There are more passive methods to gain wow classic gold, but these are slower. For example, many people choose to fish in places like Tanaris, or kill Harpies in Feralas and loot items such as mageweaves. These are rather AFK-able, but again, not as rewarding. Some people choose to favour fun over anything, and like in any MMO (massively multiplayer online game), the best way to have fun is playing games with friends or your guild. Dungeon runs with your friends provide social interaction and are definitely helpful over the long-term for your gold stack!
As you level, you will buy new ranks of spells. If you splurge out on an item upgrade, you will not have enough gold readily available to upgrade to the latest ranks of spells: placing you behind. Moreover, you can buy gear upgrades from the Auction House (AH) or vendors. Furthermore, you may have large investments that need to be paid for professors. You will need to purchase reagents and items such as leather, bolts of cloth, alchemy supplies – unless you have a charitable friend or another high-level alt.
Within the context of Classic, the method most frequently proposed is to re-tune bosses to make them harder. Rather than copying the numbers, re-create the relative difficulty. Kind of like, when you first start working out, you use small weights. When you get stronger, you lift bigger weights. The WoW community is more knowledgeable, more experienced, has better hardware, etc. We're "stronger." So give us tougher bosses. There are a lot of forms that could take. Bosses were constantly re-tuned during vanilla anyway, so if Ragnaros does 10% more damage or something, is that really a problem? I don't think it is. What about resistance gear? back in the day, collecting resist gear was a thing people did. But the numbers and strategies are so well known today that only the tank really needs it anymore. Bosses could be re-tuned with more resistible elemental damage so that's important for entire raids to gear appropriately. That would be entirely keeping with the spirit of vanilla even if the actually numbers sitting in a database somewhere were different than they were ~13 years ago. If you want to go a little farther, a few people have proposed adding new abilities to old bosses, adjusting their timing, etc.