reader report

Los Angeles on a budget

CHEAP OUTING: Castaic Lake.
CHEAP OUTING: Castaic Lake.

I haven't always been great with my money. In England I spent it as fast as I got it. I took the phrase, 'I'm here for a good time not a long time' to heart, despite stretching what was supposed to be a one year jaunt into several.

But once I became a student at Otago University I had to start watching my pennies. Now that I'm a grad student in America I've had to cut back once again.

Los Angeles has a reputation of being an expensive place to live, and it can be. But with a little hunting around there are ways to live in this great city on the cheap.

Groceries: Get to the 99 cent store. The 99 cent store is a small supermarket where nearly everything is 99 cents or cheaper. Fresh fruit, vegetables, cereals, milk, soap, toothpaste, etc, are all here. The only thing you won't find is fresh meat.

While they don't always stock the big name brands, they do occasionally pop up for a limited time when other places offload stock that is nearing its best by date or simply isn't selling. Throwing a party? The 99 cent store also has party supplies and cleaning products for the morning after.

Movies: Going to the movies can be expensive in LA especially if you want to see the latest studio releases. There are a few cheaper cinemas around but they do take some tracking down. If it's the experience of watching a film in a room full of people you're after and you're not bothered by what you see then there are plenty of options for free viewings in LA.

During term time, CSUN holds a cinema showcase every Thursday night on campus. Get there early as most nights the theatre fills out. It's not often you get to watch a film in a packed cinema these days.

One of the great things about LA is the weather and in summer there is a plethora of free outdoor film screenings. Last week I watched 'Brave' on the lawn outside the Oviatt Library on the CSUN campus. About 500 people turned up and it was a great family atmosphere.

Museums and Galleries: Not all museums and galleries in LA offer free admission, but the two I like most that do are the Getty Museum and Getty Villa. You will have to pay for parking if you drive but $10 split between a carload of people is not too much.

The Hammer Museum near the UCLA campus is free for students and parking is also free if you validate your parking ticket at reception.

If art is your thing then keep your eyes peeled and take a look at the street art that pops up in expected and unexpected places - especially in Downtown LA.

Sports games: The cheapest tickets in town seem to be for the Dodgers. I picked up some $9 tickets through a website called Groupon which offers discounts to a number of events in LA.

If baseball isn't your think then be prepared to shell out a few clams if you want to watch the LA basketball or ice hockey teams.

If you're not worried about the quality of the sports people on display then catch a college sports game. Many are free for students or charge a small fee if you're no longer at school.

Out and about: LA has numerous trails you can hike in and around the city. Most are free but some, like Joshua Tree, charge a small park fee. Well worth it when you get to take in sights not available anywhere else in the world.

The beaches here are also quite amazing. Santa Monica is quite popular especially with the pier nearby.

Castaic Lake is quieter, especially during weekdays, and the calm lake surface lets you try out various water sports such as paddle-boarding without getting battered by waves. I've also seen a few people fishing here although I've yet to see them catch anything.