Savvy Saturdays: Why Saving Now Is Important

It doesn’t take a lot of common sense to understand that the more money you save, the better off you’ll be financially. But saving can be hard. In fact, when you live some where like Los Angeles or New York where the cost of living is through the roof, it can seem damn near impossible.

When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it can be hard to see beyond next week’s bills.

But know this: it’s not impossible to start saving now. Sometimes, all you need is a little mental motivation.

Think about it this way: if you’re living paycheck to paycheck right now, relying on the hope/idea that at some point you’ll snag that job or promotion that will elevate you to a spending status where you can afford to buy a new car or house, you might never get there. But if you start being savvy with your money now, you might not need to snag that pay bump to afford the things you dream of.

Why?

Because saving is a mindset.

Here’s another point to ponder: if you’re living paycheck to paycheck right now, and its not because rent takes up 75% of your income and the other 25% goes to groceries and debt, it means that you’re spending any leftover money you have every month on things that aren’t a necessity. Often, even in a 75/25 situation involving debt payments, there are still ways you can cut your costs. So if you haven’t already gotten out of the habit of spending every dime you own, what makes you think that having a fatter paycheck will remedy your excessive expenditures? Take a lesson from Kanye and realize that having millions (or billions!) doesn’t necessarily guarantee your financial security.

Instead, get into the saving mindset: always strive to live one step below your means.

Simply put, this means that if you live on an income where you can afford to go out twice a week, live with the mindset that you can only afford to go out once a week, pocketing the cash you save not spending an extra night out each week. If you want to save more money faster, you can get more drastic. Currently, I tell everyone I’m too poor to pay for valet parking, go out more than once every two weeks, and spend full price on a movie ticket more than once or twice a year. I’m not going to tell you how much I could afford, because honestly, I don’t even want to know. As long as I live in this mindset, I’m saving money. The second I “let” myself afford more, I don’t.

So if you’re not already in this line of thinking, start training your brain to think this way now. Why? Because you’d be amazed how much you can save up by saying no to a $5 coffee here, and a $20 movie there. You might discover that in a few years’ time, you have enough to pay for a new (or new to you) car, cash up front! Or, if you’re a big dreamer like me, a down payment on a house. ūüôā

So get savvy, savers!

-tlc

 

Oops, I Did It Again

Can you guess where this is going? No, it has nothing to do with relationships, and no, I didn’t meet Britney Spears over the weekend.

I missed a post, AGAIN.

I’m sorry guys, but when it rains, it pours. (Unless you live in LA, and then when it rains, it’s just a few sprinkles.)

Actually, I have a very good excuse for last week’s oversight. I was on the road to South Dakota, for a last-minute, unplanned visit to see my grandmother, who has been sick and in the hospital. I even extended my trip home (I was supposed to be back in LA two days ago, but then life happened) because I wasn’t sure what the outcome of this week was going to be. But for now, it looks as though nothing is going to change, including the number of living grandparents I have.

That week sitting in the hospital got me thinking, though. How many of us actually think about death, or near-death illness at our age? It’s not an easy topic to think about. It’s heavy. Sure, we see it on TV and in the news all the time. We’re desensitized to fictional death and death on screen. I’ll admit, I’m still not sure I’ve fully aged out of the phase of feeling invincible.

But dwelling on our own, eventual, (hopefully) far-off deaths doesn’t really do us any good. Sure, there’s that well-used concept of living like you’re dying, but no one in their right mind would fully dive into that idea, when the hope is that you have several decades of future life to plan for.

**I would like to take a moment here to side-note that at this point in typing this post I had a sneezing fit, which has never happened to me before, convincing me that I am indeed allergic to death**

Instead, I spent most of the week thinking about my mother and how she dropped everything and ran to my grandmother’s bedside when my grandmother needed her most, without a second thought or care to her job, prior commitments, or responsibilities (she’s got a classroom full of animals and she instructed my dad on how to feed/take care of them after she was already on the road). This isn’t to condemn anyone who, for whatever reason, can’t do that. Even my mother acknowledged how lucky she is to have a job that will not only give her the paid time off, but also guarantee her job for up to two years, if something would keep her from going back for that long (not that they would pay her for those two years, but that’s besides the point).

