Pole-vaulting from Puritanland.
July 15, 2007 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Yet another "moving to SF on the cheap" question.

So, I'd like to get out of Boston to San Francisco within the next 6-8 months.

I'm 30, not married, no kids, no debt, no entanglements, and a month-to-month lease here in Somerville. Pretty much the only things I will be bringing are my cat, my computer, a bike, a few musical instruments, and my clothes.

Assuming I bring nothing but these bare-bones basics, how much should I plan on saving for such a move? I think of factors like rent (first/last/security), a few months of living expenses (utilities, internet, food), and some "Hey-I-just-moved-here" money for random unforeseen things once I arrive.

The one, possibly fatal, point of exception: I'm somewhat of a stickler for living alone (and my cat doesn't "do" roommates well). I expect this will rather dramatically warp the economics off the charts, but run the scenario anyway.

(Nb.: I've seen this, this, this, this, and this. As usual, the question is rather circumstance-specific, so I felt the need to ask.)
posted by mykescipark to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What sort of job prospects do you expect to find in SF? Are you in a field where you could feasibly not just move across the country but actually do better than you're doing now, or would your income stay the same for the most part?
posted by mdonley at 6:04 PM on July 15, 2007

Well, assuming that you only need a studio and are willing to live in a not so swell area - you're still talking a minimum of $3000 just to get into a place and that's being an optimist.

If I were to do this with the caveat that I needed to live alone I'd be planning on at least $10k. At LEAST.

However, you may be able to do it for less depending on what field you are in and how likely you are to get a job ASAP.

Good luck. I'm in Somerville too and have been dreaming of escape ever since I moved here in April. Lemme know if you want to grab a beer and we can discuss.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:06 PM on July 15, 2007

You haven't mentioned the most important thing: Will you have a job throughout? That is, it sounds like you can just relocate and continue your contracts or whatever??

If so, then its still confusing why you need to have saved for living expenses. If not, then how much you need depends a lot on how long it will take you to find another job.
posted by vacapinta at 6:29 PM on July 15, 2007

Does it have to be SF? Can it be Oakland or somewhere else in the East Bay?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:29 PM on July 15, 2007

Response by poster: mdonley, let's assume that I'd be making a roughly correspondent salary, and not the 15-20% increase that people generally suggest when planning such things.

I'm a long-time independent/freelance media producer who currently holds an Irrelevant Day Job (tm) and is pursuing full-time options in the field in question. I'm not above doing something that's slightly different, but not to the drastic extent that I've had to do in Boston.

(I'm hedging on discussing this at length because I'm moving for passion, not logic, and a large chunk of this is a huge personal risk that I simply have to take for my own self-respect and personal integrity. I'd prefer to stay closer to the subject of "How much will it cost to just get there?" and less on "How can I make a living once I arrive?")
posted by mykescipark at 6:51 PM on July 15, 2007

Response by poster: (...and I'd move to Berkeley far before moving to Oakland.)
posted by mykescipark at 6:53 PM on July 15, 2007

I moved to SF in 2006 with 8k in savings. That seemed to work out just about right (I actually mailed my belongs across the country- long story there- for about 2k). It took me a month to find contract work and my boyfriend ended up subsidizing some of my rent (and the security deposit and the furniture), but I was pretty comfortable with the 8K. If I had to do it without him, I'd probably bump the number up to 12 k.
posted by bananafish at 7:01 PM on July 15, 2007

Suit yourself. But Oakland has better weather, Berkeley is overpriced, and if you worried about crime, welcome to the metropolitan Bay Area.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:02 PM on July 15, 2007

This isn't SF-specific, but there are a couple of other areas where you may need cash-in-fist, in addition to what you have mentioned. Utility companies sometimes want deposits if you have not been a local customer before. You will probably have to start paying for your new car insurance before you receive a prorated reimbursement from your old one (assuming that you have a car, of course); ditto for renter's and other insurances that you may need. You may want a local cellphone, at least during the job hunt; that will also mean some cash up front.

And, you didn't mention the cost of the move itself -- even if all you are doing is driving out in your own car, having enough of a financial cushion that you can make a major repair half-way there, without eating into your rent money, can really help. (Alternatively, you can use credit cards as your backup for the move, but that may make the first few months in SF kind of tight if you had to use them.)

