San Francisco expenses?
August 16, 2011 11:00 AM   Subscribe

What expenses can I expect as a young (19) soon-to-be car-owning apartment-dwelling person living in San Francisco?

In the efforts of trying to budget things out in advance, with the goal of figuring out what apartments I can afford.

I'm curious as to what expenses I may not even be considering, besides the obvious power/water/parking meter/garage.

I am looking into getting a 3BR apartment with a friend of mine and another acquaintance, however my friend doesn't have a job yet. I'd end up spending ~$2100 a month on my share until my friend did get a job, something I am not trying to depend on. However I am only going to be paid ~$3750 a month (after taxes) and I am wondering if I will be setting myself up for failure.

As a young person I have no problem eating Ramen when necessary, but I don't want to end up being surprised by thousands of dollars of extra expenses I didn't think of because I was too silly to ask. So thanks!
posted by ejfox to Work & Money (41 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have furniture? One of the biggest moving expenses is all of the random crap you don't think of until you miss it, including end tables, lamps, couches, etc. Start looking on craigslist now and budget what you have and what you absolutely need in the way of furniture and accessories.

I am looking into getting a 3BR apartment with a friend of mine and another acquaintance, however my friend doesn't have a job yet. I'd end up spending ~$2100 a month on my share until my friend did get a job, something I am not trying to depend on

wtf? Unless this friend is a significant other, I wouldn't move in with them.
posted by Think_Long at 11:03 AM on August 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

watch it with the street cleaning thing!!! its easy to amass hundreds of dollars in parking tickets in a fairly short amount of time. do what you can to be diligently pro-active in avoiding them.
posted by supermedusa at 11:04 AM on August 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

I recently moved into the area. Think_long has part of it. You'll need all kinds of random stuff, lamps, pots + pans, couch + bed, whatever. You may think you're covered but you won't be. I live like a caveman, basically live in a garage and don't have a couch or any of that stuff and I STILL blew about $900 on random household stuff.

The way to avoid that is patience. Watch craigslist and eBay very carefully and buy nothing new. That will save you a ton of money and it is possible to get excellent deals. As an example, I got a brand-new $800 mattress/box spring combo for $75 because someone was leaving the country. Also, at your job, be sure to ask around when you need something. It seems like everyone has a couch for sale or a set of something if you'll just come take it out of their cramped space.

You'll spend money on being in a hurry. You'll have to pay hundreds of dollars in parking (usually $10 flat rate) to get into the offices and places you need to get, at least until you get settled and into public transit. If you get towed once or get a ticket once it will be hundreds of dollars. Be careful not to drive in the carpool lane, that is over $300.

You'll spend a few hundred on meals your first few weeks because you're in a hurry and don't have time to eat. Taxes will be awful. Tips will take a toll.

Ways to save money:

1. Shop ONLY at ethnic markets. I save tons on groceries this way. Mexican and Asian markets have awesome deals on produce. Buy only what you can eat in a day or two, it often spoils fast.

2. Drive as little as possible. Watch the price of gas - I've seen 15 cent differences between stations.

3. To drive less, combine trips so you hit 5 or 6 destinations in one go.

4. Use public transport when possible. I don't get to take advantage of it much because I'm in North Bay.

5. Eat out as little as possible, or eat out affordably. I get amazing tacos every day from a truck - $3. This is a tough one as there is so much great food. Just not every day.

6. If you're a drinker, keep it stocked at home and just have one when you go out. Drinks are fucking expensive here. I've spent $11 on mediocre jack+cokes.

Finally: don't be in a hurry. Unfortunately, I have been, and so it has been extra expensive for me. I know this advice isn't all Bay-specific but it's from very recent experience. Good luck to you.
posted by fake at 11:16 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with Think_Long; be careful moving into an apartment with someone without a job. Especially in this economy. Pick up things on craigslist, and use milk crates if you could find them.

There are a few things that are throwing red flags to me that you need to seriously reconsider your budget and living:
1) Almost every financial piece of advice recommends only spending, at max, 30% of your take home (or maybe gross) pay for your housing. $2100 is almost half of your paycheck, that is absolutely ridiculous. You will be in debt up to your eyeballs at the end of a few months

2)Have you figured food, entertainment,dates? Eating out is expense, cooking is cheaper, but try coming up with $200 an month. Drop the Ramen thing, nobody does that. Even in college, the mess hall had different food. Figure a movie, extra $20 a month. Goes back to previous point, spending the amount you are; you'll have very little in terms of disposal income.

