A common complaint you might hear amongst people living in San Francisco is how expensive it is to live in San Francisco. The average rent for a one bedroom apartment is $3,400/month and the estimated cost of living is $1114/month (excluding rent). So, how does someone save money while living in one of the most expensive cities in the US? Here’s 5 ways I do it:
1. Living with roommates in an older apartment
I live with two roommates in an older apartment* (probably from the 1980s, judging from the interior layout). By choosing to live with roommates, I save at least $600/month. All throughout my adult life, I’ve lived in modest houses or apartments and always with roommates. Because I never upgraded my living conditions, my housing needs and expectations have remained pretty simple. I just need a room, a bathroom, and a functional kitchen. I don’t need amenities, such as an apartment gym, concierge, or a pool, or an amazing view like you’d get with one of those fancy high-rises. Even though I’d love to live alone (especially since I’m quickly approaching my 30s) or live in a new, sleek, modern apartment, I’d much rather spend 15% than 33% of my salary on rent.
*You don’t necessarily have to live in an older apartment to save money. I know people who lived in newer, modern apartments, but converted the living room into a bedroom to save on rent.
2. Not having a car
I don’t have a car in SF and instead, rely on public transportation, walking, and the occasional Lyft/Uber rides to get around. Even though my apartment comes with a covered parking spot in a garage (which is pretty rare in SF), I decided to rent out the spot instead of using it for myself. Since parking is so hard to find here (ask anyone who has ever driven in the city), people are willing to pay good money for a spot. So, I rent out my parking spot for $300, which means I save $300/month on my rent. Not having a car in SF also means I save money on gas, bridge tolls, parking meters, and possible parking tickets.
3. Taking public transportation or walking
Despite the many complaints and horror stories about the public transportation in SF, the MUNI can essentially take you anywhere in the city. With my monthly MUNI pass, which costs $75/month, I can ride the buses, light rail, and even cable cars to get around the entire city. I make use of my pass so much that each ride probably comes out to just over $1. Additionally, San Francisco is a pretty walkable city, aside from the hills. If I have the time and the weather is good, I’ll choose to walk to my destination, especially if there are beautiful Victorian houses or great views of the Bay on my route. I try not to rely on Lyft/Uber too much and only use it about 5-7 times a month, usually when the weather is bad or it’s too late at night. Fortunately, most rides in SF cost $4-5.
4. Only going out occassionally
Even though SF has tons of great bars and restaurants, I don’t go out to them very often, probably only 2-3 times a month. I joke about how I’m a grandma*, but staying at home instead of going out saves me a lot of money that would have been spent on alcohol, drunken food, and Lyft/Uber rides.
Since a dinner for two at a nice restaurant can cost anywhere from $80-$300 (depending on where you go), my boyfriend and I would much rather eat at a casual restaurant or make dinner at home and save money. Instead of going out to a restaurant or the movies for dates, my boyfriend and I usually take a walk to a nearby neighborhood, talking about everything and anything and making the occasional stop for bubble tea or snack (usually onigiri) on the way.
In fact, one of our most enjoyable dates (in my opinion) was when we walked to Japantown and stumbled into a cute cafe, where we discovered and played a board game called Wok Star (yes, it’s a board game based on running a Chinese restaurant). We had a great night and it only cost us the price of two cups of tea!
*I haven’t always been a homebody grandma. In my younger twenties, I went out a lot more, but even then, I would take advantage of happy hours, restaurant week deals, and public transportation (even if it meant an hour long bus ride at 2am).
5. Finding enjoyment in the little things
I find happiness in small purchases, such as bubble tea or coffee or pastries, which is why I have categories for each them in my budget. I know, I know. Bubble tea and lattes are pretty expensive for what they are and if I just gave up the expensive lattes and avocado toasts, I’d be able to buy a house. 😛
But because going out for a bubble tea can also mean a heart-to-heart with a friend or coworker and getting a latte can buy me a few hours of alone time in a cafe where I can relax and write, they are worth much more to me than their actual monetary costs.
What are ways you save money where you live? How do you save money on rent or transportation? Do you save money by taking public transportation or not going out as much?