Monday, July 28, 2008

Show Postponed

Hey all ,

I just wanted to let everyone know I am postponing tomorrow night's episode on the Boomtown challenge until August 12. I came down with a nasty cold last week and I've been rather sick. Not serious or anything just a really nasty cold that is completely wiping me out and I'm trying to keep it from going into a sinus infection. I really don't think it would OK for me to leave work early to rest and then record a show. I hope you all will understand. You also probably noticed a lack of Quick Tips, those will also resume once I'm feeling better. I'm a little scatter brained normally and being sick doesn't lend itself to correct information either. That should be sooner than the 12th.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Episode 46 Nickel and Dimed Challenge

This challenge was inspired by, and is named for, the book “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich (which has nothing whatsoever to do with Sims, but is nevertheless highly recommended). The idea is to mimic as closely as possible the life of an unskilled single mother trying to make ends meet for herself and her kids. I know there are some challenges that include similar ideas (Single Parent, Poverty, etc.), but I haven’t seen anything like this.

This challenge has some restrictions that will keep your financial situation rather dreary (at least at first – it gets easier later on), but apart from those, you’re allowed to do pretty much anything you want – as long as you can afford it. Taking the whole family on a seven day Far Eastern vacation is not forbidden – and if you can find a way to do it, I’m impressed – but it will be made very hard by budget restraints.

It’d be really great if you’d make a story to let us all see how it goes for your sims (lots of pictures are good), or at least post here and tell us about it.

Here’s mine:

Starting Conditions:

You’re a single parent with almost no assets and no marketable skills. You have been a homemaker and out of the job market for years, but now your partner is gone and you need to put food on the table somehow.

Create a family in CAS:

A Mom (or Dad – there’s no real reason why your single parent can’t be male; single dad’s are rarer than single moms, but there are nevertheless lots of them out there. Nevertheless, I will refer to the parent as “Mom” in these rules, since I can’t be bothered to write “Mom or Dad” all the time).

Can be any aspiration you want, and have any character traits you want. Obviously, certain traits, like being active and neat, will make life easier, but if you want an extra challenge, making a lazy sloppy wealth aspiration sim could sure make things interesting. You can even role for it if you want to.

A Child – any gender, any personality, anything you like.

A Toddler – again, you’re completely free in your choices.

For a realistic touch, give your sims outfits that could be worn out hand-me-downs, and no jewellery, make-up or glamorous haircuts. But if you can’t stand looking at them that way, feel free to pretty them up a little. :)

Download lot here:

(Don’t let the fact that the language is listed as “UK English” scare you – I download “US English” lots, objects, sims, etc. all the time and they always work just fine.)

Yes, I know it’s not a design dream. ;) It’s not meant to be – it’s low-income housing, after all.

(If you really don’t want to use the “official” lot, or can’t for some technical reason, you can construct your own, but you have to start on a blank 4x4 lot, and your family can’t have more than $400 cash after moving in. And this is without using any money cheats – so the family has to be able to afford the house with the original 20k.)

It is recommended that you use a neighbourhood with the normal spring-summer-fall-winter cycle of seasons, but it’s really up to you.

If you have Freetime, Mr. Humble will bring you a present when you first move in. You HAVE to delete it unopened. In real life, no one’s going around handing out computers (or the extra cash you could raise by selling it), so delete the package without even having your Sims open it. Also, no buying a computer you can’t afford only to find a job with it and then immediately selling it back – if you want a computer, you have to find a way to permanently fit it into your budget.

Life in poor neighbourhoods is often unsafe – you cannot have a burglar or smoke alarm, and no sprinkler.

If you’re given the genie lamp, you have to keep it, unused, in some corner of your lot. No selling it, and no wishes.

No cheats (except move_objects to remove bugged items) – in particular no kaching, motherload, maxmotives, or anything that aids survival. (If you want to use a hack to make the phone ring only five times instead of twenty, that’s fine with me.) Custom content is okay if it’s things like recolors or hairstyles. No special objects that will make your sims life easier, like a bottomless fridge or items priced $0.