3)Cell phone, insurance, credit cards, loans, car/bike repair, cable, internet, savings, retirement, emergency fund, furniture. Few of the other basic things to think off that eat up a chunk of each paycheck.

Overall, to be blunt - drop the amount your spending on rent. At 19, without a steady or established career, your going to be broke and in debt before your know it. My advice would be to figure out a monthly budget, overestimate it and truly figure out what you can do. Don't forget that even the minimum payment on multiple credit cards can add up to hundreds a month.

The book called "Generation Earn" is a good starter book, but it does suck since it assumes everyone is itching for a baby, house, and 6 figure income; but some good general advice in it overall.
posted by lpcxa0 at 11:17 AM on August 16, 2011

A safe calculation for what one can "afford" to spend on rent is about 1/3 of total income. Some people even say your total income for the month should be 3.5 times your rent. According to this calculation, you can only afford about $1100 a month in rent.

Of course, in a city like San Francisco where rent is super expensive, that may not be realistic, but if I were you I would definitely try not to rent anything above $1500 at max.

When you're young and in a great city, going out with friends can be a huge part of your total expenses. Sure, you can eat ramen etc, but you have to consider -- would you rather have fun going out with your friends and then go home to crash in a cramped place, or would you rather be sitting at home in a nice apartment eating pork n' beans by yourself? The answer to this question of course varies by personality.
posted by crackingdes at 11:25 AM on August 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much to everyone for the answers.

lpcxa0: What you're saying jives with what I've heard, thus why I am asking the question. I was wondering if I could stretch the 30% because I don't intend on having a baby or accumulating a large savings. Although on the other hand I'm not trying to drive myself into debt either. I guess I'm trying to walk the fine line of good place vs. disposable income. I think I'd prefer to have a nicer place and need to eat out less... to an extent. The Ramen bit is only half serious, but the point is I am capable of cooking for myself cheaply with local produce to an extent that allows me to keep me from eating out too much.. or at least I was when I lived in Phoenix, AZ, as different as that is. I appreciate that I could be wrong though, so thank you for your advice, I am definitely re-assessing my outlook.

On preview: crackingdes- thank you for asking that question, because I think that clarifies it. I would rather be sitting at home in a nice apartment eating pork n' beans by myself.
posted by ejfox at 11:29 AM on August 16, 2011

Also, don't forget that in a more expensive city, EVERYTHING is more expensive. Food, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, beer if you drink, etc etc.

Health insurance can be in the hundreds even if you're young and single - have you planned for that?

Professional clothes and haircuts and grooming and shoes for the job can cost money if it's public facing or requires you to look nice.

Car insurance, obviously, and emergency car repairs.

Plane tickets back home if you want to go visit people. Those can get pricey.
posted by crackingdes at 11:29 AM on August 16, 2011

Almost every financial piece of advice recommends only spending, at max, 30% of your take home (or maybe gross) pay for your housing. $2100 is almost half of your paycheck, that is absolutely ridiculous.

This really doesn't hold for Expensive Metro Areas. Spending half your income on rent is about right. I live in a different Expensive Metro Area (NYC) and everyone I know who spends less than half their income on rent either has some combination of 5+ roommates, a fantastic job and/or an out-of-the-way neighborhood.
posted by griphus at 11:33 AM on August 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you really like what San Francisco has to offer, consider living somewhere cheaper (South SF, East Bay); then spring $100 for a night in a hotel every other weekend in the city. This may be cheaper than actually living there; and without the attendant urban headache. Of course, if you work in SF, then perhaps living outside is too much of a hassle.
posted by curiousZ at 11:34 AM on August 16, 2011

Last time I priced this out you could rent a studio alone for less than that. Possibly much less. This roommate/friend paying contingent on them getting a job thing is a thing I would not do. At all. Especially if you want to remain friends with this person. $4200/month sounds like a pretty expensive 3BR to me, but then, I live in the East Bay.

But it's not just about your take-home. The whole point of the spending 30% of your income on rent guideline (and I've heard 40% for SF) is that you should be saving a significant chunk of your take-home pay if you're young. Particularly if you're making $45k in take-home pay, you should be able to set aside 15% of that per year. If you can't, keep searching for apartments.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:44 AM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sorry, that should be "not just about your take-home being more than your expenses."
posted by deludingmyself at 11:44 AM on August 16, 2011

I would seriously reconsider whether you need the car. Will you be commuting to work? If not, you'll be much better off selling the car and learning to deal with Muni/riding bikes/using Zipcar or City CarShare whenever you need an automobile. The price of renting a parking space in San Francisco is atrocious -- in my neighborhood, around $250/month -- and insurance is through the roof. Street parking is a pain as well, and if you're working in San Francisco, parking at your job will be another huge expense.

