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Wondering What Is the Cost of Living in San Francisco – Here’s a Quick Breakdown

Relocation to the West Coast is a dream come true for many people. If you’re contemplating a move to the Bay Area, then the cost of living in San Francisco should be the question that tops all others. Luckily, we did the homework and compiled it all for you so that you can focus on more important matters.

If a relocation to California and the Bay Area is your thing, then you have probably heard all the legends about the costs of everyday life. Well, after moving to San Francisco, you’ll find out that most of the stories are true, but they don’t paint a complete picture of this Californian gem. SF is an expensive place, indeed, and you’ll need quite a lot of dough to make a comfortable living. The good news is that it can be done. San Francisco is a great place to be in almost every aspect imaginable. And not only for the things to do or the mild climate but also for the scores of opportunities, professional and all other. After all, that’s what moving to a big city is about.

How Much You Can Earn in SF, and Where

In a place as expensive as SF is, it is only natural that you can make a lot of money. The city is strong with startups and chances for entrepreneurship. The local economy, in general, is vibrant, diverse, and robust, with the headquarters of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and six more Fortune 500 companies. Once a center for manufacturing, tourism, and finance industries, it added a strong IT sector too, rivaling the famous Silicon Valley. Among the most popular employers in town are Google, Facebook, and Uber.

According to the latest data by payscale.com, a data-collecting website for salaries and employment, the average salary in SF stands at $95,000 per year. When it comes to particular positions, the highest wages, on average, belong to senior software engineers at $146,000 per year. Next come data scientists with $121,000, software engineers, and IT product managers with $119,000. Also, on the higher end of the salary spectrum are various managerial positions, whose yearly earnings are in the region from $78,000 to $90,000.

In case you’re moving between cities because of a transfer within a company, the expected salary is among the essential relocation questions to ask your employer.

How Taxes Affect the Cost of Living in San Francisco

In SF, just like anywhere in the US, you’ll have to pay taxes. The income tax is very high – a top rate of 12.3% is charged on incomes above $573,000. In case you earn over one million dollars, there’ll be added a 1% surcharge. A combined sales tax (state, county, and city’s rates) stands at 8.5%, while property tax is low at an average of 0.67%.

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Living in San Francisco is expensive, but you can make a lot of money.

Housing in SF – Average Home and Rent Prices

Housing in San Francisco is one of the steeper ones in the US. Indeed, it is the main factor in the overall cost of living. According to the latest data by data website numbeo.com, if you wish to buy real estate in the center of SF, it’ll cost you around $1,330 per square foot. Apartments outside of the city’s center go for $990 per square foot.

As far as rent is concerned, smaller apartments downtown are rented for around $3,500 per month, while apartments of the same size outside of the center go for approximately $2,800. The rent for larger apartments in and out of the center is, on average, $6,600 and $4,900, respectively.

Of course, if you wish to move into a smaller home in one of the best places to live in San Francisco, such as Pacific Heights, prices can skyrocket to millions of dollars.

CityAverage Rent/One Bedroom Apartment DowntownAverage Price for 10,7 sq ft DowntownYearly Mortgage RateAverage Monthly Salary
San Francisco$3,530$13,3084,2%$7,700
Los Angeles$2,250$8,0304,08%$4,415
New York$3,270$15,0004,16%$5,540
Portland$1,600$4,0004,16%$3,775
Seattle$2,140$7,5004,23%$5,550
San Diego$2,070$6,2204,12%$5,000

All in all, housing in SF is not in the affordable league.  However, the significant advantage of moving alone is that if you intend to rent a home you can find someone to share the financial burden with, so it might be best to visit some of the roommate websites. It will also help you avoid getting relocation depression if you’re not used to living alone.

Utilities in SF Are Affordable

Utilities are the only component of monthly expenses in SF whose index is lower than the national one. Monthly bills for electricity, water, heating, cooling, and garbage stand at about $150 for a 900-square-foot apartment. Reasonably fast Internet access comes at about $70 a month.

Housing and rent in the the Bay City are very steep, but more than worth it.

What You’ll Pay for Groceries

We all have to eat, right? So let’s check out groceries. Supermarkets in SF are filled with all kinds of food, from ordinary to luxurious. Here are the prices for the most commonly bought groceries:

  • Milk – $1.2
  • A loaf of bread – $3.3
  • Carton of 12 eggs – $3.4
  • Local cheese (two pounds) – $17
  • Rice (two pounds) – $5
  • Bottled water – $2

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the price list for two pounds goes like this :

  • Apples – $5
  • Bananas – $2
  • Oranges – $3.6
  • Potatoes – $4.5
  • Onions – $3
  • Tomatoes – $5.5
  • Lettuce (head) – $1.5

Chicken meat costs around 13 bucks for two pounds, and beef 15.5 bucks for the same amount. On the side of guilty pleasures, mid-ranged wine costs 15 dollars, beer stands around 2.7 bucks for domestic and 3 dollars for the imported ones, while, for a pack of Marlboro, you’ll have to splash 12 bucks.

