The Cost of Living in San Francisco, CA

Evelyn Long

May 20, 2021

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Whether you already live in California or you’re considering making the move out west, NorCal might just be calling your name. From the booming tech industry to the young professional scene to arts and culture, there’s nothing not to love about living in San Francisco, California.

However, you might be wondering what the cost is to live in such a beautiful city — especially with the cultural narrative of expensive coastal cities with their tiny apartments and their high prices. The cost of living in California in general is widely regarded as pretty high. While living in San Francisco might be a bit more expensive than some other places in the country, there’s a lot of nuance there.

Just like any other city in the country, San Francisco and the surrounding areas have a diverse array of communities and cultures, with all different standards of living and experiences. The most expensive reputations hardly make a city, so if you’re California dreaming, you might want to take a deeper dive into what it means to live in the Bay Area.

Curious about the cost of living in San Francisco, California? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Cost of Living?

Before we get into San Francisco specifics, we need to talk about what the cost of living actually means. Plenty of people have their own ideas and definitions of what cost of living means to them based on their own life experiences, but in short, cost of living is the amount of money it takes to live an average quality of life in any given place.

This includes all of life’s expenses, all the way from the big things like rent to the small things like miscellaneous purchases.

What Is a Good Salary in San Francisco?

San Francisco tends to skew a bit above the California average, with the highest average household income coming in at the highest among California’s major cities. While a “good salary” can mean something different to everyone, taking the average into account is always good for gauging how your own income compares.

While Los Angeles’ average household income is $51,000, San Francisco boasts an average of $87,000, which is reflected in the cost of living in the area.

What Is San Francisco’s Minimum Wage?

Another detail that plays into the cost of living is the minimum wage in any given place, and San Francisco is no different. While there are places where you can buy property for cheap and rent prices are low, the minimum wage usually reflects that.

California’s statewide minimum wage is $14 per hour, but many individual cities have higher minimum wages than that, including San Francisco, which sits at $16.07, the highest of California’s major cities.

How Does San Francisco Compare to Southern California?

It’s no secret that California can slide over to the expensive side of living, but how do NorCal and SoCal compare to each other?

While the cultures are different — with NorCal having a more seasonal, professional feel and SoCal boasting a more traditionally beachy California experience — it’s really up to you which you go for. San Francisco has a higher cost of living than Los Angeles and San Diego, but that’s also reflected in the average household income and minimum wage.

Should I Buy a House In San Francisco?

In terms of the housing market, each city and county will have its own set of rules and principles. Really, it all depends on what you’re looking for.

The California housing market is a bit saturated, especially in the major cities, and with San Francisco’s housing and rent prices, you might need a lot of dough in the bank to afford property there.

However, if it’s important to you to save, you can always look in the other parts of NorCal or the rest of the Bay Area, which can tend to run a bit cheaper than within the city limits.

Best Places to Live In San Francisco

When it comes to neighborhood choice, personal preference and budget come into play. While this will depend on the kind of person you are, your taste, and your commute requirements, here are some of the best-rated San Francisco neighborhoods that people love:

  • Telegraph Hill
  • Showplace Square
  • Lower Haight
  • Mission Bay
  • Civic Center
  • South Beach
  • Nob Hill

All of these neighborhoods have their own strengths and tend to be great places for young professionals looking for housing.

What About the Rest of the Bay Area?

If you have a job or school in San Francisco but you aren’t looking to pay San Francisco rent prices, moving to another, closer part of the Bay Area can be a great money-saving alternative.

Beyond that, many Bay Area cities have thriving and vibrant communities that you can enjoy and be a part of while living there, all the while giving you a bit of a break from the big city. Here are some of your options:

  • Oakland
  • Berkeley
  • Palo Alto
  • Mountain View
  • Hayward
  • San Jose
  • Walnut Creek

Other NorCal Alternatives

If your California dreams span a bit wider than the Bay Area, you may want to also consider the rest of Northern California.

With beautiful scenery, a great culture, and all different kinds of communities, there are so many great places to check out in NorCal — that are less expensive than the Bay Area — including:

  • Clovis
  • Dublin
  • El Dorado Hills
  • Roseville
  • Tahoe City
  • Eureka
  • San Jose

Cost of San Francisco Living

San Francisco is just like any other place — while the cost of living might be more expensive, the minimum wage and the average household income are higher, too. Whether you head for the Bay Area, switch gears to SoCal, or head right for San Francisco, you can find whatever is right for you.

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