How to Save Money in Santa Barbara

By Greg S.

Living in the Santa Barbara area can have us scrimp on certain expenses.  What do other edhat readers do to try to save money and/or what is your occasional splurge?


Written by greg

What do you think?


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  1. Only 30% actually work? Where did that come from? FACTOUM gave excellent advice, pretty much the way we live and it works. Thrift stores and yard sales are the best for shopping, saves tons of money. My motto is, “I don’t buy new except food.” For vacations we go to a BLM campground in the Eastern Sierra. There are so many ways to save, like make coffee at home, don’t go to Starbucks. Take a thermos to work and pack a bagged lunch.

  2. Save for a down payment on a house, condo, double-wide, whatever you can afford to stabilize your housing costs and not live at the mercy of the local rental market.. Stop throwing rent money down the drain. Join the military and get vet benefits after a few years. Work for the government – pays very well. Allocate your life into decades with different goals instead of asking to live in this area right now if it prevents you from building your own equity. Become an investor in the American economy, support programs, policies and candidates that don’t take from you, and then give it to someone else. Find a religious community that is compatible with you spiritually and become a regular member – it pays off in a net-working community, free social activities and a built-in support system when you might need one. Plus it feels good to get a few words of wisdom and sing a few good old hymns once a week – meditative time to rebalance your life and priorities. You don’t have to be a “believer” to enjoy being part of a religious community. You can form attachments to it at many different levels. Many to explore in this town – try a few on to see what might click. Humanist Society, Unitarians, Society of Friends (Quakers), Theosophists, Vedanta, Temple, and every form of traditional mainline Christianity as you would like to sample -some more charismatic, some more traditional, but all have solid social values to explore. Go simply as an observer, before feeling you might want to be a joiner.

  3. Once food is broken down into molecular form in order to pass through the intestinal villi, the molecule does not know if it started out as “organic” or not. Personally, I don’t find “organic” food to be any tastier than most supermarket products. Farm fresh, and in season, (key) matters more than “organic”. Carrots and cabbage can stay in the refrigerator for a long time and shredded make a tasty and very nutritious vegetable salad base with your own homemade dressing, Add a chopped boiled egg, some left over meat and cheese. Make a large casserole (yes, you can learn to cook) at the beginning of the week and portion it out if you are solo – so you can resist the urge to go out even for fast food, instead of cooking something for yourself every night.

  4. D8VANILLA: Decades ago “Dear Cecil” wrote in The Weekly (long-gone Santa Barbara free paper) that in the time it takes one to spot a penny and pick it up, that thrifty soul is making about $7.50 per hour. My math is terrible, but last time I found any money it was a dollar bill, so should I plan on retiring soon?

  5. FACTOTUM: It is a fact that ingesting pesticides is unhealthy for humans. If you don’t know the difference between healthy (organically grown) and unhealthy foods, you’d best begin your internet research on organic vs. non-organic today.

  6. The biggest expense is going out and doing what everyone else is doing. Learn to cook and make healthy meals in large batches you can freeze for later use. What it costs to eat out for one meal can be made into 5 meals at home. Better yet invite some friends over, enjoy good conversations, play games and probably have a better time too. Then when they invite you in return it’s just money in the bank. Join a book club instead of going to the movies. Take up activities that don’t cost you anything like hiking and gardening. It’s easy to save money so long as you don’t follow the herd and do what everyone else is doing.

  7. We saved the most money by leaving Santa Barbara – housing costs went from an $1800 a month rental to a $1400 a month mortgage. Utilities dropped by a third. Cut our dining expenses by 75% by learning how to cook the food we missed eating and now we can cook up a better meal than half the restaurants we used to eat at before.

  8. 30 years ago, most of the stores were not even there. They come and go as the markets and the appeal of downtown shopping shifts and changes. The city has put a great deal of subsidized housing down town, which means downtown residents often don’t have discretionary cash to support State Street stores and shops anyway. Granada Parking Garage gave away desirable downtown units across from the Art Museum and Library to ultra-low income residents. They won’t be supporting downtown shops either.

