The True Cost of Living in Los Angeles California – All You Need to Know

Are you thinking about moving to Los Angeles? Then you probably already know that this is one of the most expensive places, not only in the States but in the whole world. The cost of living in Los Angeles is high enough to make people’s heads spin, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not manageable. After all, so many people call this place their home, and they can confirm that living in Los Angeles is not as heavy on their pockets when you take into consideration their average salaries.

Monthly expenses in LA might be high, but so are the salaries

Is It Expensive to Live in Los Angeles, California

The truth is that there is no short answer to this question. Sure, the prices are much higher when compared to other cities (we’ll get to that in a bit), but so is the average income. In other words, the livability of any place in terms of finances is a highly subjective matter. So let’s take a look at some actual numbers and data, and we’ll let you decide if this is something your budget could handle.

The expensiveness of any place is highly subjective

The Average Cost of Living in Los Angeles Per Year

According to Numbeo, an online source of data about prices all over the world, an average four-person family in 2020 in LA spends a little over $3,600 in a month (over $43k yearly), not counting rent. However, if you’re moving to Los Angeles alone, you can expect to spend just under $1,000 ($12k a year), plus housing. These numbers include necessities such as:

  • The most commonly bought groceries
  • Public transportation passes for all family members
  • Gym or other sports memberships
  • Occasional eating out in mid-range restaurants
  • An occasional night out
  • New clothes and shoes in moderate amounts

Depending on your lifestyle and preferences, these expenses will vary. To be able to estimate precisely what you will be spending, take a closer look at the expenses in different categories, such as housing, utilities, groceries, and so on.

A four-member household spends over $3k a month

Housing Prices and Utilities in the City of Angels

If you’re planning on renting your new place, several factors will impact the amount of money you’ll need to set aside for rent. One of them is the size of the place you’re getting. For example, the average monthly amount for a studio apartment is $1,300. A four-bedroom apartment will be just shy of $3,000 a month.

These prices will vary greatly depending on the part of LA you choose to settle down in. For example, if you pick one of the best places to live in Los Angeles for singles, Ocean Park, or any of the high-end suburbs of Los Angeles, your median rent will be $1,800. By contrast, a not-so-desirable area, such as Compton, will be just over $1,100.

If you would rather buy a home, you should set aside between $500 and $800 per square foot. As for utilities, your basic monthly bills for a 900sqft apartment will likely be around $130.

Take a closer look at your expected expenses for different sizes of apartments:

Size of HomeLos AngelesCaliforniaUSA
Studio Apartment$1300$1350$820
One-Bedroom Apartment$1550$1600$930
Two-Bedroom Apartment$2000$2050$1150
Three-Bedroom Apartment$2700$2800$1500
Four-Bedroom Apartment$2950$3100$1800

Transportation Options and Costs

Driving in LA can be quite a stressful experience, especially if you’re moving from a small town to a big city and aren’t used to all that traffic. Luckily, the city has quite a comprehensive public transit network. LACMTA, referred to by locals as simply Metro or MTA, is the foremost local public transportation authority that operates buses, light rail, and subway routes. The monthly pass for LACMTA is $100, or $76 if you belong to the low-income population.

If you would rather avoid public transit, a gallon of gas goes for $4. Although LA is not exactly known for its walkability, more and more people are starting to opt for walking to and from work. There is also a well-developed network of bicycle lanes if you prefer biking.

 

Groceries and Dining Out

Groceries, and especially food, are usually the biggest monthly expense after rent. Luckily, prices in grocery stores in LA are pretty close to the national average. For example, a pound of white rice costs $2, while 12 eggs are $3.50. A pound of apples costs usually slightly over $2, while potatoes are a dollar a pound.

If you’re not much of a cook, or if you simply like treating yourself to a nice meal at a restaurant every once in a while, that will pose an additional expense. A meal in McDonald’s or a similar fast-food chain is usually under $10. However, if you’d like to go for something a little more sophisticated, a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant will cost you $35 per person.

