OFB 50 States Project: California


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50 States Project: California

In The OFB 50 States Project, you the readers spill the beans about your state: the good, the bad, and the delicious. And thus provide “forever place” seekers (like yours truly) a useful resource in their search. We’d love to hear about your state! To be a part of this project, click here to fill out the form!

The Facts

Low State Taxes Ranking:  47Low Cost of Living Ranking:  46

State Economy Ranking:  43

Average Temperatures (Los Angeles):

  • Winter:  68°
  • Spring:  73°
  • Summer:  83°
  • Fall:  78°

The Nickname 

The Golden StateThe Short of It

The state of California is brought to you by the following awesome OFB readers:
1) Casie   //   2) Kelli K.   //   3) Tonya  //  4) Byron  //  5) Sam O.  //  6) JW  //  7) Kate D.  //  8) Alanna R.

What food best represents California?

  • Avocado 1
  • Tacos! 2
  • Fish Tacos 3
  • Mexican 4
  • Burritos 5
  • See’s Candy 6
  • Sustainable, local, and organic — I prefer Mexican :) 7
  • Avocados? Citrus? Mexican food? — So many! 8

What song best represents California?

  • California – Tom Petty 1
  • Pet Sounds album (the whole thing) – Beach Boys 2
  • California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & the Papas 3, 6, 8
  • California English – Vampire Weekend 7

How does CA refer to a carbonated beverage drink?

  • Soda 1-8

If you could take a friend to one place in CA, where would it be?

  • Yosemite National Park 2
  • Napa 3
  • Lake Tahoe 4, 5
  • San Francisco 7

California Sunset

The Long of It

Biggest misconception about CA?

  • That everyone drives a Prius.  1
  • That we are all shallow, rich, Botoxed, tan, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills types that all drive nice cars. 3
  • That everyone lives near the beach and surfs. 6
  • That Northern and Southern California are “close.” We are a whole day’s drive apart and totally different places. Most importantly, Northern California (with San Francisco) is not a place you come to visit beaches, especially during foggy, cold summers! 8

Best aspect about living in CA?

  • Mild weather year round. Beach, mountains (snow), desert, all within a short drive of each other.  1
  • The geography of the entire state is incredible. There is so much stuff to do here it’s unreal. Also, the weather has to be about the best in the US I think. And, of course, the ocean.  3
  • The weather is ALWAYS beautiful. And I’m talking always. Any deviation from 70-75 degrees and people think the world is coming to an end. I’m sure you guys remember this. :) 4
  • It’s hard to make a generalization about CA because North versus South are so different so I’ll say that the best part about Northern California is how accessible so many different things are: Tahoe for skiing, hiking, outdoor activities; wine country is everywhere and it can be a day’s drive; the beaches are great for big wave surfers despite being chilly; great golf courses; Silicon Valley for great employment opportunities; an insanely good food scene; wonderful institutions of higher learning; I could go on and on. 8

Worst aspect about living in CA?

  • LA Traffic 2
  • Traffic, pollution, overpopulated, high cost of living, did I mention traffic? It’s bad.  5
  • Since so much of the state was built within the last 50-60 years, some of the neighborhoods feel very cookie-cutter. 6
  • Government/politics; cost of living (in Southern CA); virtually no seasons; depending on where you live, you must get in the car to go anywhere :(, traffic, fast paced lifestyle, no more open space. 7

Summarize your feelings about California in five words.

  • Never gonna let you go 1
  • Weather, mountains, ocean, desert, wine 3
  • Sunny, beautiful women, great life 4
  • It is not for everyone 5
  • perfect weather, Mickey Mouse, ocean, laid-back, traffic 6
  • Never lived anywhere else 7
  • California: Two very different states 8

Our Freaking Take

California is home to me. And by California, I mean Southern California. The Northern part of the state is foreign to me. For the first 17 years of my life, I thought all high schools offered zero period surf class, had outdoor campuses, and practiced earthquake drills. I look back fondly on my upbringing and deep down, I think California might just be my ideal forever place. Unfortunately, it’s also freaking expensive. I can handle the traffic, the smog, even the Lakers. But the cost of living and financial well-being of the state seem too insurmountable for a young family just starting out. I’d love nothing more than to be closer to the Pacific Ocean and In-N-Out (which is the ONLY food you should eat if you visit the state), but my City of Angels and Golden Bear State might just have to wait.