No quitting without saving after bad events.

No aspiration reward objects – money doesn’t grow on trees.

The Goal:

Raising your kids successfully until they’re old enough to take care of themselves. If you can get all children to adult age without anyone dying or being taken away by the social worker, you’ve made it.

If you want a kid to go to college, they can, but ONLY if they manage to raise at least $2500 in scholarships, since you won’t be able to help them. Also, they have to live with you until their late teens (after all, 13 year olds don’t go to college). Once the age indicator reads “becomes an adult in 5 days” (or less), you can have them move to college, but not before that.

“Unskilled” Restrictions:

We’re simulating the life of an unskilled worker, so obviously, there are severe restrictions on skill building. (This is not to mean that real life unskilled workers can’t be creative or charismatic, but within the game, that would invariably lead to promotions, so it’s banned.) These restrictions apply only to the Mom, not the kids.

Cooking & Cleaning: Obviously, you will automatically build up some skills in these areas just by keeping house. But since the last thing Mom would want to do after a long day of working and household chores is sit down and read about cleaning, cleaning can only be learned “by doing,” not from a book. Cooking can be learned “by doing” or from the TV (since many people enjoy cooking shows – BAM!), but not from studying a book.

Mom cannot have more thanone skill point each in mechanical, charisma, creativity, logic, or body – once you have that first point, you cannot study any of these, or do any activities that would lead to one of these skills improving, including home repairs (if something breaks, find a way to have someone else repair it or live with it). Also no stealing skills with the skill vacuum, or asking another sim to teach you, or anything. These skills simply cannot go up beyond 1 point.

Exception: If any extra skills are gained through chance cards, that’s okay.

Job Restrictions:

Since unskilled workers usually have to deal with very low salaries (minimum wage, or less if it’s a “tipped” job), you can only work in the following career tracks:




Gamer (Seasons)

Music (Seasons)

Architect (Free Time)

Dance (Free Time)

If none of these are offered on the day you’re looking, that means you couldn’t find a job, and will have to try again the next day. (This applies only to the Mom – teens can take jobs in any career track you want.)

Of course, because of the limits on skilling, you can’t advance very far; if you get promoted “above your skills” by a chance card, that’s fine.

Furthermore, you get NO vacation or sick days. If your Mom misses the car pool for any reason, she HAS to quit her job (unless you have a car and can get her to work) immediately (i.e. before the “paid vacation” kicks in – if you don’t have any days of paid vacation piled up, you have to quit your job anyway).

Job hunting is hard, it takes time, effort, and resources (filling in applications, getting to interviews, waiting to hear back, going to drug tests…). If you lose/quit your job for any reason, you cannot immediately take a new one from the paper – you have to wait until the next paper gets delivered (no matter if that’s in a few hours or the next day), and that’s the first paper you’re allowed to look for a job in. If you have a computer, you have to wait from the point you lose/quit your job until the next time the jobs on offers change (midnight) before you can search for a new one.

In particular, this means that you CANNOT search for a job while you already have one, and walk straight out of one into the other. This is to prevent “promotion bonus hopping,” where you deliberately quit a level 2 job for a level 1 one because you know you can get promoted the same day and therefore get the salary AND the promotion bonus, then repeating that strategy every day.

Neither Mom nor any teenagers of the household may work for player-run businesses.

When mom becomes an elder, she has to quit her job (not retire) and take an elder job instead.


Career track jobs are the only source of income. The following restrictions apply to all members of your family. They’re designed to make the game a little more realistic – because let’s face it, in real life your middle school kid is not going to add hundreds to your budget because he’s good at painting. (There are a few exceptions to the “no extra money” rule – see end of this section.)

You cannot open your own business, neither at home nor on a community lot – S2 makes it pretty simple, but in real life it takes more start-up capital than Mom could be expected to raise.

