Surviving in LA: What You Shouldn’t Spend Your Money On

I’m sure by now you’ve heard it at least once–and if you live in LA, then you’ve definitely heard it a thousand times (and know it to be true)–that it costs an arm and a leg to live in LA…and maybe a kidney and a lung as well.

But at the same time, you can make a bigger living out in LA, too, so why all the fuss? Why do so many people struggle to make ends meet? There are so many different types of jobs and all kinds of paying work that you can find out here, why does everyone (including yours truly) feel the suffocating pressure to have more–need more–money? It goes beyond the natural human tendency to be greedy. It’s an exhausting fear that anyone and everyone living in LA who can’t afford a Range Rover as their everyday-commute car experiences.

Let me break it down for you: ignoring the socio-economic and political roots behind poverty and its persistence (because getting into that discussion would be an entirely new mess to untangle in itself) let’s just assume that the target group I am referring to are twenty-somethings and young thirty-somethings who come from upper-lower class and middle class backgrounds, trying to make a go of it in LA in job fields that aren’t rolling in the dough (i.e. any job that doesn’t exist in silicon valley or Seattle–I’m convinced even the baristas in Seattle know how to code). Often these jobs are gig-to-gig, and not steady office jobs, but even steady jobs can be somewhat of a challenge financially. So here’s why, even with an income coming in that is marginally better than the income you could get for the same job in the midwest, the financial struggle in LA seems so much more daunting: besides the constant reminder that you are poor by comparison to that guy driving the Ferrari in the lane next to you, there are just more expenses.

End of story, that’s it, show’s over, enough said.

Even if I didn’t take into account that real estate out here drives rent prices through the roof (literally), the cost of driving a car and routine maintenance (because that smog is killer on a car body), along with the price of food (meat will cost you your firstborn, so you might as well go vegetarian) and unforeseen costs (i.e. things that shouldn’t cost you money but do because people out here what to squeeze every dollar they can out of you, like parking) make it difficult to feel like you have a dollar to hold in your hand.

That being said, here are some tips I’ve learned to help cut back your expenses and save every dollar you can to prepare for the jobocalypse (that thing where the gig you’re working on now wraps up and you don’t have another job lined up because life):

1) Furniture–There are so many people moving in and out of LA every single day, it seems like there is always an estate sale going on, and tons of curbside pick-up opportunities. A word of caution, though: even wood can carry bed bugs, along with termites and other pests so be careful choosing what you’ll bring into your home. I also say this in the midst of attempting my own apartment, and though I stand by what I say, I should also warn you that it does take some patience. Whole apartments were not furnished for free in a day, people.

2) Fruit–Okay, so you might have to buy some fruit in the grocery store if you eat a lot of it, I get that, but chances are, if you drive around whatever neighborhood you live in, you’ll eventually come upon a lemon, lime, orange, avocado, or even pomegranate tree. Our new apartment has an avocado tree in the backyard, and I used to pass a pomegranate tree on my way to my first internship every day. You guys, you can seriously live off of avocados for weeks at a time. WEEKS.

3) Food–Speaking of food, holy crap is there so much free food if you know where to go! Especially if you work in the industry on a production, there is ALWAYS food! And if you’re super nice to the Crafty person, you might even get to take home leftovers. I literally have not spent over $25/mo on food in three months’ time. It’s insane. A lot of free networking events will also have food, and if nothing else, go to the grocery store and buy individual ingredients for a simple dish, like soup, make a large amount of broth and prepare your ingredients, then freeze the meal in individual serving sizes and live off of that. I’ve still got the makings for about another five chicken vegetable soups in the freezer, and I prepped that back in January.

4) Clothes–Here again, estate sales and garage sales are going on ALL THE TIME. And it’s not always gross, worn, ugly stuff. You can find some legit trendy vintage stuff for an affordable price. If that’s still too shady for you, there are a million and one thrift stores around town. And we’re not talking all those trendy thrift-but-we’re-as-expensive-as-nordstrom stores. We’re talking decent, clean, affordable clothing. Besides, a person doesn’t need a whole new wardrobe every season, or even every year, particularly if you don’t have the budget for that.

5) Mani/Pedis–If you’re a woman (or a guy–no shame) who needs to Treat Herself (Himself) every once in a while, just go to the beach! The sand serves as a natural exfoliator and the beach is so relaxing anyways! So much better than sitting in a cheap massage chair and having a strange man pick at your nails.

This is a short list, but I’ve once again managed to turn this into a long post, so I’ll stop here for now. If you want any opinions on a specific thing you spend money on, or would like more advice on this subject, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can drum up!

-tlc

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