This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

How to live in expensive parts of California on a low income


If you've ever been tempted to live by the beach, in California, but figured that only rich people can do it, nah, don't worry, you can do it. I've done it, and I've never been rich. It just takes some creativity.

Of course, if you're a multimillionaire, it will make living in places like Santa Barbara much easier, but I'm assuming that's not you, or you wouldn't be reading this.

People live in expensive places like this all of the time, and it just takes maybe adjusting your point of view a bit. I grew up in a middle-class home in Minneapolis, and my expectations of how I lived were influenced by that. We weren't rich, but we were never poor.

Support Arizona history by becoming a patron on Patreon

Click here to become a Patron!
History Adventuring blog posts are shared there daily, also there's "then and now" photos, billboards, aerials, and super high-resolution photos of historic Phoenix, Arizona

I lived in Santa Barbara for couple of years in my twenties, and when I tell people that, they wonder if I had struck gold, or inherited millions. No, I was just living the way the poor folk do, squeezed into crowded conditions that most people like me will never see.

In my twenties, I can honestly say that it didn't matter to me that I lived in a converted house in a tiny space about the size of a broom closet. There was no furniture, and only room for a single bed. It had its own bathroom, and a miniature stove/oven refrigerator unit. There was no heat, but luckily the space was so small that I could heat it by just leaving the oven door open (yes, it was electric!).

I made the decision that this wasn't how I wanted to live after I got to be over 30. I wanted more space, maybe a house, at least furniture. I saw how people were living in my neighborhood. My next-door neighbor worked three jobs (including a night watchman's job, so he didn't even sleep in his house). I have no idea how many people were living in that house, but there were plenty, along with lots more people living in the garage. That's how people with low incomes pay the rent, they earn what they can, and share space. They don't go to restaurants, they collect aluminum.

California has lots of places like that. In spite of laws that try to limit the crowding, rooms are always available to rent, even if they have no heat. You can call this "micro-living" if you want to. And for many people just owning a toothbrush and a surfboard, and being able to walk to the ocean, makes them happy. I've seen this, but it's not for me.

So don't tell me that you can't afford to live by the beach, you can. Yeah, it would be nice if you were rich, but that doesn't stop a lot of people from doing it. They just do what they need to do.