The Secret to Saving Money in California

I have a friend who works for YouTube and lives in the Bay Area. He tells me that the income inequality there is so bad that he doesn’t understand how low-income workers even survive. It’s such a concern that he tips double when he eats out.

And what he says is absolutely true. The median home value in California is over $500k and the median one-bedroom rent is $1,750. And wages haven’t caught up.

If you’re a middle-class joe trying to eke out an existence in California, chances are you’re struggling to even pay for your life let alone save. But it’s not impossible to get ahead of the paycheck and make life more affordable in California. Here are a few ways to do that.

1. Automate Your Savings

One money-saving tenant is the principle of paying yourself first. Running your life like a business might be a foreign and maybe stressful concept. But when you realize that you’re your own employee in your business, it can be kinda fun.

Think of savings as payment instead of a burden. That money is still yours and it will feel even more like yours when you pretend it’s a payment to yourself.

Set a small goal for savings at first. This doesn’t even have to be very much, maybe one to two percent. And then over the course of the next year, slowly raise that amount.

Ideally, you should have six months’ worth of income saved up. But obviously, you can’t build that quickly unless you’re a billionaire. Make it a goal to have six months’ worth of income saved up in two years.

Yeah, emergencies in that time might come up and slow you down, but you can recover. Budgets are meant to be flexible.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll be in the habit of paying yourself first. You can move on to saving for retirement or things you want to do such as vacations or home improvements.

2. Rent Out an RV or a Rental

Alright, this one takes a bit of money in the first place. But if you can get a loan, you can quickly recover the money and start having residual income.

For an RV, you can buy one for a few thousand dollars and fix it up or you can buy a new one. But renting an RV out is actually pretty easy. There’s a site that’s essentially the Airbnb of the RV world.

It’s called Outdoorsy and you can make a minimum of $1k per rental depending on the kind of RV you’re renting out. That’s almost a month’s rent for a small apartment. And it’s money you can make with minimal effort.

And the plus side of renting an RV is having an RV. If your goal is having money to travel, then you’ll be able to travel California when the RV isn’t rented instead of fretting about money in California.

3. Rental

This one is even more work than an RV rental, but it could yield more money. One of the best ways to rent a place is to go in on it with a friend. Now, you want to make sure you get along with your friend in all situations because business deals can be stressful.

There are two ways you could go about this. Either rent out an entire house or apartment on something like VRBO or rent out a room in your house with Airbnb.

The first option will require some major investment. And you might not see great returns on your investment for a year or two. But if your rental is successful, you could pay off the mortgage and eventually have residual income outside of your job.

Be sure to research the rules in your city, however. Some towns are moving to ban or regulate AirBnBs and VRBOs. You don’t want to fall into the trap of owning something you could never use.

4. Move to a Cheaper Part of California

My friend at YouTube lives in Silicon Valley. He’s considered moving out to the New York HQ where life would be a lot cheaper. But he likes where he lives and works.

For some people, moving to a cheaper place may not be an option. But if you want to stay in California, there are some cheaper options than the Bay Area or San Diego. California is a massive state with plenty of room for cheaper living.


If you’re looking for a place that boasts almost half the median home value for California, look no farther than Chico, CA. It’s a small town just 90 miles north of Sacramento and it has a small college town vibe to it.

Chico State University sits nearby and universities often increase the cultural value of an area. While agriculture is the main industry there, plenty of jobs exist in other industries including the beer industry.


While it sounds like something you might shout once you’ve found your lost keys, Eureka is another vibrant inland California town. It’s an old Gold Rush town and the architecture still feels wild west.

Historic Victorian buildings litter the downtown. But sadly, the biggest industry is tourism and health care. This means that job choices are limited.

But if you can figure out ways to make money outside of the typical 9-5, then Eureka might be your town. It too has a median home value of less than $250k.


Wine is a big deal in California and everybody knows about Sonoma, but few know about Temecula. While the wine rush has blown up certain economies in California, some regions remain fairly untouched.

Temecula is one of those places with only 40 wineries. And it’s a beautiful valley to live in.

It’s a little more expensive than Chico or Eureka, but the jobs market is a bit better than either. It also boasts the biggest casino in California.

Saving Money in California Takes Dedication

You may not be able to live the life of your dreams immediately. It may take a few years of saving and digging deep to get out of debt or build up your life. But it’s entirely possible if you have the know-how and the dedication.

Want more advice on how to save or make money? Check out some more Shoemoney here.


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