How Do People Afford To Live In California?

With a high cost of living, many wonder how regular folks can afford to live in California. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Californians rely on higher salaries, budget carefully, use affordable housing programs, commute from cheaper areas, have family support, and lower living costs by having roommates.

This comprehensive guide will explore the creative ways people are able to afford living in California despite the state’s infamously high housing prices and overall cost of living expenses.

Higher Salaries

One of the main reasons why people are able to afford living in California is because of the higher salaries compared to other states. The state is known for its thriving tech industry, which offers lucrative job opportunities and competitive salaries.

Tech salaries

The tech industry in California, particularly in Silicon Valley, is renowned for its high-paying jobs. Companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook are known to offer generous compensation packages to attract top talent.

According to a report by PayScale, the average salary for a software engineer in California is around $120,000 per year, which is significantly higher than the national average.

Other well-paying industries

While the tech industry may be the most prominent, there are other well-paying industries in California that contribute to the higher salaries. The entertainment industry, for example, offers lucrative opportunities in fields like acting, directing, and producing.

Additionally, the healthcare industry is known for its well-compensated positions, particularly for doctors and specialized medical professionals.

It’s important to note that the cost of living in California is also higher than the national average. However, the higher salaries in the state help to offset some of the expenses, making it more feasible for individuals to live comfortably in California.

Budgeting & Financial Planning

Living in California can be expensive, but with careful budgeting and financial planning, it is possible to afford the cost of living. Here are some strategies to help individuals and families manage their finances effectively:

Sticking to budgets

One of the most important steps in managing expenses is creating and sticking to a budget. This involves tracking income and expenses, setting financial goals, and allocating funds for necessary expenses such as housing, utilities, transportation, and groceries.

By closely monitoring their spending habits, individuals can identify areas where they can cut back and save money.

Limiting discretionary spending

Another way to afford living in California is by limiting discretionary spending. This means being mindful of unnecessary expenses such as eating out frequently, buying expensive clothing or gadgets, or going on extravagant vacations.

By cutting back on these discretionary expenses, individuals can free up more money to cover essential costs.

Buying used and saving

When it comes to purchasing items, opting for used or second-hand goods can be a great way to save money. Whether it’s buying a used car, furniture, or clothing, individuals can find quality items at a fraction of the cost.

Additionally, saving money by negotiating prices, using coupons, and taking advantage of discounts and sales can also help make living in California more affordable.

It’s important to note that everyone’s financial situation is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Seeking professional advice from financial advisors or utilizing online resources can provide valuable insights and personalized strategies for managing finances in California.

Affordable Housing Programs

California is known for its high cost of living, particularly when it comes to housing. However, there are several affordable housing programs in place to help individuals and families find suitable and affordable housing options.

These programs aim to make living in California more attainable for those with lower incomes. Some of the most common affordable housing programs include:

Subsidized/income-restricted units

One of the primary ways people afford to live in California is through subsidized or income-restricted housing units. These units are typically offered by government agencies or non-profit organizations and are specifically designated for individuals or families with lower incomes.

These units often come with reduced rental rates, making them more affordable for residents. Eligibility for these units is determined based on income levels and other qualifying factors. To learn more about subsidized or income-restricted housing units, you can visit the California Department of Housing and Community Development website.

Shared living arrangements

Another way people afford to live in California is through shared living arrangements. In a shared living arrangement, individuals or families choose to live together and split the cost of rent and utilities.

This can significantly reduce the financial burden of housing expenses, making it more affordable for all parties involved. Shared living arrangements can take various forms, including roommates, co-living spaces, or even multi-generational households.

These arrangements not only help with affordability but also foster a sense of community and companionship.

It’s important to note that while affordable housing programs and shared living arrangements can help make living in California more affordable, the demand for affordable housing often exceeds the supply.

This means that individuals and families may need to be proactive and persistent in their search for affordable housing options. It’s also essential to stay informed about any updates or changes to affordable housing programs in the area.

Commuting from Cheaper Areas

Living in California can be expensive, especially in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, many people manage to afford living in California by commuting from cheaper areas. This allows them to take advantage of lower housing costs while still working in the more expensive cities.

Long commutes

One way people afford to live in California is by accepting long commutes to work. They may choose to live in areas that are further away from their workplace but offer more affordable housing options.