Absolutely NO selling of paintings, pottery, robots, etc. Mom can’t paint anyway, obviously, but the kids can – but if they do, you have to hang their painting somewhere in the house (or scrap them before they’re done), not sell them for cash.

No working on community lots (as a DJ, bartender, etc.), performing for tips, hustling pool, taking part in competitions, etc.

No selling off furniture (because in real life, no one’s going to give you $100 for your old, battered kitchen table). You also cannot sell broken objects and replace them with new ones. There are only two exceptions to this rule: you can sell furniture if you’re upgrading to a better item of the same kind (say selling Mom’s bed to buy a better one), and you can sell “outgrown” items – e.g. the crib and any toddler items once your youngest becomes a child, and any “children only” items when the last child in the house becomes a teen.

The same is true for parts of the house – no selling windows, doors, etc. unless you’re replacing them with a better item of the same kind. If you’re buying new wallpaper or floors, you can’t sell the old ones back first (because really, who’s ever heard of selling back wallpaper that’s already been on the wall?).

No buying an item just to use it once, then selling it back for the same price – once you buy something, you’re stuck with it, unless it is destroyed (by a pet or fire) or the repo man takes it.

No selling date rewards (if you even have the time, money, and energy to date) – if your beau gives you a bunch of flowers, you can’t turn around and sell it for grocery money. If it’s a bunch of flowers or a small item, you may use it, but if it’s anything “big” (i.e. worth over $200), it has to be kept in inventory and not used.

No pet jobs, or selling pets for money (see below).

If you decide to grow vegetables in your garden or to go fishing (on a community lot – no adding a pond to your lot), the resulting produce/fish must be used to stock the fridge or juicer or hung on the wall – no selling for cash. (This rule also applies to boots.)

Absolutely no digging for treasure.


The only ways you are allowed to make extra money are the following:

Your children can run a lemonade stand. (This is the sole exception to the “no own business” rule.)

Teens can get a job (in any career track) – but if they do, they have to abide by the “no vacation or sick days” rule.


If you get money in a way you can’t help, like through a chance card, or a kid getting money from a relative for good grades, or an uncontrollable side effect from something like the telescope.

Additional Rules:

Service Sims:
You cannot hire the maid or gardener. You can (and will have to) hire the nanny. Since you can't skill mechanical beyond one point, you may have to hire a repairman, or live with the broken object (unless one of your kids is old enough to repair, or you can influence a neighbor). No selling and replacing it . Apart from the maid and gardener, you're free to hire any service sim you want/can pay for, order pizza, and do anything else the phone allows.

Since moving is expensive, you have to play the whole challenge on the same lot. You can, however, make any changes to the house that you can afford (without cheats or hacked $0 items).

As soon as a teen turns adult, they have to move out on their own. They cannot take any siblings with them (but can take pets). Symbolically for all the stuff a person normally takes when they move out, they must take their bed. If you have a bunch of old craft projects, and date flowers hanging around the lot that you don't know what to do with, they can take those, too - in fact, this is a great opportunity to get rid of stuff you no longer want. (Not exactly the stuff one normally gets rid off once the children move out, but it can stand in symbolically for the "real thing.")

If the child is going to college, the same rules apply (except that they obviously can't take pets).

You cannot move another sim into the lot - this means no getting married in particular, but also no "roomies" or anything. The only way other sims may join your family is through birth or adoption.

You are allowed to get a pet from any source - adopt a stray, adopt from the agency or go to a pet store (if you can afford it). But keep in mind the expenses.

If you decide to adopt a pet, the pet cannot get a job (in real life, the only people who make money with their pets are professional animal trainers, not average working people.)

You also cannot sell your pets, or breed litters for money - any pets you can no longer keep have to be given away, not sold. (The prices you get in the game for pets are ridiculous. Real life breeders make nowhere near that much - in fact, good responsible breeders who do all the necessary health checks and provide optimum care usually barely break even. No way could you make enough money from a litter of kittens to feed your family for a month!)