  9. Thank a rich person, because they continue to support activities that you can also find ways to enjoy – volunteer to usher for concerts and plays that they sponsor. Enjoy early bird specials at local restaurants, before their prices go up later for the carriage trade. They pay the bulk of the property taxes that support your city services. Say thank you to both the wealthy who can afford to live here and the generous local philanthropists, rather than resenting them for what their own lives have achieved, including being merely a trust funder. The wealthy in this town do invest their own resources making it special, which is why so many want to hang on here whether they can afford to live here or not. Stop kicking them in the teeth. You may never reach their same financial level, but once you figure how to make it work for yourself you do get to enjoy much of what wealthy Santa Barbarans have long provided – an enriched environment where everyone still shares the same sunshine and participates the same rain. The wealthy, who so many on this forum claim to hate, make Santa Barbara a better place to live than Oxnard. You can get the same weather in Oxnard; but it does not have the X-factor that decades of wealthy philanthropy and aesthetics has bestowed on this particular town.

  10. Bummer – you could try sprouted grains. That’s a thing. One of the reasons so many people are ‘gluten intolerant’ is not so much the gluten, but the way grain is processed. There is an enzyme in the hull that is slightly toxic that changes after the grain is exposed to weather (rain) which it used to be out in the fields. With our modern processes, that doesn’t happen anymore. That and being saturated with glyphosates…

  11. (1) Drink water. Don’t buy drugs or alcohol. (2) Rent a room in someone’s home or share an apartment. (3) Walk, ride bike and bus, don’t have car, too expensive. (4) Go to free clinic for medical/dental care. Don’t pay for expensive insurance. (5) Be vegetarian, buy from local Farmer’s Market. (6) Free entertainment: Volleyball on beach, swim in ocean, join Sierra Club hikes and get a ride from someone to start point, window shopping/browsing, view night sky-enjoy telescopes when available, read at library, volunteer to help others.

  12. All good suggestions, to add: Buy anything you need at the local thrift shops and explore the extensive ones in Ventura/Oxnard. If you need shopping therapy, do it at a thrift shop. Fully fund your IRA and put as much as you can in a Roth IRA. Don’t touch it – invest long and slow. The years move by anyway, and retirement when you need this nest egg is closer than you can possibly think. right now. Never run a balance on your credit card. Learn to cook. Understand basics of good nutrition using basic ingredients; not prepared anything. . Buy only nutrient dense food. Stay away from the Farmer’s market. Look at the bargain food items at Tri-Counties instead. Buy an air- corn popper (at the thrift shop) if you want a snack. Don’t drink alcohol – either alone or when going out to eat. Track your monthly expenses on a spread sheet. Where does your money actually go? Treat yourself to a pre-paid 2 week vacation every year. Don’t come back to bills you then have to later pay off. Keep a 6 month “emergency” account. NEVER be one paycheck from “homelessness”. If you can’t make it here, look elsewhere where you can. There are plenty of other very nice places to live for a lot less. Return to Santa Barbara much later and get on the waiting list for low-income senior housing ( hundreds of units) after you start drawing social security, but make your own way and your nest egg somewhere else if you feel presently stretched.

  13. Do you actually understand how much insurance for folks making over a certain limit costs? It’s close to 1k per month if not more. Not sure why you need to call anyone a hypocrite. Being a democrat not able to afford health insurance isn’t hypocritical. The fact that “Obama Care” was gutted by the republicans before it went into law sucks however! I am all for a good debate but at least let’s present the actual facts when doing so.

  14. We have a very good string of Neighborhood Clinics in this town. Be well and thrive. Most health problems when younger are lifestyle choices, and most of the rest go away on their own anyway. Learn not to be among the worried-well or a practicing hypochondriac. Apply wellness rules to your own life. Learn to triage your own life. Save health care for what is documented, and evidence based valid. Trauma is another issue from routine “health care”- so don’t go looking for trouble. Carry catastrophic insurance.