But while my mom sat in there, with a real job and responsibilities on the side burner, I was the one feeling strangely anxious. I say strangely because while I’ve been between production jobs, I’ve been freelancing remotely to pay the bills. This means that as long as I have wifi, it really doesn’t matter where I am–I could do my job in Siberia¬†if I needed/wanted to. Yet, instead of giving my full, undivided concern and attention to my loved ones sitting with me, I was anxious about the strange pull I felt towards LA, as though I needed to hurry back. Which is ridiculous. Why was I worrying about rushing back to nothing, when my grandmother was sick and needed my love right in front of me?

I think the real question we should be asking ourselves about death lies in that scenario right there. Where are our priorities, and why? If your loved one was on their deathbed tomorrow, would you drop everything–your job, your apartment, your pets–to go be with them? If it was going to take days, weeks, months, maybe years, would you stand by their side and help them through illness and/or death? Or is there something holding you back? Do you care more about your job and career than you do your loved ones? Concerned more for the health of your dog than your mom, dad, sibling, etc?

Why is that? Why do we care more about materialistic things than our families, relationships, and friendships? In Hollywood, it’s very easy to see the successful people at the top who have pushed away everyone they’ve ever loved, or who has ever loved them. And it’s even easier to see how miserable they are. And the saddest part? I see the super wealthy people in their later years and think, why? What’s the point of having all of that money when you certainly only have maybe a decade–two at most–left to live?

So, no matter where you go or what you do in life, I hope you find success. But I hope you also realize, as I did this week, that’s it’s more important to find people. So I also hope that no matter how much success you find, that you’re able to drop everything to be with your loved ones, should they ever need you.

Because money can’t buy you happiness when you’re dead.

-tlc

Everything Is Going To Be Okay

Earlier this morning a friend sent me this graphic about several of my favorite success stories and where they were at 23 years old. Even though others’ failure shouldn’t be a comfort to me, knowing how far all of these people went to change the world (in their own respective ways) is reassuring. So many of us leave college feeling as though we have to have a¬†life plan; as if our time to discover ourselves and build our career is extremely limited, and if we haven’t found ourselves and laid the foundation for our futures by the time we’re 24 or 25 we’ll never find success.

I’m learning very quickly that success isn’t necessarily a number on a paycheck. Success is living a life and lifestyle that makes your happy. Success is putting things out into the world that you are proud of. This doesn’t have to be physical objects, but can be actions, lessons, or the way you treat other people. All of these things have the ability to impact those around you.

So, to keep this post brief, here’s something I’ve learned just from contemplating this graphic:

1) Success means taking risks. If you don’t put yourself out there, if you don’t take a chance on your dreams, you’ll never achieve your goals. As the saying goes, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I know it’s scary to go out on a limb away from any sort of familial or financial safety net, but if you don’t do it, you’ll never get where you want to go.

2) Failure isn’t the end. If this graphic isn’t the perfect example of that, just go read up on all the statistics about Donald Trump filing for bankruptcy. (Not that Trump is a great example of success by any means, but he’s still stinking rich.) The world keeps turning, even after it feels like it should stop. In your darkest moments, this may be a terrible reality, but time does indeed heal all wounds, and someday you will be grateful that life allows us to reinvent ourselves over, and over, and over again.

3) Change is necessary. All of these people made changes in their lives to get where they are today. You can’t expect to have different results if you try the same things over and over again. Sometimes this is really hard to hear, and even harder to put into practice. Especially as a writer, I understand the pain of spending so much time on one project, only to realize afterwards that I’m not getting the results I want with it. Starting over is difficult. Throwing out things you’re attached to so that you can make room for a fresh perspective is challenging. But nobody ever said life was easy.

So there you have it. Everything I gleaned from a simple internet graphic. Too bad most internet graphics spread stereotypes, not positive reinforcement. But that’s another post entirely.

Yours truly,

tlc

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

Things That Every Twenty-Something Should Know

Okay, so a couple weeks ago I did a post on missing home and how I’ve come to realize that the only thing that is truly important in your life–and subsequently the only thing that will really make you happy–is the people and relationships that you surround yourself with.

That’s lesson number one.

But there are a few other things that I’ve picked up as time has gone on. I won’t list them all out here because that would be a long post, and I don’t think I could possibly think of all of them off the top of my head right now anyways. Besides, I have to have something to write about for future posts, don’t I?

