The keys to progression in Red Dead Redemption 2 don't lie in stockpiling experience or skill points, but cold hard cash.
It's a rich man's world out in the old west and, if you have a good amount of money in your wallet, you can use it to buy better guns and equipment, feed yourself, groom your horse, buy new duds, customize the hell out of everything you own, and give you and your camp-mates a more comfortable way of living, among other things.
But, like real life, it ain't easy getting rich. The Van Der Linde gang begin the game in a poor financial position and, for a long time, you'll find yourself doing tasks for little to no reward and feel like you're getting nowhere. But don't fret, there are plenty of avenues to make some bread in Red Dead 2.
Here are all the ways we've discovered so far. It's spoiler free, and you don't even have to be a jerk all the time.
Loot Every Corpse
Loot everybody you see. You'll find ammo and consumable items which are always helpful, but you'll also often find a small amount of cash and valuable items which you can later sell.
Be sure to loot interior locations with cabinets and drawers (you can use Arthur's hunting sense with L3 + R3 to highlight lootable items), as well as the saddlebags of any remaining horses.
Rob People And Stores
If you have no hesitations about being a badder-than-average cowboy, you can easily rob people on the street at gunpoint and ask them to hand over their money. You can do the same to shopkeepers and get access to the cash register and any illicit business they may or may not be hiding in the building. Just be aware that these kinds of situations don't always go down well, depending on who you deal with, you need to be prepared for the consequences if a job goes south.
If robbing a lot of people in a short amount of time is something that appeals to you, then keep an eye out for any trains that might be nearby. There's some effort involved in actually getting on there and dispatching any guards but, after that, you basically have whole carriages full of people just handing things over. Just make sure to cover your face and know when to hit the road, Jack.
Stagecoaches can also be pretty profitable, and they're a little easier to get under control. There are a number of ways to get one to stop either by using your moxie or your muscle and once you've got things under control you can break into the lockbox at the rear of the carriage by either using a lockpick or just shooting the lock.
Later in the game, you'll get access to characters who can give you hot tips on where to intercept particularly lucrative stagecoaches. SO, basically, when you want to be that badder-than-average cowboy, you just need to rob everyone and everything.
Fence Your Looted Valuables
Alright, so you know all those rings, jewellery bags, buckles, gems, and pocket watches you've picked up? That stuff is no good to you, so sell it! Well, maybe keep just one pocket watch. You can either donate these items via the donation box to have it go straight to the gang's communal funds, or you can find a fence later in the game (there aren't any near the starting towns) to have that money go straight into your pocket.
Hunt Animals, Then Sell Them
When you're living on the road and off the land, hunting and fishing is a part of life. Animals have a number of uses; you can skin them and use their pelts in crafting, cook their meat for sustenance, and donate their carcasses and meat to Pearson back at camp to keep the camps food supplies up. However, if your own supplies are well-stocked, you can also sell all animals and fishes to the butchers you find in any of the towns. The selling price is based on the hunt quality, and the return is not great, but if you're already on your way into town a quick stop to hunt a boar is a good way to make few bucks for your next meal.
Hunt Down Bounties
Time to put your badder-than-average cowboy, to rest. Wanted bounties will occasionally pop up during the game; you'll typically find posters in a town's Sheriff's office. You'll get a reasonable amount of money for hunting down these criminals and bringing them in, and it's usually worth doing that, you know, to get those extra little bits of storytelling.
Do Some Missions
By far the most lucrative way to make money in Red Dead Redemption 2 is to just play the game, do the story missions, do the side missions, do the stranger quests. Some of them will only get you a small cash reward, some of them won't reward you at all. But some of them will involve the activities mentioned, like stagecoach hold-ups and home robberies, and are more lucrative. Some of the major story missions will see you walking away with thousands of dollars. On top of that, missions will occasionally give you new guns and items, saving you a bit of money if you can just hold out a little longer before buying that sweet bolt-action rifle.
So if you're low on cash, don't get too down in the dumps, there are loads of avenues to make money no matter what kinds of activities you enjoy doing in Red Dead Redemption 2, so just follow your heart and the rewards will come.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is out now for PS4 and Xbox One.