How to get an economy running
Since every country is different this guide will be fairly general, but the principle is the same for everyone.
When you start the game your country will most likely be making a loss each day, once a day or two have passed the interface will have found all the data and the budget graph will appear. Pause the game and start setting your affairs in order. As a first step raise all taxes to 49% and cut education, defence and crime fighting to 50%. Also set military and naval funding to 50% if you’re not fighting a war or plan to do so soon.
Making money yet? If so, great! Consider raising education spending. If not lower defence and crime fighting further, lower military/naval funding further and start raising tariffs.
The various sliders and what they affect
Since balancing your budget involves trade offs between these sliders I'll talk about what they do next:
Education: Affects the literacy level of your country (over 50% it will increase, under it it will fall), how much RP you generate and the productivity of clerks in factories. You really shouldn't set this below 50%.
Crime fighting: Note the only positions you should ever have crime fighting at is 0, 50 or 100% At 50% crime levels should remain about the same while at 100% one will be removed each month. Because only one crime building can be removed each month it can take a LONG time for a large country to get rid of all their crime buildings after a long period of 0% crime spending. As well as fighting crime revolt risk is multiplied by 1.5 at 0%, 1 at 50% and 0.5 at 100% crime spending. There's dispute on the forum about whether crime fighting is worth the cost or not, personally I like to keep my country crime free by wiping it out with 100% CS as soon as I can afford it and keeping it at 50% afterwards (raising to 100% when I gain new, crime infested land). But if you feel you can live without it and want to save the money, go right ahead.
Social spending: Funding for social reforms. This affects how effective your social reforms are. It's all well and good to have a top-notch health care system, but if you don't fund it it won't function and won't decrease your pops' militancy. The default is 50%, fund below that and your pops CON will raise due to a lack of trust in government, over fund them and it will lower CON.
Defence spending: Affects how much manpower you get from converting pops to soldiers or officers and how much of each you gain each month. At 100% DS you gain 100 MP or leadership 100 manpower or leadership from converting a 100k pop. Higher is better, but for a quick manpower boost you can pause, set it to 100%, convert a pop, spend the manpower, lower DF and unpause.
What to do next
Factories to focus on
Set up a budget giving you a positive budget yet? I hope so. While positive it probably isn't much, to increase it you're going to have to build factories. I'll assume you know how to get machine parts (If not read Machine Parts 101. Depending on what resources you have different factories make more profits. If you have coal and iron steel factories are great, if you have timber lumber mills and paper are the way to go and if you have cotton fabric and clothes factories are good. Of course, you can always import raw materials and due to the amount of cotton on the world market almost everyone can import it, while iron, coal and timber can be in short supply if you are not at the top of the prestige food chain.
Railroads make your factories and RGOs much more productive. Upgrade your railroads whenever you can, focusing especially on states with many factories and provinces that produce valuable raw materials. Factories are affected by the overall railroad level in the state while RGOs are only affected by the RR level in the province. Because railroads are so useful consider making steel, lumber and cement so you can upgrade them without having to buy supplies from the WM.
Clerks & craftsmen
Because you'll need clerks and craftsmen to run your factories (2 clerks and 3 craftsmen per level of factory is best) it is a good idea to produce at least a small amount of the goods needed to upgrade POPs to these types. That means manufacturing furniture, paper, clothes, luxury furniture and luxury clothes (precious metal is also needed). You will also need to produce or import fabric and lumber to run these factories as well as importing silk, cotton and tropical wood if you don't produce them.
If you produce sulphur you should consider making the military factories: Ammo, small arms, fertilizer, explosives and artillery. While they lose money in the early game the can make quite a profit later and it saves you having to buy small arms and artillery to make units.
A machine parts factory will also be useful as it will allow you to build more factories that are needed to fuel later hi-tech factories. See here for details of what each factory needs and costs.
(For details on how to get hold of machine parts, either from the WM or by producing your own, take a look at Machine Parts 101)
Importing raw materials
You do not need to build all these factories, because you can always import all the goods needed to promote POPs, but importing a lot can be expensive in the long run. Alternatively you could only build the higher level factories and import the goods needed to supply them. This can make a greater profit but does run the risk of your nations economy crashing if the world supply falls or if you drop in the prestige pecking order and can no longer buy what you need.
Once you have a decent economy going you can move onto the big money makers. These can change depending on the market:
- Steamer shipyards are great if you are producing steel (also needs coal, but if you are making steel you should have plenty).
- Clipper yards can be good early in the game, but are less desirable as time goes on.
- If you have a military-industry already set up and good railroad levels artillery can make some money.
- Your regular cloths and luxury clothes factories will also make a nice profit so expand them if you can.
- Machine parts should also make a good profit, especially when the factories fuelled by them start coming online.
- Cars and planes will only make money if there is a demand for them, if you are using a patch later than 1.03b or a POP needs mod then there will be, if not cars will only be demanded by tank factories, but if there aren't any the price will drop fast.
- Tank factories always make a nice profit if the price of cars is not too high.
Well that's the guide, I hope it was helpful. You'll notice not every factory got a mention, which isn't to say they're worthless, just that they aren't special. Build them if you see a need for them.