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 (or father) 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 Egyptian 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.

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 dads 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).

Your Sims can 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 and sloppy Sim could sure make things interesting. You can even roll for it if you want to. Obviously, choosing a life-time wish that is related to reaching the top of a career or maxing a skill would be redundant, due to the fact that you are unable to gain skills. Choosing a life-time wish that deals with money would be more suitable for this challenge.

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 jewelery, make-up or glamorous haircuts. But if you can't stand looking at them that way, feel free to pretty them up a little. I guess you could say that your poor Sim was living the high life and got kicked out by their parents, and have no marketable skills because they were used to the silver spoon.


  1.     Your housing must be under the money allotted for you when you come out of CAS, there is no moving allowed at all. Choose your home wisely, because you probably will not be able to afford expanding it for some time.
  2.     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. You have a newspaper for a reason.
  3.     Life in poor neighborhoods is often unsafe - you cannot have a burglar or smoke alarm, and no sprinkler.
  4.   No cheats (except to remove bugged items) 
  5.   Custom content is okay if it's things like patterns, hairstyles, or EA store items. 
  6.   No special objects that will make your Sims life easier, like a bottomless fridge or items priced $0. Using awesomemod or the supercomputer is okay, because nobody wants a ghost town.
  7.   No quitting without saving after bad events.
  8.   No aspiration rewards for your single mom or dad, the kids however are exempt from this rule. (Yeah, I realize this is a bit extreme.. But hey, it is meant to be difficult!)

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.

"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 than one skill point each in mechanical, charisma, creativity, logic, body, etc. - 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).

Job Restrictions:

Unskilled workers usually have to deal with low-income jobs (minimum wage). You probably will not receive promotions. You may work in any field you like, however; a single mom is going to be very tired. They will not be able to live off searching for rare gems, bugs, metals and seeds. You can keep a garden, but it for your food only--not to sell. There will also be no stealing (what kind of role-model mom would do that?!).

If the job you want is not offered on the day you're looking, that means you couldn't find a job, and will have to try again the next day.

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.

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 hopefully the kids will be there to support her.


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 own a business, 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 performing for tips, 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 or the repo man takes it.

No selling things found on the ground, realistically what mom is going to have time to walk across town to look for rare gems and metals?

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 hung on the wall - no selling for cash. (This rule also applies to boots.)

Absolutely no digging for treasure.

If you have World Adventures, and you somehow manage to afford going on a vacation (how you would afford that is beyond me); you cannot sell the relics you find, and any money you earn from "missions" must be spent on some furniture then kept in your family inventory.


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

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.


No digging in trash cans for stuff! No mom would have the time for that, or be able to leave her kids alone while she walks around town for that (she probably cannot afford a babysitter).

If you get money in a way you can't help, or an uncontrollable side effect from something like the telescope, etc.


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 woohoo 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. 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.

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 allowed 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 which would end your challenge.

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 for every child that grows up while having been on honor roll, and managed a job
+1 for every child that manages to grow up period
+2 for every skill maxed by a Sim (Can't be the mother, obviously)
+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.
+1 for buying a fish (pet)

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