I live in the San Francisco Bay Area on just $50,000 a year - here's how I do it
- The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most expensive urban areas in the US. But it's still possible to live here on a modest income.
- My wife and I got priced out of San Francisco and moved to the East Bay to find an affordable place to live.
- When I quit a good-paying office job to become a freelancer, I had to make additional adjustments to my lifestyle to fit into a smaller budget.
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When I first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1987, I was a grad student with no money.In the 1980s, San Francisco was expensive, but it wasn't crazy overpriced like it is today. I was able to live in San Francisco without a lot of money for many years, thanks to rent-controlled apartments. Advertisement
For my last 10 years in the city, my wife and I lived in a 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom flat that also had a garage of more than 300 square feet where I ran my art business. Our rent was $900 a month.
In 2004, we felt ready to buy, even though we still had hardly any money. We couldn't afford San Francisco, but we were able to buy a condo in the East Bay, in the Triple Point neighborhood where Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville meet. The condo is much smaller than our old apartment. We have adjusted to living in less than 800 square feet with just one bedroom. The fixed expense of our mortgage and the fact that our home is small has helped us afford the Bay Area.A few years ago, I quit my job to become a full-time freelance writer. That came with a steep pay cut, but we still manage to make it work.
Here's how I live in the Bay Area on $50,000 a year.
I share a small condo with my wife and my share of the mortgage is much less than I would pay to rent an apartment in the Bay Area. First-time homebuyer assistance makes it possible.
I gave up my car about 10 years ago. That saves me more than $500 a month.Advertisement
Public transit costs me about $45 a month. I spend an additional $20 or so a month on rides with Lyft and Gig, a car-sharing program.
I mostly get around by bike, which is so cheap it's almost free. Plus, it's great exercise.Advertisement
For $150 a year, I get unlimited rides with our local bike-sharing program.
My home is too small for me to work at home, but I rent an inexpensive space in an artist's warehouse.Advertisement
I shop at the farmers market for good prices on fresh produce and prepared foods.
And I buy groceries in bulk at Costco.Advertisement
Before I became a freelancer, I often spent $300 a month on alternative healthcare. Not anymore.
Eating out a couple of times a week doesn't have to be expensive. Most of my restaurant meals come to under $20, including tip.Advertisement
I can't live without my gym membership. I swim at the YMCA for $71 a month.
My weakness is shopping for clothing. I've found ways to reduce my clothing budget and still have fun and fabulous clothes.Advertisement
For fun, we'll go to a local $10 movie theater.
Our family membership to the Oakland Museum of California gives us unlimited access to a year's worth of cultural events for just $95.Advertisement
I take advantage of freebies whenever I can.
Some days, the best things in life really are free. It doesn't cost anything to enjoy the beautiful Bay Area.Advertisement
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