If You Live in California, You Have to Eat Out

If eating out is a must for every decent American, it’s even more so for Californians. However, like basically everything else, SF’s restaurants are expensive. A small bottle of water in one of them stands at about two bucks, a bottle of Coke 2.5 dollars, and a cup of cappuccino is around $5.

Food, on the other hand, would get 18 to 20 bucks out of your pocket at a lower-range restaurant. In a mid-range one, you’ll have to splash around 80 dollars for a three-course meal for two. Dinner at some of the best restaurants in San Francisco would, of course, require much more money. If you wish to drink beer with food, the price of domestic beer on tap is seven bucks, while a bottle of imported one comes at 8 dollars. You can get a meal at a fast-food chain for around ten bucks.

Prices of groceries are high, but there are all kinds of products all year long

Consumer Goods and Clothing

Now we move on to another batch of everyday stuff. First, clothing. If you’re not a big fan of packing, and would rather buy new things once you’ve settled down, a pair of Levis or similar jeans stands at around 65 bucks. A female dress in a chain retailer is 43 dollars. For footwear, a pair of sneakers is about 90 dollars, while business shoes can be bought for around 160 dollars. Since those jeans and dresses have to be washed, laundry detergent comes at 12 to 15 bucks for 100 oz.

As you can see on expatistan.com, a TV set can be acquired for about 320 dollars, while, for a regular microwave, you’ll have to spend around 125 dollars.

In the domain of self-care, a small roll-on deodorant stands at $5, regular hair shampoo at $8, and toothpaste at $2.5. A pack of toilet paper is between 4 and 5 bucks.

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Home is nothing without clothes - the costs are steep but the products are top-notch

Amenities and Leisure in SF

California and the Bay Area may have gone a long way from the counterculture movement in the 1960s, but that doesn’t mean that there are any fewer things to do in San Francisco if you’re looking for a quality good time. No wonder that SF was a background for scores of books and movies. But it’s about so much more than just coming out in the evening to watch the sunset behind the Golden Gate Bridge.

Let’s start with the great outdoors. In case you’re moving with kids or just like to live your life in the open, we have some good news for you! There are more than two hundred parks in the city, as well as more than a few beaches. Some would say that guarantees endless fun. For other kinds of outdoor activities, you can take a boat ride to Alcatraz Island. The prison is no more, but there are many landmarks on the island. The ticket to visit them all is about 40 bucks per person.

However, since some of us prefer to stay inside, SF puts up in a better way than many other cities. If you wish to watch a movie or play with your significant other or a friend in one of the many cinemas or theaters, you’ll pay 30 bucks for two tickets at a cinema, while tickets for the best seats in a theater can be acquired for 270 dollars.

More active folks can buy a gym membership for around 95 bucks per month. Renting a tennis court for one hour would require 20 dollars.

Education and Healthcare

Being the hotbed of innovation, California has some of the best schools in the country. The good news is that Frisco follows suit. San Francisco high schools are second to none, while elementary education offers excellent opportunities for kids to learn and prepare for the future.

If you want your kid to go to kindergarten, you’ll have to pay 2,250 dollars per month. For them to attend an international school, prepare some 30 grand per year.

Healthcare is top-notch too. In terms of prices, the basic medical exam would take around 130 dollars. Medication can be bought for nine bucks (Tylenol and alike) or 12 bucks (12 doses of antibiotics).

It’s not exactly cheap, but the quality of education and healthcare makes SF one of the best cities to raise a family in California.

You’ll Need to Move Around, so Here’s the Cost of Transportation

Public transportation in SF is quite good (it is ranked first in California in the number of people who commute to work). There are light rail and subway, as well as a network of buses and trolleys. Also, there are streetcars and cable cars which are kind of a tourist attraction themselves. A one-way ticket in SF costs 3 dollars. If you want a monthly pass, you’ll need to spend 81 bucks.

If you wish to drive, get ready for some more considerable expenses. If you have relocated before, you surely know how car shipping works in case you want to use auto shipping services. Once in SF, be prepared for a higher fuel price, as well as more than $300 for monthly parking fees. To buy a car, the cost of a standard sedan model is from $22,000 upwards.

Sports and the City

If you have any doubts about how to make friends in a new state, going to a sports game or watching it in a bar is a sure way to do it. The pride and joy of the city’s sports scene are the 49ers (though they moved to play home games in Santa Clara), Giants, and Golden State Warriors.

The average ticket for a Giants game comes at around $55, though some seats can be taken for as low as $9. The 49ers charge for tickets around $100, depending on the seat. Warriors aren’t much costlier, with the median ticket price of around $160.

Final Notes on the Cost of Living in San Francisco

That’s it, folks. As you could see, San Francisco is a relatively expensive place. In many segments, it’s costlier than LA and even New York. But, to live there is a treat in itself. It’s definitely worth planning your moving budget and hiring SF movers with professional moving services, if not for all the amenities, festivals, and museums, excellent public transportation, or vibrant nightlife, then for watching the sunset while sipping on a cocktail in a beach bar. If you feel like you should save some money on relocating, try some of the methods for the cheapest way to move out of state.