The New (Non-Wealthy) Actor’s Guide to LA: Finances

piggy bankI 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.ย 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 ย 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
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.

Groceries
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 Expenses
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.

Car Stuff
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.

Other Expenses
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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25 Comments

Filed under Los Angeles

25 responses to “The New (Non-Wealthy) Actor’s Guide to LA: Finances

  1. NiaraSummers

    Thank u! This is really helpful information!

  2. Hannah

    hi! I have a question,

    uou have a student visa, and by that are not allowed to work in the united states while you stay there. wouldn’t that mean that you aren’t allowed to audition and work on movies? or is the film industry an exception?

    thank you!!

    • Hi Hanna, you are completely right. But like I wrote in other posts, I hope to get a visa through a print agent here or switch to a different one. It’s a long shot, of course, but so is becoming a Hollywood actress ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Hannah

        thank you for answering my question! if you end up getting a visa through a print agent, does that mean that you’ll be able to work outside of acting, too? you know, most actressed in la work as a waitress in their spare time etc. to make some extra money. would you be able to do that? thank you so much!

  3. He! I also have a question! First of all how very brave of you to be there on your own and good luck with everything!

    So it is possible to come to LA hoping to score a part and than hoping that the casting director or the agency gets you a work visa right? Is that what you are doing? Because I had thought of it myself and I wasnt quite sure if it was even possible to audition in the US. If I will go there I can only get an 3 months visa as a tourist because I am not applying to any schools, or are there other opportunities? Can you please tell me about them ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on it, because immigration can prevent it from happening, Dutch actor Yorrick van Wageningen for example got a part in Minority Report but couldn’t get the right visa, so he had to pass ultimately.

      Legally you’re not allowed to audition on a visa that doesn’t permit working in the U.S. Three months is also very little time, I would try to go at least 6 months on a B visa if you can’t do schools.

    • Nina

      Hi Anna,
      as I read you’re from Ukraine! Me too!
      You wrote you attend some good acting classes. Are they in Kiev? Could you write their web site?
      Thank’s a lot.
      Best Wishes

  4. NiaraSummers

    Hi! I have a question about casting. Is there any auditions for big budget movies and not commercials? Or there are not available for beginners?

  5. NiaraSummers

    Ok. Thanks. I will waiting for your detail answer.)

  6. Jasper

    Are you already in a movie? ๐Ÿ™‚ And, what’s your name?

    • Hi Jasper, I have not been in any feature films, just a Tv show and some shorts. I keep my name private, since I don’t want this site to be about me, but about actors with plans to move to LA uniting ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Jasper

        But if you aren’t saying your name, what’s the point of wanna be famous? I mean…if you really BECOME famous, everyone knows your name, right? That’s never gonna happen if you hide it from the outside. Just to make that clear. Maybe there are a lot of people who want to search for your videos, but can’t find them because you don’t say your name. They give up. I didn’t mean anything as a rude comment, I just want to say it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Hi Jasper, any video I want visitors from this site to see, I post here. Look around and you’ll find some.

  7. Nina

    First of all Iโ€™m so so happy for You!))
    That you came to LA to make your dreams come true.
    Thank you for all the information you give us in your blog.
    I do have the same goals as you and planning moving to Hollywood in the nearest future.
    And I was googling to find someone like me and found your blog.
    Thank You Again for all the important advices. Youโ€™re amazing)) I want to wish you good luck and strength.

    • thank you for this article, it’s just what i was asking about ๐Ÿ™‚
      i am pretty shocked by the prices.. i thought it’s a lot but THAT much… i’m from europe, and my family pays for 2-room-apartment 100 euro. our expenses in general are no more than 500 euro a month. so i am really shocked now. but it is really useful information, BIG thanks!

      also a question, if you have a student visa and just visit courses of acting, how did you get this wisa? or i skipped the part when you wrote you were studing somewhere..

      • Hi, yes, the prices are quite different in Los Angeles, although I’ve never heard of 100 euro per month rent! In Amsterdam it pretty much ranges from 500 to 1500 for anything nice. Where are you from?

        For visa info, check the rest of this website, I’ve written a lot about it ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. well, it’s not exactly 100 euro, bot not more than 200 for sure ๐Ÿ™‚ i’m from estonia from kind of small town. estonia turned from its currency to euro just this year so maybe prices will be higher… besides we own this place, maybe that’s why it’s cheaper? hmm
    anyway, this was really informative, i must faster earn money if i want to get anywhere close to LA. gosh i will need like 10 jobs for that ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
    Did you finish high school and after that went for a work? i mean do you have any education besides high school and acting classes?
    i just have a dilemma of leaving courses for work. it’s insecure way and nobody thinks it’s a good decision but i want to take that risk.
    i tell it all just to ask – how high were the risks for you? if not acting what was the other way for you?
    thanks a lot

  9. Mahzizzle

    Welcome to LA! I’m glad you’re already getting use to this fabulous people-promising-all-the-time-city lol. Have you met Amy Lyndon? She is one of the greatest booking coach and her prices are reasonable. I follow you on Twitter SambusaPastry. Venice is awesome place. I lived in Culver City (ur neighboring city) till Sept. Now I live by Staple Center in Downtown LA.

  10. thirza

    Hi there.
    your so lucky live in LA.
    it’s my dream!
    i am living in Holland now, so i don’t know what to do;p
    i am just going to find a intelligent guy who lives there already ;p

  11. Hey,

    How much do you recon a simple studio apartment would cost? Like, the cheapest one, in Venice/Burbank/Studio City?

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