Moving to San Francisco? We share the cost of living in San Francisco, perfect for expats or for those planning a trip to San Francisco.
Anyone would find the West Coast a great place to live for many good reasons. The weather is fantastic, not to mention plenty of fun things to enjoy there. Before you pack your bags and head to San Francisco, you won’t know what it feels like and what to expect while living here.
Without further ado, let’s dive straight in to find out more about what exactly it costs to live in SF.
How to plan a trip to San Francisco
Cost of living in San Francisco
It’s no secret that San Francisco ranks among the most expensive in the US when it comes to housing. For example, rent in SF for a two-bedroom apartment averages about $4500. This is quite steep when you compare it to $1312, which is the national median.
On the upside, there are plenty of apartments for rent in San Francisco to suit the needs of everyone. Whether you are looking for a studio, one-bedroom rental, or fully furnished two or three-bedroom houses, SF has it all.
Also, you can focus your house searches on the city’s southern and western edges, which are considered more affordable neighborhoods.
Even with these crazy numbers, living in SF is possible, especially if you choose to co-live with roommates and take advantage of the well-paying job opportunities on offer here.
Food & Groceries
SF has a diverse food scene with endless restaurants and exciting joints to try out. You can find good food at reasonable prices in some places or pay the extra buck for fine dining.
A meal at a standard, inexpensive eatery will cost on average $20, while a mid-range restaurant will charge $85 for a three-course meal for two people.
California, where SF is, has some of the highest state and local taxes. A 2021 report by the Tax Foundation shows a state sales tax rate of 7.25%, making it the highest in the country and a combined rate of 8.82%.
The local tax rate is lower though at 2.59%. Compared to other major counties, SF has the fourth-highest state and local taxes, with New York County holding the first position.
Living and working in San Francisco does come with employee benefits, such as health benefits and paid leaves. Pension and insurance deductions and tax breaks will vary depending on your work.
An average, monthly pass for the SF subway costs $81, which is relatively cost-effective compared to a one-way ticket which goes for $3. On an average business day, a five-mile ride in a taxi will cost you $19.
SF also has some of the most walking-friendly roads and cable cars if you want to experience a taste of the classic old-style trains.
Transport is generally hassle-free in SF unless you get caught up in the Eastbound Highway 24 traffic congestion. The Auckland area has some of the worst roads in the country, which contributes to endless traffic jams here.
Arts and Entertainment
SF County has a rich arts and entertainment industry with all kinds of innovative and unique events. Most notably, counter-culture and business intertwine to provide fantastic entertainment.
The city’s thriving nightlife culture and unique attractions will keep you preoccupied for a while when you move into the city.
As you can imagine, the tech industry significantly influences the SF entertainment scene, with the California Academy of Sciences being a major local attraction. On average, cinema seats go for $15 for movies on an international release.
San Francisco has an average cost of utilities amounting to $173, lower than the $240 national average. This takes into account the cost of gas, electricity and running water charges every month. Compared to other northeast regions, these are lower due to the milder winters that don’t require extensive heating.
Data and cell phone services cost around $94, and the county has full 4G coverage. Public gyms and access to a park for every resident within a 10-minute walking distance are also available. You can also try out some outdoor activities such as skating, biking and calisthenics.
Is It Time To Take The Leap?
Housing and transportation are the highest costs you will have to deal with when moving to San Francisco. The area is considerably more expensive to live in than the national average, but it also offers its residents unbelievable work and life opportunities.
With its vintage architecture and classic culture, San Francisco is a city that’s best known for its mild opulence, and the cost of living in this great city will depend on how much luxury you want.
How to save money in San Francisco
- We LOVE this camera for our travel photography.
- For a cheap, easy and compact camera, we use this to vlog and take photographs.
- We use this travel drone (but make sure to check drone laws in your chosen destination first).
- This is our favourite travel Insurance because it covers so many activities and travel situations that could arise on longer trips but also offers year coverage.
What to pack
- No matter where we travel to, I always take these trusty hand sanitizer’s and a mini first aid kit.
- We love these toiletry bags (especially great for smaller bathrooms) and choose a laptop bag like this as our hand luggage.
- We keep our devices charged on long travel days with these lightweight battery packs and bring these worldwide travel adaptors on all our trips.
- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these, over backpack and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.