Cost of Living in Cali. Prices Updated Dec 2020.

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My girlfriend and I are Canadian nomads looking to spend 6 months (ideally) in the US this winter. We’re trying to figure out the best place to do so! The goal is to live somewhere nice and build up more savings and income.

Since we’re in Montreal and sick of the brutal winters, we want somewhere warm. And since we’re nomading, we’re looking to stay as cheap as possible, but also comfortable. We’d like to do a short-term (furnished) rental as opposed to a hotel or room rental since we’re a couple.

We also want to live somewhere nice enough, not in a dangerous area or anything like that. We like parks, shopping, farmer’s markets, etc. Not too big on night life.

Ideally, we’d like somewhere in California, but I’m not sure how realistic that is for our budget ($1500/month rent at the max).

As of now we’ve also looked at Las Vegas, which seems on the more affordable end of the spectrum. Austin was also on our radar, but again, not sure how realistic that is for our budget.

The biggest problem we have is actually finding available rentals online! We need something furnished! Doing anything through Craigslist online is out, and I know most people will suggest AirBNB, but it seems rather inflated in price. Other than that, there seems to be only private websites that are just as difficult (or untrustworthy looking) as Craigslist.

Can anyone point us in the right direction? Where would you guys suggest in our situation? Anyone from Vegas/California/Austin that could point us in the right direction for furnished short-term housing?

This seems like a really great community! I hope someone out there can help us out!

@ld | 5yr

I’m from California, currently Airbnb’ing in Colorado. I stayed in a few locations in CA with Airbnb as well.

We couldn’t find anything less that $2,000 / month in CA (probably more like $2,200+). The only affordable place that isn’t in the middle of nowhere in CA is Palm Springs.

CO is a bit better…

We’ve had great results negotiating rates on longer AirBNB rentals. We just stayed in one for 7 weeks, and paid less than half the listed nightly rate.

I would also suggest considering Costa Rica and Belize. Belize is easy because English is spoken there, but many people in CR speak English as well. They’re almost certainly both cheaper than southern California.

Winter is best in Arizona, south California and Florida if you’re looking for warmth. An alternative is to stay in the RV parks that either have cabins or park models for rent. But make sure to stay in weekly or monthly increments to get good prices. Arizona RV parks are excellent in terms of monthly prices and amenities – some of the RV parks have things like heated pools, hot tubs, game rooms, fast free WiFi, in or very close to big cities like Tucson and Phoenix. Most of the people you’ll meet there will be “snowbirds” from Canada or northern US

I lived in Tucson last winter (Jan – May) and I loved it. It’s slightly cheaper than other U.S. cities and has a lot going on because of the university. If you live near the university or downtown, it’s very walkable and bikeable. Here’s my blog post about it for more details:

I liked it so much that I’m going back in 2016 for the same time period (Jan-May). I’ve got a house-sitting gig lined up.

If your looking at long term, an alternative to airbnb that’s generally cheaper for long term rentals would be renting a house using a site like vrbo

Austin is a possibility on your budget. Also consider Florida. I think most of California is out if your plan is to save money. And nobody enjoys living in Las Vegas. But flights are cheap, so just take a long weekend there.

If you’re set on the Southwest experience, consider Phoenix, Arizona. It’s not an exciting city, but winters are warm and you’d be close (somewhat) to fantastic attractions like the Grand Canyon, Lake Havasu and Tonto National Forest.

A lot of Airbnb hosts don’t set a monthly rate, so the system defaults to daily rate x 30. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Many hosts will agree to 10-20 times the daily rate for a month.

Happy Trails!

Cross California off your list. Way too expensive unless your on a 7-figure income. Come down to Florida. Handful of small beaches with GREAT hotel/motel pricing as well as a great economy. Here are some beaches I recommend:

Cocoa Beach (LOVE IT, small beach in a small town with many gift shops and nice people!)

Clearwater Beach

Daytona Beach

Don’t go to Vegas. Vegas is fun for a few nights, then you’re fed up.

We did the SF – LA – LV triangle trip and I liked SF the most, but depending on the season that may not be the climate you’re looking for, and indeed living expenses in SF are outrageous. I would recommend any place in southern California. We had quite a bit of fun in Santa Cruz.

Savannah, Georgia. Such a beautiful place and the people are amazing!

Agreed. It’s almost as large as Charleston population-wise too, which is included on the list. It has wifi everywhere, coworking spaces, coffee shops galore and 5-star hotels at 3-star prices. And it’s prettier than Charleston in my opinion…

Just +1’ing the Colorado suggestion. It’s not WARM, but in the summer you won’t be roasting like you would in Austin or Las Vegas, and its winters are quite mild, if you are not in the mountains. It’s a high-altitude arid environment. When it snows, it’s quickly sunny again and it melts.

Rent is not too bad. My wife and I pay $900/month for a 1br which includes all utilities except internet. It was not a furnished apartment, though.

Seattle and Portland!

Its beautiful up here especially in the summer. Great food and awesome outdoor activities.

Have you thought about finding a month long house sit in the areas you’re interested in? Some house sits can be up to three months. Might be worth a look to keep costs down. You usually have to pay a small fee to join one of the sites, but it more than makes up for the savings you’ll make.