How did these answers line up with your perception of California? Have your thoughts on the state changed after reading this? Could you see it fitting your forever-place bill? 

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43 Comments

  • Reply JW_Umbrella Treasury May 17, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Oh yes, In N Out Burger. How did I forget that?! For years, it was the only burger I would eat!

    And you’re absolutely right about outdoor school campuses. I’ve tried explaining that one to my friends here on the East Coast, but it’s such a foreign concept : )

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      I probably overhype In-N-Out. But seriously, there isn’t a burger in all that land that beats that thing. I guess it’s not overhyping if it exceeds the hype, which it assuredly does.

  • Reply Emory May 17, 2013 at 9:28 am

    I have only been to San Diego and Sacramento, but I must say I loved both for very different reasons! It’s so true what was said about the difference between north and south. But one thing I noticed from my visits was when people weren’t driving everything felt very laid back and relaxed. Not lazy or weed induced relaxed. Just calmer than what I was used to I guess. But I don’t think I could settle down somewhere that was so crowded. Need my wide open Midwest space.

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      That “calmer” assessment is spot on. Never has that been more apparent than when we finished up my internship in NYC and moved directly to LA for another internship. It seemed like everyone in LA was on Ambien. In a good way.

  • Reply debtperception May 17, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I’ve only been to Northern and the central coast. My husband is originally from there and if the Navy lets him reenlist after his 2014 deployment, we’re probably moving out there. Northern part got HOT but there were lots of nice sights to see though. It was a long drive to the central coast, Morro Bay…gorgeous views and lots of surfers! We’ll probably end up living out there when he’s done with the Navy. I’m from the midwest and could live with warmer weather and no snow. We’re in VA now and it’s too damn humid, so I could see us settling in central CA as a happy medium.

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      That would be a pretty awesome deployment. And while I’ve only got a few limited experiences north of LA County, what I have seems picturesque. Minus Sacramento.

      • Reply Nicole December 26, 2013 at 5:25 pm

        As a “born and raised” Sacramentan, I would disagree with your comment. Sacramento is very picturesque with our many rivers and quant downtown area! While I do have many comments, both positive and negative, a trip to Sacramento is well worth the drive (or flight)!

        • Reply Johnny December 30, 2013 at 1:01 am

          Touche. I trust your opinion, Nicole. I made four or five trips up to Sacramento in high school, and our visits didn’t take us outside of some of the grimier areas of downtown. So I’m sure your city has plenty to offer. The next time we’re driving through, I’ll reassess my Northern CA prejudices. :)

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone May 17, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I could make the list of “worst things about living in California” a lot longer, but I certainly had a love-hate relationship with it when I lived there. I often miss the weather and the beach, and always miss Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, Pinkberry, and InNOut. I also miss being able to wear cute clothes everywhere and know that I wouldn’t be overdressed. (Clearly I lived in Southern California). So funny! Just writing about it makes me want to move back…a little.

    • Reply Meghan May 17, 2013 at 11:58 am

      We have those three chains in Denver!

      • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone May 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm

        Really??? I should move there! I’m in WA now, which we love for the snowboarding, but it lacks all those things! I had no idea that there were Wahoo’s outside of CA! Denver sounds like a pretty good place to live!

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      Southern California is good with luring people back, despite all its ugly, glaring, no-good, awful imperfections.

  • Reply Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies May 17, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Ya know, I hated the beach when all I knew was the frigid water of Southern California’s beaches. But then again, where I grew up you either loved CA and were hellbent on moving there as soon as possible or hated it and never wanted a part of it. My defection to the east was an oddity, but I still can’t see myself ever being happy in CA.

