How To Get Out of Debt in Cities: Skylines (Best Methods)

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Whether you’ve found yourself in the red from a consistently negative cash flow, or some poor decisions with loans and overspending, here are a few of the best things you can try to salvage your economy in Cities: Skylines.

  • Temporarily maxing out taxes
  • Raising taxes slightly
  • Dropping the budget on services
  • Disabling some buildings and services
 

Method #1: Temporarily Maxing Out the Taxes

This “hack” works by giving you a substantial spike in tax income for a short duration.

By default, the taxes for your RICO (residential, industrial, commercial, and office) zones are at 9%; most of the time it’s a good idea to keep your tax rates fairly close to that as your citizens will become unhappy and leave if taxes are too high.

However, this negative effect doesn’t happen instantly. You can take advantage of that time between raising taxes and them leaving.

Go to the Economy panel (the cash icon on the menu) then click on the Taxes tab. Take the sliders all the way to the right, so that all the zone types are at 29%.

 
Go to the Economy panel to take your taxes all the way up for a short amount of time. / Cities: Skylines
Go to the Economy panel to take your taxes all the way up for a short amount of time.
 

Soon enough you’ll see a boost in your income (which, unless you were severely over budget, should be enough to take your weekly balance into the green).

While your taxes are maxed out, keep an eye on your weekly population change indicator. Once you see it hit zero, or go negative, it’s time to lower your taxes back down to a more reasonable 9-10%.

Once your population change is positive again, you can rinse and repeat as necessary.

 

Method #2: Raising Taxes Moderately

After you’ve done the tax trick above, instead of bringing it back down to the default 9%, you could also consider a modest long-term tax raise.

Most cities should be able to get away with a tax rate of around 12%.

To be safe, increase from 9% by 1% at a time. Wait a while to see if your population stops growing, or if people complain about taxes being too high, before increasing again.

 

Method #3: Dropping the Budget on Services

A negative weekly income is often due to overspending on services, so it’s a good idea to check if there are things you can cut back on.

Take, for example, if you went for a coal power plant as your first power source.

Very early in the game you’re not going to need anywhere near the 40MW that the coal power plant can produce.

You can safely drop the budget for it; this will reduce the plant’s power output but still leave you enough to power your city.

As your population grows, you can just raise the budget as needed to bring the power output back up.

 
Go to the Budget tab of the Economy panel, then use the sliders for the particular service you want to adjust. / Cities: Skylines
Go to the Budget tab of the Economy panel, then use the sliders for the particular service you want to adjust.
 
You can keep an eye on your power, and water and sewage availability by opening their info panel. / Cities: Skylines
You can keep an eye on your power, and water and sewage availability by opening their info panel.
 

You can do the same thing for other services. Lowering the water budget will reduce the water and sewage capacity, while lowering the garbage budget will reduce the number of garbage trucks available.

 

Method #4: Disabling Some Buildings and Services

Apart from lowering the budget, in some cases it might be worth it to straight up switch off certain services that are too costly to maintain for the time being.

A good example of this is public transport: services like metros can cost a lot in terms of upkeep, especially if you have a fairly large network.

 
You can disable individual public transport buildings by clicking on each one and toggling the on/off switch. / Cities: Skylines
You can disable individual public transport buildings by clicking on each one and toggling the on/off switch.
 

Turning off public transport temporarily might make some of your citizens unhappy, but generally should have no major consequences (unless you have severe traffic issues).

Other buildings you may consider switching off for the meantime are parks and leisure establishments, and non-essential healthcare buildings (e.g., yoga garden, community pool, and child health center).

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Liz Villegas

Liz is a writer and photographer with a love for building and strategy games. Her spare time is often split between lifting, reading, drawing, annoying her dog Mr. Porky Butt, and squinting at stat tables on the wiki pages of whatever game she's currently playing.