Read my new series: So You Want to Move to LA? Tips and advice on living in LA from people who work, live, and play there.
You might want to also check out my latest article about living here: Stuck in Limbo: The Internal Debate Over Living in Los Angeles.
When I popped into Whole Foods recently to get my pretension on, I spotted Los Angeles Magazine with the cover story: How to Afford LA. Although I’ve been passing on buying magazines lately, my curiosity got the best of me, and I picked up a copy. I mean I’d like to know how to afford the city I currently live in.
I’ll give you some statistics from the magazine (I’m allowed to do that, right?), then give you my perspective, and how it compares to how I’m living my life in LA.
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- 45% surveyed make less than $50k a year.
- Of that group, 53% describe themselves as scraping by.
- 32% make $50k-$100k a year.
- 60% of that group say they are comfortable.
- 13% of them still want an extra annual $100k.
My Perspective: I am one of the 45% who has made less than $50k in the past four years. In fact last year’s income was an all time low of $39k. Am I scraping by? Not really anymore (but having a hard time getting ahead), but it’s very easy to be in that situation living here. It takes A LOT of hard work to try and save money with that level of income.
I used to make around $72k at my old job, and when I did I would describe myself as someone who felt very comfortable with my finances.
Where you live:
- The magazine says the best place to live in your 20’s is Highland Park, where you can rent a studio from $750-$1,100.
- In your 30’s they say Culver City, where you can rent a one-bedroom from $1,000-$1,200.
- In your 40’s they recommend Mar Vista, where you can buy a two-bedroom (plus) home from $600k-$835k.
My Perspective: I don’t know much about Highland Park, so I can’t say much about that, but in my year-long casual apartment search, Culver City was always on my short list. It’s still on the westside, but it has a great, revitalized downtown and is home to Sony Pictures Studios.
Where they get the price on one-bedrooms I have no idea, because in my search it’s never turned up a decent place in that price range, in fact their rent seems very similar to the area I live in in El Segundo, which is aprox $1,300-$1,600 for a decent one-bedroom.
As far as Mar Vista, sadly it probably does cost that much for a home, but I hate to say it, Mar Vista is not that great of an area, both in beauty and in crime. Perhaps it’s becoming more gentrified, but I wouldn’t choose to even rent there personally.
They mentioned an average one-bedroom in WeHo (West Hollywood) is $1,800, which can get you a nice three-bedroom, two-bath house in Portland, and a four-bedroom, four-bath house in Austin, Texas…sigh…we don’t have it as bad as New York City though, so that’s something.
- 74% surveyed rent their home.
- 94% of those renters pay less than $2,500 a month.
My Perspective: MOST of my friends, including my friends in their 30’s and 40’s rent and/or have roommates. My rent is currently at $1,400, but I rent out my garage, which brings it down to $1,250. What I pay for is a GREAT and SAFE neighborhood with a small-town Midwestern feel, but very close to the beach.
- 40% have thought about leaving LA because it’s too expensive.
- The most popular alternate destination is Seattle.
My Perspective: Yup, most of my friends have mentioned it at one time or another, but the sun, sand, and surf makes it so hard to leave. When I lived in Seattle we had a lot of California transplants, which pissed the natives off because it drove the home prices higher, but eventually a lot of them left because guess what? It rains a lot there! My curiosity still is with Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado. But hey I think I might add Austin, Texas to the list. 🙂
Necessities and Splurges:
- 90% say having a car in LA is a must.
- 85% consider a smart phone essential.
- 38% can’t live without Netflix or Spotify subscriptions.
- 23% consider a morning latte a requirement.
- 64% say they’ll pay for Hollywood Bowl concert tickets.
- 40% are willing to pay for HBO
My perspective: I agree 100% about the car, and if I really, really had to I could live without a smart phone (but not a cell phone). I do not consider anything else on the list something I HAD to have. I do have a Netflix subscription but could easily drop that if I had to, and may buy one Hollywood Bowl ticket per year (because it’s pretty awesome).
The one great thing I do have to mention about living in LA is that aside from the high cost of living, you can do TONS of things here for free or cheap. Everything from art galleries, the beach, cruising Hollywood, hiking, food trucks, free outdoor concerts, etc. You can ski/snowboard and surf on the same day (it’s true because I’ve done it), or see a free taping of a show.
There is never an excuse to be bored. You might not want to get in LA traffic to get to some of these places, but they are available.
And if you travel outside the city, you will find even more diverse geography and things to do! In that sense, this is an incredible State to live in.
So how does all this compare to where you live? And what’s your perspective on LA from either an outsider, or someone who lives here? Do people think everyone has fake boobs and a Ferrari? 🙂