Do you know which neighborhoods you'll be living in? My advice applies more to the neighborhoods in the heart of the city; it's easier to find street parking, and cheaper to find garage parking, in the outer neighborhoods.

Seriously consider Oakland. There are lots of cool things happening there, it's a super-quick (10-15 minute) BART commute to the City, and it's way, way, way cheaper.
posted by kdar at 11:45 AM on August 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

The headache of parking is going to vary depending on neighborhood. Check that out carefully before moving. Having an assigned spot can cost you but makes life much easier.

Check out the CA DMV for how much it will cost to register your car in CA. If it's older it may require smog testing. You have only a certain amt of time to do it. If they eventually catch you pickets can be pricey. My boss got caught using the easy pass toll thing for a few months with out of state tags and her ticket was maybe $500.

As far as furnishing and household items - you can get a lot of things used - from Craigslist, thrift stores (San Franciscans hate throwing things out), garage sales and there are also a couple of Asian dollar stores / cheap stuff stores and an Ikea in Emeryville.

If you're travelling in the city only a monthly pass is $62 for Muni only, $72 if you want to include BART stops in the city only. Cabs can be pricey.

As far as food there are lots of good cheap eats like taco and also farmers markets if you want produce.

Also sales tax here is 8.5%.
posted by oneear at 11:47 AM on August 16, 2011

oops that should be "tickets" not "pickets"
posted by oneear at 11:49 AM on August 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you so much everyone for the advice, as you can imagine this is a pretty exciting / nerve-wracking adventure so I appreciate all the information you guys have.

The apartment that we found was a 3BR for around 3500, I would pay 2000 and my other roommate would pay 1500, with the hopes my friend would buy out his share when he got a job. As you are mentioning- that's a tough outlook in this economy, so I am not trying to bank on it, and have no problem covering that, it's a cost I think is worth it. Worst comes to worse he can sleep on my couch / fly home and we can get a roommate?

The reason I am going to have the car is because I am going to be driving out there with all of my things, but if what you guys are saying proves true, I may end up driving home for Thanksgiving and then flying back out without my car.
posted by ejfox at 12:01 PM on August 16, 2011

I see you are coming from ny. when I moved here 20 years ago from nj one of the biggest shocks was paying sales tax on clothes. ouch!

you can get lots of kitchen stuff (plates, cups) at salvation army for like, a dollar, and cheap furniture etc. so check those places out, there are tons in SF.
posted by supermedusa at 12:06 PM on August 16, 2011

ejfox - you may want to reconsider moving your things in your car yourself. I've never done this myself but my understanding from friends who have, is that moving expenses between NY and SF or LA are pretty darn cheap. I'd at least look into it as it would save you a lot of time in the move, but perhaps you actually want to make that drive.

Personally, I don't recommend doing that, but YMMV.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:19 PM on August 16, 2011

As supermedusa points out, parking tickets are just a fact of life living in the city. If you do your *very* best to be super diligent all the time, you'll probably only hit two or three a year. If you keep the car, seriously consider sticking $40/month or so in a jar to cover parking tickets when they come up.
posted by colin_l at 12:44 PM on August 16, 2011

Welcome to SF! Like everyone is saying, everything is super expensive here. The city is difficult to get around in, with crazy traffic, crowded and often inadequate public transportation, and the weird streets that go nowhere or don't join up or suddenly have a stoplight in the middle of a steep incline hill.

Parking is expensive, but depending on where you're working/living, public transport might not get you there. Check out and see if it's even doable for you.

You seem resigned to paying that much of your salary away every month for rent...I wish I could dissuade you. I have a feeling that you will regret it when you're actually adding it all up each month. But least don't get locked into a year on that apartment if you can help it. That way you can join the rest of us in the East Bay who can park for free and don't have to sell internal organs to afford rent each month.

