Making Money in Skyrim

Skyrim is a massive game, with tons of things to do. There are so many epic items to find during your travels, some of which can net you a hefty bounty of gold.

Not all of us are adventurers, though. Some of us just want to make a living selling wares and working the land. Below is my guide to making money in Skyrim, without cheating or glitches!

Starting Out

At level 1, we really don’t have much to work with. By the time you leave the tutorial dungeon, you’ll likely have a weak iron weapon, and a few pieces of armor. Before you leave, be sure to loot as much as you can carry. You won’t need these items, but once you find a shop, you’ll be able to sell them for a decent amount of starting gold.

If you are looking to “min-max” your playthrough, your best bet is to choose Hadvar instead of Ralof when in Helgen. By going with Hadvar, you later become friends with the Riverwood blacksmith, meaning that you can take his smithing materials at no penalty, allowing you to boost your Smithing skill earlier. You can still become friends with Ralof’s family, simply by chopping wood for Hod. Since the game treats this as a favor, you will be able to take items from his house.

When you first exit the Helgen cave, you will have one of the escaped soldiers with you, depending on your earlier choices. I suggest following them to the nearby village, where they will introduce you to their family. The head of the family will welcome you into their home, and offer you some items to take.

In addition to being able to take items, you get a “player home”, where you will have a place to stay. The NPCs intended for you to stay temporarily, but you won’t get in trouble for overstaying your welcome.

Sticking around Riverwood is a good idea. You can do a few small quests, make a few friends, and even work at the local lumber mill, chopping wood. I suggest doing this during the day, when the owner is nearby to give you money for the firewood you chop.

You will be paid 5 Gold for every piece of firewood you chop. This can be a long and arduous task, but it is a steady pay. As many of the Nords say, “honest gold for honest work.” If you decide to go this route, I’d recommend putting on a TV show or a movie to pass the time

Friends with Benefits (and Gold!)

One thing that separates Skyrim from its predecessors is the way they treat relationships between you and NPCs. Once you are friends with an NPC, they will allow you to take certain items from their home or shop. What you can take is based on the value of the item. I believe you are allowed up to a value of 50 gold; any item worth more is considered stealing.

Many of the items respawn after some time, which can net you a tidy income of free loot. To add insult to injury (at least for the shopkeepers), if you take items from a friendly shopkeeper, you can actually sell the items back to them. Whether or not you wish to exploit this mechanic is entirely up to you.

Manage your Inventory!

As you begin to amass loot, there will come a time when you have to choose between what to wield, what to carry, and what to leave on the dungeon floor. You may want to throw away that Iron Dagger, especially if you come across a lighter weight item with a higher value. This weight to value ratio can be calculated as follows:

Value = Item Value / Item Weight

For every 1 pound of your Carry Weight, you will want to get the most out of your inventory space. As a general rule of thumb:

  • Jewelry and gems has the highest value
  • Enchanted items have a high value
  • Heavy armor and unenchanted items have the lowest value.

It goes without saying that items with zero weight should always be collected.

Picking Pockets for Profit

Of course, you could go out and find loot in dungeons, but that takes a lot of effort. There are plenty of pockets to be picked in the major cities! For those Shady Sams out there, picking pockets does more than fill yours; you can really boost your level at a very fast rate. The amount of Pickpocket skill experience you gain is directly related to the value of the item. As you can imagine, stealing jewelry will net you a tidy bounty over time, so long as you are not caught.

Do take care if you go down the path of thievery. Even if you are not caught, there is the chance that an NPC may hire thugs to come after you at some point in the future.

Here’s a cool tip: Witnesses do not matter! When you open an NPC’s inventory, you are given the percentage chance of whether or not you will get caught. This % chance is based solely on the victim. You can pretty much pickpocket right in front of a guard; so long as the victim does not catch you, no one else will!

Before you sell, give to Charity!

In each of the major cities, you’ll find a beggar. If you take pity on one, and give them a single gold piece, you’ll earn a temporary perk which boosts your Speech skill by 10 points, allowing you to get better prices for your goods. This lasts for only an hour, but is well worth the 1 gold piece, considering that the Speech skill tree is very hard to improve on its own.

Butterflies + Tundra Cotton = Fortify Barter Potions!

You’ll find loads of monarch butterflies fluttering around Whiterun Hold, along with the local Tundra Cotton. Harvest both of them! Both of these alchemy reagents have the Fortify Barter effect, meaning that mixing them together at an Alchemy Lab will net you some fortify barter potions. The next time you go to sell, drink one beforehand; you’ll get better prices.

Last, but not Least…

Have fun! Skyrim is all about exploring the world of The Elder Scrolls. Just like in real life, if we worry too much about making money and working, we’ll never get to sit back and enjoy life for what it’s worth.

Money is certainly important in the game, but don’t let it detract from your enjoyment of the game.

Remember that Skyrim has a scaled leveling system, meaning that the NPCs and loot will scale with relation to your level. The higher your level, the greater the rewards will be!

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