For Our Explorers: How to Live the Luxe Life in L.A. For Less
Trying to get that Cali sun but your bank balance is looking at you the same way your mamma does whenever you ask her for money? Don’t worry girl. A BAUCE knows that it’s not about how much you have, but how to make a dollar out of 15 cents.
On a recent visit to Los Angeles, I was on a mission: to indulge on a budget. There were times I spent more money than planned (dining out or traveling), but I made it a point to only touch the money I set aside. To offset some of the more luxurious adventures, I also worked remotely for a few hours during the week. Whether you’re on a business trip or on vacation, below are some extravagant ideas that won’t break the bank!
Venice Beach/ Santa Monica Pier (Free entrance + optional food and activities)
Venice Beach is commonly recognized for its outdoor gym (Muscle Beach gym), canals, skate park, basketball courts, street vendors, and bike rides. Though a seemingly tourist attraction, many locals come to Venice Beach to participate in the activities above and to enjoy a day with family or friends. Santa Monica Pier is within biking/walking distance of Venice Beach, holding an amusement park with lots of games and yummy treats. For me, just seeing the pier was enough excitement and my wallet stayed happy. The beach is a nice place to play frisbee or volleyball, or to read a book after wading in the cool ocean water. For non-beach people who still want to experience the beach, the promenades offer lots of restaurant and retail shopping options just minutes away from the sandy shores. There is certainly a little something for everyone. There are an abundance of beautiful beaches along the coast such as Malibu, Laguna, Hermosa, Newport, Coronado, and La Jolla beach, but there is nothing quite like the charm of Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier.
Use Social Media as Tool to Discover Cool Events
There is no doubt that Los Angeles has a wide array of clubs and bars to choose from. If you’re like me, however, I appreciated knowing the type of vibe I was committing to before I was stuck paying a cover charge at an event I really wasn’t feeling. I relied heavily on social media to discover events that catered to my interests. One of my favorite experiences was attending the Saint Heron and No)one. Art House immersive dance theater, which I found on Solange’s Saint Heron Instagram page. The event, located at a secret location, started off with a dance performance that truly touched the crowd. (The audience physically had to relocate during the performance to let the dancers move past and to watch them as they danced around the almost tree-house-like room. It was truly magical!) After the performance, it was time to turn up! With outdoor lighting, a small cocktail bar, and indoor music supplied by DJ Kyle Woods, my best friend and I danced the night away to R&B, Hip Hop, and funky slow jams.
Runyon Canyon (Free)
If you’re looking for a place to exercise with a view, Runyon is your spot. Located just a few blocks from Hollywood Blvd., Runyon Canyon is central to many popular locations and is frequented by locals and visitors. Don’t let the abundance of people scare you, though! I took a nice solo hike on a sunny afternoon and was greeted with big smiles and puppy pants.
Stars at Griffith Observatory (Free)
Though I have never gone to the Observatory at night, I have heard that it is a fantastic place to go stargazing! Telescopes are open to the public until 9:45 PM and are free of charge. On one Saturday each month, the Observatory hosts Star Parties where volunteers explain the stars, planets, and other objects seen through the telescopes. So reach for the stars baby girl!
Catalina Island ($73 Ferry Ride Round Trip from Long Beach Port + optional activities)
Hawaii looking a little out-of-budget this year? Try a day-trip to Catalina Island, right off the shores of Long Beach! This small, yet charming island has a multitude of activities to choose from. Snorkeling, kayaking, zip-lining, and horseback riding are fun options if you save up the extra cash. My partner and I drove a golf cart around the island, snapped photos, and ate lunch by the water. This is definitely one of the more luxurious and moderately expensive outings in the Los Angeles Area, but can be great fun if you plan ahead with good company!
Hae Ha Heng Thai Bistro ($15- $20)
Let me just say this was a “go-to” restaurant during my trip. Not only did I live around the corner from the bistro, but the atmosphere, service, and food quality were all completely on point! I loved being able to sit inside the restaurant at a barstool table (shout out to my long-legged folk) while not sitting at a crowded bar. If it hadn’t been so cold during my visit, the outdoor seating looked equally as charming with couches, plants, and strings of lights. I ordered the yellow curry, jasmine white rice, and marinated pork while admiring plates of Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup, and Pineapple Fried Rice as they passed by. To make this an even more affordable experience, I shared my meal with my partner, making the meal both interactive and less-pricey!
