I jumped on board when The Sims hit the gaming scene in 2000. At the time, I was much younger and broker than I am now. That game gave me hours of entertainment for relatively little money. (Of course, that was before the current model of never-ending DLC content that can about break you if you have to have it all. I still play, but now you have to be much more judicious if you want to avoid DLC creep.) Aside from the relatively cheap entertainment, The Sims taught me many lessons about money. Granted, the teaching happens in an abstract way that’s masked by the fun factor, but if you (or your kids) pay attention, there’s a little financial education hidden in amongst all the woo-hoo, Grim Reapers, thieves, and vampires.
Here Are Some Financial Lessons From The Sims:
Money Can Make You Happy… To A Point
In the game, there is a definite relationship between money and happiness that’s not unlike the real world. People may say that money can’t buy happiness, but it’s not entirely true. Having money can make life easier, which can result in a happiness bump. In the game, your mood takes a hit when you don’t have enough money to pay the rent, do repairs, buy new things, or have some fun. The more money problems mount, the worse your mood gets. This is true in life, as well. Money problems are going to make you unhappy. Making more money won’t solve all your problems, but it boosts happiness by smoothing the way.
Once You Have “Enough” Money, Life Has To Offer Other Meaningful Things
The flip side of the above is that having tons of money won’t always make you happier. In the game, if you’ve either earned a boatload of money or cheat-coded your way there, you don’t gain much of a mood boost from buying new stuff. Once you’ve bought the nicest stuff in the game and you have the cash to travel and go to events, there’s very little to be gained from “more.” At that point, your life satisfaction needs to come from your career, relationships, and/or the things you pursue for enrichment and enjoyment. Real life is the same. You may be Jeff Bezos, but without other things that fulfill you, money cannot make you happy.
The More Stuff You Own, The More Of Your Life Is Devoted To That Stuff
And while we’re on the subject of the relationship between money, stuff, and happiness, let’s not forget that more stuff tends to equal more problems. In the game, you are constantly faced with things that break down or need upgrading or cleaning. There’s also the risk of theft or loss due to fire, and don’t forget that your overall bills are higher when you have more electrical stuff or higher rent. The more stuff you have, the more of your sim’s life is devoted to caring for that stuff. Or you’re spending more money to outsource the repairs and care. Sound much like real life?
DIY Skills Save You Money
The game also teaches that you can relieve some of the financial burden imposed by your stuff if you improve your DIY skills. The better your DIY, the more you can do yourself, saving some money along the way. This is true in real life, as well. However, there are times, both in-game and in life, when you have to weigh the value of your time against the money you’d spend for someone else to handle the problem. If your sim can go to work and earn three times the cost of the repair, the DIY is less worthwhile unless your sim derives satisfaction from the effort. We, real humans, must make this calculation, as well.
You Have To Balance Your Career With Life
This brings us to the next important lesson. Having a career can be great. In the game, it can be a source of socialization, skill-building, and, of course, cash. However, if you pursue promotion and money to the exclusion of all else, your sim will be miserable. Their mood will crash, and their social life will suffer. In real life, you also must balance your work with the rest of your life. Promotions are great, as is more money, but you can’t neglect your relationships and the things that fulfill you outside of work. Otherwise, you look up one day and wonder what happened to your life.
Improving Your Skills Is Key To Moving Up
As your sim gains skills in life, they have more opportunities in everything from their social life to work. They can gain skills that make them better cooks, friends, lovers, gamers, artists, and workers. The broader the range of skills, the easier their life becomes. This is the case for us humans, too. The more we can do in life, and the more attuned we are socially, the easier life becomes. You have more opportunities at work (and in your hobbies/passion projects) and can enjoy a greater range of relationships. If you choose to remain on the bottom rung as far as skills go, everything in your life will be more difficult.
Quality Items Can Improve Quality Of Life
Money may not buy happiness, but it can buy a higher quality of life. The Sims teaches this well. The cheapest items in the catalog (beds, appliances, home goods, etc.) are functional but basic. The beds are not the most comfortable, and the ovens don’t turn out quality meals. The lower-quality items also break down more often. Your sim doesn’t sleep, eat, or live as well with the cheapest items. You know this is true in real life, as well. A cheap bed is never going to give you the rest of a high-quality mattress. While you may not need a super-deluxe chef’s range, one that heats reliably and has the features you need will result in quality meals. You may not need the top-of-the-line items, but your quality of life improves when you buy quality items. Just don’t buy more than you need.
Passive Income Still Requires Work
In newer versions of The Sims, your sim can pursue passive income. They can write books, sell the rights to music and other items, program apps, or become a content creator. Over time this can yield a nice passive income, but a lot of work is required to get there. You must build your skills and reputation to start bringing in the bucks. Real life is the same way. There is no get rich quick. Anything that will eventually earn passive income requires a lot of upfront work. You have to write those books or songs, produce images for image sites, and create a lot of videos before you gain the kind of following that will result in decent money.
You Don’t Have To Be Great At Something To Make Money
The good news is that while it can take a while to make big money in the game, you can start making money immediately, even if you’re not very good at something. Even your earliest photographs, songs, or art pieces will sell for something. The amounts go up as you get better at the skill. This is generally true in life. Many people make some money at things long before they’re considered “great.” It may not be much and it may require more hustle on your part, but they key is to just start. Don’t wait until you’re great at something to try to monetize it. (How many people have wasted their lives thinking they’d start their business once they have all their questions answered and are creating perfect items? A lot. Don’t be one of them. Just get started.)
The Best Parts Of Life Happen Outside Of Your Job
In the game and in real life, life happens outside of your job. No matter how much you love your work, the relationships, passion projects, travel, and other life events are what really make up your life. I’ve always thought it funny that most jobs in The Sims are “rabbit holes” where your character simply disappears for eight hours. You generally can’t control them while they’re at work. It’s analogous to life. We go to work (or school), put our heads down, and do the job. It’s only when work is over that we begin living life again. Sure, there are exceptions, and The Sims shows this well when you freelance or own your own business. In most of those cases, your sim is controllable and is “living.” But the corporate grind is often one big rabbit hole, and you need to find your life’s meaning outside that work.
Have you ever played The Sims and thought, “Hmm. That’s a good real-world financial lesson?” If so, let us know what you learned in the comments!