How Animal Crossing Made Me a Better Money Manager

Image courtesy Nintendo

Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” is a huge hit, breaking sales records for the Nintendo Switch as more and more people start looking for ways to pass the time at home. But the game also teaches players about financial responsibility and managing debt.

If you’re not familiar with the Animal Crossing series, New Horizons lets you create a human person who moves to a small island filled with animal people and slowly builds out a home and a life there.

When you first get to the island, you meet with a raccoon named Tom Nook, who was kind enough to set you up with your travel arrangements, your property on the island, and the tent that you get to call your home. In return, he politely demands you pay him about 50,000 bells (the series’ in-game currency).

Once you pay off that debt, Nook decides that tents are no way to live, and offers to build you a house. Hooray!

Also, he leaves you 98,000 bells in debt.

The pattern repeats from there: Each time you successfully pay off a debt, you’re offered the chance to expand your home, at an even greater cost than the previous expansion. Admittedly, these are generous loans, with zero interest and no due dates.

The game introduces players to a method of debt management concept known as the “snowball method.” Essentially, you focus on the smallest debt first and work toward paying it off quickly. Once that’s done, you carry that momentum over to the next-smallest debt, then the next, until everything’s paid off. Each debt you successfully pay off is a victory, and each victory gives you more motivation to clear out the rest of your debt.

So you start with a tent, pay that off and get rewarded with a house (and more debt). But then you pay off the house and get a bigger house (and even more debt). Along the way, you’re building up a series of victories.

Those victories don’t come quickly, though. Outside of a few glitchy exploits, the best way to earn money in Animal Crossing is to catch fish, farm fruits, and craft items to sell every day. In other words, it’s a grind. The magic of the game is that it manages to make the grind enjoyable thanks to excellent art direction and game design. But it’s still teaching you that consistent, daily habits are the best way to approach a long-term goal.

Ultimately, Animal Crossing is a great example of the fact that there are lessons to be learned anywhere, and that large financial goals are best approached one piece of fruit at a time.

Adam Benjamin is an editor for The Simple Dollar,, and Freshome. He covers everything from finance to internet providers and hopes to make it accessible for all readers.