Update: I created a downloadable calculator that tells you how much you’ll want to save before Moving to Los Angeles. To get it, just subscribe to the newsletter. You can sign-up on the sidebar, or at the bottom of this post.
Yes, really. If you dreamt of moving to Los Angeles, $5,000 is enough to get started.
$5,000 sounds ridiculously low. I haven’t ever shopped on Rodeo Drive, but I’m pretty you can blow through $5,000 in 30 minutes here. It’s such a low amount that even though I and several friends made that it work, I hesitated before offering $5,000 as the floor in this post. Why not urge people to save more? Say, $10,000?
If I know in my gut that $5,000 is enough, what’s wrong with saying that?
Because with $5,000, you can still go broke.
(Want to see exactly how I calculated the $5,000 number — and why I could move to LA with as little as $3,000? Check that out here.)
There are no assurances
It leaves enough wiggle room to get started and not much more. Circumstances need to fall your way. You’ve got to get lucky.
“Luck” can take on any number of forms. For one friend, it came in the form of a 39-year-old cougar he met his second night out. He moved to Los Angeles, determined to save money on rent by sleeping in his car, parked at Wal-Mart, until he found reasonable housing. He spent a total of one night in that car. By the second night, he made arrangements to live in this woman’s beach side condo, in exchange for giving her regular penis.
I also had an intern named Jackie, whose luck took the form of a boarding house for women she found on Cragislist. It required no credit check and no security deposit. If you had cash$ and they had an open bed, you could stay.
Luck happens. $5,000 can work.
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What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?
It requires living tighter. You can’t be frivolous at the start. (As a John August guest post said, “you’ll make enough money to cover your apartment in Culver City, lots of noodles, and maybe a beer or two a week, but not much else. ”) Or as Seth Godin described Spike Lee’s early years in New York, “surviving on mac & cheese to free himself from this thing called money, so he could do what he loved.”
If everything falls your way, could you still go broke? Of course — there’s no 60-day money back promise. There is no guarantee you won’t go broke; that you’ll cross the street safely on the way to the dentist. Your future tomorrow is not the same as your future yesterday (to borrow from Chuck Palahniuk’s RANT).
The other reason I’m a proponent of setting a $5,000 floor is: what’s the alternative? You can strive to bank a lofty amount of money ($10K, $15K, $20K) for the security.
But security based on money in the bank is a false one. People with entire nest eggs, every cent they saved, have gone broke. You only have to look as far back as 2008 to see millionaires have gone broke overnight — over ventures less speculative than Los Angeles and entertainment.
If you set the goal at $10K or $20K, you may never earmark enough money to move to Los Angeles. We get complacent. Life (car payments, vacations, gifts, etc.) gets in the way. It’s easy to set an unattainable milestone, so that the big goal remains out of reach.
Do you really want it?
Or are you so worried about failing, about the potential shame of returning home, that it prevents you from ever leaving in the first place?
This Is What $5,000 Buys You
Here’s how I look at that $5,000: it’s enough get you out here. After that, hunger and need for shelter are strong motivators to push you to hustle. One thing we should never underestimate is a person’s ability to make money when their survival depends on it.
It may feel melodramatic, but think of it as war. There’s a reason why I call it “Fighting Broke,” not “hoping to stave off broke until I get a job.”