Slurpin’ Ramen in Koreatown ($8-15)
While temporarily living 5 minutes away from this restaurant, I had no idea how lucky I truly was until I went to Slurpin’ Ramen. (And girl was I slurpin!) For just $8, I devoured a bowl of the Tonkatsu ramen with fatty pork. It was the perfect size! If I had been hungrier, the larger amount was only $2 more. Though I only visited once, I read great reviews about their lunch special (ramen, salad, and appetizer for $3 more than a normal ramen price) and appetizers. Definitely a place I thought that the cost was worth the decadence.
Taquerias & Taco Trucks ($2-$12 depending on your appetite)
So you’re probably wondering… which ones do I recommend? And to be completely fair, I just love tacos and Los Angeles always comes correct with the tacos. With various taco trucks on street corners around the city, I knew where to go on nights I wasn’t up to cooking. I highly recommend that as soon as you get settled in LA, that you Google Search or ask around for your local taqueria. Due to my long-term love for tacos, and short-term memory of names, I ate more tacos than I can remember restaurants. A few that I do recall, however, were Cactus Taqueria on Vine Street and Los Tacos on Santa Monica Blvd. Go head girl, get to taco-ing.
Golden State Burgers on Fairfax ($11-$20)
SWEET POTATO WEDGES. My new favorite food thanks to Golden State Burgers (well… burgers, sandwiches, and salads). A bit pricey for lunch but again, here comes the BAUCE hack to that: share! I split a sandwich and sweet potato wedges with my partner and it filled my lunch cravings!
Grocery Shop and Have Picnics
Eating out on a consistent basis gets pricey. It’s important to make a budget for yourself and choose where and when to spend your money. I found that some of my most luxurious meals were the ones I made at home without spending a fortune! While in Los Angeles I made macaroni and cheese with collard greens, chicken paella, breakfast sandwiches, pesto pasta, spiced yams, and many other meals on a budget. The best part was the leftovers! One way to pair a going-out experience with an eating-in price is cooking at home and bringing it to a picnic at your favorite park or beach! You can also choose to cook on the weekdays and celebrate weekends at restaurants. It’s okay to splurge on those bottomless mimosa brunches and moonlit dinners.
Other Places I Enjoyed Eating Out/Sharing the Bill:
- Canter’s Deli– large Jewish deli located on Fairfax Ave.
- Bossa Nova – tasty Brazilian cuisine in West Hollywood
- Farmers Market at the Grove– historic food market attached to the Grove, a well-known outdoor retail mall
- Messobs– delicious Ethiopian food on South Fairfax Ave.
Between public transportation, Uber Pool and Lyft Line, exploring the city was never more than a $2 to $5 ride away!
$1 Sale Sundays at Jet Rag
Where my thrift queens at? Meet your match! Jet Rag is a vintage clothing store located on North La Brea Avenue that holds a $1 clothing sale every Sunday at 9 AM. Piles of clothes are dumped onto the pavement outside the storefront and early risers tend to take as many clothes as possible, sorting through them afterwards to make sure they get first pick. Regulars come prepared with their own bags and carts to use for storing their finds. It’s a great place to find unique vintage pieces for your wardrobe at such an affordable price. I bought ten stylish gems for only $10! Even the fanciest of clothes have been previously worn and loved, so I would highly recommend washing them as soon as you bring them home. Oh, and bring cash.
Melrose Trading Post ($3 + goodies)
Every Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM, there is a lovely open-air market on the corner of Melrose Ave and Fairfax Ave where you can find anything from old-school bomber jackets to beautiful indoor plants. During my visit I found rustic film cameras, antique furniture, vintage clothing, jewelry and art galore! Though there is an entrance fee of $3, all proceeds go to Fairfax High School, where the market is located. Make sure to visit a bank prior to arrival as most vendors will only accept cash!