  15. I can’t and won’t say what you or other people ultimately “need.” All I can say is that American life is full of Madison Avenue manufactured “needs” that are ultimately BS to buy yachts, cocaine and Ivy League slots. Cars are notoriously one of these and for every person that honestly needs one there’s another who fritters away their precious savings on them. They’re like frogs sitting in a pot of gradually warming water and oblivious to the fact it will reach boiling and cook them.
    Also, I have to confess a bit of snobbishness: I don’t consider Goleta (mostly resembles an LA suburb – bleh!) or Carp (downtown Santa Barbara 80+ years ago – cool!) part of Santa Barbara. They are – just not to me. Probably a side effect of walking everywhere. Apologies for that.

  16. Factotum, you are tiresome. Spewing the same old, same old. YES LANDLORDS PASS ON PROPERTY TAX INCREASES TO TENANTS. Mine came right out and told me that’s why my rent was going up. So WHO is subsidizing WHO? We’ve been over this already. Pay attention.

  17. the civilian labor force looks to be about 49% in California.
    19.6 MM out of 39.6 MM of population. This does not include very large work force working for cash and not reporting income, paying taxes and not reporting employment such as gardeners, trades and people making money buying and selling products or services via craigslist, Amazon or Ebay.
    13%+ of those work for the government

  18. Property owners carry extra tax burdens – automatic 2% increases every year; additional school bond taxes and parcel taxes. These annual additions to property taxes are not necessarily passed on to tenants. Most likely if they were, tenants would accuse landlords of rent-gouging. “Paying taxes” on gas or retail items does not even come close to the tax burdens shared by property owners who fund a very large part of city revenues. Income tax burden is not allocated evenly either. Far too many in this state are net tax takers, while depending on the top 1% to produce nearly half of all state income tax revenues.

  19. Don’t eat out, but if you do, don’t buy beverages (even soft drinks). Use the Public Library for its many resources: internet, books & DVDs, concerts, lectures. Groceries can add up. Always check the “day old” or “reduced” sale tables in Ralph’s and Smart & Final for super deals. Shop at the thrift stores (great ones in the area). Don’t keep pets–it can be expensive to properly care for them, especially as they age. If you can ride a bike rather than drive, that helps. For treats: eat out once a month at an inexpensive place; take a walk on the Wharf and buy an ice cream cone (pricey $5.00, but a treat) . If you have a credit card, only charge what you can pay off in full each month. And mostly, what D8VANILLA said: be aware of the difference between “want” and “need”.

  20. The old wise Rabbi said….you should eat below your means…..dress according to your means….and live in a house above your means. I abide by the rabbis saying. Except I shop at Ross for sale items and thrift shops. So I dress below my means to afford the house that is above my means.

  21. ….and you cell phone is not free, or the electricity to charge it. Other people are supporting you. It’s time to get on the Give and get off the Take, Jake. Wake up up and smell yourself, not some ones else’s roses.

  22. It’s only mentioned in passing but it can be an enormous savings. DON’T OWN A CAR!
    Cars are gigantic money sucks – down payments, loan payments, gas, upkeep, insurance, repairs, spare parts, emergency equipment, registration, blood pressure meds to deal with rush hour etc. The add up to so much a young person could fund a comfy retirement just by walking. Not to mention the usual DMV hassles and potential legal entanglements from police/accidents. Yes, there are people that need cars in Santa Barbara – lawyers and contractors, etc. But most people can work, go to school and shop with out one. We have a great bus system and fairly bicycle friendly roads. If you live down town everything is within a 15 minute walk. If you need to go longer distances a cab or Lyft can get you there far cheaper than a car payment even if you take 5 or 6 trips a month. Rent a car for those long road trips. I lived seven years here as a worker/college student without a car. I’ve lived the past 4 years without one now.
    Finally, saving money isn’t enough unless you have a place to put it where it will grow and be useful, rather than spent on just a pointless higher tier luxury good. I recommend investing in an IRA, 401K, and sending any overflow into Index Funds.

  23. ERICL – good points, but most families in this town (from Carp to Goleta) need a car. I have 2 kids in different schools (elementary and jr. high), plus 2 teams’ baseball practices/games, plus scouts, plus weekly grocery trips, plus my wife works too, so we trade off on driving duties as our work schedules allow. The reality is, that most families have the same needs and therefore, need daily transportation other than a bike or bus. When you’re young, single and only need to worry about your own personal needs, then yeah, a car can be optional. But please realize how critical it is to most of us here.

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