First of all, each round you get to bribe a member of town. Doing so costs you one gold and lets you take one action. You can bribe at most one person a round, though you can pass. Now, 3 of the 6 generic bribes are worth a gold plus other things, so bribing tends to be something you really want to do. I have never found myself in a situation where I thought to myself 'Gee, I should just not bribe'.
The second thing you can do is bribe the clergy who live in Notre Dame. While bribing the townsfolk can get you lots of different things bribing Notre Dame is worth one thing and one thing only... Victory Points! However, you can only pay up to 3 gold each time you go to ND, and you can only go to ND if you draft the ND card specifically. On average I'd say people tend to go to ND twice a game though personally I try to go at least 3 times.
So, how much gold do you need for the whole game, and what can you do to make gold? Well, you want to bribe all 9 times, so that's 9 gold. At a minimum if you're going to win I think you're looking at heading to ND at least twice for 1G bribes, so the absolute minimum you need is 11. I think the expected maximum is likely a 1G ND and two 3G NDs, for a total of 16. The last game I played featured 3 3G NDs and a 1G ND for a total of 19 but that requires people to pass a lot of ND cards, and you to generate a lot of money. For now, 11-16 seems like a reasonable range to aim for.
How do you make money?
- The bank card is worth 1G per cube in the bank
- The ghetto is worth 1G
- Driving in your car can get you 1G
- Bribing the wench can get you 1G
- Bribing the moneylender can get you 2G
- You start the game with 3G
It is quite possible to bribe the money lender all 3 times he comes out which with your starting 3G gets you to 9G. Two buggies/wenches can get you to 11G pretty easily, and all without touching the bank. Of course, getting all 3 money lenders means skipping a phase C big-VP bribe and is also very risky when you consider the moneylender could come in phase C3. (Where the extra bucks are worthless.) It's also worth noting that the gold buggy is only 1VP, so while buggying for gold once is slightly better than banking for it, going twice is just worse. (Worst case scenario, the extra gold you gain from the second bank can be cashed in for 2VPs when you would have had a 1G ND.) Of course, if you have a populated park the buggy starts looking better and better.
Now, gold is the one resource where we can clearly define how good extras are. Going from a 1G ND to a 2G ND is worth 2VPs always. From 2 to 3 is worth 3VPs. Ideally, you're better off with a 1G ND and a 3G ND than 2 2G NDs. (+1VP for same gold cost.) As such, I think if there's any question about having enough gold you should err on the side of a 1G ND early.
Another way to turn extra gold into VPs is by taking an extra ND action. This is easier to pull off early than late since late game righty often has the bucks to go himself so he doesn't pass you his ND. Early, if you have the bucks, you can sometimes draft an extra ND and cash it for 1G. How much is that worth?
Assume the ND closes out for N cubes or for N-1 cubes. Then in a 5 player game it's worth 3VPs or 4VPs. In a 4 player game it's worth 3VPs or 4VPs. In a 3 player game it's worth 3VPs or 5VPs. In a 2 player game it's worth 6 or 3 VPs. Also, the extra NDs cost everyone else a small share of the ND pool if they went to ND that round. Finally, you get at least one park proc out of it, maybe two if it's your only ND for the round. Even with no parks an extra ND is always better than spending an extra G on another ND, with one exception...
The extra ND costs you a card play. If that card play would be worth nothing, the extra ND is better. If it's worth something how good it is compared to overloading a different ND depends on your park situation. Evaluating this really requires evaluating how good the other action would be for you, and that's on a pick by pick basis during the drafts. From a strict gold standpoint though, more NDs is better.