Five Ways to Commute in Los Angeles

bigstock-Female-Commuter-Cycling-5219376Let’s face it; the traffic alone on Los Angeles freeways could keep anyone from getting to work on time. The downtown area especially is cramped and crowded and what technically should only take 10 minutes could easily take an hour if you leave at the wrong time of the day. Driving to work is hard on your time and your wallet and with the gas prices constantly on the up, it’s not uncommon to wonder if there are better ways to commute in L.A. If you’re looking to ditch the car — even just for a day or two per week — you have a few commuting options.

Ride a Bike

Los Angeles is friendly to bikes. In fact you’ll be hard pressed to not find a bike lane or a bike path leading right over the freeway. Taking a bike to work will not only help save on gas and the environment, but it benefits your health. You’ll want to time it out a few times on the weekend to see how long it takes you from home to work on a bike — accounting for traffic and road crossings.

Use Mass Transit

The mass transit in Los Angeles might not be as grand as it is in New York, but it definitely gets you from home to work. Busses run constantly throughout LA and there are bus stops located just about everywhere downtown. You can also take the train if you need to get from one side of L.A. to the other. Even though you have to pay for public transportation, you might be surprised how much less a bus pass costs compared to gas for your vehicle.

Join a Carpool

Talk to others you work with and see about starting a carpool group. Some companies promote carpooling and have carpooling sign-up boards. Carpooling gives everyone a break from driving to work, helps you get to know your co-workers and lets you use the express lane on the freeway.

Take a Stroll

If you are lucky enough to have an apartment close to your work, you can walk. The weather, even in the early morning, is favorable in Los Angeles. The sun rises pretty early in southern California, so it is likely to be well-lit when you are heading off to work. Just avoid walking during the April raining season — you could get caught in a heavy downpour.

Discuss Work from Home Opportunities

Some employers allow their staff to work from home one or two days per week to save on overhead and transportation costs. Discuss with your employer about a temporary work from home opportunity or even a full-time opportunity. More businesses are embracing telecommuting because they can lessen how much they pay in office space. If you are able to telecommute you’ll be able to save time and money and your office is just in the next room.

Feb 2014

What Does It Really Cost to Live in Southern California?

bigstock-Couple-Relaxing-At-Home-3544907Southern California, especially Los Angeles, is one of those places people are drawn to. With the city always alive and just minutes from the beach, how could you not love Southern California? But if you’re thinking of moving to the area, you might be wondering how much it is going to cost. After all, you have probably heard Los Angeles and surrounding areas are notorious for a higher cost of living.

Calculating the Cost

It is hard to just generalize Los Angeles. There are multiple neighborhoods in this vast city that vary greatly when it comes to cost of living. Santa Monica, for example, will cost more than Silver Lake. The cost is not the only diverse thing you will find in these areas. The culture, caliber of stores and just the atmospheres vary greatly from every region.

The closer to the coast you are, the more you are going to pay. Santa Monica, for example, can cost up to $1,000 more per month for a similar sized apartment in Studio City. This is because the coastal areas are considered luxury areas. This is where the million dollar beach front properties are located and where the movie stars live too. So if you want to be close to the beaches, you will have to be prepared to pay a little more for the luxury.

You can browse apartments in multiple areas and get a median range. Then compare them to other areas of Los Angeles. The biggest price difference will be your rent. Utilities are about the same regardless of where you are living. The closer to the dessert you are, the higher you will pay in air conditioning costs, but the rates are somewhat close to one another.

Food and Dining

Restaurants will vary in price as well. Downtown Los Angeles has an eclectic mix of eateries — ranging from a few bucks per plate up to $20 or more per plate. Restaurants along the coast also have their range, but they are comparable to those located in downtown.

When it comes to grocery shopping you will find the prices in California higher for things like dairy and grains. Dairy milk can cost as much as $4.50 per gallon, while other states have milk as low as $1.89. But, one thing that you will save on is produce. California produce is exceptionally well-priced and fresh. The produce you get in California is often local, which means it will last a week or more — where in other states you’re lucky to get a couple days out of produce. Also, you pay pennies on the dollar for produce in California versus other states. Utah, for example, charges $1 per avocado on average year-round, while Californians can get five to 10 avocados for just $1.

It’s important to compare the cost of living when moving to a new region, but don’t let it dissuade you from moving there. Often where there is a higher cost of living there is also a higher pay rate. Most Californians get by just fine making $20 to $30 per hour for jobs that receive $10 to $15 per hour in other states.

Feb 2014

Moving to California? An Essential Movers Checklist for Out of State Moves

bigstock-Young-couple-resting-from-movi-14780477It is one thing to move to a familiar area, but it’s another to be moving to a new state entirely. Moving to California doesn’t have to be stressful, but it does take proper preparation to make the move as easy as possible. Before you move, implement these must do’s.

Find an Apartment First

While some people are tempted to move and find their new place once they are there, it will be a lot less stressful if you find a place before you move. If you have the time, make a trip to the area you want to live and pick out your apartment in person. If you can’t, have a local friend do some research for you. Pick out an apartment at least one month in advance so you have enough time to pack and prepare.

Get Rid of Junk and Clutter

Moving junk and clutter across town is daunting enough, but moving it across state lines is expensive. Go through your apartment room by room and put stuff you don’t need or don’t use in a box. If it something that can be easily replaced, sell it or give it away. While buying new stuff can be expensive, it is expensive to move furniture across state lines. Compare the cost of moving the item versus selling it and buying another.

To make the decision process a little easier you can create three piles: toss, give away (donate) and keep. A lot of items can be given away like clothes, dishes, etc. Some companies won’t take old mattresses or stuffed animals, so call your local charity to see what items they take and what items they won’t.