Groceries are surprisingly affordable for LA standards

Entertainment in the Capital of Entertainment

The City of Angels is known worldwide for the best entertainment and nightlife. It would be a shame not to seize the opportunity and experience them first-hand. If you like going to the movies, tickets are usually priced at around $15. However, for a wild night out, you’ll need to set aside much more than that. The entrance to a mid-range nightclub is usually between $20 and $30. Shots are usually $10 each, while other drinks are around $15.

LA has some of the best entertainment options in the world

What Salary Do You Need to Live in Los Angeles

As we have already said, the high prices of, well, everything in LA are balanced out by high salaries. According to PayScale, the average yearly salary in the City of Angels is $74k. Translated to hourly rates, that is $20.24. Of course, this number highly depends on what you do. A software engineer in LA earns around $93k, while a grocery store cashier earns around $35k.

Calculate How Much Money You’ll Need to Live in Los Angeles, California

As we have previously said, your monthly expenses will highly depend on your choices and your lifestyle. If you have a job offer waiting for you, there is a simple way to calculate if the salary they’re offering is enough for you. Find an apartment you’re interested in and compare the rent to your income. If you’re moving with a spouse or a family, compare it to your joint incomes. It shouldn’t be over a third of your monthly earnings. If it is, either find a cheaper place or keep looking for a better job offer.

The Biggest Employers in LA

It’s always smart to get a job before you move, regardless of where you’re going. If you’re still in the process of looking for one, you’ll probably know who the biggest and best employers in the area are. Every business, small or large, is bound to prosper here, and some of the most prominent ones are:

  • LA County
  • LA Unified School District
  • University of California
  • State of California
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • University of Southern California
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Providence Health and Services
  • Target
  • LA Community College District

If you want to start your own business here, you’ll likely need a considerable starting capital, but with persistence and hard work, this will be a fertile ground for your business to prosper.

Most jobs are paid well enough to enable you to live comfortably

How LA Compares to Other Cities

Another good way to get a better feel for how much it actually costs to live in this city is by comparing it to your current hometown or any other places you’ve lived before. Here, we decided to compare LA to some of the most populated cities in the States.

Comparing Everyday Expenses in LA to Other Major US Cities

San Francisco is known as one of the most expensive places in the States, and for a good reason. Overall, it is over 30% more expensive than LA. This includes all major items such as housing and groceries. However, the local purchasing power is also higher, which mostly means that people in San Francisco earn a little more, too.

If you’re moving from Seattle, Washington, you’ll be happy to learn that your expenses will mostly stay the same. In fact, they might even go down a bit. The only thing that will cost you more is housing, while you’ll be paying less for pretty much everything else.

New York is notorious for its sky-high prices. But how does it compare to LA? If you’re moving from New York, your expenses will go down by around 25%. Everything from housing to groceries is more expensive in the east coast metropolis. On top of that, the purchasing power in NYC is lower.

Overall, these two Californian centers are pretty close to each other in terms of expenses. Consumer prices are slightly higher in San Diego, but the rent is lower. In general, unless you’re a homeowner in one of these two cities, you won’t notice a huge difference.

Relocation-Related Expenses

When figuring out your budget for the first couple of months in LA, it is essential to include the money you’ll spend on the relocation itself. If you’re planning on using professional moving services, you can easily do the math by contacting your chosen LA movers and requesting a price estimate.

Keep in mind that the more services you use, the higher the cost will be. For example, if you’re planning on getting packing services as well or shipping your car, that will pose an additional expense. However, it will all be worth it once all your belongings arrive at your new place in perfect condition without you having to lift a finger.

Relocation expenses should also be a part of your budget

All in All, What Is the Cost of Living in California 2020

As you can see, the overall cost of living in LA is quite high when compared to other cities. If you’re not sure you’re ready for such a jump, regardless of your potential future salary, there are some great places all over the State of California that will provide you with the same great weather and high standards at a much lower price. For example, Oxnard is located only an hour away from the City of Angels, and you can buy a home close to the beach for $330,000 on average.

Written By: Tara Gregory