My first character rarely managed to keep more than a gold to her name until after she hit level 60, and I imagine the story is similar for most new players. There are plenty of skills to buy, so many professions to learn about, and always the lure of the auction house attempting to part you from your hard-earned coin. If I only knew then what I know now, mount money at 40 wouldn't have given me such grief -- instead of being frustrated over my lack of funding, I could have been frolicking through Azeroth on a brand new pony. But for new players struggling with money right now, I'm going to offer a few reasonable financial suggestions to help you on the road to your first big purchase.
Choose your professions wisely.
When you first hit level 5, you have a choice of ten primary professions. While all of them offer a variety of benefits, some of them will cost money to train up, whereas others will help you make some coin. If you're primarily interested in money-making, the best advice is to pick up two gathering professions. With a gathering profession, you needn't worry about the cost of materials for your next skill point and you have very few associated training costs. (5c to 75 skill, 5s to 150 skill, 50s to 225 skill, 5g to 300 skill, and 10g to 375 skill -- this might sound like a lot, but for a crafting profession you'll pay these same costs plus the cost of patterns or recipes needed in order to craft items. These costs are not always high, but they add up over time.)
In our recent professions overview, we went into a full discussion of all the profession options, but I'm going to keep things simple here. Your options for gathering professions (which are the only ones I advise taking if you aim to make money) are:
The next profession is your call. Higher level herbs and skins both sell reasonably, but neither are as in demand as ore tends to be. (Of course, your realm's economy may vary, but this is typical.) I tend to recommend skinning as the best option, because it doesn't have an associated tracking skill like mining and herbalism. (Since you can only have one "tracking" ability active at a time, you can only be looking either for ore or herbs, but not both at once. Skinning, on the other hand, can simply be performed on any corpse which provides leather -- hunting for ore veins or flowers required.)
A final profession option to consider is enchanting. I'm not suggesting enchanting to actually enchant gear -- enchanting is both time-consuming and costly to train, which goes against the goals of our guide -- but instead to disenchant gear. The enchanting profession also allows you to disenchant magical items back to their base components: dusts, shards, and essences that are used to enchant other items. These materials sell very well, however, to disenchant higher level gear, you need higher levels of enchanting, which means you won't be able to do so without some training -- and to train it, you'll probably need to use rather than sell materials you disenchant. In my opinion, it would be a wash at best. At times, you'd be able to disenchant and sell and make a good profit from it, but eventually you'll reach a point where you need to train in order to disenchant items, which will cost you money. However, your mileage may vary.
Save everything, sell everything!
You may be tempted not to even pick up items that are useless to you, but trust me, nearly every item in the game is useful to someone. All of the game's items are color-coded to give you an idea of how important they are, and it's important to know what's what:
- Grey: Boring everyday items with no special properties. These items are of no particular use to players, though some enjoy collecting full sets of grey armor (which usually has a unique look). However, even a grey item will have a value to an NPC vendor, and they're worth picking up just to resell. They may not sell for much, but those bits of coin add up!
- White: These items have no special properties, either, but they are used as components in tradeskills or reagents for spells. These are certainly useful to other players, and can sell reasonably well on the auction house, depending. (And even if they don't sell like hotcakes on the AH, they can still be sold to an NPC vendor for coin.)
- Green: These are uncommon items with magical properties. They'll often sell well on the auction house, though how well they sell depends on the specific stats they have. (For example, something with strength and spirit won't sell as well as something with strength and agility -- the latter stat pairing is more useful to a melee combat class, while most looking at the former will see those points in spirit as wasted itemization.)
- Blue: Rare items with magical properties. These are higher quality than green items and are always worth some gold on the auction house -- at least if they aren't bind on pick-up
- Purple: Epic items with magical properties. These are higher quality again than blue items and are certainly worth a good bit of gold at the auction house.
- Orange: A legendary item! You aren't terribly likely to see one of these just drop from a mob...
Play the auction house!
Now that your inventory is overflowing with ore and items, you need something to do with it, don't you? This is where the auction house comes in. There's an auction house where you can buy and sell goods in every major city (the town guards should be able to direct you), so whenever you have a full inventory of potentially worthwhile stuff, hit up your nearest capitol city.
The tricky part of this operation is knowing what to put items up for. It can required detailed attention to your local economy to have a concept of what anything you might pick up could be worth to others - and this is usually the daunting part that keeps people from bothering with the auction house. But help is just an addon away! For this purpose, I advise picking up Auctioneer. Auctioneer is an excellent addon that scans the auction house for you and keeps track of what everything is selling for so you don't have to. Install it and do a full scan of your local auction house every time you stop by (a full scan can take from five to ten minutes, but it's collecting invaluable information that's worth the wait). Then when you ride into town wanting to auction off a stack of random white items, Auctioneer tell you what those items usually sell for and suggest the best price. And now the seemingly worthless junk you picked up while you were out leveling is converted to gold and silver coins for your use.
Another way to play the system is to check vendors wherever you go -- some vendors around the world will offer limited quantities of crafting patterns which sometimes sell well. (The first aid books seem to do good business on all the realms I've played on, though you'll have to check prices on other patterns. Your local economy may vary.) Why would someone buy from you what they could go out and buy themselves? Well, they may not have the time or inclination to go out and find where it's sold, but if you happen across a limited quantity pattern while you're out questing, it's no loss of time to you to pick it up and resell it as soon as you hit town.
That's all I have for you today -- if you've been having money problems, give a few of these tips a try and see how they work. And if you have any of your own suggestions for new players struggling to earn their first gold, tell us about it in the comments!