So here are a few things that I think every 20-something should know:

  • Travel
    • Live outside of your comfort-zone/Travel box: Everyone has a travel box; those cities, states, and places that they’ve visited before, lived before, or have family and friends residing in. Move outside of that, even if it’s only for a year. You’re in your 20’s, you’re probably already poor, and hopefully you don’t have too many obligations to other people at this point in your life. Now is the time to go and explore the world, see a different place, and make new friends that grew up in a life different from your own.
    • I might not always love living so far away from my family, but I’ve learned so much and grown so much by moving away. I’ve discovered that I can rely on myself to get through almost every situation that I’ve come across. It’s really empowering, and in a lot of ways freeing. It’s shown me that the world really is full of possibilities, and that you can do the things you put your mind to. If you stay in your box forever, you have to learn to settle for the things that only your box can offer. Get out and explore. Learn something about somebody completely different from yourself.
  • Feed Yourself
    • Cooking, even if you aren’t great at it, is not only a life skill that everyone should be made to learn, it’s also the only way you’re going to be smart about saving money and about what you’re putting in your body. I don’t care how healthy a restaurant makes itself out to be, there is no telling where your food has been and what all is used to cook it. The only way to know this is to do it yourself–and frankly, it’s a whole lot cheaper, too.
    • It’s also an extremely satisfying and rewarding feeling to be self-sufficient and provide a meal for yourself. The less people you need to rely on to survive, the more empowered you will feel. Besides, coming from a family of farmers, I believe everyone should support small businesses and farms by shopping as much as possible at your local farmer’s market.
  • Clean Yourself
    • A clean home is a happy home. Take a little pride and ownership in the place where you live and take care of it! Not only will your everything last longer–we’re talking clothes, furniture, appliances, everything–but you’ll feel better and more relaxed because organizing and cleaning up after yourself won’t feel like a permanently unchecked box on your to-do list. BONUS: Things like vacuuming and dusting are actually great workouts that burn an impressive number of calories. Google it.
  • Keep Your Plans
    • Flaking is an easy rabbit’s hole to fall down. Check out this article that gives a pretty good observation on this plight that’s plaguing our generation of 20-somethings. This one, I’ll admit, I’m a bit hypocritical on because I’m definitely guilty of doing it. But when you make plans with someone and you don’t honor that, you only dig a shallow grave for that friendship/connection/relationship. If you don’t really want to hang out with someone, don’t make plans with them. If you make plans with someone but think there’s a chance something better might come up, 1) don’t think like that because that’s douche-y and 2) don’t commit to things on nights that you might want to do some other activity.
    • Personal relationships are so, so important. And I think as you get older, it becomes harder to meet new people and make those friendships that will truly make you happy. This is because as you get older, you get more set in your ways, more set in your routines, and old friendships take time to grow. So start young. Start now. Meet people, and be genuine. Put the stupid cell phone away and go out to dinner to talk. Close Facebook and plan a day/night out. Call instead of text. Be a little bit old school. Don’t let yourself become isolated by your technology.
  • Create
    • Nick Offerman calls it “Finding a Discipline,” but whatever you want to call it, find some way to spend your time that isn’t Netflix. Think of it as a physical way of investing in your future. If you love to craft, make things! (If you get good, you can sell your art on Etsy.) If you love music, make music! If you love to exercise, work out! If you love to help, volunteer! You get my drift. Then find a way to share your pass time passion with others. Who knows, it might wind up being a means to a living. Even if it’s not, you’ll be happier having something to take your mind off ¬†the stress around you, and having a purpose to look forward to in your free time.

Okay, I have to stop there before this post goes on forever and ever. Gotta keep it simple, right? Anyways, that’s my current two-cents on what 20-somethings should know. I’d love to get other opinions on this, though. Seasoned vets of life might have a different perspective and I always love to learn knew things. Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts on this.

Good luck in life.

-tlc

A Random Open Letter to Taylor Swift

Dear Taylor,

I’m going to be straight up with you, I’ve always been skeptical of being your fan. Mainly because I’ve never really liked the idea of publicly shaming ex-partners for monetary gain. Of course, that’s a really harsh way of looking at it, and I have no idea what you’ve had to put up with in your relationships, so I’m guessing you feel justified in writing names. Also, clearly these dudes don’t mind the attention, because if they did, I think they’d be a little more wary of dating you, since they must know that being written about is part of the deal. I’ve also been skeptical ever since the “Love Story” lyric where you call yourself the scarlet letter, simply because I’m a big lit geek and I feel that reference was a bit of a stretch.

