How to become cash flow positive in Cities: Skylines 2

Keep your economy going with these easy money-making methods.


How to make money in Cities Skylines 2 is something all the game’s many tutorials never really touch on. Keeping your city’s economy thriving requires a blend of smart policy, careful planning, and shameless exploitation. As with most things in Cities, you’ll have to adjust your plan as your city grows, but for the first few months, these Cities Skylines 2 money making tips will help get you off the ground.

Ranking up

A list of milestones for leveling up your city, including new industries and a big chunk of cash.

The best way to get money in the first few months of your city’s life is by improving it. You earn roughly $1 million the first time you level up your city rank, and the amount increases in small-ish increments each time afterward. At rank six, for example, you get $1.4 million.

Assuming your basic services function normally, your city earns experience naturally every few in-game hours as the population increases. You can also build new roads and expand your electricity and water networks to bump your XP up a bit faster. These are cost-effective methods of expanding your city, though you’ll also get XP for adding bigger essential services – healthcare, communications coverage, and postal services, for example.

Just make sure you have a plan for your expansion. Those services take the biggest chunk out of your budget with hardly any monetary return, so you need to balance your building.

Exporting services

A row of power lines is transferring energy out of the city into other regions

One of the easiest ways to get a fair bit of money with hardly any effort is exporting your services. You can’t send out water and handle other cities’ sewage until quite a bit later, but with just a single coal power plant, you can export electricity. Find your external electricity connection – that’ll be the unattached power lines at the edge of your original city limits – and build your power plant near there, if you can do it without causing much pollution. 

Construct some power lines, attach them to your plant, and then attach the other end to the outside connection. With the power plant and at least three windmills, you can export between $35,000 and $50,000 per month in addition to the money received from electricity fees. The exporting happens automatically, so you don’t have to do anything or build special networks after setting up the connection.

Tax income

The player is adjusting tax rates on residential and commercial areas, with higher taxes for businesses

The most reliable method of earning money is by siphoning it from your people via taxation, although in your first few months, it likely won’t net you much. You can tax households, commercial districts, offices, and industries, though the downside is that you actually have to have households, commercial districts, offices, and industries in your city. Until you reach roughly progression stage four and have about 2,000 people in your town, you probably won’t see much tax revenue. That changes pretty quickly once people start rolling in, though you’ll want to balance your tax plans.

Tempting as it may be to leech as much as you can from your citizens, avoid raising residential taxes for a while, and keep the adjustment amount low when you do – maybe a one- or two-percent increase. Target those with higher education once you have some schools built, so you’re not hampering upward mobility.

You can get away with raising commercial and industrial tax rates by up to at least 19 percent or 20 percent and have no fallout from angry entrepreneurs. Unless you focus on industrial specialization in the early stages, there’s not much need to adjust each category manually. You’re fine to bump the main slider up instead.

Reduce efficiency

The player is reducing efficiency for healthcare and essential services to save money

This method isn’t really making money, but it can save you some. You don’t have to operate at full efficiency. So long as your coverage is strong, your electric and water services work just fine at 80 percent of their budget, despite what the red negatives say in the services pane. You can drop healthcare and police budgets to 80 percent as well, at least until your city starts getting more crowded, though any lower will start affecting citizen happiness. Turns out people don't like getting sick and dying.

If you're having trouble keeping up with what does what, check out our handy Cities Skylines 2 key bindings and controls guide.

Contributing Editor

Josh is a freelance writer and reporter who specializes in guides, reviews, and whatever else he can convince someone to commission. You may have seen him on NPR, IGN, Polygon, or VG 24/7 or on Twitter, shouting about Trails. When he isn’t working, you’ll likely find him outside with his Belgian Malinois and Australian Shepherd or curled up with an RPG of some description.

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