What it Really Costs to Move to LA

That famous question. The one everyone wants to know the answer to, but is too scared to face.

I totally get it.

The fear is all-consuming,

I mean, you're so excited to go after your dreams!

You're so excited to move to LA, even though people keep telling you how much the traffic sucks. 

You're so excited to become famous! Or see someone famous at the grocery store!

But how much is it actually going to cost? 

How much money do you really need in your bank account to make that move?

Will you even be able to afford rent out there?

Trust me, I've soooo been there. 

I actually did it the wrong way. And it sucked. So many ugly cries and freakouts, and calls home to Mom and Dad.

I'm going to be real honest with you...that was NOT a fun way to do it.

The one good thing that came out of it, is that I can now show you a much better way to do it. 

I can save you from all my mistakes. 

Because if you want to make those LA dreams of yours happen pretty quickly, you're going to need a plan.  

I know when I tell you that you need at least $4,000 - $6,000 saved, it may crush your dreams. Your heart melting Wicked-Witch-of-the-West style.

But the fact that you’re here, reading this article, tells me that you are ready to find out the truth. You’re ready to hear the breakdown so that you can actually prepare yourself for your life in Los Angeles. And once you know the logistics, you'll realize it's not that scary.

So, in a nutshell, YOU’RE AWESOME! You’re on the right track, which puts you ahead of the game.

Now that I know you’re ready, let’s get real. Fo' real.

I know there are tons of stories out there of people moving to LA with $200, their car, and a big dream in their heart! *cue cheesy music*

And I won’t discount those stories. People really do that. They sleep in their car, they do whatever it takes. If that’s your style, then go for it!

But if you’re more into sleeping in a bed, maybe having a cool apartment, and living a life that isn’t so different from where you are now, then read on. I’ll break it down to show you exactly what you need to make that happen. You can even download this free LA Money Breakdown cheat sheet so that you can insert your own numbers as you follow along with this article.

Oh, and P.S. Making your big dreams happen in LA are going to require you to break out of your comfort zone. That starts here. But don’t worry, we all go through it every day!

 

THE BREAKDOWN

I recommend you save at least $4,000 (the $6,000 range will bring you more comfort) before moving to LA. I know that may sound like a big scary number, so let’s break down what you need all of that money for.

(BTDubs, when I moved to LA I had so much less than $4,000 saved and every moment of my first month in LA was super scary. I was pinching pennies like crazy and had a few ugly-cry breakdowns. I survived, but it was not a fun way to go about it.)

 

MOVING $200 - $1,500

So many people move to LA from all over the world. It’s always shocking to meet someone who is actually from Los Angeles. My response is usually, “OMG! Really??!”

The cost of moving will always vary based on how far you are coming from, and what mode of transportation you use. I chose to fly to LA and ship my car (because we didn’t think my poor old ‘97 Nissan was going to last the big drive from Philadelphia).

Shipping your car can cost anywhere from $650 - $1,100. I paid $1,000 because it was 3,000 miles of travel. The cost may also depend on having an SUV vs. having a smaller car.

A plane ticket can cost between $150 - $1,000 (or more if you’re flying in from another country).

For the U.S., the average is around $200. At the time of this posting, a one-way ticket from Boston to LAX on an off-season day costs $228.

If you decide to drive, you’ll need around $500 just for gas if you drive across the country from coast to coast. You’ll also need to spend money on hotels and food, unless you have friends to stay with along the way. That could be another $500 depending on how many days it takes.

Quick summary:

Ship Car $1,000 + Flying $200 = $1,200

Flying $200 + No Car = $200

Driving Gas $500 + Hotels/Food $500 = $1,000

These estimates are on the high end. Your costs may certainly be lower, but it’s a good place to start. Where will you be moving from? What mode of transportation will you be taking?


 

COUCH-CRASHING $0 - $1,000+

It is very difficult to get an apartment before you live in Los Angeles. If you don’t have a place lined up for the day you arrive, you’ll need to stay in an AirBnb, a hotel, or crash at a friend’s place. (Side note — jeez, I’m all about the side notes and BTWs aren’t I? — crashing on a friend’s couch is like a right of passage in LA, so welcome to the club!)

These prices can definitely change based on the place you choose to stay, and how long.

Almost all of my friends took 2 weeks to 1 month to get an apartment. It took me a little over 2 weeks. If you do AirBnb for 2 weeks straight, that could cost you $1,000.

There are cheaper options like couchsurfing.com (free), and staying with friends or family. You could also stay at a hotel, but AirBnb is usually cheaper, and a great way to start feeling like you live here instead of feeling like a tourist. You can also use AirBnb to get a feel of different neighborhoods before you pick one to live.

If you stay at a friend’s place for free, it is nice to offer to pay for utilities, or some of the rent that month. Good friends may not accept your money, but it’s always nice to offer and extend your appreciation. (At least get them a bottle of wine or treat them to dinner! BTDubs, listen to any podcast episode and you’ll see I’m all about the wine. Insert wine emoji here.)

Keep in mind that many apartments start rent on 1st of the month, or the 15th, so you can try to plan your move 2 weeks before those dates in any given month.

Quick summary:

AirBnb x 2 weeks = $1000

Friend’s place 2 weeks + offer money = $200 - $600

 

RENT AND SECURITY DEPOSIT  $1800+

Many places ask for 1st month’s and last month’s rent when you're renting an apartment for the first time. If you have a roommate, and you each pay $900 a month, you’ll have to pay $1800 up front. Your rent and security deposit will certainly vary based on your rent and roommate situation.

Security deposits are different all across the board. Some places ask for just $500, some a percentage of your rent, and some a full extra month. You’ll want to be ready to be flexible for this part so that you can quickly (and safely) get into an apartment.

In the past two years, rent has increased like mad. It’s super frustrating, but it’s the price to pay to live in this great city. Rent prices right now (neighborhood will be a huge factor in price - Santa Monica and West Hollywood are on the expensive side, whereas Burbank and Hollywood are on the less expensive side):

Studio: $900 - $1395

One Bedroom: $1100 - $2000

Two Bedroom: $1700 - $2995

It’s really great to have a roommate in LA to cut down on costs when you get here. You can always find places outside of the above price ranges, but in general, if you have a roommate, you’ll be paying between $800 and $1200 a month. I do have a friend who pays $650 a month as her share, so do some digging if you’re on the hunt for lower rent.

Quick Summary:

Your share of the rent $900 + security deposit $900 = $1800

 

MONEY TO LIVE (Leftover)

Once you land your apartment, you’ll want some money to support you as you look for a job or source of new income. If you come out to LA with $6,000 saved, and the costs I just mentioned add up to $4,000, you’ll have $2,000 left over to live on until you get a job. This should buy you at least another month to look for a job.

Download your free LA Money Breakdown cheat sheet and start calculating your own numbers. I swear, when it’s on paper, it’s not as scary. Can you tell that my goal is to make things easy peasy for you? 

Moving to LA should be FUN and a little scary. Not holy-crap-I'm-terrified-and-not-having-any-fun. I mean, I know this is super cliché, but try to enjoy the journey in addition to the destination. :) #youvegotthis