The Lives of Saddleback Valley – $50,000 vs $500,000 Budget

We thought it would be interesting to peak into the lives of two people living in the same area of California that have drastically different lifestyles. So, we set off to find an area of the state where it is common to find multimillionaires living among their less wealthy neighbors.

We settled on Saddleback Valley, which is an area in Southern California in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles. The valley refers to the flat lands at the base of Saddleback Mountain. It is the home to several cities, such as Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, and parts of Laguna Niguel and Laguna Hills.

We reached out to several people in the area before finding our perfect pair to run this comparison. So, sit back and indulge yourself in the tales of two people living in Saddleback Valley. While they may seem completely different on the surface, we will try to find out if their dissimilarities are just superficial or rooted deeper in their souls.

Meet Andrew

Andrew is a 26-year old who lives in Lake Forest, California with his parents. He works two jobs, one as a full-time inside sales representative and one as a bartender mostly on the weekends.

He makes a combined salary of $53,000 from his two jobs and is able to save a significant amount of money by continuing to live at home. He drives a 2004 Hyundai Sonata, which he uses to commute every day to his office in Downtown Los Angeles. It takes him about 1 hour each way.

Meet Haley

Haley is 31 years old and lives alone in her 3 bedroom home in Laguna Niguel, California. She accumulated the majority of her wealth as a social media influencer and continues to earn roughly $500,000 per year promoting various brands to her followers across several platforms like Instagram, TikTok, as well as her own blog.

She generally works full-time, but her hours are spread unevenly across each day. She also works on some weekends when she needs to be engaged for a specific promotion on a Saturday or Sunday.

She leases a 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE 63, which she uses occasionally for going out or getting groceries around town. She works mainly from home, but often goes to different locations around Los Angeles and California to take pictures and videos for her posts.

How They Spend Their Money in Saddleback Valley

We asked both Andrew and Haley to break down their monthly spend for us to compare. Here are the results:

CategoryAndrew – Lake ForestHaley – Laguna Niguel
Restaurants & Bars$600$1,400
Cell Phone & Utilities$120$250
Debt Payments$600$0

Here are some quick comments to clarify some of the values above. Let’s start with Andrew. Although he lives at home, he gives his parents about $500 a month to cover rent. The majority of his budget is then spent on food. He chips in another $325 to help cover his share of the groceries at home and spends another $600 when he goes out to restaurants and bars.

His other major expense is his debt payment of $600 every month. That is a combination of his student loans as well as some credit card debt that he accumulated when, in his words, he was “young and stupid and trying to impress everyone.”

He refuses to subscribe to any monthly services to save some money and tries to stay under spending $3,000 a month.

Haley’s housing cost comes in the form of her rental. She has decided not to buy her own home yet as she said that, “the money may evaporate overnight.” Still, she likes to spend lavishly for the time being.

Her next highest monthly expense is her food. She allocates roughly $2,000 a month on groceries plus eating out.

For transportation, she leases her car. After factoring in gas and insurance costs, it comes out to about $1,600 a month.

Luckily for Haley, she does not have any outstanding debts from college or from credit cards.

Living Life in Saddleback Valley

We asked them to describe their current community and what they like about it.

Andrew in Lake Forest: My city’s not that exciting compared to the other places around SoCal, but it’s not that bad. Like the name says, it’s got lakes and it’s got the forest. It’s actually nice to be so close to the mountains, where you can hike and bike in less than 10 minutes from your house.

It’s pretty quiet compared to some other high-profile neighborhoods around here, but I like that about Lake Forest. You can go to Laguna Beach or Newport Beach and see all the fancy people, but you get to come home to a more down-to-earth neighborhood.

There are also many places to get good food and you don’t have to leave the city to go shopping. We have several supermarkets and retail stores, so it’s not like you have to go to LA to find anything.

