5 Tips: Living on the Cheap in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has a lot of stereotypes. Don’t pretend like you haven’t heard them: people are self-centered, blonde, plastic surgery obsessed, vapid, an expensive place to live… While not as crazy as New York or Tokyo, LA can be pricey, but the good news is there are ways to live on the cheap in LA. If you are going to be moving here for music school, this blog post will go into detail on how to do just that:


Real estate in Los Angeles is probably what hurts your wallet the most when compared to other cities. The money that a giant apartment gets you in Ohio might get you a small studio in LA. The good news is that most people don’t live in LA. They like to live close enough to LA to enjoy the great city but avoid the high prices. If you already are or are going to be a student at LAMA, it is located in the safe and cheaper city of Pasadena, which is just minutes away from downtown LA but without the high price or crime statistics. Other low cost areas outside not too far from the heart of Los Angeles include the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita and even Simi Valley.


As tempting as it is to go out to eat after a long day of class or to celebrate a good grade on an exam, eating out will murder your wallet. There is no other way to say it: you save money by cooking at home. It depends on where you are living, but coupons and savers usually come in the mail midweek– become a clipper! Clip out good deals and find out where the cheapest market near you is. Markets like Food4Less charge cheaper for food. Don’t let eating-in sacrifice your ability to eat healthy as well. Pick up a book like The Healthy College Cookbook: Quick. Cheap. Easy. to learn how to make all your meals for the week on one or two designated days. Tip: Reward yourself for saving money. If you don’t eat out for a whole week go celebrate with a modest meal at a local restaurant.


For those of you that regularly read Get to the Music, you probably already know the answer to this. There is hardly any need to ever pay for live entertainment in LA. Make sure to check out our blog “5 Tips: Seeing Live Music On The Cheap”. In that post, we laid out that every night of the week there are tons of free entertainment if you look in the right places. Free alternative weeklies, newspapers, and online email deals like Goldstar are your friend! Also, if you are a student at LAMA, you already know that your professors often are playing live around town – ask them to put you on the guest list for their gigs…could get lucky!


LA has some of the world’s most famous nightlife. People flock from all over the world to check out everything from The Troubadour to Skybar to The Rainbow Bar & Grill. You may want to hit up these spots – to save money though, stay in on the weekends and sample the night life on a Monday / Tuesday. Often entry is free and drinks and food are severely discounted. The one thing that will kill you though is buying drinks at premium LA prices. If you have to go out on weekends, make sure you have a designated driver (taxis are expen$ive!!) and perhaps try drinking at someone’s house BEFORE you go out to the nightlife. We all know how our minds work after a few drinks and staying on a budget might not be one of them.


If you are lucky enough to have a car, you will soon learn that gas stations drastically raise prices depending on the neighborhood. Try to learn where the cheapest places near you are. You can also use a website like www.gasbuddy.com to help. If you have a family member with a Costco account, have them put you on their account since they have very cheap gas and you can stock up on your food. If you don’t have a car or want to save on gas, LA Metro has tons of great options from busses to trains. They also offer great travel cards and packages to students. You may even qualify for a free bus pass or one at a nominal fee. No more gas bills! Just make sure your iPod is charged up and you leave early enough because LA transportation can be a little off schedule because of so much traffic.

You live in the greatest city in the world! Don’t pay the LA “tax” of high prices and premiums when you don’t have to. Think before you leave the house of what you can do to make your day cheaper. Can I walk there? Do I need that coffee? Can I make that coffee myself? Once you start asking the right questions, you will see how easy it is to live on the cheap. Wouldn’t you rather have money to buy a new guitar or snare drum than spend it on frivolous stuff?

-LAMA Staff

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3 responses to “5 Tips: Living on the Cheap in Los Angeles”

  1. Nadia from West Chester says :

    Great money saving tips.

  2. Danny Nguyen says :

    Awesome tips. a lot of my friends when they first came to LA they went out to eat a lot thinking that its not that big of a deal. The expenses quickly catch up with you.

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