California on a Budget

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Two years FishPapa and I decided to go for the gusto and make the big move back to our homestate of California. We had lived in the Midwest for five years and while there were many wonderful things about life in Middle America, our hearts longed for the West and to be closer to family. So, despite the odds, we moved to California, five years older and three kids richer than when we had left.

While “California or Bust” was NOT our motto, we knew that we would have to be pretty careful in order to live in the Golden State on one income. It’s been an amazing adventure. One we feel very blessed to have been able to travel.

I realize that California life may not be for everyone. I get that. For many, “it’s a nice place, but you wouldn’t want to live here.” I totally understand that.

Besides, there isn’t room for us all to live here.

But, I do get questions on a weekly basis from readers who for one reason or another are relocating, or even vacationing in California and wonder about how to live or travel on a budget within the Golden State. It can be done! We feed, clothe, and house 8 people on one income of about 60K per year.

Posts in the Series

Get Outside

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Disneyland on a Dime

Find a Family Style Restaurant

Have a Fun & Frugal Day at the Fair

Another West Coast Perspective

How to Vacation with Children without Losing Your Mind

Grocery Shopping Basics

Learning is Everywhere: The San Diego Zoo & a Panda Adventure

Visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Saving Money on Food in Southern California

A Visit to the San Diego Wild Animal Park

The California on a Budget series is designed to address any questions you might have. I’ve received many already, but I thought I’d give you a chance to ask some more. Feel free to email me your question (lifeasmom at sbcglobal dot net) or simply submit it in this form. If you are a writer or blogger and would like to write a California-themed guest post, you can submit your contact in this form as well.

Disclaimer: Neither the California Board of Tourism nor the California Realtors’ Association have ever heard of me. I freely offer up my opinions regarding life in the Golden State. I represent the experiences of one family who has lived in four different California counties. My opinion is just that — my opinion. Feel free to disagree. Your mileage may vary.

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  1. I do think it’s worth it, especially if the sale price is a really good price. I often do this at CVS, and the nice thing is there, they give you the ecb’s too, and they don’t expire. I like it that I can then pick the item up whenever it works into my couponing the best!

  2. Hi,
    I lived in Rancho Palos Verdes as a young teen until my dad retired and we could no longer afford to live in California. We moved back to Michigan in 1992, but I have always wanted to return to California. I am now married, have a 3 year old and another baby on the way. I’m a special education teacher and my husband works in retail but hopes to get into a surgical technology program this fall (all pre-requisites are done). Is there any way we can realistically afford to move out to California depending mainly on my teacher’s salary. I don’t want to destroy my family’s livlihood, however you only live once and I loved my life in California. Any advice?

    1. My husband makes the equivalent of a teacher’s salary, and we live on his income. We haven’t bought a home here since moving back, but that is because our feelings have changed about mortgages. Unless you pay cash, you’re “renting” money. Renting is renting. (Plus, he’s been studying the CA real estate market for two years and isn’t convinced that it has dropped all that it will drop.

      It’s worth it to us to live in CA. So, I guess it depends on your priorities.

  3. I grew up in the midwest as well but have lived in Southern California for 20 years now and absolutely love it. Yes, it is expensive to live here but if you are happy that is what matters. My husband and I make good salaries but it is difficult for us to buy a home in the area we are currently renting in because of the high home prices. We are working towards saving to eventually buy. I love spending time outdoors with my 2 year old. There is so much to do here and a lot of places are free or low cost. I follow multiple bloggers who share fun places to take toddlers. We recently went to an ocean animal rehab facility in Laguna Beach which was free to visit seals, sea lions and other ocean life. I also follow bloggers who share money saving tips, such as coupon match ups. I buy clothes only when they are on sale or clearance. Of course I do make some exceptions. Shopping at CVS with coupons and CVS bucks save a lot of money too.

  4. Here’s the website where you can see there hours and location.
    It is a small place but a good learning exprerience for kids. You also see some great sea life pretty up close. The people who work there will tell you all about what they do there and stories of the animals that are there. I was told to go back in January or February when there are lots more animals. We did get to see a one month old baby seal.