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How Much Does it Cost to Live in San Francisco?

Posted by on May 5, 2009


Before you read on, take a guess at how much you think you need to make annually in San Francisco…now proceed.

I moved to San Francisco over a year ago and before I moved people kept telling me that you needed to make at least 60k to life in the city, nothing could be farther from the truth.  I’m not talking about being able to barely eek by while eating at fast food restaurants and using the stove as a heater.  I’m talking about living a completely normal life in the city.

You will always hear how good, bad, expensive, or cheap something is but you never really know until you actually find out for yourself first hand.

In order to help I decided to write out my expenses so you can see exactly how much goes into living in one of the world’s most desirable cities.

  • Rent $1,150/month
  • Utilities $150/month
  • Gym $24/month
  • Food $400/month
  • Health insurance $89/month
  • Phone $70/month
  • Miscellaneous $117/month

The total after everything comes to $2000/month and oftentimes my expenses are less.  The amount I budget for food oftentimes includes going out to eat, bars, and clubs.

The total amount I spend annually is $24,000 (and oftentimes under).  This means that you can live comfortably in San Francisco making an annual salary of just over $30,000, around half of what I was told I needed to make to live in San Francisco.

It’s easy to spend 3-4/month living in the city, but there’s no need for that.  The key is to just set a budget for yourself and to stick to it.

So there you have it, you can live in San Francisco on an annual salary of just over $30k.

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  • Great post..

  • chiropractic management

    In this period of time money matters a lot in a way of living, you need money to survive in daily basis.

  • mdea

    There are cost of living areas where San Francisco will actually save you money. You don't need a car. The high number of recent foreign immigrants in San Francisco creates a much lower price point for the types of services where they typically work. For example, a manicure/pedicure in San Francisco is 50% percent cheaper than in Portland, Oregon. Or the cost to have your 1-bedroom apt cleaned by an outside service is 30% cheaper than in Seattle.
    masini de inchiriat

    • Paul_kirch

      sure, take advantage of the underpriviledged, you ass.

  • Please give me more information. I love it, Thanks again.

  • Great! Thank for information, I'm looking for it for a long time,

  • jack

    San Francisco sounds like a nice alternative, I always liked this city but as you were told I was discouraged about the myth of high living expenses. I am glad I found this post, it gives me a better realistic idea about the city and I might consider a relocation in the near future.

  • kalit

    Excellent and to the point. I plan to retire in the city and will buy a two-bed flat (what's a nice place that is quite and with a view?!) outright for $500,000 or so and will have $4000 to live on after taxes. It seems quite feasible. I will run a car and eat out twice a week, but will have few other unusual expenses. My library of books and music and has already been bought!

    • that's definitely a nice plan to have, hope it works out!

    • Sad shit


      • Kalit

        My gains from a 2010 hedge fund bet that the stock market would go down allows purchase of an apartment of $ 1.5 million or so and two beds will still do. I reckon, a monthly after-tax, spend of $ 11000 is now feasible. SF, here we come, books and all!

        Thanks, for all the info!

  • Ali

    Yes, but how about a family of 4 in an area your kids will be safe in?

    • Ali

      I'm sorry, a family of 6. 4 kids 😛

      • Ah you got me, for a family that would definitely be much more expensive. Safety however has not been an issue in my area. I've lived in Nob Hill and currently reside in North Beach; both great spots.

  • Ali

    Yes, but how about a family of 4 in an area your kids will be safe in?

  • Ali

    I'm sorry, a family of 6. 4 kids 😛

  • Ah you got me, for a family that would definitely be much more expensive. Safety however has not been an issue in my area. I've lived in Nob Hill and currently reside in North Beach; both great spots.

  • Humberto

    Hi !
    This post is very good and make more confident about moving to SF.
    I am brazilian and moving to SF invited by my company (work with IT) by the end of this month.

    Although you mentioned the main monthly expenses, I missed the taxes information. Can you tell me the average percentage of the incomings needed to pay the taxes in SF (all of taxes: local, state and country) ?

  • Guest

    Sorry, but this is a terrible calculation on your part. You forget TAXES.
    You failed to add in to the salary Federal taxes at 25%/year on a $30,000/year salary.
    You failed to add in State taxes at 8% on a $30,000/year salary.
    So you need to ADD in 33% to your calculation. That means you need not $30,000/year salary but a $40,000/year salary.

    The typical person will have a car and that means auto insurance, gasoline, and auto repair.

    Auto insurance $80
    Gasoline $120
    Auto repair $60

    If you have car payments add another $100-$300/month depending on make/model.

    And what about medical/dental copays? You are not going to get full 100% coverage.

  • Guest

    How about cable tv at $50/month
    How about Internet at $50/month
    Vacation? Add another $500/month ($600 year expense)
    Movies? Dining out? Clubs? ($150/month)
    Home telephone? ($25/month)
    Cell phone? ($50/month)

    Sorry man but you must live in a cave. $30,000/year in San Francisco is a total joke if you want to live comfortably.You need to be making at least $50,000-$60,000/year minimum to even have enough TO SAVE FOR RETIREMENT!

  • Bari99

    This guy is right but where can you find a nice apt in SF for just $1,150? maybe The tenderloin, civic center are or lower nob hill???? Studio? those places really suck and are dangerous….If you wanna live in a nice area in SF ! Be ready to spend at least 1,300 for a small studio….. BTW I live in SF..Nob Hill and my rent is 1900 for one bed small apt…

    • The cheapest I found for living by myself was 1450 in North Beach, I got quite lucky. For anything around 1200 you would need to live with house mates.

  • sher

    This post is reassuring. I’d like to move there from New Mexico; an entirely different environment. I’ve only heard negative financial aspects before this. Thanks.

    • Angelbabe415

      Dude, this is way off for 2012. Rent usually starts at like 1200 for a studio apartment, and goes up steeply. A 1-br can cost you 1900 at the very lowest, and if you have great credit. Food costs around 250 a week, if you know where to buy and if you don’t go for organic/specialty stuff.

      • Sentilak

        Thanks, its all very useful I will buy you lunch when we finally end up in your great city. Really looking forward to it!!

      • mark

        250 dollars a week?! What food are you buying?! Fillet steak?! That sounds very expensive, even if you were eating in restaurants.every night

  • Paul_kirch

    yeah, right.  Fool.

  • Nakoma774

    This gives me hope. Well, I dont know, I had a 5yr plan.

  • Me

    this guy is an idiot- $30,000 a year does not allow you to live comfortably in San Francisco even in 2009!!

  • Jacob! I found this via Google search, and you popped up, great work. The number of 30k doesn’t take into account taxes, so that’s not 30k gross, but net

    • Costs have changed a bit since I first wrote this post a few years ago. Since then I moved to Oakland which is probably the best decision I have made since living in northern california 🙂

  • Can somebody confirm if this is at least remotely true for 2012/2013? I’m thinking of moving to San Francisco but I’m really scared of the cost of living….

    • I do think the cost of living has gone up a bit since I moved here. But, you can also look at other alternatives such as living in Oakland or somewhere else in the Easy Bay where it’s much cheaper and you can get more for your money. The commute to SF is a short 15 min train ride away so it makes things convenient. If you are looking to spend around 1200/pp/per month then you can also find something provided you get housemates.

  • Rod McDonald

    I moved to San Francisco in 1979, I was making $30,000 a year I don’t think I could live here now on that.