Food is super expensive, although between farmer's markets and ethnic grocery stores, you can probably get that down a bit. If I shopped that way all the time, it would mean I didn't eat much meat (figuring out the provenance from hispanic/asian stores is often not easy, or indeed possible), but YM(and food ethics)MV. Also keep in mind that you'll need kitchen equipment if you plan to cook for yourself. That also can get expensive. And at the very least, stocking a pantry, spice cupboard, and other basic essentials is also a huge initial cost, but it'll make cooking cheaper in the long run.

Good luck - I really hope everything does work out for you here!
posted by guster4lovers at 1:22 PM on August 16, 2011

Given that you say you'd rather have a great place to live than go out, I really suggest you consider the east bay. My pretty spectacular place in Oakland has a shorter commute to work in the city than several of my coworkers who actually live in SF.

Definitely remember to budget for furniture, and I also can't stress enough just how expensive it can be to outfit your place with basic food supplies when you don't have anything to start with. I was shocked at how expensive start up costs were moving across the country- and I had furniture and dishes.

The budget you are proposing is not one I'd feel comfortable with at all. Have you added things like phone, internet, any debt you might have, car insurance, parking, rent, food, entertainment, rounded up, and then gave it a good hard look?
posted by Zophi at 1:34 PM on August 16, 2011

Startup costs - car registration/transfer, gas/food/lodging to get out to CA, utility deposits, security deposit on apt?, furniture/sheets/towels/pots and pans and dishes, kitchen pantry items, emergency fund

3750 take home
-2100 rent
= 1650
- 100 cell phone
= 1550
- 50 cable/internet
= 1500
- 150 utilities (water, electric)
= 1350
- 100 car insurance
= 1250
-100 car maintenance, parking tickets
= 1150
- 200 city parking or public transport
= 950
- 100 clothes (new ones or dry cleaning etc)
= 850
- 100 food to cook
= 750
- 100 entertainment (movies, etc)
= 650
- 100 eating out (work lunches, dinner with friends)
= 550
- 50 misc gifts (bdays, anniversaries, surplus saved for xmas)
= 500
- 100 gen household (Target trips, cleaning supplies, etc)
= 400
- 50 hair/makeup/grooming
= 350
- 50 impulse buys like Starbucks, a soda, a taco from a truck
= 300
- 50 misc subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify, apps, etc)
= 250

That's my really conservative estimate, best case scenario, cheapest options - and note I'm only giving you about $80/week for food/entertainment/eating out. I have cut this to the bone, as in you won't be eating exotic or varied food or doing a lot of going out, and it gets you a tiny surplus but you will spend that $60/week on daily life, things come up and it is hard to be in an awesome city with super cool things to do and places to go and no money to do it. It sounds easier than it is. You have almost nothing there for possible savings - if you have any money leftover it should go there, but better yet to plan it. How stable is your job?

I'm assuming health insurance doesn't come out of your take home pay, and that you have zero debt or financial obligations. The giant assumption is that your bf doesn't rely on you for daily living expenses, which he will if he doesn't have a job. You know better than I do the prospects for getting one, but I hear people of all experience levels having trouble getting jobs. If he needs to rely on you for food and transport and entertainment, double a lot of those costs above, and factor in some resentment once he's frustrated he hasn't found a job and both of you resent it a little bit that you have to pay for everything.

I don't mean to dissuade you, just put in my two cents. You will need to be very careful about what you spend - keep a daily list, that honestly helps avoid spending too much, and ask yourself before you get to a checkout if you really need the item or if it's an impulse or habit purchase. Be disciplined about keeping an eye out for free events around town

If you have a safety net from your family, the lack of savings plan at 19 is concerning but not the biggest deal for now, but you don't want to get into credit card debt- don't be too proud to ask your family for help if you need it.

Good luck!! I hope we hear awesome updates once you're there and settled in!
posted by mrs. taters at 1:38 PM on August 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

I want to add my voice to the "Rent in the East Bay!" chorus. I used to live in a wonderful Oakland neighborhood, the Temescal aka "Lower Rockridge" (approximate boundaries: 40th Street, Broadway, Telegraph and 51st Street). This neighborhood is convenient to BART and many shops, and you can get a beautiful shared house for a lot less than you could in San Francisco. Plus if you get a house with a backyard, you could save on groceries by raising your own vegetables!

One caveat about housing prices - yes, housing here is expensive, BUT if you try to go too much below market price, chances are your building will be owned by a slumlord and be in poor repair with amenities dating back to the Carter administration and a landlord who drags his feet and/or cheaps out on repairs. So caveat emptor with rentals.