I will say that I appreciate and admire your openness about wanting to be independent and choosing to take time off from dating. I hate how Hollywood media is like an exaggerated form of high school where all anyone can do is gossip about other people’s relationships and private lives. (I say this hypocritically, since I just admitted that most of my skepticism comes from opinions about your dating life.) It’s nice to see a young woman navigate through all the BS of business and do well–even better than well, kick ass–at building a successful career and marketing herself. In that way, I think you are a great inspiration.

I also really admire how nice you are to your fans and how genuine you seem to be with everyone you meet (I say seem to be because obviously I don’t know you, so how can I really know one way or another?) and the fact that you have amazing style, yet somehow don’t let your appearance become everything about you. In my opinion, that rocks.

So, after years of skepticism, you have won me over, T-Swift. I think you would be an amazing friend (though this open letter to you may have killed any chance of you wanting to be my friend) and if there was ever a zombie apocalypse, I would definitely choose you to be a part of my zombie-killing posse. Along with J-Law, Emma Watson,¬† and Benedict Cumberbatch (I’m sorry, but that last name is just the most awesome, isn’t it?), of course.

P.S. I still won’t be buying 1989, though, because as much as I love Blank Space and Shake It Off, (as well as the ’80’s, and in general, any reference to the ’80’s, whether directly related or not) I am poor (like, really tight-budget, no spending on things other than necessities poor) and just can’t justify the purchase, sorry. I’m sure with your business savvy you’ve got enough stored away to make due without the profits of my purchase. I agree that arts are valuable, particularly in maintaining and fueling a sense of culture and self expression, which is vital in living a happy, healthy life, but I also think that because art is cultural, it should also be accessible, because it is so valuable it is invaluable, so I teeter on the edge of this debate. Basically I’m saying I agree that artists should be compensated fairly, but I also think that it’s unreasonable to ask consumers to spend $15 on music every time they want to listen to new music or a different artist. (Granted, if a consumer has that kind of money, then by all means, but I don’t think most of us do.) I do think pirating music is wrong, but I also like Spotify because it lets me listen to a range of talented artists, especially smaller indie artists I wouldn’t be exposed to from the radio without putting myself in debt.

I think this is a rough argument on either side, and, as usual, the consumer winds up being nothing but a tool on both ends. And that, I think, is unfortunate. However, I wish you the best of luck in standing up for what you think is right, and maybe someday when I have more money I’ll be able to enjoy the full 1989 experience.

Your new (but still slightly skeptical) fan,

tlc

How to Live in LA on Essentially No Money

A few short months ago I moved out to LA with just barely $4000 to my name, no job except a small social media gig that gave me 8 hours of work a week, and absolutely no idea where life was going to take me. I still don’t know about that last thing, but now, after working two unpaid internships and remaining unemployed (for the most part) I still have about a quarter of what I started with. In a city where I’ve been told that it takes at least $3000 a month to live, I’ve made a go of it averaging about a $1000 a month in expenses. How have I made it this long with a roof over my head, gas for my car, and food in my mouth? I’m certainly not starving myself, that’s for sure. Here’s how I did it:

 

  1. HOUSING

 

Finding a place to live in LA is difficult, here’s why: LA is sprawling, and the second largest city in America, and everyone seems to think the weather here is the bomb dot com so they all come running. Because of that, real estate is insane and things move quickly because, when you find a good deal on an apartment, you can bet that about 300 other people also believe they’ve found a good deal on an apartment. No matter where you live your commute is going to take up all of your free time, and–if you’re like me and you like nature–your choices when it comes to housing that isn’t sandwiched in the middle of a busy city are a million dollar hole in your pocket on the beach, or dead grass on something that sort of resembles a mountain.

Average rent in LA runs about $700/mo (on the cheapside) and $900-$1000/mo (on the: I have a good, stable income and can afford to rub it in your $700/mo face). Currently, I pay under $600, and I live in a house in a calm, convenient part of town. How did I get so lucky? Well it takes some diligent searching, but it also takes some thinking outside of the box. When I came to LA, I asked myself where I might find safe, affordable housing with strangers I could trust. This question led me to reaching out to friends, family, pastors of random churches I looked up online, and even some church website classifieds. In fact, it was through this last suggestion that I found the home where I am currently staying. So just ask yourself: “what type of people do I want to live with, and where would they post room vacancies?” And then search from there.