Figure Out How You Will Move

Decide if you are going to do the move yourself or if you are going to hire someone. It does cost more to hire professional movers, but in some cases you still save — especially when you consider the hassle of moving across states. Do some comparison shopping, also looking at the time and effort you’ll put in with each type of move. Then secure your moving company or moving van. You will want to place a reservation at least one month before your expected moving date.

Change Address

Change your address with financial institutions, credit cards and utility companies. It’s unlikely you will deal with the same utility providers from your current state, so set a shut off date and contact local utilities at your new location to set up a start date. If you aren’t sure which utilities are available in the new area, contact your landlord for a list of providers. Last, file a change of address with the post office. This will also forward mail that comes to your old address during the interim.

Moving to California is exciting and it can stay that way if you plan ahead. As with any big move you should give yourself ample time to plan. Starting a few months in advance can help make the transition from one state to another a lot less stressful.

Feb 2014

Making the Roommate Lifestyle Easier

bigstock-Young-women-cleaning-out-their-30785450Any time you live with another person there is going to be conflict. When you combine two people with different personalities, backgrounds and lifestyles, there is going to be a clash here and there. But, it is always nice to have someone split the rent and utilities with — especially in California. If you’re picking a roommate for your new place or you already have one, here are a few tips for making the roommate lifestyle a little easier on both of you.

Assign Chores

It might make you feel like you are in grade school, but having a chore chart will stop a lot of fights about who needs to clean what. Sit down with your roommate and create a chore chart based on what chores each of you will do for the week. If you want to change it up or make it fun, play a game — such as picking a chore from a jar or a Wheel of Fortune inspired chart.

Organize Shared Spaces

If you share a bathroom, you need to organize it. Consider putting a second shower rod inside the shower so you can hang personal shower items for each of you. This will reduce the clutter on the sides of the tub and give each of you your own space. Use the space behind cabinet doors and the bathroom door as well. The less cluttered common living spaces are, the easier.

Set Ground Rules for the Kitchen

Unless you have a massive gourmet kitchen, you are going to feel a little cramped sharing the space with another person. Set ground rules for kitchen use. For example, if you’re having people over for dinner, give your roommate some notice so he or she knows to not occupy the kitchen. Even better, invite your roommate. So that you both are on the same page, have a general courtesy rule that includes always refilling the coffee pot and cleaning it out, refilling any filtered pitchers and emptying the dishwasher. That way no one feels like they’re cleaning up after the other just to use the kitchen.

Paying the Bills With a Roommate

Splitting the bills might not be as easy as 50/50 with a roommate. If you have the master bedroom and your own bath, you’re likely to pay more in the rent than your roommate. Sit down and clearly define how the bills will be paid. Does your roommate pay a flat fee that includes their utilities or will they split the utilities as they come in for the month? Designate a day every month where you both can sit down and discuss who owes what — preferably before rent and bills are due. If your roommate needs the cable, but you don’t use it, that can be a bill he or she takes care of themselves.

Having a roommate in California is a great way to handle the cost of living. You can get a better location, bigger apartment and even gain a valuable friendship. Just take your time picking out your new roomie and make sure they’re organized and responsible. That way it’s a lot easier to get along with the person you’re sharing your space with.

Feb 2014

A Survival Guide for Los Angeles Renters

bigstock-Young-couple-buying-new-home-20438549The Los Angeles area can certainly be intimidating — even more so if you’re not from California. While it is a big city, it’s not like your typical metropolis. It’s extensive, well spread out and you will notice living in Los Angeles means it could take you over an hour to get from one side to the other. To help you survive, consider these first-time survival tips.

Get a Car

Walking and public transportation in Los Angeles isn’t like it is in New York. There are long lines and the public transportation system isn’t as advanced as the subways of New York and Chicago. Los Angeles was designed for vehicles, with its wide roads. Keep a variety of things in your car so if you get stuck in traffic you’re not without. Such as a few bottles of water, snacks and even a change of clothes.

Find a Local Friend

Los Angeles is full of secret discoveries. Areas that look run down sometimes have hidden gems — like a top rated restaurant or great clothing store. But, if you don’t know the area you won’t be able to find these unique places.

People Eat In

Los Angeles isn’t as big on eating out as you might think. Instead of being invited out to dinner, you are more likely to find yourself invited to someone’s house for a dinner party. Be prepared for the invitations, but more importantly, be prepared to host your own dinner party as a thank you.

Go For Casual Attire

Los Angeles isn’t about fancy dress up; in fact the city is very casual. Jeans and a good shirt will help you blend in here just fine. If you have a lot of fancy clothes or warm attire, it’s time to give them away, because the temperatures out here rarely go low enough to need winter wear.

Enjoy Fresh Produce

If you are from another state, you will be instantly surprised at how amazing fresh produce is in Los Angeles. Not only is it literally fresh (sometimes picked that day), but it is extremely affordable. Also, Santa Monica has their infamous farmer’s market, where you could pick up buckets of fresh produce for practically nothing

Become a Morning Person

Los Angeles is a morning type of place. People start their days early (usually around six in the morning) and end their nights equally early. This is because the sun is up and ready to go earlier on the coast. The outside light is beautiful to wake up to and almost encourages you to get out of bed. If you’re on the side of L.A. by the beach, you will also be wakened to a coastal breeze and the smell of sea salt.

Living in Los Angeles can be exciting. When you move to a big city, don’t let it intimidate you. Make some friends, get out and explore and see what you can find. Look for blogs online where locals discuss their latest finds to help you find the unique things L.A. has to offer.

Feb 2014