Farmer's markets and ethnic markets are your best bets for food, and the Bay Area is rich in both.

I found that I could live without a car quite easily, the only inconveniences were that I couldn't haul home a gross of cat litter or stay out past midnight very easily. Having a car and no designated parking, or having to rotate designated parking with a roommate (that's what I did when I did own a car) means doing the Street Cleaner Shuffle every other week and that's an absolute bear. If you can live without a car, please do so. ZipCar is available if you need to rent one for whatever reason.

A trick to getting good stuff off of Craigslist or Freecycle is to scour those sites in the seasons when people are moving, usually late spring and the end of summer; that's when people are looking to get rid of their stuff. Also, believe it or not, Ross Dress for Less carries housewares and they go for a deep discount.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:51 PM on August 16, 2011

Nthing that you should seriously consider going car-free, and consider living in the East Bay since your enjoyment is not dependent on SF-only nightlife. Unfortunately, both Zipcar and City Carshare require that you be 21 before you can join.

Other costs: Depending on where you live, some utilities may be paid by the landlord - of course they're passed through to you as part of the rent, but you won't see them itemized or anything. Renters' insurance will cover you in case of loss or damage to your belongings, and it runs pretty cheap.

Month-to-month leases are common here - lots of places will have year-long leases that convert to month-to-month when the year is up. Many cities in the Bay Area have some form of rent control or eviction/vacancy control. Look it up for your new location so you'll have an idea of how much your rent can increase, and when. Consider starting off in a short-term rental and taking a while to scope out neighborhoods before you commit to a place for the long term.
posted by expialidocious at 2:31 PM on August 16, 2011

mrs. taters: "That's my really conservative estimate, best case scenario, cheapest options - and note I'm only giving you about $80/week for food/entertainment/eating out. I have cut this to the bone"

You're right that ejfox really needs a bigger buffer for savings but those are miles off "cheapest, cut to the bone" options. If you're capable of making a budget, $100/month should be enough for food/drink/clothes/eating out/entertainment/hair/makeup/grooming in even the most expensive cities in the world. You certainly don't need to blow 5x that. And $100 for a phone sounds ridiculous as does $50 for internet shared between three...

The advice to lose the car is also good.
posted by turkeyphant at 2:54 PM on August 16, 2011

Having lived by myself in a big city with public transportation, and simultaneously owning a car, at 19, here is my best possible advice: LOSE THE CAR. Having a bike and a bus/train pass is going to make sure a huge impact on your budget -- and your quality of life -- that nothing else can really compare.

First, because the budgetable costs are so high: payments (if you have them), obviously, but also registration (a few hundred a year), insurance (a few thousand a year) and gasoline (a few hundred a month) add up surprisingly quickly.

Second, because of unpredictable cost: parking and traffic tickets, unanticipated repairs, insurance deductibles. You can go from "hey, I have an extra $20/$200/$2000" to "shit, I'm in the hole for $20/$200/$2000" in a matter of moments, through no fault of your own (or a moment of carelessness.) That's a lot of financial risk exposure for a 19-year-old. Hell, I'm 40 and sometimes I question it.

Third, because street parking sucks and dedicated parking is going to cost you, either in monthly parking lot fees or an increase in the rent you pay compared to the same kind of apartment without a parking space.

Yes, you'll have to wait for transit. Yes, you won't have a car (which for 19-year-old boys feels like death, I know it) and yes, you'll have to figure out laundry and groceries. So the best advise I can give you for having good quality of life and saving money is:

1. Get an apartment with walkable transit and grocery store, and with on-premises laundry.

Er...that's it, really. Beyond that, if you are willing to eat at home a lot, and you budget sufficiently for your day-to-day expenses and utilities, you'll be in great shape.
posted by davejay at 3:59 PM on August 16, 2011

Oh, and: yeah, don't take on 1/2 of an apartment rent with three people. That's madness, and a recipe for stress, especially if the friend-with-no-job decides to bail. Get a smaller place with the person who has a job, and when your other friend has a job, you three can move in together when you're all twenty.
posted by davejay at 4:00 PM on August 16, 2011

$3500 for a 3 BR strikes me as insane. I've lived in San Francisco and Oakland for ten years and never spent more than $600/month on rent. Yeah, my standards are lower than yours, but not that low. For $1200/month, you ought to be able to have your own 1-BR and avoid roommate drama entirely (or a decent 2-BR in the East Bay).

