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How to Afford Living in California

how to afford living in california
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California is a beautiful state. You can be in the mountains one minute, on the ocean the next, and the desert right after that. Even so, there’s no getting around the fact that it is expensive to live there, so how to afford living in California is the real question.

how to afford living in california

Ways to Make Living in California Affordable

There are several things you can do to make living in California affordable. 

The truth is, not all of them are fun or even something you might want to consider, but if you want to live in California and don’t make 100,000’s of thousands of dollars a year, you might want to consider them.

Your biggest expense when living in California is housing. There’s no way to get around it completely. 

Everywhere will be expensive, but there are ways to reduce this major expense, and if you can do that, then you are halfway home to being able to afford to live in the great state of California.

Don’t Live in The Big Cities

When most people think of California they think of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and beach communities.

All of these locations have their advantages but they all also have one major disadvantage. They are all ridiculously expensive to live in. 

Housing costs are so high it is pretty much impossible for the average person to buy a home. Renting is terribly expensive as well. 

In San Francisco, for example, the rent on a studio apartment is typically anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000 dollars and a two-bedroom apartment will set you back $6,000 to $8,000 dollars per month or even more.

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Those dollar amounts are tough for a single person or even a couple to come up with month after month. Obviously, if you have a family, you would need a larger living space which means more money out of your pocket.

On the other hand, if you move somewhere such as Camarillo, California you can find a one-bedroom for $1,700 dollars a month and a three-bedroom for $3,300 dollars. It’s still a lot of money, but certainly less than one of the major cities.

If you can reduce your housing cost and cost of living in general, you can live a much more comfortable life and have the cash to do things you enjoy instead of simply getting by.

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Rent Instead of Buying

I know it is the American dream to own your own house, but if you want to be able to live in California, then you will need to set that dream aside. 

If you want to buy a home in Los Angeles, the average home price is about $771,000 and you will pay about $551 per square foot.

So, if you bought a 1,500 square foot home, which is on the small side especially if you have children, you would be looking at about an $826,500 purchase price. This goes to show you that the average home selling in Los Angeles is under 1,500 square feet.

Not to mention, the average price of a home in San Francisco is 1.5 million dollars with a cost of $1,108 per square foot.

That means if you wanted a 1,000 square foot home, in San Francisco it would cost you around $1,108,000.

The point is, if you want to find a way to afford living in California, you need to rent instead of buying a home. 

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Get a Roommate – Or Two

I get it. If you’re over the age of 25 chances are the last thing you want is a roommate. Even so, having one or two or even three roommates is a great way to reduce housing costs. 

Even if you are looking at having to pay $4,000 a month for rent, if you have 1 roommate you’ve cut it in half and if you have 2 roommates you’re down to $1,333 a month which is a far cry from coming up with 4 grand every month to keep a roof over your head.

The important thing to remember about roommates is to find someone that is like you. If you like to stay up late and listen to loud music or have a bunch of friends over, don’t get a roommate that is an introvert that likes to be asleep by 9:30 at night and is up at 5:00 am every morning.

You will both be miserable. 

Take the task of finding a roommate seriously and don’t just in feet first on your gut instinct or even one meeting. Take the time to find out if this is someone you can live with, feel comfortable with, and not end up being miserable every time you open your front door at the end of a long day.

Trust me, I made this mistake. I needed a roommate once and was in kind of a desperate situation. Someone I knew suggested someone they knew.

I jumped on it and at first, it was fine. A couple of months later, they started having trouble paying me their rent on time. Then they weren’t paying rent at all.

Let’s face it, the only reason to have a roommate is to share rent, so if they aren’t paying you rent when they are supposed to, there is no reason for them to be in your apartment.

Then she started inviting friends over late at night and playing loud music when I was trying to get some sleep.

The worst of it was when I came back from a trip to South Korea. I had been traveling for 36 hours non-stop and was sick as a dog. I asked her to not have anyone over and to be as quiet as possible so I could get some sleep which was tough due to the jet lag. 

Of course, she did the opposite and invited a couple of friends over late in the evening when the bars had closed. 

I finally had to kick her out. It wasn’t a pretty scene. 

So, learn from my silly mistake and do some due diligence before you have someone move into your apartment.

Keep in mind, the right roommate can be a real treasure. The wrong roommate will make your life a living nightmare.

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Get Rid of Your Second Biggest Expense

That’s right. Consider getting rid of your car. I know it is a major hassle not to have your own transportation. I also know that some cities in California, such as Los Angeles, is a driving city. You need a car to get anywhere.

Even so, if you are living in a smaller California community see if you can get by without a car. It will save you a huge amount of money.

California has the highest gas prices in the country. Right now, they are averaging about $3.78 a gallon and had been as high as $4.08 not too long ago. Compare that to the $1.94 a gallon I’m paying in Illinois.

Gas is just one of the many expenses that come with owning a car. You will also have to have the cash for:

  • Insurance
  • Car payments
  • Repairs
  • Maintenance
  • Parking

If you can live without a car, you will get closer to being able to afford to live in California.

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Work From Home

More and more people are working from home. The Covid-19 virus has pushed millions to work from home and it looks like that trend will continue even after the virus is contained. 

Companies are realizing that their employees can work from home and be productive and it saves the companies a lot of money on overhead. 

Working from home will make it easier not to have a car, or at the very least will save you money on gas and parking, and upkeep.

If you can’t work from home consider starting a carpool or joining one.

The truth is, if you can get a handle on your two major living expenses – housing and transportation – then the rest doesn’t matter. 

You can save money on groceries or cut back on entertainment but those won’t get you very far. Cut your housing costs in half and get rid of your car and you will find that living in California is affordable.

Related Questions:

How Much Do You Need To Make To Living Comfortably in California?

It depends on where you plan to live. In Los Angeles, you should make about $75,000 dollar a year to live comfortably. In a smaller city, you might be able to live comfortably on $40,000 per year. 

Is $20 An Hour a Good Wage in California?

Again, in smaller cities away from the coast you can live on a $20 per hour wage without too much trouble. 

You won’t be living the high life, but you should be able to pay your bills and go out to dinner once in a while.

If you are living on the coast or somewhere like Los Angeles, you would not be able to make it and would be living in poverty.

Can You Live in LA on $40,000?

While there are people who do it, it isn’t easy. You won’t be able to buy a home. You will have to rent, and you better plan on having a couple of roommates.

Don’t expect to have a lot of fun or money for entertainment, travel, or retirement.

What is the Cheapest City in California?

There are places to live in California that are cheaper than the coast or major cities.

You should consider, Simi Valley, Ventura, Camarillo, or Oxnard.

To Sum it All Up:

There’s no getting around the fact that living in California is expensive. Even so, if you can find ways to cut your housing and transportation costs, you will be able to afford living there. Consider living in a smaller city and getting rid of your car. It might not be the California life you were dreaming of, but you will still be living in California and will have more money to enjoy all the state has to offer.

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