Los Angeles on a budget - This Ugly Beautiful City (2024)

Can you enjoy Los Angeles when you don’t have a lot of money? If you have been following This Ugly Beautiful City, you know that answer isyes!In almost two decades as an Angeleno, I have found over 100 inexpensive things to do. You might not think living cheaply in this city of excess is possible, but I am here to tell youit is.My goal is to surprise you with all of the things you can do in Los Angeles on a budget.

Spoiler Alert: There is so much to do for free!

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Table of Contents

Why I created this list

We could all use ways to save money right now. Whether you are underemployed, recently laid off, saving for something, or generally love spending less, there are ways to enjoy this city without opening your wallet. I am happy to show you my tricks for experiencing Los Angeles on a budget.

What does “budget” mean to me?

To me, budget means $15 or less. All the suggestions on this list are free, a suggested donation, or priced at $15 or less.

General ways to save money

No. 1: If you are a local, Get a Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) library card!

The best way to experience Los Angeles on a budget is by using your library card. Yes, you get the normal library stuff like books, movies, and storytime, but at the LAPL, you get so much more. Here are some of my favorites.

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FREE Museum passes

Your library card gets you access to more museums like The Academy Museum, which is regularly $25, and theGrammy Museum, usually $18 for free!

If you have a card, reserve your museum passes here. If you don’t have a library card, keep reading.

Don’t forget that the Central Library is also home to two galleries with rotating exhibitions.

[Photo: Academy Museum, by author]

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FREE Parking at California State Parks

Los Angeles is home to beautiful beaches and fantastic hiking spots. Although these are free activities, you do have to pay for parking to access these spots. Did you know you can check out a California Park Pass from the library, which waves parking fees at dozens of local parks and beaches? Find out how to check out the park pass here.

If you need inspiration for where to go, I have several posts you can read.

  • Leo Carrillo State Beach
  • Solstice Canyon
  • Sycamore Canyon

[Photo: Sycamore Canyon, by author]

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Access to a 3D Printer and podcast studio

Octavia Lab, named after famed local science fiction writer Octavia Butler, is the place to go if you love storytelling and technology. At the lab, you are free to create without having access to thousands of dollars of equipment be a barrier to making dreams come true.

For more information, click here.

[Photo: Photo by dlxmedia.hu on Pexels.com]

How to apply/renew:LAPL E-card application (This page also has a great list of everything LAPL offers.)

To learn about events at your local LAPL branch, follow the individual branches on Instagram.

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No. 2: Get familiar with public transit

After opening and expanding train lines and stations, I can now say that public transit is improving in Los Angeles. It is a more connected city with three new train lines. There are also on-demand services like LA Now and Metro Micro. For those of you on the west side, there are more opportunities to get from point A to point B with the Big Blue Bus and Culver City Bus.

A day pass is $3.50 (for now.)

See this guide for L.A. Transit.

[Photo: New metro map by LA Metro]

A word from my sponsors and a little shout-out

This series was originally posted in the paid subscriber version of my newsletter. Those subscribers allowed me the time to write this series. If you would like to support my work, please subscribe to my newsletter as a free or paid subscriber. This helps me to keep doing what I do. My newsletters are full of things to do in Los Angeles.

Subscribe and continue reading below. YOU GET THE MAP OF ALL 100+ THINGS FOR FREE just for signing up.

Ways to save money around a theme

Art & Culture

This list focuses on ways to experience art and culture in the greater Los Angeles area for less than $15. No need to remember which days are the free days at these local museums.

[Photo: Balloon Dog, by Jeff Koonz, photo by author]

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This goes out to all of the people who want to dance, sing, listen, and have a great time without expensive entry fees. There are some great date night ideas, and group hangs on this list. Having money or not having money shouldn’t be barriers to hanging out with friends.

[Photo: The Palace Theater, Photo by Rich on Pexels.com]

Explore Entertainment

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Exercise & Wellness

How many of you have gym memberships and never go? If you raised your hand, this is your invitation to quit and experience all the ways to get exercise and wellness in Los Angeles without a monthly fee.

[Photo: Photo by RDNE Stock project on Pexels.com]

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Food & Drink

Although nothing on this list is free, you can head to these places, put down a $20 bill, and walk out with change. There are so many places to get delicious things and not break the bank in Los Angeles. That is why this is one of the best food cities in the world. (Fight me if you think it’s untrue.)

[Photo: Yellow Paper smash burger, photo by author]

Explore Cheap Eats!

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The Map that contains everything

If you don’t want to read anything and just want to go out and explore, you can access the Google Map. This map is for my newsletter subscribers–free, comped, and paid. Please subscribe to This Ugly Beautiful Newsletter to get information on how to unlock the password-protected page.

[Photo by author]

This Ugly Beautiful City is a 100% self-funded publication. If you have used any of the advice on these pages and would like to send a thank you, consider buying me a coffee.

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As someone deeply immersed in the vibrant tapestry of Los Angeles for almost two decades, I can confidently say that exploring the city on a budget is not only possible but can be incredibly enriching. My extensive experience as an Angeleno has led me to discover over 100 affordable activities that showcase the diverse and dynamic nature of this city.

The article you've shared resonates with my own passion for uncovering the gems of Los Angeles without breaking the bank. Allow me to delve into some key concepts highlighted in the piece:

  1. Importance of a Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) Card:

    • A LAPL library card is a budget-conscious Angeleno's best friend. Beyond the conventional library offerings, it provides access to free museum passes, including prestigious institutions like The Academy Museum and the Grammy Museum.
    • The Central Library also houses galleries with rotating exhibitions, offering a multifaceted cultural experience.
  2. Free Parking at California State Parks:

    • The article points out a clever hack for enjoying the beautiful beaches and hiking spots in Los Angeles without the usual parking fees. By checking out a California Park Pass from the library, visitors can access dozens of local parks and beaches without additional costs.
  3. Access to Technology at Octavia Lab:

    • Octavia Lab, inspired by the renowned science fiction writer Octavia Butler, is highlighted as a space where storytelling and technology converge. The availability of a 3D printer and a podcast studio fosters creativity without financial barriers.
  4. Embracing Public Transit:

    • Acknowledging the improvements in Los Angeles' public transit system, the article encourages readers to get familiar with the expanded train lines, stations, and on-demand services like LA Now and Metro Micro.
  5. Theme-Based Money-Saving Tips:

    • The article categorizes money-saving tips around themes such as Art & Culture, Entertainment, Exercise & Wellness, and Food & Drink. Each section provides curated suggestions for experiences under $15.
  6. Interactive Google Map:

    • For those eager to explore without diving into the details, the article offers an interactive Google Map. Subscribers gain access to this map, unlocking a treasure trove of budget-friendly activities across Los Angeles.

My goal aligns with the author's—to debunk the notion that enjoying Los Angeles requires a hefty budget. Through first-hand experience and a deep understanding of the city's offerings, I aim to inspire others to savor the richness of Los Angeles without financial constraints.

Los Angeles on a budget - This Ugly Beautiful City (2024)
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