If your job search will involve lots of networking, budget for it -- meeting people for lunch, and in bars, and so on can really add up when you are doing it every day. Same for parking downtown, a bus pass, or whatever. Will you need new clothes as part of the search? Updated technical equipment?

Every time I move, I am surprised at how much all the little expenses add up to. The first/last/security and the move itself are big and easy to budget for, but buying new dishes and other kitchen essentials, and all the other little things, really add up to more than I expect, every time.
posted by Forktine at 7:22 PM on July 15, 2007

Response by poster: Forktine, your second paragraph is the most pertinent, as the cost of the move itself is pretty much exclusively what I was aiming to address here. Your thought about the utility companies is helpful, since I wouldn't have imagined allocating $500 (or however much) towards something like that. Here in Boston they don't require you to make any such payments upfront.
posted by mykescipark at 7:45 PM on July 15, 2007

Your thought about the utility companies is helpful

I hadn't had utilities in my name for 10+ years but PG&E didn't give me any grief when I got my own place again last year.

Good credit # should be enough.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:15 PM on July 15, 2007

"San Francisco" and "On the cheap" are not phrases that naturally go together.

bananafish hit it about right I think. It all depends on what sacrifices you're willing to make, and how far outside the city you're willing to consider "San Francisco". But if you're desperate to change circumstances and willing to sign a year lease on a 400 square foot basement studio apartment in a sketchy neighborhood, then $8000. If you want to spend less time commuting and arguing with the landlord over pumping the greywater out of your carpet then $12-$15K would be advised.

I can't say for outside of SF, but the rental market in the city has been heating up in the last 12 months with rental prices going up by about 20% and vacancy rates being down, so add into your budget where you're going to stay until you can find a permanent place.
posted by Ookseer at 8:27 PM on July 15, 2007

I have a friend who lives in a shady, sketchy (no kidding, I would never ever live there) part of the Tenderloin near Market and Mission and pays $900 a month for a fairly nice looking (on the inside) artist studio. He's a big, burly guy and would have no problem knifing anyone who hassles him (joking sort of). There are shared restrooms but he can have a cat. He can't have a car and there are multiple cons but it's cheap. There are also cheaper rooms in the same building.

Also, I moved from Houston to San Francisco by packing all my shit in my car and driving. It was about $400 for gas and a few travel expenses.

I have friends who packed up a freight box and took it with them on Amtrak. I remember thinking how cheap it was but I don't know the specifics.
posted by thehmmhmm at 9:38 PM on July 15, 2007

if you've got a 4-year degree (in anything) going to Tokyo would probably be cheaper and more rewarding towards eventually catching a break. You'd have to leave the cat, but by going there you dramatically alter the playing field and with the eventual alignments of skill, luck you'll get opportunity. At least it worked for me. Plan was to get the English-teaching job while hammering at the opportunity thing. Took ~3 years.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:01 PM on July 15, 2007

Best answer: Latecomer here.

At the risk of baring all my personal details to the internet: I moved from Providence to San Francisco with my girlfriend in June. Between us, we had about $12k in savings. We got an awesome (if tiny) one bedroom in a really nice part of the city ($1825/mo) and even rented a garage space for the car (for much more than I'm willing to say. It was a huge mistake). We bought new furniture (thrift stores and garage sales) when we got here, and the rest of the stuff was either packed in the car for the drive over or shipped via UPS ground (several hundred).

The move itself (the things you ask about above) ate up maybe 80% of those savings, but luckily we both had jobs waiting for us out here and hit the ground running. (Our combined income is $85k.)

Not exactly what you asked, but some quick must-knows:
In four months of following Craigslist leading up to the move we saw one place at about $1300 that was in a nice neighborhood. We had some friends check it out for us and he said it was super-tiny but cute and livable even for a couple. The unfortunate thing (well, one of the many unfortunate things) about the market though is that you'll be one of dozens of applicants for any decent place. You really have to put on the charm and have impeccable credit. (n.b.: We limited our search to the eastern [sunny] half of the city, and only looked at one bedrooms, not studios. You can live cheaper out in the Sunset. But I'd take the East Bay over the Sunset any day.) Last note on housing: here's a great resource that breaks rent down by neighborhood.

The one thing that is really killing our budget is groceries. I had no idea simple staples could be this expensive.
posted by rafter at 4:14 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

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