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Living on the Cheap in LA: 4 Ways to Tap into the City without Going Broke

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Living on the Cheap in LA: 4 Ways to Tap into the City without Going Broke

Living on the Cheap in LA: 4 Ways to Tap into the City without Going Broke

In July, my husband and I left our farm, our family and our old selves in small-town Indiana and headed to Los Angeles…

In July, my husband and I left our farm, our family and our old selves in small-town Indiana and headed to Los Angeles.  I’ve decided to give retirement a try while Mat ventured into the non-profit world. It was time for a transition in our lives and LA was going to be that avenue.

Getting to know the city and the intricacies of being an Angeleno has been quite eye-opening for me.  I’ve heard how expensive it is to live in LA but I was looking for a silver lining. We’ve always lived by a tight budget but I wasn’t sure how being “Captain Cheap” back home would translate in our new world, I just hoped it would. With some investigative work in my new-found free time, I’ve learned a few ways to be engaged, entertained and informed in LA without spending a lot of money. Cheapskates of the world:  UNITE!

1. Los Angeles Through the Eyes of Filmmakers.

The first few weeks of being here, I spent hours watching films about my new found home. First was the California and the American Dream Series, a 4-part documentary highlighting the tribes, agriculture, workers and the infrastructure of the state. Well worth the time for those interested in recent history.  Next was Los Angeles Plays Itself, a fascinating look at how LA has been portrayed in movies. The landscape, the people and the buildings of the city have been highlighted in movies and documentaries since the beginning of the industry, sometimes, to the unassuming eye. Yes, it’s possible to film LA to resemble Chicago, provided you hide the palm trees. LA Plays Itself featured so many interesting and unheard of films, fact or fiction, about LA that my playlist doubled after watching it.

I could easily spend the next year just watching films featuring some aspect of LA, without ever spending a dime to rent them. Compliments of Public Library System…

2. The Library: a Hidden Gem, Full of Opportunities

On my first trip to the Studio City Library branch I read the paper and got a library card. Our micro-apartment was not going to accommodate my old book buying habits, so borrowing would have to suffice. Much to my surprise, there’s more to do at the library than borrow books. Its digital service, Hoopla, really gives Netflix a run for its money.  Just by having a library card, I can stream movies, audio books, music, all from the comfort of my home computer or smartphone.

The library offers a perfect opportunity to get to know your neighbors and learn a thing or two. Various adult and children’s classes are also available at the different branches. Creative Writing, Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga are a few of my favorites.  And online learning courses are also available free of charge, to learn to your heart’s content.

3. Be Entertained Without Breaking your Bank

Even though the ‘cost of living’ in LA is too damn high, the cost of “living” can be very doable. Neighborhood papers and city-wide blogs and magazines offer an array of concerts, exhibits and festivals to check out, many, for next to nothing. The free Outdoor Concert Guide from laist and the Free Events calendar at LA Weekly are great places to start. Neighborhood sponsored events are all over this city.  For example, the Valley Cultural Center has a series of Free Concerts on the Green. If hearing a U2 or Pink Floyd tribute band while you picnic and visit with your Congressman is your kind of party, this is the place to go.

Since most major studios are located around LA, there’s a good chance you could be in the audience of your favorite shows, for free. In exchange for laughter on cue, audience members can win prizes, snack on pizza and see actors in their finest hours. You can get tickets to several shows by singing up with 1iota or Audiences Unlimited.

4. Dirt, Sweat and Tears

The one thing I missed from back home was the time I spent outside in the dirt.  Our new apartment life had no room for gardening and eating the fruits of our labor. I was ready to reconcile that my days of digging in the dirt were over, until I stumbled upon the community garden movement. The LA Community Garden Council supports more than 125 gardens across the city and volunteers are always needed. And for those die-hard veggie addicts, individual plots are often allocated out to residents to grow their own food. Meet your neighbors. Pull some weeds. Life is good.

The hiking choices in LA are pretty superb, with challenging trails to accommodate every level of fitness.  For a little variety, you can venture onto the Betty Dearing Trail that connects Fryman Canyon Park, Wilacre Park, Franklin Canyon, and Coldwater Canyon Park on the Santa Monica Mountains. On your route, visit Tree People, the 45-acre park putting the “S” back into sustainability. They regularly offer workshops on conservation and tree planting and even host walking tours and moonlit hikes. Nothing is as scary or as cool as hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains with only the moon and the light of your phone leading the way.

In my very short time living in LA, I’ve uncovered many interesting places to explore and intriguing things to experience, but I’ve only cracked the surface. I’m looking forward to digging deeper into the culture of our fine city while still living on the cheap.


Rachel Steury

Rachel Bennet Steury is a graduate of Indiana University, the Indiana Institute of Technology and UMASS Amherst. She moved to LA in July and wanders the San Fernando Valley on an endless search for truth, coffee and cheap things to do…@BennettSteury

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