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Cost of Living in San Francisco, CA 2021

By: Davina Ward
May 18, 2021

There's no shortage of reasons to move to San Francisco. The famed city is currently booming. San Francisco's housing market, economic growth, and sports teams point to prosperity.

The walkable nature of the beautiful city, the draw of warm west coast living, and the opportunity for outdoor adventures, all make San Francisco one of the most sought-after locales in the US.

If you're thinking of packing your bags and becoming the newest Golden Gate City resident, you'll have to prepare your budget!

Luckily, we've got you covered.

Here's everything you need to know about the cost of living in San Francisco.

San Francisco Housing Costs

It's not a secret that San Francisco's cost of living is one of the highest in the US. It's right up there with cities like New York and Los Angeles, which is why it’s crucial to get an idea of how much your expenses will change when you move to the city. One of the most important costs to consider is your rent.

The average rent price for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $3,032, while a two-bedroom will run you around $4,367. There’s no denying that these prices are high. However, they only tell a part of the story.

Rent prices in San Francisco have suffered dramatic drops in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Although rent prices have increased 3.0% in the past month, they are still down an incredible 19.4% in comparison to the same period last year.

So, although the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is over two times the national average, now might be a good time to rent. You may be able to get a good deal locked in before rent prices fully rebound.

When it comes to saving on rent in San Francisco — renting with roommates is the name of the game. According to a report from Zillow, 38% of San Francisco residents live with their parents or at least one other roommate.

For renters between the ages of 23-29, the percentage of those with roommates rises to over 50%. If you’re going to take this route, take time to find a roommate who is a good match for you.

Interested in starting your San Francisco apartment search, learn how to find an apartment in San Francisco.

San Francisco Transportation

According to data from MIT's Living Wage Calculator, the average San Francisco resident spends $4,900 annually on transportation-related expenses. For a family of four with two children, this cost rises to $13,317 annually.

However, these expenses are incurred by those households that own a personal vehicle. In a public transportation-friendly city like San Francisco, it's completely possible to get by on public transportation alone.

Not only is it possible, but you'll also be saving significantly. A monthly adult pass costs $98 or $1,176 annually. That's a fraction of the cost of ownership for a personal vehicle.

For another point in the public transportation category — residents in San Francisco are never more than a quarter-mile from a public transit stop. Talk about accessibility.

That's a part of the reason that the San Francisco public transportation system hosts over 230 million passengers a year.

San Francisco Food Costs

We need to eat. It’s human fact. However, the amount we spend on feeding ourselves can vary greatly.

For example, the average San Francisco resident spends $3,792 on groceries annually or $312 monthly. A family of four spends $11,106 or $925.50 monthly.

You can save on groceries by buying at Foods Co. or heading to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market for inexpensive produce!

These amounts reflect those determined souls who can resist the temptation of San Francisco's incredible restaurant offerings. Whether you grab a quick bite to eat at lunch or have a sit-down meal with a friend, these costs can be quite substantial.

According to data from Numbeo, an inexpensive meal at a San Francisco restaurant costs $20 on average. For a three-course meal for two at a mid-tier restaurant, expect to pay $80 plus a standard 15% $12 tip.

San Francisco Healthcare Costs

Not only can insurance policy premiums be expensive, but they can vary depending on various factors. Factors such as age, lifestyle, whether you have pre-existing conditions, where you live, and more can play a role in how much you pay each month.

In short, healthcare costs can be unpredictable, though they will have a major impact on your budget. In San Francisco, the average resident spends $2,545 annually on their premiums for their employer-sponsored insurance policy. A family of four pays $8,150 annually.

If you are in need of non-employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, head to Healthcare.gov to find a plan that fits your budget and needs. Additionally, the San Francisco Free Clinic offers free healthcare services for those who need it, including the standard annual physical.

Finally, don’t forget to report your move, whether you are moving to another state or staying within the same state. If you move at a time that is outside of the open-enrollment period, you will need to provide documentation to avoid a lapse in coverage.

San Francisco Utilities

In San Francisco, the average monthly utility bill per household comes to $239.48, a rate just under the national average of $240 for basic utilities, including gas, water, and electricity.

These lower rates are due in part to the city’s mild winters, where the average temperature is in the high fifties. Though you may need to heat your home occasionally, it’s nothing like the cool to freezing temperatures experienced in the northeast region, meaning you can save big.

