First Steps to Success
"let every man own his own hand..."
After many (MANY) playthroughs, I've found that there are seven important tricks to navigating Animal Crossing's world better:
Gather Tools First
all pictures from Nookipedia
Buy a basic set of tools--shovel, fishing pole, net, axe, and slingshot--as soon as possible. Nook only carries a few of these items at a time, so it will take a few days to get them all, but don't stop frequenting the shop every day till you get all five of these tools. They are ESSENTIAL!
Become a tree-shaker
--walk up to every non-fruit tree you see, like the ones above, and press A to shake it. You might get bee-stung, you might get nothing, but in some trees there are bags of money, and in a couple of trees, there are furniture items! This is a simple (though slightly time-consuming) way to get money and free furniture every day during the first few weeks of play, and it's still awesome for getting the odd rare piece of furniture later on. (Don't worry about being bee-stung, either; it just means your character looks ugly until you log out and back in again, and some villagers may comment.)
Speak to Every Character
Talk to every villager (including staffers at various locations) at least once every day. You may be able to help them out delivering gifts to others, picking up something special they want, etc., and in turn they will reward you with stuff you might end up liking for your house. Plus, this also helps build some community and relationships, and you'll find out some game trivia along the way!
Sell Fruit and Seashells at First
Shake fruit trees
and pick up seashells
off the beach (the beach forms the southernmost edge of your town). In the early days of gameplay when you haven't got all your tools yet, selling fruit and shells is another great way to make money. Take them to Nook when you're done and sell 'em for a quick cash influx. Which brings me to my next point:
Sell Everything You Can't Use
Whatever you're not personally using or giving to others, sell it to Nook. He buys EVERYTHING except literal garbage (like tin cans, old boots, pitfall seeds, spoiled turnips, etc.) Tom Nook is THE way to make money in your town, and he can in turn sell you lots of stuff, too. (He's running a nice little racket, isn't he?)
Dumpster-Dive With No Shame
Along with tree-shaking, be sure to go by your town's dump/recycle bin
every morning (early!) and pick up the items left there. No shame in dumpster-diving; that's where I got my first piece of the beautiful Blue furniture series
when I first played Animal Crossing for Gamecube way back in the early 2000s! Just don't pick up pitfall seeds
, because you can't sell those.
Use Letters as Extra Storage
Acquire some stationery early on and write letters to other villagers, or write them to yourself--do anything you can to fill up the 10 letter spaces in your pocket with opened letters. You can then store the items you need with you all the time in these letters; they will look like "gifts" attached to these letters. This is how I get 10 extra storage spaces to carry around my tools, hide the furniture and outfits I want to keep from other villagers, etc. (Related bonus: if you mail your letters to other villagers with a gift attached, you'll get a gift back! I usually send about 400-500 Bells, or an item I don't need.)