Tips and Tricks for Living in LA on a Budget

Anyone can tell you that Los Angeles is an expensive city. But you can still hack it even if you hop off the plane in LAX with just your dreams, your cardigan and not that much cash. LA is the city of dreams, but it can also be the land of disappointment if you don't play your cards right. If you want to make your west coast aspirations come true, you are going to have to stick to your budget.

Think Peripheral

Give up on the trendy neighborhoods. Venice, West Hollywood and Silverlake aren't in the cards for you right now, but that's okay. Living in a cool neighborhood won't matter if your rent is driving you into bankruptcy. Instead, look at the neighborhoods on the fringes. Cypress Park and Lincoln Heights are good east side alternatives to the inflated rents of Echo Park and Silverlake. If you want to stay closer to Hollywood, North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks are both an easy commute away.

You can still hit up the cool 'hoods for brunch or a night out on the town, and the cash you'll save living on the fringes will mean you will actually have money in your checking account to spend.

East and South

When looking for affordable housing in Los Angeles, aim your search east and south. The further you get from luxury Beverly Hills condos and beachy Santa Monica digs, the more affordable rental prices become. South Pasadena and Eagle Rock are nice residential options on the eastside, or look at neighborhoods south of the 10 freeway such as University Park or Leimert Park. Many of these neighborhoods have a bad reputation, however. Make sure you scope out your street before you sign a lease to make sure you feel safe.

Consider Giving Up Your Car

This may sound crazy in this sprawling land of highways, but car payments, gas and car insurance can easily suck hundreds of dollars out of your bank account every month. And that's not even mentioning the costly parking tickets and traffic violations you may rack up. According to AAA, the average American spends $9,641 per year on car related expenses.

Giving up your car will seriously limit your mobility in this city, but if you are serious about keeping costs down, it might be necessary. If you decide to go carless, you will have to be very strategic. Public transit in Los Angeles is notoriously terrible, but the recently added metro lines are actually fairly efficient. Consider moving to a neighborhood right along one of the main lines, such as Koreatown, University Park, Hollywood, or Downtown, and choose your place based on your daily commute needs. With the rise of Lyft and Uber, one off trips to more remote neighborhoods are no longer impossible, though those rides can add up fast as well.

Eat Ethnic

Food costs in LA can be sky high if you indulge in the stereotypical LA lifestyle of matcha lattes, cold pressed juice, Whole Food groceries, and bougie quinoa bowls. But LA is also a wealth of cheap eats if you know where to look. Check out your local ethnic grocery stores; the Chinatown markets are chock full of bargain produce, and the corner Mexican groceries also tend to have great deals. Skip the hot restaurant du jour in favor of your neighborhood papusa spot or a generous lunch special at the hole in the wall Chinese restaurant.

Take Advantage of Free Events

There is always something happening in LA, and a lot of it can be done for free. Some museums, such as the Getty and the Broad, don't charge admission, while others participate in special free days. The sunset from one of the numerous Los Angeles beaches doesn't cost you anything, and the Pacific is the best free swimming pool in California. From underground comedy shows, to pop up art events, to neighborhood festivals, there is always something fun to hit up, even if you are broke.

Drink Responsibly

In a city where a gin and tonic can cost you $10, a night out on the town can put a serious dent in your bank account. Invite friends over and drink on your couch instead, or pregame your night out and nurse a single beer at the bar. Another option is to hit up events that will supply you with free alcohol. Art gallery openings happen every weekend and always have some sort of open bar, or go to a book reading and sip on a glass of chardonnay. You'll feel fancy, cultured, and you'll get a couple free drinks out of it.

Get a Roommate, or Three

A one-bedroom apartment is a luxury afforded only to those making a good income. The easiest way to cut the cost of your rent is to split it. The more roommates you can find, the better deal you can get. If you can find enough people you are compatible with, snagging a house will give you the most space for your buck. Already have roommates but still need to cut costs? You might need to sacrifice some of your living space. String up some curtains or set up a folding screen across your living room and rent it out. You'll have to watch Game of Thrones in your room instead of on the couch, but that is a small price to pay for the hundreds of dollars you'll save each month on rent.

With a bit of creativity, you can enjoy Los Angeles on any budget. Pinch your pennies, spend smart, and make your west coast dreams come true

Beware of rental ad scams: Rent Jungle is a rental search engine for apartment hunters and is not responsible for the content of rental listings found on the site. Rent Jungle encourages you to use common sense while apartment hunting. Beware of fraudulent listings. Click here to learn about common scams.