I get a lot of questions about how the floosh I’m affording this move to Los Angeles. I guess people are hoping to hear a magical answer that will help them to move to LA, too. I wish there was one! The truth is, as most of you already know: I worked full-time for about a year and saved up a lot of money to be where I am now.
Unless you’re decently rich or have a sweet sugar daddy, moving to Los Angeles is going to take quite a bit of planning and mostly: saving. So how much do things cost exactly over here in LaLaLand? How much money do you need to have piggy banked approximately?
Well, that of course depends on how long you want to stay for! And what visa you plan on getting and if that allows you to work in the US etc. etc. But let’s just take a look at what things cost, and then you can do the calculating on your own. I’m numerically challenged anyway, have diagnosed myself with discalculi. But no worries, with my right hand on a calculator I swear these numbers are correct, wholly correct and nothing but correct!
Rent will be one of your biggest expenses, as Tinseltown has insanely high rates. Especially if you’re foreign and can’t sign a year-lease or get a good credit check. Then you’ll largely depend on Craigslist, and sometimes that ain’t pretty. If you want to live in a nice area, and can live with (no pun intended) sharing a bedroom, rates will range from $500 to $700 a month. Yes, that’s for a shared room. It’s what I’m currently paying, and I live in Venice. You can always get lucky, of course, if you know someone that knows someone. Private rooms in these areas range from $700 to $1300.
If you want to live in an even nicer area (Beverly-Hills-West-Hollywood-nice) be prepared to pay even more, about $700-$1000 a month. And if you want a private room there it can go up too $1500.
You can always find something for less, but then you get less too. And I mean unlivable less-ness. It’s quite shocking to see how some people here live. I rode my bike for 2 hours to check out this apartment last week, and while it looked okay from the outside, the inside was insane. There was no furniture, a tent set up in the living room, there were burn marks in the carpet covered by see-through tape and the walls were full of mold and peeled off paint. I’m not kidding. LA is a crazy town.
Depending on where you’re from, groceries are quite expensive here. For a normal, healthy style of living without snacks or luxury products you’ll be spending around $200 a month. The first months this will be more as you need to stock up on some essentials. If you happen to live near a local Spanish supermarket I really recommend going there. The store might not look as fancy inside, but the prices are much better and the products the same.
Acting classes vary in price, but good scene study classes for example are about $200 a month. Some are cheaper, some more expensive. Always look at how many hours you’ll spend in class every week and how many people there are in-class when you’re comparing prices. It’s also wise to check the reputation of the school. Stella Adler and Lee Strassberg have lost their reputation for example, and you do want something that looks good on you resume.
Then there’s also the cost for headshots, which you’ll need if you want to work here. Rates range from $250 to $1500, but I’ve been told that anything above $600 is just paying for a name. Make sure you go for someone good so don’t be too cheap, but do your research here. On top of this, there will be costs for printing and posting your headshots.
Then there are also costs for subscription sites that can get you auditions or have other resources, such as lacasting.com, actorsaccess.com, nowcasting.com showfax.com, and backstage.com. The first two are the most important and will cost you about $100 a year.
I don’t have a car here, primarily because I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to stay here. But also because I probably can’t afford it. If you’re under 25 renting a car will be more expensive. On top of the costs of the car itself you have car insurance, gas, smog checks, costs for a California license etc. I can’t give you estimates on this one, since I’m still car-less (and suffer because of it :P) but it will be in the thousands.
Be aware though that a car is really essential to have here. The public transportation in LA is useless, and the city is too big for biking. Oh, and there’s no place for scooters.
On top of all these general experiences, you have more individual expenses, such as plane tickets, visa costs (ranging from several hundreds to a thousand), possible tuition, cell phone costs, health insurance etc. As a non-citizen you are required to have health-insurance, but you’ll probably still need to pay health insurance in your home country as well, unless you can proof you’re leaving permanently.
In conclusion: yes, LA is insanely expensive and you will need to save up at least $10,000 for half a year and no work-visa. But, if you’re smart about it and don’t have too high demands you can cut on your expenses here and there. It’s not easy, but not impossible either. Just don’t get too caught up in the LA going out scene and nobody-cooks-everyone-eats-out vibe. I’m not saying don’t have fun, I’m saying: keep focussed!
I hope this helps, if you have any questions or if I forgot anything, leave a comment, and I’ll try to reply.
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