Of course, you will need to budget for your cell phone and internet service, which some consider an extension of traditional utilities.

Expect to pay around $94 for your monthly cell phone service bill, which is the average across the US. Additionally, the average cost for internet service ranges from $30-$60 depending on your needs. For example, if you are working from home, you will likely need a higher service tier.

That said, as a new resident, you have some major advantages when it comes to getting discounted services.

Many service providers offer deep discounts for new customers, including reduced rates for bundled cell and internet services, free access to streaming services, and free hardware. Be sure to shop around before making a switch to get the best deal.

Fitness and Entertainment

A single San Francisco resident spends an average of $1,811 annually on recreation, while a family of four spends $4,127. These costs will vary depending on your personal interests.

However, regardless of your recreation choices, these expenses can add up quickly, so it’s important to account for them in your budget.

We’ve compiled a list of the most popular fitness and entertainment options in San Francisco. Here’s a breakdown of how much these options will cost you.

Fitness and Outdoor Recreation

The average cost of a gym membership in San Francisco can be a little costly at $83.36 monthly. This translates to just over $1,000 annually.

You might be able to catch a deal as a new resident or gym member, so don’t be afraid to shop around. However, there are cheaper fitness options.

In 2017, San Francisco achieved its goal to become the first city to have a park within a 10-minute walk of every residence.

For outdoor lovers, pet owners, and fitness gurus, this is a game-changer. Residents benefit from increased access to fun outdoor activities, such as walking, biking, skating, calisthenics, and more.

Check Out a Sporting Event

The sports scene in San Francisco is pretty diverse. Both the Golden State Warriors won a league championship in 2019, and the 49ers have gone pretty far in Super Bowl contention in recent years.

You can head to one of the city’s many sports bars to enjoy a game. However, if you prefer to view a game live and in-person, you’ll have to ensure that your budget is ready for the expense.

Here are the average ticket costs for San Francisco’s major sports teams.

  • San Francisco Giants: $55.00
  • San Francisco 49ers: $97.00
  • Golden State Warriors: $259.00

Recreate Night at the Museum

Okay, so maybe you can’t recreate it, but you can relive some of it. San Francisco has an impressive collection of affordable museums for a variety of tastes.

The city’s museums play host to millions of visitors each year. Not to mention, they are perfect destinations for a solo trip or a weekend family outing. Better yet, you won’t break the bank.

Here’s the cost of an adult’s general admission ticket at some of San Francisco’s most popular museums.

  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: $25
  • Asian Art Museum: $15
  • Walt Disney Family Museum: $25

Other Expenses to Consider in San Francisco

The mark of a thorough budget is the inclusion of commonly missed expenses. These so-called “hidden costs” are those only long-term residents are familiar with, many of which may be difficult for a new resident to anticipate.

San Francisco has plenty of hidden costs, though luckily, we’ve broken them down for you. Here are some additional costs to consider in San Francisco.

  • Taxes: San Francisco residents can expect to pay a minimum combined 8.5% sales tax rate. The sales tax rate can jump in other areas of the county. A state income tax is collected on a sliding scale, depending on your income.
  • Childcare: Childcare is an expense that can overtake the price of rent in some budgets. However, it’s a necessary expense for many San Francisco families who pay at least $20,400 annually to cover childcare costs.
  • Parking:** **Besides being a color-coded nightmare, San Francisco parking can be quite expensive. If you plan on moving with your personal vehicle, be sure to check whether your apartment offers free parking.

Earning _enough _in a city with a high cost of living like San Francisco can be challenging. However, starting with the basics is enough for you to create an accurate estimate of how much you need to earn to live comfortably.

The standard rule of budgeting for an apartment starts with rent — you should earn three times the monthly rent.

As the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $3,032, your monthly pre-tax earnings should total at least $9,096 to live comfortably in San Francisco.

That translates to an annual pre-tax income of $109,152. However, that number is a bit lower than the $112,449 median annual wage reported by the US Census Bureau.

Final Thoughts

With everything the city has to offer, living in San Francisco is a dream. If your budget works and you’re ready to take the plunge, we’ve got you covered. If the cost of living in San Francisco is too high, consider checking out the East Bay.

Take the quiz above to find your dream San Francisco apartment!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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