Those planning on moving to San Francisco will need to ensure they can afford the city's high cost of living. Not only is it the third most expensive city in the US (after New York City and LA) but it's also one of the priciest cities worldwide. Mercer's 2021 Cost of Living Survey placed San Francisco as the world's 25th most expensive city out of 209 cities assessed worldwide.

However, this shouldn’t put expats off moving to San Francisco. Salaries tend to be correspondingly high, though newcomers should remember that smart budgeting is essential in the Golden Gate City.


Cost of accommodation in San Francisco

Housing is a big-ticket item in a person's total cost of living in San Francisco. Generally, house hunters will find that it isn't possible to afford a nice place to rent without compromising on location and size. Many apartment complexes also have a shared laundry, and expats will have to be prepared to pay extra for an apartment with its own washer and dryer.

Some rental accommodation in San Francisco includes utilities or gardening costs, which can be better value for money. But with demand for rental properties being so high, many properties are leased within hours of being advertised.


Cost of food in San Francisco

The cost of food can be fairly cheap in San Francisco’s supermarkets, especially if new arrivals join store loyalty programmes to get discounts on certain items. Farmer's markets and speciality organic food supermarkets often provide produce of a higher quality but can be pricier.


Cost of transportation in San Francisco

Public transport options in San Francisco are limited for those who don’t live along the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train line. That said, fares on public transportation are reasonable. Because of the high price of accommodation in the city, it's common for residents to drive long distances to work each day, which potentially involves paying several bridge tolls in addition to fuel costs.  


Cost of education in San Francisco

Public schools in San Francisco are free, but parents are expected to cover stationery and excursion costs. There are also endless fundraising events at most public schools to cover the costs of education; though all donations are voluntary. 

The cost of private education in San Francisco, as with most cities, is high. International schools, which teach foreign curricula, tend to be even more expensive than other types of private schools.


Cost of entertainment in San Francisco

One of the most alluring aspects of San Francisco is its fantastic lifestyle. The cost of leisure pursuits and entertainment in San Francisco will depend on personal preferences.  

Ticket costs for good museums, musicals and concerts are quite expensive, but many theme parks and tourist attractions offer season passes or group deals that can make entertainment more affordable.


Cost of living in San Francisco chart

Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider and the list below shows average prices for August 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 7,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 4,500

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 2,800

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 2,500

Shopping

Dozen eggs

USD 3.85

Milk (1 litre)

USD 1.25

Rice (1 kg)

USD 5.30

Loaf of white bread

USD 4

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 14

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

USD 11

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

USD 10

Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 2.50

Cappuccino 

USD 4.80

Bottle of beer (local)

USD 7.50

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

USD 85

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

USD 0.15

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

USD 64

Basic utilities (electricity, water and refuse per month)

USD 190

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

USD 1.90

Bus fare in the city centre 

USD 3

Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

USD 1