I am personally a big fan of the Bay Area, but that would most definitely be outside your budget unless you have some great connections there that can hook you up with some deals. I managed to get a room in a nice San Mateo house last fall for $850 per month, but that is insanely cheap for the bay (and that was thanks to a friend posting to the Stanford Alumni mailing list for me). I also like San Diego, and it is probably a better fit for your budget. Plus, you should easily be able to start practicing your Spanish there

PS: Other decent places to look for housing (that I would trust more than Craigslist) include Facebook and G+ groups. Search for “housing [city]” or something along those lines.

If you’re looking for somewhere warm, Colorado is great in summer, but gets quite cold and snowy in winter (I lived there before nomading).

If your $1500 is just for housing, I think you’ll be totally fine in the US. When you’re searching Airbnb, just make sure you search for dates that span a month (this will switch them automatically to monthly pricing) and use the little pricing bar to select something under your budget so that you can see all the budget options. And like someone said above, always ask about discounts for a month-long stay, especially if you are there in off-season or want to stay for more than one month. My housing budget is less than yours and I almost always find something good on Airbnb.

Your other option in the US is Craigslist. Search for furnished short-term rentals (there’s a whole section for that). But be picky…you won’t have the reviews of Airbnb or the guarantee they offer (if you end up somewhere horrifying with Airbnb, they’ll help you out and get you into another place). I heard someone suggest once hiring someone on one of those online miscellaneous sites to go check out apartments or neighborhoods for them. Thought that was an interesting idea.

As for where to go, here are a few warm options:

San Diego, California: temperate weather, nice beaches, good Mexican food, not as expensive as people think (I rented a room there for about $700 if I’m remembering correctly, so I think you could find a small apartment within your budget). Downsides: as with most of the US, you will need a car and some neighborhoods aren’t as nice.

Tucson, Arizona: most definitely hot weather, an interesting city, again good Mexican food, cactus, hiking, hip university city. Downside: again, car, and people who have lived there a while say it starts to feel like a small town with small town drama (I’ve only visited myself, so I can’t speak to that).

Austin, Texas: Quirky, weird, great bar scene, colorful, great Mexican food, walkable downtown (you may be able to get by without a car – not sure). Downsides: Texas has that whole gun reputation that makes me personally feel nervous.

If you’re not stuck on the western US, I’ve heard great things about Charleston, SC.

Finally, I second what other people have been suggesting: consider going somewhere outside the US. Central and South America are cheaper, you can get by without a car in many cases, and the healthcare system is better and less expensive if something goes wrong during your stay. You mentioned being worried about not speaking the language – don’t worry about it! You’ll pick some up, people are super nice and ready to help you out, and if you start in a well touristed town you’ll find plenty of English speakers when you need them. If you do start researching this, I have a particular fondness for a town on the western coast of Mexico called Sayulita. Colorful, full of people from all over the world, a surfing paradise, a big yoga community, etc.

I’ve also heard great things about Costa Rica.

Good luck!

Colorado is GREAT if you have a car. Much cheaper than CA, gorgeous climate in the summer, and plenty to do!

Yes, I have a car and we’ll be driving down and have it with us, so we have a lot more options. Mainly, we’re looking for somewhere warm. It’s Easter in Montreal and there’s still snow on the ground, and it’s below freezing. Snow for nearly half the year starts to get old. No reason to stay here if we can live anywhere and work!

We hadn’t really considered Colorado, but again, we’d really like somewhere warm.

We’re looking at Mexico more now, but we’d really like somewhere nice in California if possible. Thanks for the help so far!

have you added costs of a car into your budget? because there are really only about 6-8 cities in the US that you can easily not have a car and most are not in your budget or weather requirement. I also second Mexico. It’s an easy country, even if you don’t speak Spanish and it’s significantly cheaper.

It’s more “west” than “southwest,” but consider Colorado (Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs). One of the healthiest/most active states in the U.S., easy access to the Rocky Mountains for hiking etc. Or if you want a hotter climate, there’s Arizona.

With AirBNB, consider writing to hosts and inquiring about a discount for a rental of 1 month or more. Can’t hurt to ask; I know several nomads who consistently get reduced prices by doing this.

Another thought is to look up the local city’s newspaper online and check the classifieds section. Might be a bit harder to find furnished, but you never know! Contact people and ask if they’d be willing to rent short-term.

Finally – make sure to consider the public transportation options in your location. The U.S. tends to be very car-centric, so you don’t want to get stuck somewhere that’s nowhere near a bus/train stop! (Unless you’re planning on driving a car down from Canada?)

Good luck!

Why does it have to be the US? For your budget, that’s pretty expensive in most desirable places. I’m in Mexico City right now and it’s awesome. However, if you want US – definitely California is going to be difficult to swing. A tip for AirBNB is to find a place that you like that isn’t crazy expensive, and make an offer to the host for a long term stay – you definitely can negotiate.

We were set on the south-western USA area for a few reasons, namely that we like the vibe and weather, and it’s an easier transition for me, as I don’t speak anything but English. She speaks multiple languages, so yes, it’s as funny and pathetic to her as it probably is to everyone here.

Mexico is definitely on our list, but we were planning on spending time in the US first. It seems like a cool place to live, though! If you have any suggestions for places in Mexico that fit our needs, I’d love to hear.

But yeah, I realize it might be tough to find something in the US with our budget.

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