A player's first mission in any Animal Crossing town is to pay off mortgages totaling over a million bells (the currency). In ACPG (Animal Crossing Population Growing, the game for Nintendo GameCube), the figure is 1,413,600 bells:
- the house (19,800 bells),
- first expansion (148,000 bells),
- basement (49,800 bells),
- second expansion (398,000 bells), and
- second floor (798,000 bells).
The player starts out with 1000 bells. When he enters the town, he hands the cash to shopkeeper Tom Nook, who hires the player to complete several tutorial tasks for a total of 1400 bells. Tom Nook asks for at least 1000 bells per week, joking that he might send the goons to break the player's kneecaps if the player doesn't comply. Luckily, cash is abundant, and a determined player can make up to 300,000 bells per week.
After you finish your contract with Tom Nook, walk up to a tree with fruit on it, shake it (A), and pick up what falls off (B). (Shaking a tree other than a fruit tree can produce furniture for your house or a bag of 100 bells, but it can also produce bees, which at this stage of the game must be repelled by entering a building.) Go to Tom Nook's shop, talk to him, and tell him you'd like to sell the fruit. He will offer 100 bells per fruit, and the produce from four trees should give enough money for a shovel, which allows planting fruit in the ground and digging up fossils, and a fishing rod, which allows catching fish.
Use the shovel to dig around for a while and discover that the ground is made of a grid of cells. The town is divided into 30 "acres", each of 16 by 16 cells. Now you should be ready to start an orchard. Using the shovel to bury a fruit in the ground results in a sapling. After five nights, as long as the sapling was not planted in an infertile cell (e.g. too close to a building, signpost, or tree), the sapling grows into a tree that produces three fruits every three days when shaken.
In general, the best place to plant a fruit tree is two spaces north, east, west, or south of a rock or other tree. This will produce a grid twice as large as the cell grid, which should look like this:
. . . . . . . . X . X . X . . . . . . . . . X . X . X . . . . . . . .
For reasons that will become apparent in later missions, the best number of trees per acre is 12 to 14. Counting trees in an acre may prove easier if you order a few disposable axes from your catalog and cut down all trees on the southernmost row of cells and easternmost column of cells of each acre. To cut down a tree, put an axe in your hands, face the tree, and swing (A) three times. Then use the shovel to dig out the stump. It is also a good idea to pull up weeds as you find them, just as if you were picking up fruit. But weeds have another use, as they tend to indicate fertile cells.
To catch fish, start by pulling out your rod and walking into an acre with water in it. Master baiters keep their fingers off the L and B buttons, as running scares the fish away. Find a fish's shadow in the water, and toss the bobber slightly upstream of it. The fish will play with the bobber a few times and then pull the bobber under the surface for about a half second. Once the bobber is all the way under, pull in the fish (A). Walk into another acre to get another fish; different acres have different kinds of fish.
While you fish at the beach, you can pick up a few seashells. The only shells worth more than a native fruit are white scallop, conch, coral, and venus comb.
Within a week, the player should be earning thousands of bells per day by selling stuff to Tom Nook: caught fish, shells from the beach, fruit from trees, items retrieved from the dump, and clothes and furniture given as rewards for completed errands.
Fossils are retrieved by applying a shovel directly to the star-shaped marks on the ground. Five fossils are buried in the ground each day in a town, and each player can send three fossils to Farway Museum per day, using 120 bells worth of paper. (To get "Museum" to show up in your address book, keep a fossil in your house overnight.) A player who checks the dump daily and diligently does chores for villagers may never need to buy stationery. After about three weeks in a town, most fossils are identified as duplicates and can be sold to Tom Nook instead of giving them to Blathers at the local museum. Once you're getting mostly duplicates, selling fossils nets 5,000 to 10,000 bells a day. If you have a friend who helps you fill your museum faster, you can earn more money sooner.
On the day after a rainy day, some star marks yield gyroids. These are worth 828 bells at the store.
There are five types of fruit: pear, orange, apple, cherry, and peach. At first, a town has trees bearing only one kind of fruit, called its native fruit. The other four are called foreign fruit. Occasionally, the player receives fruit in letters from Mom, in gift boxes attached to a balloon, or in conversation with villagers. You can plant a foreign fruit just as you would any other fruit. But to make sure that the sapling does not die due to being planted in infertile ground, try cutting down a tree, digging up the stump, and immediately burying the foreign fruit in the same hole.
What's so special about it? Tom Nook pays 500 bells for foreign fruit and (here's the exploitable part) keeps offering this high price even after there is more of this fruit in your town than its native fruit. Like native fruit trees, a foreign fruit tree produces three fruits every three days, worth an average of 500 bells per day.
In a lone town, it can take several weeks to get the foreign fruits the "hard way" as described above. However, players can trade fruits with other towns that either have a different native fruit or have received other fruits the hard way, earning foreign fruits faster. An orchard with six foreign fruit trees in even 15 of the 30 acres can produce over 40 kB/day.
At least twice before you add the second floor, Tom Nook will close his shop for a whole day and build a larger shop. Don't fish when the shop is closed. Get your fruit, fossils, and shells as usual, but drop them in the acres close to the shop. Don't worry; villagers won't steal them, and you can come back the next morning at 0900 hours and sell the goods.
Each town has one gleaming patch of ground per day. Apply the shovel directly to this patch to produce a bag of 1000 bells. Re-burying the bag in the same hole produces a sapling that may grow into a tree that gives three bags of money once, but this is risky because the gleaming patch often shows up in infertile cells. If the gleaming patch is on fertile ground, burying another shovel there should produce a tree containing a golden shovel, which has a chance of finding a bag of 100 bells whenever the player digs in empty ground.
Every Sunday morning Joan will come to your town and sell you turnips. These don't have a set price, she can sell them from 50 bells to 2000 bells. From Monday to Saturday, if you go to Nook, he will quote a price that he is buying turnips for, again, from 50 to 2000 bells, a different one every day. You want to buy low, sell high. The turnips you buy on a Sunday will rot by the following Sunday, so it's a bit of a gamble trying to wait for a high selling price.
If the price is above 500 bells for the turnips on Sunday, it's not a good idea to invest unless you have a lot of bells spare. It's fairly rare for the sale price to go much above 750, and it's often below 500, so you stand a high risk of losing a lot of bells. Invest carefully.
The bottom line
A skilled single player in a one-town environment should be able to earn on average 10 kB/day before the main floor and the basement are full size (218 kB), and 20 kB/day afterward (1196 kB), allowing the player to go from zero to golden statue in 62 days.
Multiple players in the same town who play on the same day will take longer to make money because they have to compete for the same fruit and noisemakers, but they can still find fish and shells, and two players can split the fossils.
Multiple players in multiple towns can get up to speed even faster as they trade foreign fruit and fossils.