Your dollars are precious and well earned.
There is someone and some website at every turn trying to make their own precious dollars.
That does NOT mean you have to give them yours.
Yes, LA is expensive. Yes, rent is a bitch and a half. Almost everyone I know had a roommate when they first moved to LA. Most still have one. There are places that are cheaper (the valley, a lot of the east side, Koreatown, etc). You can make it work. I lived in a garden shed lovingly referred to as “the guest house” for almost a year. Seriously, you can always make it work. If you have specific area questions shoot them my way, God knows I am always full of opinions…
The essentials are of course not an option: rent, gas, calories. But everything else is 100% your choice. I supposed food is even nuanced in a lot of ways. Let’s break down, beyond the basics of a roof and a car that goes, things I put in top priority.
6. Charity (yes, this is essential, I will explain why)
Now I was planning on making this one post, but then I realized how much I had to say about each of these. So for now we will talk #1 for the average new LA resident on a major budget.
This is not an actor exclusive priority. This is an everyone priority. You have to eat. But you sure as shit don’t have to eat at Whole Foods. Yes, eating healthy life-sustaining food is really important to keep your shit together. But let’s be honest, the apples at Trader Joe’s are not any better than the one’s at Erewhon. If you aren’t familiar with this store it is MAJORLY overpriced health food store (like Whole Foods x 150). It is a total status symbol, just like the guy driving the incredible car, because guess what? He’s leasing it.
When I first moved here I panicked about my money. I am a crazy money lady and I like to have it all and keep it all. So I ate oatmeal for almost a week. Not joking. I would add peanut butter to it and just eat it for at least 2 meals a day. I bought myself my first LA coffee at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Sunset and Holloway to celebrate getting my job 6 days later. And I sat on the porch of that place and ran some numbers and did a budget on the spot.
Now I am a little more lax about grocery shopping, but it is still super important to me. Here are the grocery spots I recommend for budget friendly and not disgusting-ness:
-Trader Joe’s: This little gem is something I was not privy to in the Midwest and it has changed the game. They are super affordable and constantly rotate in different products. BUT, and this is my fav part, they really only carry their own brands of things. And for someone with store-ADD who could wonder aisles and read boxes for hours at a time, this is so good. They keep it simple. And healthy. *Side Note* Changing the game, Sprouts has just made an LA comeback. It has great prices along the lines of TJ’s but has a lot of selection, so you will almost certainly spend more money. Just a heads up!*
-Jon’s/Von’s/Pavilions: This is like if a major grocery chain and Bristol Farm’s had a baby (if you don’t know Bristol, it’s like a small baby between Whole Foods and Erewhon…bougy AF). It’s bursting at the seams with stuff and a lot of it is on sale. *Side note* the area of the store often relates to the pricing, so the Jon’s in Los Feliz has cheaper groceries than the Pavilions on the border of West Hollywood/Beverly Hills.*
-Ralph’s: They have literally everything. This is your mega-chain store. Stoked with budget friendly items and also a quality beer selection if it’s time to “treat yo self” without the bar prices.
-Any small neighborhood market: these get specific by area but will often be Jewish Market or the Russian Market, etc. They are tiny holes in the walls and always look a little suspect. But their prices are bottom barrel.
-Farmers Markets: TREAD LIGHTLY here. There are a ton of farmer’s markets in LA, most of them on weekends. And I know that you have read on Pinterest a billion times that they are always great prices and local and sustainable, etc. But don’t be fooled. Yes, there are some incredible farmers who work to bring their produce to you and they are awesome and so cheap. But they are often tourist-y and more often than not stacked between stalls and stalls of other sellers who are nich and marked up. The artisanal baker who sell’s loafs for $8? The soup crafter selling homemade veggie soup with sea algae for only $14? The girl with the crafted-from-wood one-of-a-kind jewelry? No. One day yes! But for now, no. I am a big fan of lists, especially here. Do not stray. Or you could wind up with $100 less cash and only 3 edible items. *Side Note* my favorite market is at Plummer Park in Hollywood on Monday’s. It is small and thrifter-friendly.*
Now let’s get serious about what you need here. Make a god damn list. Food waste is sad for the world and even sadder when you’re a starving (literally) artist. Plan your food and you won’t have over spent on silly things. Do you get meals at work in your restaurant? Are you house sitting this weekend and eating their food? I always eat snacks at the kids houses I nanny, this saves me from 1, having to buy snack type foods and 2, having it around my house anyway.
On Ordering in…
City life is quick and will catch up with you. LA has every restaurant you could want within the clicks of some app-buttons. But sweet Jesus this will rack up faster that you can imagine. So get really honest with yourself. If you cannot afford an acting class but you are getting delivery food 2-3x a week, we have a problem.
Time to cut down.
I am a huge believer in making food > buying it. For health reasons and money reasons. I like knowing whats actually in it and who my dollars are going to. That being said, I order out about once every other week, if that. I will always walk to a grocery store before my mind goes to opening an app. But that’s me.
So if you “need” delivery food, I highly recommend the Eat 24 app. A lot of the places on there don’t have a delivery fee, unlike PostMates, Seamless, etc.
I made this meal for a friend who had a PostMates “Veggie Grill” addiction. I remade the buffalo chicken burrito & crispy green beans she always orders all from TJ’s and cooked at home in less than 30 min. Let me know if you want me to post the recipe!
On Eating Out…
This is inevitable. You will eat out via a meeting, with friends (you have to have a life), etc.
But keep it reasonable!
When I was brand new and broke as shit, I would eat dinner before I went to dinner. Then I would order a drink and a side salad or some shit like that. I was also very upfront with whomever I was eating with that I had cash and wouldn’t be splitting the check evenly. I mean, be classy about it.
But let them know.
And actually bring cash, because it’s annoying for the server to put only $10 on one credit card and split the remaining bill 14 ways of what the fuck ever, and it’s annoying to your friends too. No one wants to be the person who says, “but I only had a salad and a water” when friends had 4 bottles of wine and entrees. But if you are upfront about this in the beginning (like when you make the plans) it smoothes the edges quite a bit.
Happy Hour is a game changer. Remember that.
Also plan you restaurants accordingly. Google and Yelp make is basically impossible to not look at a menu ahead of time. Here are some of my favorite types of places to not spend an arm and a leg:
-Korean BBQ (theres a ton of these places)
-Any hole in the wall sushi place (with an “A” health score!)
-Stout Burgers during their HH
-The tourist-y spots on Hollywood, they are cheesy AF but cheap
-Any of the shops in Grand Central Market (Downtown)
Things that I would stay away from while you are broke:
-speciality coffee shops (Alfred coffee isn’t that special…I prefer Smith and Tait for their Cold Brew sold by the growler!)
-tapas style places
-Any restaurant on La Cienega “restaurant row”
-“Fancy” Mexican restaurants: El Compadre, Pink Taco, Mercado etc (all great! but expensive, and I don’t believe in paying for chips and salsa)
Just bear in mind a hefty Starbucks habit and bi-weekly Post-Mates delivery dinners, that’s an average of $260 a month. Roughly the cost of an acting class. Yea. Think about that one.