 

  1. FOOD

 

The key here is rather simple, but isn’t all that easy if you aren’t a connoisseur in the kitchen. The secret is to cook at home. FOR EVERY MEAL. It might not seem like a big deal to go out to eat, even if it’s only once a week, but here in LA, a CHEAP meal is going to run you $15+. For those of you who don’t do a lot of grocery shopping, if you play your cards right, $15 can get you enough ingredients to make a week’s worth of meals.

The trick here is to be mindful of price tags when you go to the grocery store. It’s great if you want to eat all-natural, organic foods (you should definitely make sure to provide yourself with plenty of fresh, healthy options: it’s cheaper to eat well then to go see the doctor) but buying organic for everything is not necessary, nor does it do much good for your wallet. If you’re really concerned about pesticides and chemicals, do a simple google search for what foods you should buy organic, and which are okay to buy normally.

Know which stores have cheaper prices on what. Here’s the deal: I don’t know why, but every grocery store has that one thing, or that one category of thing that is slightly cheaper than most of the other stores nearby. It’s how they retain customers against the competition. It’s good to be observant of prices and figure out which stores offer the best deals on what. In general, weekday mornings (especially the beginning of the week) tend to offer the best and lowest deals on things like produce. Also, this tends to be the time with the fewest number of people in the store, so if you can go in the mornings during the week, I highly recommend it. However, spending precious gas to drive from one store to another for five cents difference on an item is counterproductive, so plan out your grocery store trips and always be looking for the lesser of two evils.

Meat: always buy meat on sale. Freeze everything! (Just make sure it’s sealed well). On the weekends (or on the days when you have the most flexible/free time) cook in bulk: make meals with multiple servings, then freeze the extra food in one serving packages as fast go-to meals later. Only buy what you know you’re going to eat! This means planning meals ahead of time and only buying ingredients for those meals, plus staples that you know you will use for snacks/on-the-run bites-to-eat like milk, cereal, bread, mac’n’cheese, etc.

 

  1. CAR/TRAVEL

There is absolutely no way getting around LA without a car. I mean, people do it, but we’re talking HOURS spent planning out bus routes and waiting/walking to public transportation. The truth is, getting around LA is going to cost you money no matter what, but there are a few things you can do to ease the pocket pain:

#1. Buy a Costco membership. Considering the cheap prices for things that are nice to have in bulk, like personal hygiene items and vitamins, it’s worth the $50. Also, with a Costco card, you can use their gas station, which is always at least 10 cents cheaper a gallon than any other local gas station. Not to mention, if you sign up for the American Express card and use it for purchases, you get points back that go towards a monetary refund at the end of the year (so with enough purchases, your membership can be free).

#2. Be mindful of when it is useful to take the metro. For instance, (so long as you have a place to park your car where you don’t have to worry about getting ticketed for street cleaning, etc.) there are bus lines that will take you pretty much directly to the airport, meaning–should you ever decide to fly out on a weekend trip, or for the holidays–instead of spending $12/day on parking at LAX, you can spend $1 on a bus ride that will take you to the LAX parking lot, where you can catch a free shuttle to your terminal. If you want to spend the day up in Hollywood, or you’re taking an improv class up there, or going to see a movie at the Egyptian theater, or whatever (there are many more reasons to avoid Hollywood, rather than spend time there) and you have a few hours to kill, it might be worth the time to drive to your nearest train station (there is usually a free parking lot for metro users near the station) and spend the $1.50 to take the train up to the Hollywood exit. $3.00 for a round trip ride and two hours of travel time (especially if you have a book or something you can work on in the mean time) is definitely worth it to avoid getting screwed over by the ridiculously expensive parking fees (If you decide to go anywhere remotely tourist-y, expect to pay¬† at LEAST $10 to park. LA makes a killing off of screwing tourists over, and unfortunately locals have to deal with the prices as well because if it.) Also, car pool when you can! Sharing the burden of parking expenses is always a good alternative.

