When it comes to saving money living in San Francisco, you need to get creative. San Francisco hosts a population over 600,000 people in a 7×7 mile landlocked cracker-jack box. The city has a median home price of $1.1 million and as any San Franciscan can attest, that median $1.1 million is not going to fetch you any mansion either 1. The “political” middle class divide in San Francisco sets at $80,000-$150,000 a year 2. To be an actual homeowner, that salary must be closer to $220,000. In a posh paradise like San Francisco, the hills really are alive! Everything is truly more expensive around the Bay Area. Here are some easy ways to save money in San Francisco.
1. Get Groceries in Chinatown (or Chinese Grocer)
Chinese grocery stores are cheaper. Chinatown grocers usually (the non-touristy part) have great deals on 2nd tier produce. These grocers cut corners on labor. They also stock less desirable cuts of meat that Westerners do not use or cosmetically imperfect (but just as tasty) produce. The overhead is low and so is the rent as well. You can usually find perishables in a Sunset Supermarket than at Safeway. If you are on a limited income, the mindset of USDA or Organic will not fit your bottom line.
Example 1: A carton of eggs at Sunset Super is $1.99. A carton of eggs at Safeway is about $3.99. A pound of apples in Chinatown goes for $.49-$.79 cents versus Safeway where it is commonly $1.99 to $3.99 per pound.
2. Lose the Car
You are in San Francisco! One of the most walkable cities in America! Public transportation is abundant as well. So it might be very cramped, a bit smelly, and often delayed but it could put a few hundred dollars back into your wallet every month. Cars do more harm than good in San Francisco. There is almost never parking, parking citations are aplenty and the city has crazy high fines to boot. The traffic alone is ridiculous enough to keep you spending at the pump. Gasoline is also more expensive here than the rest of the nation. There are plenty of city buses and MUNIs everywhere. That 10% sales tax added to your bill is helping to pay for those public transit systems so avoid double paying and lose the car. In the event of an emergency there are bonds of Ubers/Lyfts and Car2Gos available.
3. The “Side Hustle” Mecca
Again, you are in San Francisco! The gig economy was practically born here. This is a city for the go-getters. Look for a side hustle on Gigwalk, Rover, Eat24, AirBnB (as a possible co-host). San Francisco is full of highly paid, highly skilled, sector specific talents. There is a sizable demand for affordable child care, home care, maid service and pet care services. If you are a part-time independent contractors (1099 misc) not sponsored by an employer 401K then open up an Individualized 401K plan so you can make tax deferred contributions from your “side hustles.”
4. Find a Roommate
This one is quite obvious, rent control and government red tapes has help make the city unbearably expensive for newcomers. The average rental price per month in San Francisco is in the $3000 to $5000 range. If you can find roommate(s) then that is automatically money in your pocket every month. Think of it this way: you’re not losing privacy, you are gaining $1000-$2000 per month. Invest in curtain room divider, ear plugs, and door locks for less than $30 on Amazon. If your landlord is flexible and they can see extra cash on their end, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
5. Spread South For Lower Rent
No to Marina, no to Nob Hill, no to Portola. Even the Outer Sunset is too expensive. Seek out South San Francisco/San Bruno or the ‘Dog Patch’ aka Industrial District. Daly City is a reasonable alternative as well.
6. Start Recycling
Safeway stores pays out a nickel for every can. They’re essentially giving away free nickels at the Safeway on Noriega. Understandably most people are unwilling to collecting bottles for a living but cashing in the bottles you have or can easily find is essentially finding free coins on the street, over and over again.
7. Career Change
Maybe waiting tables just isn’t cutting it, even with the tips. There’s no advancement in your job because it is not a realistic or rewarding. Expand your skills and take advantage of why you’re in San Francisco. Plenty of 1%ers need their dogs walked and children picked up so expand your horizon to what will fit the need of your environment. Adapt and find a niche that you can grow a career in that is in demand in a wealthy, duo income, trickle down economy like San Francisco.
8. Explore Your City
San Francisco is a tourist city. Trimming down your vacation budget to explore your own backyard is an amazing idea. Living in San Francisco means you are paying for it so why not have a getaway where you can.
For those living or relocating to San Francisco, these 8 money-saving strategies from an ex-San Franciscan that has gone through money rehab might be worth a read. I’ll stop talking now because I feel like if I keep repeating how to save money in San Francisco, it will begin to sound like a joke 😉
That’s a quick run down of 8 easy ways to save money in San Francisco. Want to add some S.F. saving hacks to the list?