People help each other out - any member of your family is free to use their influence points to get visitors to repair, clean, etc.

You cannot get your children into private school. Public school is all you can afford.
Mom can only help children with homework - teenagers have to cope without help.

Since real life doesn't give you the option to ignore situations thrown your way, you HAVE to make a choice on all chance cards, not pick "ignore."

No using the "grow up" self-interaction. You have to wait till the sims grow up naturally.

You may adopt a baby, toddler, or child if you want to (and can get approved).

Please note that you cannot adopt a teen (normal gameplay doesn't allow that anyway, but some hacks do). If you do adopt, please remember that the challenge ends when the youngest kid is out on their own - so if you adopt a kid younger than those from CAS, your challenge will take longer.


Here are some variations to make your challenge harder or easier. You can try any or all of them, in any combination, if you want. :)


Drained: Your sim is too drained after work to do any studying at all – even watching the Yummy channel is too taxing. Cooking can therefore only be learned through practice, too.

Make ‘em Younger: Rather than having a child and a toddler, have two toddlers.

Have More: Add a third, fourth, or fifth kid any age level you want up to child, but NO TEENAGERS.

Pregnancy (I really like this one, it adds a lot of fun/drama): Have your single Mom (obviously, this will work only with a female parent), get pregnant. As stated, you cannot move another adult sim into the lot, but your Mom can wohoo with visitors (once the relationship gets high enough). So if you want to really take the challenge up a notch, have her get pregnant, and then have the father leave her in the lurch. (You can even do this more than once.)

If you decide to go through with this, you are allowed to take advantage of your maternity leave – but only before the birth, the three extra vacation days you get when the child is born must remain unused, like all other vacation days (see above). For an even tougher challenge, you could quit your job on the first day the Mom can’t go to work and force her to find a new job after the birth.

(You cannot do it with a Dad and alien pregnancy, because the telescope builds logic, so the parent can’t use it beyond one point, and the odds of getting abducted that quickly without hacks are very slim.)

If you decide to do this, remember that you challenge will become quite a bit longer – it’s not over until the youngest child is out on their own.


Add a teen: Add a teen to your CAS family. Even though that’s one mouth more to feed, it’ll make everything easier because you have someone around the house who can help out (e.g. cook, do repairs), babysit, and even bring in some money via a job.

Handy: Your Mom is allo0wed to do home repairs (unclogging the toilet, etc.) herself, thereby gaining mechanical skills (still no studying mechanical or tinkering, though). Bear I mind that certain appliances can kill you if you try to fix them with low mechanical skills.

Open Ended

Instead of stopping when the last kid leaves the home, keep playing – see how Mom deals with the empty nest, how she copes with even tighter finances as an elder… And/or continue to play the kids (on other lots), and watch them rise above their humble beginnings.

Scoring System:

(This is only for those who want it – I myself can never be bothered to keep score, and you don’t have to - just try to make the best life you can for your family with limited means.)

If any sim dies or is taken away by a social worker, you failed the challenge and get no points. If you manage to get all kids to the point of independence:

+2 every time a sim grows up in platinum.

+1 every time a sim grows up in gold.

-1 every time a sim grows up in red.

+2 for every skill maxed by a sim

+5 for every kid that makes it to college (in accordance with the conditions above)

+3 for adopting a child

+4 for adopting a toddler

+5 for adopting a baby

+10 for a pregnancy resulting in one baby

+15 for a pregnancy resulting in twins.

+3 for adopting a stray

+2 for adopting a kitten/puppy via the agency or buying one

+1 for adopting an adult pet via the agency or buying one

+1 for buying a womrat, bird, or fish

-5 for any pet that runs away (regardless of whether you get it back or not), is taken away, or dies (womrat/bird/fish)

+10 if you make a story and upload it to the exchange


This is it – please let me know if you like the idea, and if you decide to do it, please let me know how it went. :)

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