How to live in San Francisco on a budget

San Francisco is one of the three most expensive cities in America with a 63% higher than average cost of living. Many people think that it is not affordable to live in San Francisco as the median home value is well over $750 000. 

Tips to live by in San Francisco

Choose the right neighbourhood – you will find a variety of average rentals in the city. Try to avoid the most expensive neighbourhoods located in the north to north east areas. It is best to find homes in neighbourhoods like Outer Sunset, Richmond and Lakeshore. You will have to travel downtown however you will save significantly when you rent an affordable room

Try to live with roommates – it is very expensive to live by yourself in San Francisco however you will benefit from renting an apartment with others. This way, each tenant will split the cost. 

Use a bike rather than a car – studies show that more than 28% of homes in San Francisco do not own a car but rather commute by bike. These people are saving several hundred dollars each month by eliminating their car repayments. San Francisco also has excellent public transport together with helpful services such as Zipcar and City CarShare. 

You can do so much for free – There are so many fun activities that can be done free of charge in the city such as Fleet Week to the Randall Museum, or simply hanging out at one of the public parks with friends. 

You may consider living outside the city – the Bay Area is expensive compared with most of the country however you will save lots of money by opting to live outside the city. Rentals drop by about two thirds when you move within a 50 mile radius of the city. 

Get a job – If you are a student, you should consider finding a night job when you are done with school. Consider the amount of money you would need to spend on basic necessities. If you have a job, consider finding a secondary job for extra income. 

Shop at Trader Joes – here you will find a vast selection of food at reasonable prices. 

Ten cheapest neighbourhoods in San Francisco

The following neighbourhoods have been rated the cheapest in 2019:

South of Market


Potrero Hill

Financial District

West of Twin Peaks

Castro-Upper Market


Bernal Heights

Outer Mission


In order to rank the cheapest neighbourhoods in the city, the following criteria was taken into consideration:

Overall cost of living

Rent to income ratio

Median Home Value to income ratio

Affordable activities in San Francisco

There are many options to enjoy fun activities on a budget. Consider purchasing a CityPass or Go San Francisco which will allow you access to California Academy of Sciences, and the Aquarium of the Bay together with a one-hour cruise around the Bay. You can choose from more than 25 different attractions and activities across the country. 

Pier 39 – Pier 39 is packed with stores and eateries to choose from, and not everything is expensive. Here, you can do one of the best activities, free of charge, which is watching the sea lions. You will get to enjoy amazing views and enjoy a cup of coffee or some ice cream from a nearby shop. 

You can walk or ride your bike across the Golden Gate Bridge which is 1.7 mile long or participate in the free walking tour on Thursdays and Sundays where you will hear the history of this landmark. San Francisco City Guides also offer free tours around Westwood Park, Castro and China Town.    

You can also enjoy one of the many free San Francisco festivals available for music lovers such as the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival held at the Golden Gate Park which features over 100 musicians. 

Relocating to SF

San Francisco has loads to offer prospective movers, and living there on a budget is possible, provided you plan ahead and budget. Knowing exactly how much you will need and how much is available to you is one of the most important pre-requisites. Don’t take on more than you can afford and try not to spend on frivolous things like going out all the time or shopping. Rather invest this money in your rent and the groceries you need for the month.