Also yes, ditch the car. My advice: live somewhere extremely transit-accessible and an easy bike/walk to groceries, get a bike, and ditch the car. If you're considering the East Bay, also live near a casual carpool pickup (like Lakeshore / Lake Merritt) for additional commute savings. If you keep the car, you'll have a weekly hassle moving it around, a high parking lot rental charge, lots of tickets, an urge to move to the East Bay, or all of the above.
posted by salvia at 4:18 PM on August 16, 2011

If you're capable of making a budget, $100/month should be enough for food/drink/clothes/eating out/entertainment/hair/makeup/grooming in even the most expensive cities in the world.

What? No. This is not true. Unless the budget is only spending money on the 'food' part.
posted by crackingdes at 4:21 PM on August 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

$100 for a phone sounds ridiculous

Huh? No it doesn't. I'm on one of Verizon's ultra-cheap, bare-bones, non-advertised and available to long-term existing customers only customer retention plans — 100 minutes a month with no features to speak of and no web/data service — and I pay $45 a month. For anybody who actually talks on their phone or uses it for data, $100 sounds pretty reasonable around here.

$100/month should be enough for food/drink/clothes/eating out/entertainment/hair/makeup/grooming in even the most expensive cities in the world

No, that's what sounds ridiculous.

Nthing "move to Oakland!" It's less expensive here, mellower, and the weather's better than in SF.
posted by Lexica at 5:19 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

So what I gather is you are interested in living with your friends, who have found a place which people here consider expensive. Having looked at the prices for 3BR in the city proper Here on Craigslist I'd say your overpaying for the apartment by a thousand dollars or so, maybe more. And that's if you live in the city, if you live in Daly City or Oakland or South SF, there's a significant drop as well.

If you do one thing to help your finances, find a cheaper apartment. With your friends, or on your own, you can do a lot better.

Having had a car, I know it's hard to give one up. Remember, you can always sell it, try it for a few months, and buy a new one if you decide you need it.

Why wouldn't your friend be able to get a job? There are tons of entry level positions available, though many of them aren't advertised on the internet (think help wanted signs). Your friend may no be able to get the career position they want, but they can get experience and earn money, the job before the Job, so to speak.

As for savings... what if you get fired, or your company fails? What if you get injured, and can't work? You should always try to have some savings.

anyway, welcome the SF bay area.
posted by gryftir at 5:30 PM on August 16, 2011

Lexica: "For anybody who actually talks on their phone or uses it for data, $100 sounds pretty reasonable around here."

Am I missing something? I just did a basic google and found plenty of plans with minutes, texts and data for $30-$35. If you're on a budget, it's obviously possible to go much lower.

crackingdes: "What? No. This is not true. Unless the budget is only spending money on the 'food' part."

Sorry, didn't count food there. But even so, $550/month for that seems insane. Let's allow $100/month for food. You'd have to be incredibly wasteful to spend near $100 on the rest of it every month.
posted by turkeyphant at 5:32 PM on August 16, 2011

More than the budget--you need to really rethink the nonworking roomie. Unless he or she is going to do all the chores, you will become resentful, trust me. And he or she will grow increasingly comfortable not paying rent. Unless this person is getting EDD checks or earns some food money somehow, you will be stuck for the rent, the utilities, food, etc. If you're determined to go ahead, you and the 3rd roommate should agree on a schedule for nonworker to get a job or contribute money.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:54 PM on August 16, 2011

100 bucks a month for car insurance sounds a bit high. I pay 220 every six months for comprehensive on a fairly new car. Are rates in SF truly 10x what I paid living in KC?
posted by pwnguin at 6:43 PM on August 16, 2011

Car insurance: I pay $55/mo now and paid $100/mo when I was still making payments and ha to have full coverage.

Nthing that saving $1000/month on housing will give you a lot of wiggle room on every other piece of your budget (including the amount you save).
posted by salvia at 8:01 PM on August 16, 2011

Just a quick note (there's lots of good advice upthread) about your take-home pay:

Are you sure about the number? Income tax rates are higher in California than most of the rest of the country, so if you you're taking home ~$3750, that means you have a gross annual income in the ballpark of $60k.

For another anecdata point on you probably overpaying rent: I live with 3 roommates in the Mission, the total rent for our 4-bedroom 2-bathroom (not fancy but decent) apartment in a great location is under $3500. Utilities (electricity and gas from PGE) averaged $63 total (not per person) from March through June).

