So you just moved to LA to pursue your dreams of being an actor/writer/yoga instructor/ice dancing birthday clown and you are elated. And you should be! LA has it all. Warm weather, beautiful people, and extensive food truck operations. But, wait. Hold on. While you work towards getting that big break, you need a job.
And you’ve got some options. Sure, it looks like it’s going to be between a barista job at a café inside the Vermont/Sunset metro station, or a server job at the pop up Mexican-Armenian fusion restaurant in the middle of Santa Monica Pier, but who cares? You’re living the dream!
Hold up. I’ll be making how much? $200 a week? But how can I survive??
Well, I’m glad you asked.
I’m no math wiz, but if you’re making $200 a week, the most you can spend weekly on an apartment is, well, nothing. But since most of us don’t have an eccentric rich relative’s guesthouse to live in, you should plan on spending most of your income on your home.
First of all, sublet. Always sublet. Leasing an apartment in this town is like trying to qualify for the Olympics. In theory you can do it, but dear God that’s a lot of time and work. And so much money. Because even if you get an apartment, you’ll have the security deposit, first and last month’s rent, and then you have to furnish it. Which is just… so much money. So find a furnished sublet.
The good news is there are actually some pretty stellar options for finding cheap housing in this town. My personal favorite is padmapper.com. It compiles listings from various websites (craigslist, AirBnB, Apartment Search, PadLister, HomeSuite) and puts them all in one convenient map.
So ask yourself the important questions. Do I need my own room? Do I need to be near the beach? Am I close enough to an In-n-Out? Because the more you’re spending on rent, the less you have for other things that are fun. And needed. Like food. Remember, whether it’s a studio with a mini fridge for a toilet, or a room you share with a female bodybuilder — this isn’t forever.
Even though eating appears to be optional in this town, most of us have this nagging biological need for food. How annoying, right?
So let’s say you took my expert advice and found some place to live for what amounts to around $125 a week. If I’m doing this math right, that means you have $75 left.
But, wait. You can’t spend all that money on food, or there won’t be any left for all the fun! So the goal should be to spend $30 a week on food. No problem.
The best option is learn to cook. You don’t have to be fancy, but being able to put together a fun and filling meal for under $5 is necessary. And very possible. You just have to plan. So go to a grocery store and plan out exactly what you need for the week. Learn to love the basics. Eggs, bread (I highly recommend tortillas for versatility), raw veggies, potatoes, pasta, and some meat. Prepackaged food may seem like the way to go, but I’m here to tell you fresh is always better. And cheaper in the long run. Use this monetary restriction as an opportunity to use your creativity. Now is as good a time as any to learn how to fry the best egg in town.
The one exception to the prepackaged rule is Trader Joe’s frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken. It’s delicious, $5, and good for two meals.
Hopefully someone gifted you a car that has an endless supply of gas, otherwise I’m sorry to say you probably can’t afford a car. I know it’s hard, but I believe in you and you can do it.
Get a bike, learn the bus routes, but more importantly embrace the walk. You’re living in a place where 60 degrees and cloudy is considered bad weather. So take advantage of that. Los Angeles isn’t the most pedestrian friendly city, but plan out your route, download all the podcasts, and enjoy your walk.
FUN AND GAMES
Let’s be real. This is why you’re here. You want to meet people. You want to have experiences. You can’t be bogged down by your lack of income! Life is for the living!
And if you’ve followed my advice, you’ve got about $45 or so for fun and games. Well done! I couldn’t possibly give you an exhaustive list of all the cheap and fun things to do in this city, but there is something around every corner in every neighborhood. And hey, you’re walking everywhere now so you can cross hiking off your LA to do list!
So go. Have fun. Grab a bottle of $10 whiskey from Trader Joe’s. Go to a free jazz show at LACMA. Enjoy the endless people watching on the Venice boardwalk.
You’ve got $45. Don’t spend it all in one place.