Living Frugally in California: Thriving Under $1500 a Month

Living in California, often dubbed the Golden State, is a dream for many, but it comes with its share of high living costs. However, with a bit of creativity and mindful decision-making, it's entirely possible to embrace a frugal lifestyle without sacrificing quality of life. This article will provide practical tips on how to be frugal in California, helping you navigate the high cost of living while enjoying all the state has to offer.

12/8/20235 min read

brown rocky mountain beside sea during daytime
brown rocky mountain beside sea during daytime

Living in California can be expensive, but with some smart choices and a frugal mindset, it's possible to live comfortably under $1500 a month. In this blog post, we'll explore some practical tips and tricks to help you stretch your budget and make the most of your money.


Renting a room or sharing an apartment can significantly reduce your housing expenses. Websites like Craigslist or can help you find affordable options. Consider living in smaller towns or suburbs where the cost of living is lower than in major cities.

Unfortunately, staying away from higher-cost areas like Irvine and Pacific Heights is probably a good idea. However, even though they are priced high in rent, you may find incredible deals a couple of miles off, just keep checking daily.

With the rise of Offerup, you can casually find deals way cheaper than you expect. Rent ranging from $700-1000 is possible with utilities included. Just be warned that some amenities may be missing from a typical rental. Deals like these may be illegal to stay in, but if you are okay with it, you can potentially save $1000 a month.


California has a well-connected public transportation system. Utilize buses, trains, and trams to get around instead of relying on a car. Not only will this save you money on gas and parking, but it also reduces the stress of driving in heavy traffic. If you need a car occasionally, consider carpooling or renting one for specific trips.

For those considering living around Los Angeles, transportation is pretty cheap when using the metro, a 7-day pass is $18. That means your transportation for the month is $72.

However, I wouldn't recommend this if you are on a stricter budget. To make sure you are not wasting too much money, choose a strategic location closer to your work or around places of interest. Using a bike to get around also may not be a bad idea if everything you need is just a block away.


Shopping at a discount grocery store can help you save on your grocery bills. Look for sales, use coupons, and plan your meals to avoid unnecessary food waste. Consider buying staple items in bulk to save even more. Remember that the cheapest foods usually can last on the shelf for a very long time or they are notorious for being overproduced. Things such as canned foods, corn, or pasta are usually priced at $1.75/lb. For some protein, try surviving off of eggs which are $3-5 for a dozen. On Average you should be eating 3-5 lbs of food a day, however, if you are on a diet, you can reduce that number by half.

Also don't forget about buying off-brand items as you can save up between %30-70 of the cost compared to brand-named products.

If you want things to be cheaper, try looking for food banks that are open throughout the week. It may be worth it to save some cash and get free food.

If you spend $10 a day on food, you will be spending $310 a month on average for groceries. With the inclusion of having a low-caloric diet or getting free food, you can drop that bill by half.


Be mindful of your energy consumption. Unplug electronics when not in use, turn off lights when leaving a room, and adjust your thermostat to save on heating and cooling costs. Consider using energy-efficient appliances and LED light bulbs to further reduce your utility bills.

If you need to use computers for work or leisure, make sure to get laptops with energy-saving capabilities. If your life does not revolve around technology, saving money on electric bills becomes easier. If you want to get technical, try having cheap solar panels to supply your everyday electronic needs. Having battery banks and charging them at public outlets can also help.

However, if you do need to use electricity, use it in the early morning or late night as the bills are cheaper during those times.

It may even be helpful to find rentals that already have the utilities included in the bill.

In general, utility bills can rack up to $100/person. If you pay attention to small details and make sure to turn things off if not in use, you can cut that number by half.


California offers plenty of free or low-cost entertainment options. Visit local parks, beaches, and hiking trails for outdoor activities. Take advantage of community events, free concerts, and museums with discounted or free admission days. Explore the beauty of nature without spending a fortune.

Simply type in "Free Event in Los Angeles" in your Google search and you will find many options to participate in.

One of my other personal favorites is using the Meet Up app to find events to go to. Most of these events are free and usually don't cost more than $25 for each meet-up. The point is to associate with like-minded people which is the star of the show.


California has several low-cost or free healthcare clinics where you can receive medical care without breaking the bank. Look for community health centers or clinics that offer sliding-scale fees based on your income. Additionally, consider getting health insurance through the state's Medicaid program if you qualify.

If you look into, you will find how to qualify for Medi-Cal benefits (low-cost or free healthcare). As of now, If you make less than $20,121 a year, you can qualify for Medi-Cal. There are also other qualifications such as being older than 65 years old, having disabilities, or being pregnant. Try to look if you fall under these categories to see if you qualify, if you do you can reduce your healthcare payments close to zero.

Additional Tips

Here are a few more tips to help you live frugally in California:

  • Avoid eating out frequently and opt for cooking at home.

  • Cancel unnecessary subscriptions and memberships.

  • Shop for clothes at thrift stores or online marketplaces.

  • Take advantage of free or discounted educational opportunities.

  • Consider side hustles or part-time jobs to supplement your income.

Living frugally in California is not only possible but can also be rewarding. By adding up all the expenses from our discussed categories, you will find that your average payment comes out to be $1300 a month. By making conscious choices and being mindful of your spending, you can live comfortably under $1500 a month. Remember, frugality is about finding value and joy in the simple things, and California has plenty to offer without breaking the bank.


Being frugal in California requires a combination of strategic planning, mindful spending, and embracing alternative lifestyle choices. By adopting these practical tips, you can navigate the high cost of living in the Golden State while still enjoying a fulfilling and budget-friendly life. Remember, the key to successful frugality is finding a balance that allows you to save money without compromising on your well-being and happiness. Just make sure to remember what your budget is and follow it the best you can.