While long commutes can be tiring and time-consuming, some individuals find it worth the sacrifice to have a lower cost of living. Plus, advancements in technology have made it easier for people to work remotely or flexibly, reducing the need for daily commuting.

Exurban and rural living

Another option for those looking to save money on housing in California is to live in exurban or rural areas. These areas are typically located farther away from major cities and offer more affordable homes.

While living in a rural area may mean sacrificing some conveniences and amenities found in urban areas, it can provide a quieter and more peaceful lifestyle.

For example, individuals working in San Francisco may choose to live in the more affordable suburbs of the East Bay, such as Walnut Creek or Pleasanton, and commute into the city for work. Similarly, those working in Los Angeles may opt for living in cities like Ontario or Riverside, which offer lower housing costs compared to the heart of LA.

Living in exurban or rural areas also often means being closer to nature and having access to outdoor activities and open spaces. This can be a great advantage for individuals who enjoy hiking, camping, and other outdoor pursuits.

It is important to note that commuting from cheaper areas may not be feasible for everyone. Factors such as job location, family circumstances, and personal preferences all play a role in determining whether this option is viable.

Additionally, commuting long distances can have an impact on one’s overall quality of life, so it is essential to consider the trade-offs before making a decision.

For more information on affordable housing options, you can visit websites like Zillow or, which provide comprehensive listings and resources for finding affordable homes in California.

Family Assistance

Living in California can be expensive, but many individuals and families find ways to make it work. One of the ways people afford to live in California is through family assistance. This can take various forms, including living with family members or receiving financial support from them.

Living with family

One option for individuals looking to save on housing costs in California is to live with family members. This might involve moving in with parents, siblings, or other relatives who already have a home in the state.

By sharing living expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and groceries, individuals can significantly reduce their monthly expenses.

Living with family not only saves money, but it can also provide a support system and a sense of community. It allows individuals to pool their resources and share responsibilities, making it easier to navigate the high cost of living in California.

Family financial support

Another way people afford to live in California is through financial support from their family members. This support can come in the form of regular cash contributions, help with major expenses like down payments on a home, or even assistance with childcare costs.

While not everyone has the luxury of receiving financial support from their family, for those who do, it can make a significant difference in their ability to afford the high cost of living in California.

It allows individuals to have more financial stability and flexibility, enabling them to cover their expenses and save for the future.

If you are interested in learning more about family assistance and how it can help individuals afford to live in California, websites like and provide additional resources and information on this topic.

Lowering Living Costs

Living in California can be expensive, but there are ways to reduce the financial burden. Here are some strategies that can help individuals afford the cost of living in the Golden State:

Having roommates

One popular option for lowering living costs in California is to have roommates. Sharing a living space with others can significantly reduce the amount of rent each person has to pay. Not only does this help with the financial aspect, but it also creates a sense of community and can lead to lasting friendships.

According to a report by Apartment List, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in California is around $2,300 per month. However, splitting the rent with one or more roommates can bring the individual cost down significantly, making it more affordable for many people.

Minimalist lifestyle

Adopting a minimalist lifestyle is another effective way to lower living costs in California. By decluttering and downsizing, individuals can reduce their expenses on housing, utilities, and even transportation.

Living with fewer possessions not only saves money but also promotes a sense of freedom and simplicity. It allows individuals to focus on experiences rather than material possessions. By prioritizing what truly matters, people can allocate their resources more efficiently and live within their means.

According to a study conducted by Statista, the average household size in California is 2.96 people. Embracing a minimalist lifestyle can help individuals optimize their living space and avoid unnecessary expenses.

Lowering living costs in California requires some creativity and resourcefulness, but it is definitely possible. By considering options like having roommates and embracing a minimalist lifestyle, individuals can find ways to afford the high cost of living in this beautiful state.


While not easy, living affordably in California is possible through prudent budgeting, utilizing programs, commuting from affordable areas, tapping family resources, and cutting costs. Sacrifices are made, like long commutes or having roommates into adulthood, but this allows ordinary folks to enjoy California’s climate, culture, and job opportunities.

With Insight and determination, individuals and families are able to afford living in the country’s most expensive state by making smart compromises. The California dream remains attainable for regular people willing to get creative with budgets, housing, transport, and lifestyle.

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