Don’t come to Los Angeles. It’s expensive, a hard city to live in, and you know the nice weather everyone keeps talking about? You’ll be too busy trying to make money for rent to even notice it. But if you have a dream so strong that you’ll do anything to achieve it L.A. is for you. It’s a tough city, but if you work hard, stick with it and push forward you’ll be rewarded more than you could’ve ever dreamed. Here are some moving tips, for those stubborn visionaries who want to relocate to Los Angeles on a budget.
10. Get ready to pay for your car.
According to the 2009 census California has over 23,000 licensed drivers, beating out New York, Texas and Florida by nearly 10,000 individuals. California also leads in the number of motor vehicle accidents for the same census period. It feels like everyone on the road is a drunk toddler.
When I moved, I spent my savings on a car, which immediately broke down. I was lucky enough to get my money back and purchase a second car. In the three months I had it, I got four tickets, towed once and then the car was totaled in an accident. Although I’d saved up enough to buy a car, I never expected I’d have nearly $3,000 in additional costs.
I know what you’re thinking: Well, I am just going to be more careful. I’ll read the parking signs! I’ll drive slow! I also had these thoughts, but L.A. is a different beast. You can’t control the drivers around you or being held up while your meter is expired. Everyone I’ve talked to has their own car nightmare stories, from cars being stolen to breaking down. Your car is going to cost much more money than expected, so start saving now.
9. Consider public transit
A few weeks ago I was talking to a woman who was born and raised in Los Angeles. At the end of our conversation she asked me where I was parked and I told her I’d taken the train. She was flabbergasted. “To here?” she asked, all wide-eyed.
Public transit is Los Angeles’ dirty, urine-scented, little secret. Obviously the L.A. public transit system doesn’t compare when it comes to New York or San Francisco, but it gets the job done, especially if you live in a central area.
8. Seriously, consider public transit
The city of Los Angeles is planning a $1.4 billion dollar overhaul of the Metro system, slated to wrap up in 2020. According to the Los Angeles Times, there will be three train stations added to the downtown area allowing passengers to travel from Long Beach to Azusa or East Los Angeles to Santa Monica. This is a huge swath of land. Here are some costs to consider:
One month of gas (2 fill-ups): $90 – $120
Two metro rides a day, 5 days a week: $70
One month pass*: $100 – $122
No parking, tickets or car maintenance: Priceless.
Each Metro ride is $1.75. If you pay attention to how how often you ride, you’d be able to spend a considerable amount on gas.
* If you are a college, vocational student or senior you could apply to have your monthly fair cut in half.
7. Move to East Hollywood
I almost didn’t want to give up this great secret, but I am here to help so here it goes: Move to East Hollywood. I love, love my neighborhood. It’s safe, it’s near two major highways and close to trains, buses and hikes. The main reason my neighborhood is so affordable is because it’s not yet gentrified like the surrounding Silver Lake, Echo Park or Los Feliz.
According to Rent-O-Meter, the average rent for a one bedroom in Los Angeles breaks down as follows:
Hollywood: $879 – $1,571
North Hollywood: $828 – $1,077
Los Feliz: $830 – $2,228
Silver Lake: $1,175 – $1,750
Culver City: $1,047 – $1,660
Santa Monica: $1,318 – $2,333
As you can see, rent gets more expensive as you get closer to the beach. If you’re looking for affordable living, without being too far from the action, Hollywood is your best bet. I am currently paying $788 per month for my room in a three-bedroom apartment. So I bet you could find a place nearly $100 less than the minimums above if you look for a spot with roommates.
When looking at apartments, keep parking in mind, some apartments have parking included in the rent. If the place has street parking, do some research on the neighborhood crime rate, street cleaning days, and how difficult it is to find parking.
6. Bring your old clothes and furniture
I know this seems counterintuitive to what you should be doing before making a big move, but trust me. When I moved to New York, I suggested other movers to get rid of everything. In Los Angeles, you get a little more square footage for your money, so bring some extra stuff and then sell it here. If you’re moving from a smaller town or the suburbs, you may be able to get more money for you old clothing or furniture in Los Angeles.
Consider bringing your clothes and selling them to Crossroads or Buffalo Exchange. There are also many popular swap meets in the Los Angeles area, you could trade in your junk for junk you need.
5. Ship your belongings
If you are planning on moving via air, I highly suggest you ship your belongings. USPS offers flat rate boxes which range from $17.90 to $12.64 — as long as you don’t go over 70 lbs. You may have to buy a few, but you’ll still avoid the exorbitant fees for overweight baggage. Plus, you won’t have to cart all your stuff around with you as you fly. Here are just a few of the fees you may face if you have heavy baggage:
American Airlines (weight limit 40 lbs.)
First checked bag: $25
Second checked: $35
Additional bags: $150 per additional bag
Overweight bags: $100 -$200
Delta (weight limit 40 lbs.)
First checked bag: $25
Second checked bag: $35
Each additional bag fee: $125 -$200
Overweight bags: $90 – $175
Virgin American (weight limit 16 lbs.)
First checked bag: $25
Second checked bag: $25
Additional bags fee: $25
Overweight bags: $50 – $100
4. Network, network, network
This city is all about who you know. When you first move to Los Angeles, it’s best to get out there as much as possible. It can be pretty daunting at times, but it’s part of the game. If you’re here to get involved in the industry it’s best to start going to events right away. When you’re at these events offer to help out in anyway possible. Bottom line: meet people.
3. Work for free… for a bit
This may be weird advice on a personal finance blog, but volunteering on projects is the best way to get future work. I’ve met my core group of friends by just offering to help out with projects around town and they’ve helped me score gigs to supplement my freelance income. Working for free stinks, but if you’re new in town it’s the easiest way to make connections.
2. Be choosy about your groceries
Vons? Gelson’s? Albertsons? I had never heard of these grocery stores before living in Los Angeles. Instead of looking them up, I just went to the closest one to my apartment: Vons. I soon learned that I was spending way more than I should’ve been on groceries.
There are a lot of affordable grocery stores in Los Angeles, one of them being Sprouts. You just need to do your research before you run your errands. I started shopping at this place in my neighborhood called, Carniceria 21 — if you pick the right day the produce is decent and always cheap!
1. Use L.A. as much as L.A. uses you
Yes, Los Angeles is filled with incredibly stupid-expensive restaurants, but it’s also filled with awesome taco trucks. You could fill yourself up with four tacos for five bucks. Not bad, huh? Don’t worry about the weight! You have plenty of chances to work it off.
Make use of the nice weather in L.A. Hikes are free, running those Hollywood Hills is free, and doing crunches on the beach is free. What I am trying to say is, you don’t need a gym if you can’t afford one.
Share your financial tips for surviving Los Angeles in the comments below!