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Cost of Living in San Francisco

If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to have some money in your pocket. Thanks to skyrocketing home prices and an increasingly competitive rental market, the City by the Bay is extremely expensive. In addition to high housing costs, miscellaneous expenses like grocery shopping and healthcare are also very high. We’ll break down the various costs so you can determine whether you can afford to live there. A financial advisor can help you make it work in San Francisco, even if its expensive.

Home and Rent Prices 

San Francisco’s high cost of living, which is more than 84% higher than the national average, starts with sky-high housing prices. As of September 2022, the average cost of housing was 238% more expensive than the national average, according to RentCafe.com. The average price of a home in San Francisco is approximately $1.42 million. As a reference, San Diego’s median home sales price is $626,000, while the median in Los Angeles is even lower at $576,100.

Unfortunately, the high prices of homes in San Francisco have spilled over into the rental market. Rent.com says that the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom is $3,554, up 4% over the 2021 level. A two-bedroom rents, on average, for $5,007, up 10% over 2021.

Transportation Costs

Cost of Living in San Francisco

If you are lucky enough to secure some affordable housing in San Francisco, you’ll need a way to get around. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, commuting to work takes 32.8 minutes in the city, which is six minutes longer than the 26.4-minute national average. But if owning a car has any chance to improve that time, the cost to do so is rather expensive. While free parking can generally be found outside of the city center, if you need regular access to parking downtown, you can expect to pay hourly parking rates of $8 or more. The monthly rate for parking in San Francisco is about $340.

Another major expense of car ownership in San Francisco is gasoline. The average price of a gallon of gas in San Francisco is far above the U.S. mark. According to AAA, the average price in October 2022 is $5.70 per gallon. That makes the city the most expensive in California, which is consequently the most expensive state in the U.S. when it comes to fuel.

If you’re willing to give up your wheels, the best way to save money on transportation in San Francisco is by using the city’s public transit system. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency charges $2.50 for a single ride for an adult. Monthly costs are either $81 or $98, depending on whether one wants to use BART or not.

Food Costs 

Eating out in San Francisco can be extremely expensive. The city is recognized for having some of the best restaurants in the world. But even if you’re not eating at one of those famed places, prices are still high.

Restaurant prices, for one person, range from $18 for an inexpensive meal to $40 for a full-service meal for one. An additional charge health surcharge is added to restaurant bills to cover healthcare for employees. This surcharge ranges from 4% to 10% of the final bill.

Of course, for the budget-conscious, eating at home is always the best choice. Home cooking may be a good way to save money in San Francisco, but it isn’t necessarily cheap. The average monthly grocery bill in 2022 was about $360, according to Bungalow.com.

Taxes 

Cost of Living in San Francisco

Like much of California, taxes are high in San Francisco. First and foremost, as a state, California’s income tax rates are some of the highest in the nation. The top 12.3% rate applies only to taxable income above $572,980. Should you break the $1 million threshold, a 1% surtax will be added on.

The California state sales tax is 6%, but once you tack on city and county rates – there are three of them – it becomes 8.63% in San Francisco. Property taxes in the city and county are low at a 0.67% average effective rate. This is largely because of Proposition 13, a state law that reduced property taxes and capped increases in assessed home values.

The Bottom Line

There are a number of factors that go into determining the cost of living in San Francisco — taxes, home prices, food and transportation all matter. If you want to live by the Bay and are looking for help making it work, consider finding a financial advisor.

Tips on Living in San Francisco

  • Living in a city as expensive as San Francisco requires a high income and a thorough financial plan. A financial advisor can be a big help in building a plan and growing your money. Fortunately, finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors who serve your area. You can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • SmartAsset has also identified the top financial advisor firms in San Francisco.
  • To do a deep dive into whether renting or buying is a better financial decision for you, check SmartAsset’s free rent vs. buy calculator.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/bluejayphoto, ©iStock.com/EMPPhotography, ©iStock.com/ibsky

Nick Wallace Nick Wallace studied Economics at the University of Washington. He enjoys getting people thinking about finances by looking at the numbers. Nick is a freelance journalist and data analyst living in Michigan. He still lends his economic and analytic expertise for SmartAsset's studies.
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