Haley in Laguna Niguel: This place is my definition of perfection. It’s more laid back than other areas around here, while you can easily access everything around LA. Of course, there are also great things to do around Laguna Niguel. We have some of the best restaurants and lounges in this area. The beaches are also unbelievable. I think Treasure Island Beach is the best beach in all of California.

My area of Laguna Niguel is extremely residential and I like that it really caters to a calmer crowd. There’s also so much nature that you can access here, so it makes it a nice balance between the outdoors and civilization.

Next, we asked both of them about their favorite things to do and places to visit around the area.

Favorite Restaurant
Andrew: Selanne Steak Tavern in Laguna Beach
Haley: Osteria Mozza in Downtown LA

Favorite Bar
Andrew: The Sandpiper
Haley: The Deck on Laguna

Favorite Beach
Andrew: Huntington Beach
Haley: Laguna Beach

Favorite Fast Food Chain
Andrew: In-N-Out
Haley: Chick-fil-A

Favorite Neighborhood in SoCal
Andrew: Huntington Beach
Haley: Beverly Hills

Favorite Nature Escape
Andrew: Cleveland National Forest
Haley: Santa Catalina Island

Dodgers or Angels
Andrew: Angels
Haley: Angels

Chargers or Rams
Andrew: Neither
Haley: Rams

Lakers or Clippers
Andrew: Lakers – nobody likes the Clippers
Haley: Lakers!

Future Dreams

We then asked Andrew and Haley about their outlook in life and what they would like to accomplish.

Are you happy with your life?

Andrew: Yeah pretty much. I’d like to make some more money and eventually move into my own place. The biggest problem is that everything here is so expensive. 

Haley: I love my life. It’s already beyond my wildest dreams. I started doing social media just for fun and it’s really exploded. I could not be happier at the moment.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Andrew: I hope that I’ve moved into my own apartment in LA and that I move up at my company.

Haley: I want to establish my brand and continue to expand my partnerships. I want to continue living here and maybe I’ll even have my own house by then.

What would you like to professionally accomplish?

Andrew: I want to become a key account manager eventually and work directly with some of our bigger customers. It would definitely help me grow and learn the true ins and outs of my industry. It also pays way better.

Haley: I would like to eventually branch out to do some consulting for people who want to follow my path and also for brands who want to amplify their social media presence. I don’t want to just rely on the existing platforms forever, so I want to become known more as a relationship expert than just an influencer.

What would you like to personally accomplish?

Andrew: I want to buy my own house and eventually have a family. I also want to take a year off and travel the world.

Haley: I want to start a family soon and continue to be there for my friends and family.

Our Take

On the surface, it seems like Andrew and Haley live completely different lives. But, when you compare them and hear about their stories, they really aren’t too far apart at their core. They seem to both strive to excel in their work and want to improve upon it. They also are happy with where they are living and find the positives about their community.

While it is true Haley earns roughly 10 times more than Andrew, it would not be accurate to conclude that she is 10 times happier. The common denominator between the two is Saddleback Valley, which appears to offer a high quality of life to all of its residents. We believe that its prime location allows all of their citizens to thrive. It is surrounded by mountains on one side and the beach and ocean on the other. Meanwhile, Los Angeles is just a short drive away while San Diego is also not so far away either.

The weather is always nice and the people are relaxed. It’s easy to see why Andrew and Haley are content with their surroundings. And, while Haley can access more with her elevated salary, it only adds up to material items. Nature is free. The ocean is free. Anyone can enjoy walking along the streets of Los Angeles.

Summary – Saddleback Valley for All

Overall, we think that these stories are not uncommon in Saddleback Valley. True happiness lies in what you make of your opportunities, which includes your community and your city. Andrew and Haley are perfect examples of people who have taken charge of extracting the best out of their surroundings and really embracing the Southern California lifestyle. With that said, this famed SoCal lifestyle actually means different things to different people.

Yet, it can deliver the same level of joy regardless of your net worth or income.