    • Reply Emily @ evolvingPF May 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      I’m not sure I’ll ever dip into the ocean regularly even after we move to SoCal. Having grown up visiting East coast beaches, I just can’t get used to the cold! However, there are lots of other things that are great about beaches aside from the water.

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      Sadly, you’re sorta right. I loved the beach, but the water wasn’t always my favorite. It was usually too cold and we knew better than swimming in the ocean after it rained because of runoff. I’d never been seen any other beach until our honeymoon on the Gulf Shore. After that trip, I don’t know if I can ever get back in the Pacific Ocean.

  • Reply Chris May 17, 2013 at 10:41 am

    So far you’ve highlighted 2 of the 3 states I would never live in purely due to politics. I’ve heard California is beautiful. Especially northern California. If it ever seceded from California proper I’d go in a heartbeat! Alas, they will probably never do that so my tourist dollars will go elsewhere.

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      I’m hoping Sacramento secedes from itself and takes its taxes and lack of fiscal logic with it. Politics are an ugly beast when only one party runs the show.

  • Reply Brian May 17, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I couldn’t live in California. It is a great place to visit (we have family out there), but there are just other places I would rather live.

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      Probably not enough hurling clubs, huh?

  • Reply Budget and the Beach May 17, 2013 at 11:13 am

    I don’t know how I could have forgotten about In & Out Burger! The. Best!

  • Reply anna May 17, 2013 at 11:27 am

    I’ve lived in San Diego for over a decade and absolutely love the culture and wearing open toed shoes 340 days out of the year. However, it’s really expensive, and we’re not sure if we’d live here for cost purposes and because of the school systems if we were to raise a family. The 24-hour Mexican joints and In-N-Out are definitely the tastiest reasons to stay, though!

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 10:58 pm

      Totally forgot how freaking amazing the shady Mexican restaurants are. We had our little local dirty joint and it was always packed. It’s beyond me why no other region of the country does Mexican like California. Why is it so hard to get it right?

  • Reply Meghan May 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    I would love to live in California, and if a job ever opened up there in my organization, I’d move there in a heartbeat! To me, the quality of life trumps the negatives (traffic aside).

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      That’s how I’ve felt. Sitting in traffic sucks. But if the weather is pleasant enough to have the windows down 300 days/year with a faint scent of sea water while you’re sitting in that traffic, I can deal with that.

  • Reply Well Heeled Blog May 17, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Oh the foood. Love In-N-Out so much. And all the diversity of food that’s here – I truly believe the best Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean food outside of their respective countries are in SoCal. Plus we have Little Ethiopia (greatest concentration of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia) with their awesome lavash and lamb. Then there’s the plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that are always available – and – as I’ve realized once I’ve moved out of CA – pretty affordable!

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 11:02 pm

      Don’t forget Mexican! Admittedly I wasn’t as adventurous with food while growing up in CA, so I’ve got to give some authentic Vietnamese and Korean places a try the next time I’m there.

  • Reply Chris @ Amplify May 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    My wife’s from San Diego and after visiting this past Christmas, we wanted to explore moving from Illinois to San Diego. The story ends with me looking up on Zillow property values to see if I can find an area that was comparable. We were priced out pretty quick.

    With that, we LOVE California. It’s a place we love to visit. It’s probably a good place to raise a family but cost of living is too high to make the move.

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      Sounds like us. Just for kicks, I look up CA home and rental costs every once in a while. And then I get depressed and turn off the computer. :)

  • Reply Kaylyn May 17, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    I’ve only been to California for work (twice to Long Beach), but I did squeeze in a small trip to LA that was half work/half fun. It was great leaving the snow behind TWICE in Maryland to go to CA! I’d love to explore Northern Cali someday, but planes are expeeeeeeeensive.

