will occur at this point; either you will get a flood of people moving in or you will get one or two houses to develop and thats it. If you only get a few homes, dont worry, this is expected. The way SC4 deals with neighbors and development is complicated, you have to remember that even though we have industrial zones in our neighbor, there are not that many of them. The game will try to extrapolate a projected growth of zones in the neighbor city, but only up to a certain point.

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Either way our next goal is to expand. Since this is a suburb we want to expand outward, not upward. Start to expand your road network out and keep your avenues free for commercial development and leave plenty of space for residential neighborhoods and future parks. Hopefully, after you have expanded with enough res zones, the simulator will start extrapolating jobs in the neighbor and you will start to see houses growing all over the place.

I call this the "popcorn effect." Once the demand starts to fill in the popcorn will stop popping and that is when you need to start working on something else.

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At this point, you may gaze down at the budget and realize that you are making money!
But dont get ahead of yourself, we are just beginning.

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Uh oh! A lot of our new residence are complaining about commute times. Huh? Commute times? They are no more than 5 minuets from the industrial city! What are they complaining about?

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Abandonment due to commute times is also a sign of unemployment. Sims will drive around all day until they find work, if they dont find work then they complain that work is too far and start to leave. The briefcase can also be an indication that there are not enough of the right kind of jobs available. This is the problem that R$ brings. R$ will only work in very high class jobs and will complain about commute times even if there is a commercial zone with available jobs right next to them only because they dont want to work at bob's grease pit.

In our current case, we really dont have enough jobs, so back to the neighbor to develop more work!

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Things are developing nicely! Oh no, whats this? Its a FIRE! Well we knew this would happen eventually. Place a small fire station next to the fire and it will dissapear eventually.

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A few people have complained that they hate having to put fires out all the time. What those people fail to realize is that a fire will never break out in your city within the radius of a well funded fire station. If you have an area that is fire prone, put in a station and the problem will dissapear.

And whats this? Even with a coal plant, incinerator, and fire station, this little industrial center is actually turning a profit!

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Once the industrial popcorn is done popping save and exit and go back to suburbia.

The next thing to do is to keep expanding. We want more neighborhoods and thus more people. Remember to keep your main roads clear for commercial develeopment later on and just have fun with the neighborhood designs.

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Notice that until now, we have not put in any civic services of any kind. The sims dont need them. Sure they want them, and our city will remain dumb and sick until we put them in, but the goal of a young city is to get your cities roots firmly planted first, then make people happy. Usually, the first civic building you will place will be...

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A fire station!

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The pattern you may have noticed here is that we expand the res zones until we have a drop in the popcorn and they start complaining about jobs. Then we develop the industrial sector and go back for more people. This is the leap frog technique of region play going back and forth between city squares to let the game update the neighbor cities.

Our next goal is to start working on education and building up demand in commercial and IHT. For now, you can look at your population and budget and see that making money is as easy as fixing a bag of popcorn!

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This ends Chapter 1. Chapter 2 will cover the addition of civic services, manufacturing industry and commercial development. We will also disscuss the effects of education and wealth levels on demand and developer types.


dude thankyou SO MUCH for this incredible guide! Before I found this gem I was struggling so hard to make my city function. I plopped down lots as if they were turds down a toilet, but your suburb really had a click in my creativity. My new city is now bustling very well and even has a HTI complex in it! One question only comes to mind here, but what do you do with the residents living on the other side of your workspace? Do you expand to other cities and build there?

Once again, thankyou!
It's not working for me!!! AM i missing something that you have? How are all those trees poping up all over the city. I even got a message that said Your residents want to move in but you don't have enough desirable zoning. What do I do there?only the edges of those one zone res are working.
Nevermind they started to grow but now they are complaining about commute times and most of my houses are abandonded now lol!
I'm missing something. No matter what I do, I cannot get any houses to grow on those 1x1 parcels. The demand for R$ and Cs$ is there, electricity is set up, and the industry in the next city over is connected and begging for those workers. I don't understand why the game is refusing to build on 1x1 parcels! ANy ideas? Everything is zoned low density (except for medium density industrial).
still can't make neighbour power deal. i think the problem is that the buying city isn't in a deficit due to no demand (and no people). 0 is not < 0.
Nov 13, 2011 - 03:00 AM
doeyhead, we need to know if u r already running as big suburbia. if u are, start putting up avenues. if u have put bus stops. if u hav, start building the mass transit of ur choice. make sure that u have sufficient stations on both residential and workplaces.
This guide is amazing.
About the 1x1 houses. There is a population min that must be reached (I've read 1100 sims) before the 1x1 lots will be used. Basically, to jump start the process, you need a few 1x2 lots to start off with. If you build a lot of comunities, you will end up with enough 1x2 lots, and then it just jumps - OR, you can build a line or two of 1x2 lots. I don't know if this causes problems later on with wealthy residential though - you may have to dezone the 1x2 lots.
The dangers of avenues as connections:
If you find you have a lot of residential demand and no job/long commute times - check your roads. I found that the silly sims get confused by the avenues going off the map and can't find a route back home.
I simple solution I used - which may be bad for commute time (it adds a stop) is to put a road on all the avenue end points, allowing the sims to make a u-turn.

After I did this, all of my abandoned houses and no job icons vanished.

below is an example, the -> is the 2 lane avenue going off the region, and the | is the 1 space road that "connects" the 2 lanes. Puts in a stop light and allows a u-turn.

I'm always good until I start having to make the separate high-tech cities and the "Gridburg" city. My suburb is over 30,000 sims, and my power city has 10,000 jobs of dirty and manufacturing. I then add some high wealth and try to make the High Tech cities, they grow a decent size, but then gridburg only goes to 5000-10000 sims. I dont get it. Also, there is a big demand for R$ but once i've put school and water in my city, only medium to high wealth people move in.

can anyone help?
Harmless Carrot
Mar 29, 2012 - 07:50 PM
Thank you for the excellent & extensive guide.


I would love to read the rest of this but I'm having problems going to page two and three. Every time I click the numbers or the arrow it just sends me back to the omnibus. Is there any other way I can read the rest of this article?
Apr 11, 2012 - 11:24 AM
If you click on the next chapter link and it takes you to the homepage, click on the links below:

http://www.simtropol...y-way-r102?pg=2 (Page 2)
http://www.simtropol...sy-way-r102?pg=3 (Page 3)
I have a question regarding terrain. How did you get your land so flat with all those cliffs in suburbia? As well as all the little maps to the east of there.
Sorry, I meant west of there, not east. Thanks.
The cliffs were probably terraformed using single road tiles — something like this.
Ah! Cool trick, thanks!

Okay I've done everything you said and got to 16K but no more houses will develop 1x1 anyways and I don't have any I-HT demand. any tips