#3. Avoid the freeways when possible. I’ll admit, LA can be a stressful city to drive in. People are much bolder in their willingness to squeeze past vehicles on small streets, and speed down roads. However, people also tend to be much better at defensive driving, and, considering the number of vehicles on the road everyday, the number of car wrecks is surprisingly low in comparison to other cities. However, if there’s one place in LA where people tend to drive more recklessly, and where getting into an accident is significantly more dangerous and terrifying, it’s the LA freeways. This is because the combination of speeding, high volume of cars, and too few exit options (meaning, if you miss your exit, it‚Äôs that much harder to get turned around and back track) results in a massive (pardon my french) shit show of cars weaving in and out of almost solid blocks of metal going 80-90 mph, attempting to get to their exit smoothly and at the fastest pace possible. If you want to save yourself the cost of taking your car into the shop after a wreck, avoid the freeways unless it’s like 6 am.

  1. ENTERTAINMENT

This one is tough, because nearly everything in LA costs money, even if it’s just for parking. And while I don’t think it’s wise for everyone to just stay home all the time and never socialize (you’ll wind up hating living here and never make any friends if you do that) it’s also not wise to say yes every time someone suggests you go see a movie, or go out to dinner. There are lots of things you can do for cheap around LA: class by donation yoga (where you can park your car in a garage for an hour and half for free), hiking, Griffith observatory, the Getty (though you do have to pay for parking), the beach (as long as you don’t mind a bit of a trek, if you’re lucky and savvy enough, you can find free street parking), going to a taping of a TV show, sometimes even improv or stand-up comedy shows. You just have to do your research. However, make sure to set aside some money (and be willing to spend it!) to do things with your friends that do cost money. Just remember to be smart about your spending: go out for drinks during happy hour, so you can get the best deal on what you want to eat and drink. Don’t buy fancy cocktails (mixed drinks are always the most expensive things on the menu–unless they sell high-end wine) unless you only want one drink and then you stop. If you want to go see a movie, choose wisely: remember this is the heart of the entertainment industry, so you can often get your hands on screeners of films vying for Oscar nominations. However, if you can’t, or if you just really want to see it on the big screen, keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for deals on special screenings, like AFI nights, or premiers. If you don’t even have access to those (either you have zero connections to the entertainment industry, or you just have no luck looking) shop around for the best movie theater deal. I’ve heard that–if you already have, or are willing to pay for the season pass to Universal Studios (it costs the same as a day pass, so might as well get the whole season) the AMC on the lot is a pretty good deal and validates parking.

  1. HOUSEHOLD FURNISHING/SHOPPING

There really isn’t a lot of this that you probably need to do. If, like me, you moved here from out of state, you probably didn’t bring a whole lot with you. Wait to purchase things until you find long-term housing. Often you will find roommates who are either from instate, or have lived here long enough to purchase things like couches and tables. Most apartments come with kitchen appliances, and once in a blue moon you can find furnished apartments. When you do need to purchase items, there really are pretty much three go-to sources that will help you find what you need at the cheapest price: Costco, Ikea, and Craigslist.¬† Craigslist is a good place to start for things that can be cleaned up and you don’t have to worry about where they’ve been, like dressers, tables, and light fixtures. People are moving in and out of LA all the time and don’t want to spend money on moving items with them, so often you can find great deals on furniture here. Ikea is great for bigger furniture investments, like beds and couches, because, along with typically being a good deal and fair price, this furniture is also designed to be space-conserving, so if you wind up moving to a smaller apartment, you don’t have to worry about getting new furniture. Costco is great for those smaller things that you don’t think about right away but will wind up realizing you need, like kitchen utensils, cleaning appliances, and things like humidifiers. Just make sure to double check Amazon to get the best deals on pricing.

For fear that this post is already a novel, I’m going to stop there with the advice. That covers pretty much all of the basics of what spending tends to look like out here. I’m no coupon queen, and I haven’t researched stores for the best deals on everything. I’m sure there are lots of other secrets to living in LA cheaply that I haven’t come across yet. If you’re reading this and you have any suggestions, or if you’re curious to know about something I haven’t covered in this post, leave me a comment in the comments section and I’ll try to answer it, or feature your suggestion in a later post.

-tlc

Mo Money, Mo Problems?

Alright, I know it’s distasteful and all to talk money, but let’s talk money.

Isn’t it nice to have money? Actually, let’s be real–it’s less about having money, and more about being able to do the things that only money can buy.

