Getting your mount in Vanilla World of Warcraft is very expensive. You need to save 100 gold (90 with your faction discount), which doesn't come easy. If you don't plan ahead for this expense, you can get to level 40 without anywhere close to the gold you need. Thankfully, there's no reason you can't save enough gold as you are leveling to get your mount as soon as you hit 40. It depends a little bit on which class you're playing and on what server, but these techniques will greatly help you have enough gold to buy your mount at 40.
Looting and Keeping Your Bags Clean
First of all, you need to loot everything you can. To do this effectively, you'll need to get bags as soon as possible. One of your first investments should be getting bags off the auction house. If you're lucky, you will start getting 6 slot bags early in the starting zone, but you will be able to buy them off the auction house very inexpensively if you don't. In either case, you want to upgrade to 8 slot bags as soon as you can. You don't want to be in the position of having to throw out items because your bags are full.
Inevitably, however, your bags will fill up while you are questing and you need to know which items are the least valuable so you can make room for more expensive ones. The Vendor Price addon for WoW:Classic and the Informant addon for original Vanilla will show the vendor price of all the items in their tooltip. Gray items can wildly vary in price, so you need to be aware of which ones to save. Especially as you get closer to 40, many mobs start dropping some pretty valuable trash.
Between food, water, potions, bandages, scrolls and other consumables, it's easy to waste bag space with items that you aren't using. Especially with crafting professions like Cooking and First Aid, you can forget about those extra stacks of food and bandages. Every time you return to town, get in the habit of leveling those skills and selling any of the product that you don't need. Make sure you aren't carrying around potions that you aren't actively using.
This can also be a real challenge with quest items. Make sure to finish any collection quests as soon as possible and get them turned in to clear out those items. Certain quests will have you deliver an item to a far away zone. Don't bother accepting those quests until you are going to be leaving the zone you are already in. Those items just take up unnecessary space in your bags.
Before you leave town to go questing, your bags should be as empty as possible. The easiest way to accomplish this is by having a second character as a "bank-alt" that you leave sitting by the bank in a major city. You can mail all your extra items to this character to quickly clear your bags. You will also use this character to sell items on the Auction House, which we will talk about soon.
Crafting professions like Engineering, Blacksmithing, Leatherworking and Tailoring are very expensive. You have to use all the materials that you get while questing and often have to buy more off the Auction House to level these professions. Instead, you should pick two gathering professions and sell everything you get on the Auction House. Once you get your mount, you can switch professions.
Since you can't track both Herbalism and Mining at the same time, you should only pick one and take Skinning as your second profession. Skinning not only lets you skin the beasts that you kill, but also any that other players have killed. This alone can bring in a lot of money, since there is so much to skin. If you know that you will later pick Blacksmithing or Engineering, you should choose Mining, since it will be very useful to have it leveled up already at that point. Otherwise, you can pick whichever one you like better.
Don't forget that Fishing can be a great source of gold. Check the Auction House prices on your server to see which fish are the most valuable and you may be shocked by how much you can get. As you are questing, if you find a school of fish, it's worth taking a few moments to fish and sell it for an easy profit.
So far, everything we've done has been working towards getting the most items to sell. If you sold all those items to a vendor, you would do pretty well, but the most effective way to make money in World of Warcraft, by far, is to sell everything you get on the Auction House.
This is where having a "bank-alt" character really shines. It would be prohibitively slow to fly back to the Auction House every time your bags filled up. Instead, you mail all the white and higher tier items you have to your bank-alt. The cost to send these items quickly becomes negligible compared to price you can get on the Auction House for those items.
Every time you return to town, first sell all the gray items to a vendor (these have no other value), then send everything else, besides things like food and water, to the bank-alt. You will be surprised that even average white gear will sell for a lot more than the vendor value. This does depend on the server you are playing on. If it has a very low population, this won't work nearly as well.
You will have to experiment with prices at the beginning to figure out the value of certain types of items, but once you get going, it is very easy money. The best way to do this is to use an addon like Aux or Auctionator for Classic. These will monitor the Auction House and keep track of the price history of all the items. You can use this information while you are leveling to farm items that are particularly valuable.
Additionally, once you have some of this data, you can play the Auction House by buying and reselling undervalued items. Sometimes people flood the Auction House with underpriced materials, especially. You can swoop in, buy all of them and make an easy profit.
One thing to keep in mind is the time of day that you put items up for sale on the Auction House. Ideally, you want to put your items up when the server population is at its peak. It's silly to put items up when very few people are online. For commonly bought items, you only need to put them up with the 2 hour duration, if it's the peak server time. This can save you a lot on the auction deposits.
Don't Buy All Your Class Abilities
Earning gold by selling everything on the Auction House is very effective, but you can make it much easier by aggressively saving gold as you level. As you start building up some gold, it's very easy to lose focus and start spending too much of it. The main culprit is buying your class abilities.
This is designed to be a major money sink in the game, that's why they get much more expensive as you gain levels. If you're not careful, you can easily empty you bank account just by upgrading your spells. This is why you only want to buy abilities that you absolutely need. There are a lot of abilities that only have very situational uses. You should skip buying these until after you get your mount. In some cases you really only need the first rank of a spell.
For instance, a Hunter practically never uses their melee skills, so they shouldn't bother to get the higher ranks of those skills. As you are playing, look for those spells and abilities that you rarely use and just don't bother upgrading them. You won't even notice the difference.
Be Careful Buying Gear
Similarly, you want to be very careful buying gear for your character. This is more class-dependent, but most of the time you can get along fine with the quest rewards and random drops. You only want to buy gear if it will give you a significant and long term upgrade that will let you kill mobs faster, thus letting you earn gold faster. Obviously, if you are having a hard time surviving, you may need to buy some gear, but you want to limit this as much as possible.
Look up a class guide to see which items are the best to get as you level. You can see which items you will get from quests to make sure you aren't going to buy something that will only be replaced in a level or two. For instance, spell casters can buy wands on the Auction House that will last them for many levels and do significantly more damage than anything you will get from a quest. Those are a very good investment, but a robe with minimal stat upgrades is a waste of money.
Consider Leveling a Hunter to Farm With
I know it sounds ridiculous to level two characters, but you can actually do it relatively easily, since you are getting twice the rested XP. As you play one character, the other is building up that rested XP and vice versa. If you keep bouncing back and forth, that bonus XP will speed things up quite a bit.
It all depends on what class you want to level. It's a lot easier to level a Warrior, for instance, which is very gear dependent and notoriously difficult to level, if you have a Hunter that can handle all the farming, leaving the leveling work of the Warrior purely focused on quests and XP.
Hunters are particularly nice to level. They are not at all gear dependent and can easily play entirely solo, making them ideal for farming. If you have to group up, you end up splitting all the gold and loot you get. Those green drops can be worth a lot, and it's really annoying to have to roll on them all the time. You can use your Hunter to farm gear and gold for your other characters, saving you a lot of time and frustration in the long run.
Obviously, this is a rather large commitment and certainly isn't necessary, but if you plan on having a few alts, having a Hunter feed gold and gear to all your characters can make life much easier.
If you follow these techniques, you will have no problem getting your mount as soon as you hit level 40. Of course, after you get your mount, you will need to begin saving for your epic mount, so you will want to keep using most of these techniques the whole time you are playing the game.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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