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Cost of Living in Los Angeles, CA 2021

By: Susan Finch
March 17, 2021

From mansions to dive bars, Los Angeles is known for its eclectic makeup of ambitious city dwellers looking to carve out their paths. Whether you want to conquer the entertainment industry or live in a diverse neighborhood teeming with hipster bars and venues, you can find it in Los Angeles.

The price tag of living in LA doesn't come cheap. With the many perks of Los Angeles, residing here comes at a higher cost of living than in most places. The trade-offs may be worth it, depending on your lifestyle preferences and desire for incredible weather.

Here's how expensive it is to live in Los Angeles and areas where you can save.

Los Angeles Housing Costs

The cost of living in Los Angeles requires a robust salary, an affordable apartment, or hopefully a mix of both. The city is growing, although rents are more reasonable than in previous years due to the pandemic.

Now’s the time to find more affordable rents in your dream neighborhood. However, rents are expected to rise as pandemic conditions ease. You can also find Los Angeles neighborhoods growing in popularity that are more affordable, like Van Nuys.

More desirable, central areas like Downtown Los Angeles or Silver Lake will prove more expensive and harder to compete for an affordable apartment. Come prepared with all of your paperwork and ready to sign to score the best deals in LA.

To get a better idea of the cost of living in the city, a one-bedroom in Los Angeles will typically cost you $1,511. A two-bedroom will cost around $1,982. That’s above the national average of $1,101.

Learn more about average rent prices in Los Angeles.

Housing just scratches the surface of what you'll need to thrive in Los Angeles. You should also factor in the kind of lifestyle you want to live, from nightlife to fashionista.

To make sure you have enough money to go around, a good rule of thumb is to spend 30% or less of your gross monthly income on rent. For example, if you earn $5,000 a month, you shouldn't spend more than $1,500 on rent.

Los Angeles Transportation

Los Angeles is a driving town. However, it's becoming easier to get around by relying on public transportation and rideshares.

The LA Metro takes residents through the city by public bus. However, transferring at multiple stops is the norm. There's also a Los Angeles Metro Rail urban rail system. It spans six lines and two subway lines.

If you want to ditch the car, living in a walkable neighborhood that's near your workplace is your best bet. You'll also need a rideshare budget, a bus route backup, and the occasional rental car to get to where you need to go.

Plan your transportation expenses accordingly. A single person living in Los Angeles will spend $4,900 per year on transportation. That figure quickly rises to $8,011 for two working adults and one child.

Los Angeles Food Costs

Los Angeles is a dining paradise and requires its own budget. Of course, you can do it on the cheap. According to the MIT living wage estimates, a single adult that cooks their meals (including snacks) at home will spend around $3,792 a year on food.

If you moved to Los Angeles to eat your way through the city, expect to spend at least $20 per meal at an inexpensive restaurant without appetizers, alcohol, and dessert. A three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant will run an average of $77.50.

Los Angeles Healthcare Costs

Healthcare can get pricey, but it’s a must-have to protect your health. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MIT estimated the typical health expenditure for a single full-time working adult in Los Angeles costs up to $2,545 a year. For a family of two adults and a child, that’ll increase up to $8,011 a year.

Los Angeles Utilities

Los Angeles' fabulous weather keeps utility bills reasonable, especially during winter months. You may need to factor in your air conditioning budget rising during the summer months.

An essential utility bill in Los Angeles that includes electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage for a 915 sq. ft. apartment will average around $159 a month.

If you include Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL), that’ll increase the total monthly cost of utilities by around $69 on average, totaling $228 a month.

Fitness and Entertainment

Los Angeles is a fitness and entertainment town that likes to look good and play hard. Jogging is free, but snagging sidewalk space in your neighborhood may get competitive.

A fitness club will cost at least $39 a month. However, you may be able to find cheaper options at small community gyms. Fortunately, there are free trails and hiking spots you can explore, like in Griffith Park or nearby beaches.

You'll need to factor in your nightlife budget when living in Los Angeles. Going out on the town every night quickly adds up, especially if you add in door covers or drink minimums.

But to give you an idea of what to expect, taking in a flick at the cinema runs $15 for a new release. That figure doesn't include snacks and add-ons.

Other Expenses to Consider in Los Angeles

After a surge in Los Angeles rents over the few years, apartment hunters are enjoying declining rates due to the pandemic. You should expect those prices to rise as conditions improve.

Beyond rent, you need to factor in taxes. Los Angeles is also home to one of the highest sales tax rates in the country. Some rates reach 9.5%.

The average sales tax is 7.3% in the rest of the country. Income tax will also compromise your budget at 9.3% instead of the national average of 4.6%.

Property taxes are also a consideration if you're thinking of long-term homeownership. Los Angeles residents pay an effective tax rate of 1% and an average of $21,696 a year in property taxes.

Moving expenses will also put a dent in your budget. Are you moving out of state to Los Angeles? You'll need a cross-country moving company. The other option is, come prepared to find a furnished apartment at a premium.

Outfitting your entire apartment can also get costly. However, there are ways to decorate on a budget.

If you followed the 30% rule to find your apartment, you discovered you needed to earn around $5,000 a month before taxes to rent a $1,500 apartment in Los Angeles. That comes out to $60,000 a year or $28.85 an hour.

Of course, if you want to live a more lavish lifestyle or have kids in tow, you need to raise your income or lower your rent.

You should also consider the living wage when calculating the cost of living in Los Angeles. The living wage is the minimum amount of money needed to live above the poverty threshold.

According to MIT calculations, Los Angeles’ living wage is around $19.35 for a full-time employed individual. The calculations do not include extra expenses like vacations, eating out, or entertainment.

It also won't help you save. You're living on the bare minimum and won't have any breathing room for an emergency expense.

Costs can add up quickly when you live in an urban epicenter. Make sure you consider the job market and salary expectations before you move. According to Best Places, a Los Angeles resident's median household income is $49,682, compared to a national average of $53,482.

Final Thoughts

Los Angeles beckons creatives, ambitious professionals, students, and sunshine seekers to its city of opportunity. Start your own journey by finding your dream neighborhood with Apartment List today.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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