Like for example, traveling. Maybe even more specifically, traveling to visit your family, so that you don’t feel quite so much like you’re half a world away from the ones you love.

Or, you know, living in a house with two jacuzzis. Cause, like, the first one is for regular use, and the second is for when Benedict Cumberbatch comes to visit, you know, like breaking out the fine china.

Don’t get me wrong–I knowingly made the tough and possibly irrational decision to be poor–like, dirt poor–in the hopes of finding a career that I can love, but this whole working for free thing is really kind of a bummer and a total demotivator. (“Come on, Tasha, you have to get up early tomorrow morning because you don’t want to be late for work!” “Why, so they can fire me from my free labor?”)

And what’s worse is that we live in a society that perpetuates and expands the income gap. The phrase, “Money makes Money” has never wrung more true when you think about the stock market, retirement funds, or even starting a business or getting an education. If you want to save, invest, or create, you have to have money. And usually lots of it.

But I guess the thing that irritates me and gets me down the most is that I have to spend money to work for free.¬†Honestly, getting college credit in exchange for an internship is the most ridiculous concept that capitalism has ever pooped out. I mean, it’s fantastic for employers: companies don’t even have to outsource for those teeny-tiny, mundane tasks that usually clog up workflow for paid employees. But for the students doing the internships? I’d honestly like to Chuck-Norris-round-house-kick whoever the bureaucratic you-know-what is who came up with this as the solution to preventing labor lawsuits.

I feel I must clarify here that this isn’t to say that internships aren’t valuable and students shouldn’t do them. I’d be a hypocrite if I said that, seeing as I’ve had three internships of my own. I’m not even saying that all internships need to be paid–only one of mine did. Internships are actually really useful for several reasons; my personal two reasons for choosing to do all of my internships were the industry experience and getting acquainted with what a career in said industry might look like (publishing, film, marketing, etc) and the job connections. Hey, if you’re working for free, you gotta hope that it’ll lead to something paid at some point.

All I’m saying is that 99% of us young’uns looking for internships really don’t mind working for free if we’re getting exposure to the career world we want to be a part of. But 100% are pissed when that non-existent check turns into a very real tuition bill. Honestly, how does it makes sense at all that I have to pay to work for free? You could say that I’m “paying for the experience,” but that’s a crock of bologna. Yes, I am getting experience, but 98% of that is getting coffee, filling out excel sheets, writing up mundane documents that I don’t need three months to master, etc–things that sure, I might need to know how to do in the work world, but not things that paid employees spend a lot of time doing.

And it’s not like any of us need the college credit, either. Here again, 99% are only taking this or that “internship” credit class so that we can make it past the interview rounds and actually let our bosses see our potential. Most colleges don’t require an internship credit to graduate, and most don’t even require a certain number of extra courses to graduate, so then taking this course not only risks damage to GPAs and sucking my savings dry, but it’s an extra thing on top of already crazy/busy college lifestyles.

Moral of the story (and the short version of this whole rant):

99% of us don’t mind working for free in exchange for industry experience. But the second you tack on a college education requirement, the second I begin to hate you.

Circling back to this idea of having lots of money, I realize that money is never really going to solve any of my problems. In fact, the more money you have, the more stress you have to deal with by keeping track of it all (I’m supposing, seeing as I have no first-hand experience with that). And honestly? I really like being poor in the sense that it grounds me; it forces me to really think about what’s necessary and what’s fluff, and really appreciate simple living. It helps me focus on the most important thing in life: my relationships with other people.

But it does burn me that I’m burning through my savings so that I can provide free labor via coffee runs and menial tasks. It’s especially frustrating when everything has a dollar sign in front of it, including things like writing classes that might help jumpstart my career and health costs to take care of my physical and mental well-being.

And you hear things like, “Everybody goes through it,” and “It’s what you gotta do” like free labor is some right of passage. What I find particularly discouraging about this is that, even though everyone sympathizes, no one has done anything to change it. It’s like hitting my head against a brick wall repeatedly while someone stands by and says, “Oh yeah, I definitely went through a period where I was in those shoes…guess you gotta just keep working at it.”

But then again, what can you do, besides raising a voice  to the heavens and hoping your prayers are carried across the wind? Idk, too poetic?

Alright, I gotta stop ranting before I put another abbreviation in the kitchen. (in the kitchen? I’ll stop talking now.)

Yours truly,

tlc