It ain’t called the golden state for nothin’, and there’s a common misconception that you’ve gotta make some serious stacks to live in California because: living in California is expensive. So, is it possible to live in California on a budget?
Absolutely! If not, 40 million of us wouldn’t be sticking around. So, why do you have to work three full time jobs to have a roof over your head in California? Well, you don’t. Polls lead people to believe it’s impossible to afford to live in California. Sure, it depends entirely on your circumstances and each one of ours is vastly different.
Me? My boyfriend and I live in a one-bedroom apartment with no children or pets. I am not a financial advisor or expert, however, I have lived in California on a shoestring budget for seven years and I’ve garnered valuable experience in pinching pennies. Thus, I want to offer my two cents on how to live in California on a budget. In fact, at one point I attended college full time while working two jobs and living in Koreatown. If that ain’t living on a budget in California, I don’t know what is. Now I’m a writer, artist, and small business owner, so budgeting is a key component of my lifestyle. Take it from me:
With a good budget, you can live in California cheaply, without feeling cheap, and still enjoy the benefits of living in California.
Does it seem impossible to live in California without making six figures? California cost of living deterring you from living here? Read on to learn how to live in California on a budget (comfortably).
Here are some quick stats to give you a rough look at the cost of living in California in 2019.
For more location-specific stats on the cost of living in California, 2019, check out this dope post from Smart Asset, which is full of solid deets and helpful infographics.
I am not writing this post from a perspective of anyone other than myself. With that disclaimer in mind, I’m writing from a single-income perspective.
If you have dependents or circumstances that increase your monthly costs significantly, I highly encourage you to consult with a financial advisor.
Now, on to the meat of this post, which is why you’re here, amirite?! How much money do you need to make to live in California? Keep in mind, we’ve got 58 counties and 482 ish cities, so the cost of living in California and expenses run the gamut.
Can you live in California on an annual income of $50,000 or less? Hell yes, you can! I’d argue you can live here on $30,000, with an effective and realistic budget. Of course, it also depends on if you live in NorCal, So Cal, inland or at the coast.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) determined you’ll need upwards of 70K annually to live in California. That ain’t a cool number, considering that the average income in California is $51,910. The good news is that millions of people are living in California on around 50K a year.
Some stats to get ya pumped about living in California
Living on a budget in California doesn’t mean barely getting by. There are affordable places to live in California and plenty of free things to do and see! It’s all about mindset and implementing an effective budget.
Will you live in a mansion in Beverly Hills on 50K a year? Not a chance, but you can live comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in a dope city and enjoy the perks of living in California.
Now on to the actionable steps to actually make a budget and manage it.
First, you’ll have to actually create a realistic budget i.e. an accurate representation of your net income and expenses. Sit down and pour out all your expenses, income, and get real nitty-gritty with it. You don’t want to skimp out on details. Do you get three lattés a day? Put it in the budget. Do you take Uber to the grocery store 5 blocks away from your apartment? Add it to the budget. I’m not trying to turn my nose down to any of these choices, rather highlight how easy it is to overlook little actions that add up big time financially.
Keep in mind, you’re not writing your ideal budget, you’re writing the actual budget for how you live so you can visually see where you need to cut back. Don’t forget to include mundane items like laundry quarters and toiletries.
My biggest tip for how to survive in California financially: make a budget and stick to it.
If you need a solid resource for creating a budget, I recommend this legit budget from Nerd Wallet.
Obviously, big-ticket expenses like rent or car payments can’t necessarily be altered. You’ll have to wiggle other items around if you want to save money. Or, you can completely overhaul your life and move to an affordable area in California or buy a less expensive car. IF those aren’t realistic, I totally feel you! Nothing’s taking me from Redondo Beach, so I gotta cut back elsewhere.
If you really want to live in California but aren’t picky about where you can research the most affordable places to live in California. Of course, these will be more inland cities, distant from big cities like LA or San Francisco.
Living inland or in affordable cities is a good way to live on a budget in California because you’ll save money on the biggest expense: rent. That said, consider that if you have a long commute because you live in Whittier and work in Calabasas, those expenses will add up.
Plus, if you’re under 65, why are you living in Whittier? If you know, you know. (Yo, Gramps!)
Logging your expenses is one of the vital spokes in the wheel of a solid budget. No one knows this more than finance and budgeting experts! Glean helpful tips and learn how the pros budget in this insightful guide from OutwitTrade.
I have managed to learn how to live on a budget in California. It hasn’t always been fun or easy, but it’s been worth it as I love living in California. California is an inspiring cultural melting pot full of artists and innovators.
Why shouldn’t you be one of them?
Lastly, there are few cheap places to live in California near the beach, but I pinch pennies elsewhere so that I can live in Redondo Beach because #beachlife is awesome!
There you have it! Are you ready to move to California and live on a budget? Are you living here already and ready to implement an effective budget for living in California? I’m in your corner, you’ve totally got this!
Think I’m absolutely insane and this budget is totally unrealistic? Hit me up! I firmly believe that with a little compromise, sacrifice, and hard work you can live in California comfortably on a budget. If not, what the heck have I been up to these last seven years? 😉
What’s the hardest part of saving and budgeting for you? Are you an expert budgeter? Drop your budget tips below! While you’re here, don’t forget to check out my local’s guide for beach living in California!
Christina Lyon is a coffee-sipping, word-obsessed business blogger, content writer, and blog consultant. She’s on fire for helping creative entrepreneurs and small biz owners build thriving blogs that enhance online visibility and convert to sales. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves to play music and explore the beaches and wild trails along the California coast with her husband Steve and rescue pup, Clio.
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