San Franscisco

5 Ways to Afford Living in San Francisco

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5 Ways to Afford Living in San Francisco

Written by Anna G.

When thinking of San Francisco, people usually think of 3 things: The Golden Gate Bridge, Full House, and homeless people. Well, and our fabulous gay pride parade, but that’s another article entirely.

With the high cost of living in the city, every graduating student, nonprofit worker, and Whole Foods shopper  is really just a bike-tire-stuck-in-a-cable-car-rail accident away from homelessness themselves (or a move to…the Easy Bay…[shudder]). So with that in mind, I offer 5 ways to help you afford living in San Francisco without turning to a cardboard box for shelter.


1. Get a roommate (or two).

One bedroom apartments average $2,800 in the city. 2 bedroom apartments average $3,875. 3 bedroom apartments average $4,750. You do the math. (But don’t think about it too much, or you might cry when you realize you spend more on rent than most of the country earns.) So what you’ll have to share a bathroom and a kitchen? How much time do you really spend there anyway?


2. Ditch your car.

Yes, the MUNI busses notoriously unreliable (who hasn’t arrived at a stop to see the “next MUNI” ticker flash a 35 minute wait time on a bus that runs every 15 minutes??), but there are other options. BART runs like clockwork and thanks to an entire culture of outdoors enthusiasts, you can’t walk down a city block without tripping over a bike rack.

Between overnight parking space rentals ($200-$250/month), hourly parking downtown (some charge by the QUARTER HOUR! That’s every 15 minutes!!), and the rising cost of parking tickets (damn that street cleaning! Why do the streets still always look so dirty??), unless you’re schlepping a couple of kids around on a daily basis, you’re better off walking, biking, or sitting next to a homeless man to get wherever it is you want to go.

3. Know your free days!

Almost every museum in San Francisco has days with free admission throughout the year. Many of them fall on weekdays, but others are shifting to a one-weekend-per-quarter system to allow more residents to take advantage.

4. Search for other free/cheap events.

There are not only free events almost every single day of the year, but usually multiple free events per day. So if you’re paying for entertainment, you’ve either got money to spend, or you’ve never heard of sites like Fun Cheap SF.

5. Shop secondhand.

San Francisco is chock full of people trying to sell their used stuff. This comes most often in the form of secondhand stores like Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads, and Out of the Closet (to say nothing for behemoth Goodwill, or the smaller, “boutique” secondhand shops). There are also numerous flea markets, garage sales, and estate sales going on pretty much every weekend. But don’t discount craigslist, king of used sofas and coffee tables, or just pick up free stuff on the sidewalk.

[Or…reuse your own stuff in creative ways!]

Readers, how do you afford living the city? Tweet us your tips @TheUrbanRealist!

Anna G. is a San Francisco resident and regular user of sarcasm. She enjoys movies, sleeping, and pretending she’s still 20 so she can surf the internet all day with little guilt. You can find her complaining about the latest Hollywood releases on her blog, Snarky Movie Reviews, or like her page on facebook. (Yes, some people still use facebook.)

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