Broke Girl's Guide to Los Angeles

Life on a budget in the City of Angels.

Los Angeles: the most expensive city on the west coast. To be honest, I have no idea if LA is actually the most expensive city on the West Coast, but it definitely feels like it. With so much to do, it’s hard to prioritize, but it gets a little easier when you’re on a tight budget. Here's a few of my favorite places to go to have a blast without completely blowing your bank account.

Xoia Eats

This is kind of a cheat restaurant for me because I live down the street from it, but seriously, this hole in the wall will fill you up with healthy, delicious Vietnamese food for under $10.00 (including tip). You will leave this place feeling happy, healthy, and not like you have to only eat baked potatoes for the next week to stick to your budget. Their pho? Amazing. Get the small. You will walk away with no regrets and enough money to still get that $9.00 organic futuristic drink you’ve been thinking about all week.

Mohawk Bend

So you finished your dinner at Xoia, you’re in Echo Park, and it’s still pretty early. What to do next? If you’re me, you’re about to walk up the street for happy hour at Mohawk (ends at 7:00 PST). Happy hour at Mohawk is...well it’s an honest happy hour (haven’t found too many of those in LA). Home-brewed beer is $4.25 and well drinks are $5.00. I realize this is a normal price for the east coast but for LA, this is amazing. And believe me, you won’t need more than two of either.

The Satellite

Free music Mondays. Dance yourself clean on Saturdays (get there before 10:30 to avoid the cover). GO TO THESE THINGS. Honestly, I’ll probably be there--I am a lot. Free music Mondays doesn’t mean your casual local high school band. This is LA. The music might not cost you a dime but it’ll take you to the moon. But if you’re going to drink, do it before (or sneak in a flask). Drinks prices aren’t more than usual for LA, but that’s still way too much for me. 

Literary Events

One of the reasons I decided to move to LA was because of their sweet-ass lit scene. Sorry to put it like that, but it’s honestly the only way to describe it. Cool as hell. And many of the events are 100% free. Check out La Lit Scene to see the monthly calendar, or follow the main independent bookstores on Twitter and Instagram to find out what’s happening each day. You won’t be disappointed.

Art Walk

What, you want more culture recommendations? Go to the Downtown LA Art Walk! Art walks happen in most cities! But most cities are not Los Angeles. Go to this. For one--it’s free. For two--you’ll get a chance to see some innovative and influential work and to meet some interesting places. [people?] It’s the first Thursday of each month. Don’t miss it. How else will you prove to your friends from back home that you moved to Los Angeles and suddenly became hip?

Taco Trucks

Taco trucks are everywhere in LA. They’re quick, filling, and super cheap. And the perfect drunk food for a few reasons: you won’t completely regret it in the morning and you’ll walk away with enough money to buy yourself some breakfast the next day.

Santa Monica

You’re in LA. Go to the beach. It’s free and beautiful. On a super budget? Take the bus. The 704 takes you right there for only $1.75--way cheaper than parking (plus you can read or play with VSCO filters while you’re sitting in traffic instead of honking your horn furiously). Bring food and drinks (WATER. BRING WATER.) and stay there all day. But don’t forget an umbrella and some really strong sunscreen. Trust me, if you do, you’ll end up with some really gnarly tan lines in a week or two (after all the peeling).

Farmers Markets

Farmers markets rule LA. They’re everywhere. Some are better than others, but all are free (that is, until you decide to buy some local hybrid lettuce that is proven to change you into a tiger). Plus, you’ll get yourself some amazing samples at any give one. My recommendation? Check out which one you live closest to and start there. Then switch it up until you find your favorite.


This has to be included on every city guide because it’s 100% free, fun, and you’ll get to meet people. It’s the perfect way to make the place you’ve moved to feel like home. Plus, LA has some cool nonprofits, and they always need help. There is something for everyone, and how else are you going to meet your west coast best friend if not volunteering at an animal shelter or teaching kids how to read?

New LA Residents Take Note ↓

Make your own coffee. A coffee at an average coffee shop is going to cost you around $4.00 (pre tip) and it honestly won’t be that good. Just trust me. Make your own. Until they get Dunkins everywhere, that’s what I’ll be doing.

Buy a bus pass. Everyone always talks down on LA public transportation, but it’s the ultimate money saver. Sure, some things are harder when you’re not on your own schedule, but it’s possible to get anywhere with a bus or an Uber pool. It might take a little bit longer, but travelling in LA takes forever either way, so you might as well be doing it for as cheaply as possible.

Find a niche. LA is made up of a billion small communities, and you will have to search for your place. So check out local LA meetups ( has a billion) and start there.

Feature photo by Julian Cousins