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      Winter business trips to CA are always awesome. Nothing like coming back to pale, cold coworkers with a little sunburn.

  • Reply Anna May 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I am a new reader and you’re on my daily “check these blogs” list! I am getting married in September and my fiance and I just moved into a new house, so we are integrating my freaking budget and his freaking budget to have an “our freaking budget”. I just purchased the HomeBudget app that you two rave about and I’ve been trying to input information for the past few hours. I added credit card expenses into the recurring bills, but they aren’t showing up for each month when I scroll through the months. What am I doing wrong? Also, do you have any tips for using this app that you want to pass along?
    Thanks!

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 11:14 pm

      Hey Anna! Thanks for the comment and congrats on the marriage and house and budget! Exciting times.

      Glad you got the app! We don’t really use the recurring bills feature, so I don’t know if I can help you there. But as far as tips, the app works best when you and your fiancee are synched up and managing your budget together. Add expenses as soon as possible so you don’t forget. And don’t wait to look at your budget and what’s left AFTER you’ve already bought something or gone somewhere. Take a peek before you commit to a night out with friends or splurging on an outfit.

      Best of luck!

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup May 17, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Since I was born in Cali and still have family there, it is a fun place to visit. I do love some In-N-Out, but I would never live there. I hate traffic with a passion and there is so much in Cali. There high cost of living is ridiculous and just plain out of control. You can’t complain about the weather though. Perfect temperature.

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      In N Out > Perfect traffic. Not even a question.

  • Reply Sabrina May 17, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    California is where we’re hoping to make our next big move. This helps us with a few more things we weren’t aware about but we like to think we have a realistic idea of what (and how much) we need to make there as well as how tough it may be in the beginning.

    • Reply Johnny May 17, 2013 at 11:20 pm

      The one perk is that with the higher cost of living than most the country, employers are usually paying a little higher than average. But that’s smart to calculate the numbers before you take the plunge.

      • Reply The Roamer May 22, 2014 at 7:33 pm

        Hey Johnny
        I’m new here but I really enjoying your writing style it’s so light and fun. I also had no idea you are Californian. Still I’d have to disagree with you on this comment. The higher pay is most noticeable only if you make minimum wage as ours is clearly higher but this is not really true when you get into professional jobs like engineering.. From my experience I have old classmates in the Midwest who make just as much as I did for entry level if not more or slightly lower( let’s be honest pay is also dependent on company and other factors). But if I lived in Michigan I could buy a 3-4 bedroom house and here I’d get 2 bedrooms max with a much smaller lot…

        Not saying it’s impossible we do currently live here in 5 person household but we rent I’d totally move for a house. But as said you can’t beat the food.. Armenian , Vietnamese etc…

        • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 3:10 pm

          Thanks for your input on California! I think you’re right that the higher salary isn’t always the case. And it’s almost impossible to compensate enough to make up for the high price of real estate. Glad you’re making it work out there, though! If the job was right, we’d move to Southern California in a heartbeat!

  • Reply The Norwegian Girl May 18, 2013 at 4:47 am

    I can`t wait to one day visit California.. it´s always been a big dream of mine. And go swimming in the Pacific ocean.. Someday, someday!

    • Reply Johnny May 20, 2013 at 12:54 am

      I have a hard time believing it’s more beautiful than Norway, but Disneyland + the Pacific Ocean at sunset are pretty hard to beat. Hope someday happens soon for ya.

  • Reply Gaynor May 18, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Oh my goodness, I think this may be MY forever place and I live in Leeds, England. It’s early summer here and today was 50 degrees max. Now how to convince the husband and two children…hmmm?

    • Reply Johnny May 20, 2013 at 12:59 am

      Hah. Yeah, I’d never last if I had 50 degree summer days to look forward to. At the very least, plan a trip and whet your family’s appetite. Make sure to choose the rainiest, awfulest time of year in England so that when you step off the plane in 70 degree sunshine, your job of convincing them will be that much easier.

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