Question: How much does it cost to live in the San Francisco Bay Area? How much should I budget if I’d like to move there?

Answer: San Francisco & the Bay Area is THE MOST expensive metro area in the USA. Don’t take that lightly. I would recommend saving at least 3 month’s rent, food + transportation before moving here. And that would be for the best case scenario & assuming your company is not covering relocation. 

I think that would come out to about $10k minimum, so the lesson here is only move here after getting a job or with a relocation package. If you move without one, have at least $10k on hand. With average rent starting at $1,500 & typically higher (to share — forget having a place to yourself unless you’re okay with impossibly tiny studios for $2k). If you come with less, you run the risk of having wasted your time & ending up going back home when you don’t get your dream job within a month or 2. 

Also, if you don’t plan to get a job that pays at least $75k, living here becomes very difficult because you will be living literally paycheck to paycheck. So when you hit the negotiation phase, make sure you hustle & get paid to be able to at least survive in this crazy town!

Rent

Share a house/apartment with other people — you can expect to pay from $1,350 – $2,500

Have your own studio – $1,800 – $3,000

Your own 1bd1ba – $2,400+ (and this plus really ranges as high as you can imagine depending on the building & neighborhood)

Most places will want 1st month, last month AND an extra security deposit. So if the SD is worth 1 month’s worth of rent and your rent is $1,500, that’s $4,500 just to get the roof over your head. Suddenly $10k isn’t that much anymore now, is it? 

There’s a misconception that Oakland/the East Bay is cheap; it is not. Last time I wanted a 1bd, I saw them going for nearly $3k. Oakland & Berkeley are ‘cool’ now.

Food

Eating in the SF Bay is expensive. When I go to Whole Food & buy ~1 week’s worth of food, I easily spend $100. And it’s just for me — I don’t eat a lot, I cook mostly vegetarian and I have a pretty basic palette (read, no organic, gluten free, free trade, keto diet over priced ingredients here). 

Trader Joe’s is a frugal survivor’s best friend here — I can get a week’s groceries for usually half the price ($40 – $50). 

Transportation — sucks here, especially for those who don’t drive. The metro (BART) doesn’t go to many places & the bus schedules can be very unpredictable, especially on the weekends. So you end up using A LOT of Uber & Lyft. And yes, that’s pricey, too. 

I take Lyft in the mornings to a bus stop that’s a 20 min walk away (aka not far, but I’m just lazy) — and it ranges anywhere from $3.50 to $11 in the mornings. Tends to average at around $6, for a shared ride & $9 for a direct ride. It’s ridiculous. 

Additional thoughts & commentary

Honestly, the SF Bay is over-hyped. But sadly, companies continue to start, grow & expand here. So there are always a million & one jobs & many are very high paying. This is definitely a great place for a strong career. But once you’ve entered your desired role & attained your desired pay range, I’d highly recommend geo-arbitrage; keep the job & money but move out of the Bay. It’s what I’m doing now actually! 

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