Congratulations on the new job, good luck with the move, and come to a meetup when you get to town!
posted by polexa at 11:26 PM on August 16, 2011

one other thing that may affect your budget in a minor way- cell service can be spotty in parts of san francisco so don't make any changes that will lock you into a contract right now. different carriers will have trouble in different places.

I think the rent you are saying you will pay is a little high depending on where it is and how awesome the place is.
posted by oneear at 11:38 PM on August 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone for the replies- this is helping a lot, and is really impacting my plans. So... awesome!

Thank you mrs. taters for writing that out, that's incredibly helpful in that it's about what I was thinking. You're correct in assuming no debt / financial obligations. The goal is for my friend to be responsible for his own food (he has been saving to support himself food/entertainment-wise for the first couple of months in SF). It's definitely a crazy plan, but this is my best friend, and we've done crazier things together, and we tend to make things work. Look, see, youthful optimism! We'll see if it plays out- I'm trying to be optimistic without setting myself up for failure.

It's looking more and more like (if I don't find a place with reasonable parking) I will be bringing my car back during thanksgiving.

Got it, $3500 is too much. It felt like too much, which I think is why I asked the question in the first place, but it's good, because I got some really valuable information from the hivemind. ;]

polexa: Are you sure about the number? Income tax rates are higher in California than most of the rest of the country, so if you you're taking home ~$3750, that means you have a gross annual income in the ballpark of $60k.

Gross $56K, I used 2 tax calculators which told me my federal tax would be $8,000 and my state tax would be $3,000, which brings me to my $3750/month number.

More and more, this is just making me appreciate the fact I need to BE THERE and hang out places and figure it out. Padmapper is not gonna do it for me from here in NY. Thanks again to everyone for your help & advice... if you have any more random San Francisco tips I'd love to hear those too.
posted by ejfox at 6:04 AM on August 17, 2011

The best situation you could be in would be to arrive here with some temporary accommodations while you figure things out. The city really does open up to you in a short time, but you're right, being here makes it possible.
posted by fake at 8:13 AM on August 17, 2011

You can totally do it - that's what being 19 is for! You're on the right track with thinking things through and looking for the pitfalls/being vigilant.

My first place I got the nicest place I could swing with a little bit of a stretch, and that was pretty awesome but I didn't save any money. Later on I moved and started trying to save more on the fixed housing cost - if you need extra cash for a spontaneous trip to hawaii or a bad emergency you can always cut back on something else and eat rice and beans or suspend your cable tv but you're stuck with the house payment, you know?

(I *love* SF!)
posted by mrs. taters at 9:42 AM on August 17, 2011

To give you an idea about what a pain car ownership is here, I have a brother who makes about $120k/year who doesn't own a car. He rents from zipcar or takes ubercab when he needs it, but otherwise relies on public transportation, biking, and walking to get everywhere he needs. I occasionally house-sit for him when he goes on business trips and, although I have a car, I leave it parked in Sacramento and take the train in just so I don't have to deal with the hassle. My mother-in-law owns a car (and an apartment with a garage), but she rarely drives it as she mostly walks everywhere.

The job market here is very tight, so expect to pay for your friend's rent for quite some time unless you have good contacts or know how to make them quickly. I have friends with bachelor degrees who are trying to pick up any job they can. A friend applied for a receptionist position that received hundreds of applicants. If you can program or work with programmers, you'll have a major leg up.

Near the Mission and Clement Street/Richmond are my two favorite areas to live/shop, but everyone has different tastes, and what is safe for me or someone like my sister-in-law who knows the city may not be safe for you. As other posters have noted, I strongly suggest you rent a place for a short while and check out the city before you sign a longer lease.
posted by avagoyle at 12:16 AM on August 18, 2011

Are you saying that at this point your friend has basically zero dollars to contribute to the situation? Honestly, I think it is a big ask and that you may come to resent the friend (e.g. "can you FFS remember to turn the heater off when you go out.. because I have to pay all the bills").

I think if you were all young professionals with ok jobs and you want to splash a bit of cash on a better than average place, sure, go for it. But 2 jobs between 3 people isn't quite there.

If you are saying that you highly value your friend's presence, I think that you should look for the place that for now allows all of you to establish yourself in the city without spending a fortune or ending up resenting each other. Don't get something totally inconvenient just because it is cheap, but don't go for the place that is going to wow everyone when they come round to visit.

You can upgrade later, when everyone has a job.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:51 AM on August 18, 2011

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