Cost of Living Adjustments: Moving to San Francisco

Well, I don’t have any specific offers ahead; but the company I work for was bought out by another and relocation offers are expected for many of us. So I’m beginning to ponder the possibilities. When job offers cause relocations, one of the considerations is the cost of living differences from the old to the new locations. Some moves the differences are less, some are more.

Now I’m not going to use my actual salary because that would be gauche. But could someone give me an idea of the COLA needed to live at a similar level of barely scraping by moving from Saint Louis to San Francisco? Like I said, I’m not going to give my actual salary; but if someone earned somewhere in the neighborhood of $50K/year in Saint Louis, how much would be need in San Francisco?

Here’s a salary calculator.

I plugged in a $50K salary, and came up with:
$67,452 if you’re renting your home
$84,823 if you’re buying your home

This may help a bit:

The Sunset District is pretty much average… clean, but not much to do, nice but kinda boring.

You could live in the East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Albany, El Cerrito, etc.), not far from the Bay Bridge, and that would improve your COLA (though worsen your commute). If you work place was somewhere near BART, that might not be as big of an issue, either. says:

I was going to say, without looking it up, you’d need to make about double if you were making around $50K. I think it’s a damn good guess.

Obviously the biggest difference is the cost of housing. I have no doubt that renting or buying there is much more expensive. But does that alone account for needing nearly twice the salary? Is the cost of groceries double, too? Does it cost twice as much to eat out?

How much is a gallon of milk or a pound of ground round?

Off the top of my head, milk is in the $3.60 - 4.00 range for store-brand 2%, and 80% lean hamburger is in the $2.50-3.00/lb area when it’s on sale.

Gas is chronically crazy-priced. I was happy to find 87 octane for under $2.90 on Friday.

That would have been my guess too.

Where? I’m happy if I can find gas for under $3/gallon.

I don’t know what a typical commute is like in St. Louis, but an hour-long commute each way isn’t that uncommon here. The cost of gas can really add up if you have a long commute in a car that doesn’t get good gas mileage.

Also for consideration: sales tax in SF is about 8.5%, as compared to the 6.0-7.5% in the St. Louis area.

Is there a state income tax?


Milk is 2.99 - 3.99 depending on the store, it’s generally cheaper to buy milk at mom and pops as they’ll sell it @ or near cost.

Ground Round is $2.59, but I live accross the bridge.

Energy prices are much higher, that includes gas, natural gas and electricity.

If you plan to drive to work, think at minimum $60-100 for parking monthly. (my figures may be out of date it’s been 5 years since I worked in the city)

If you plan to use public transportation think a minimum of $2 in the city at least $4 if coming from outside, that’s each way.

A typical meal from a chain, say Fridays, normally sets me back about $80 for two. San Francisco is also famous for having good eats pretty cheap so it’ll depend on the type of dining you do.

Bridge tolls are $3 all bridges except the Golden Gate where it’s $5.

Movies are $10 a ticket, $5-$7 for matinee depending on where. Small popcorn $4, small soda $4 small candy $3, water $2.50

If you smoke, cigarettes are just under $5 per pack for name brand or about $3.50 for generic.

Have any other specifics you’d like to know about?

On preview there is a state income tax.

Regarding taxes…

The 8.5% sales tax is a roll-up of the basic state tax, county tax, local municipality tax, and various other special district taxes, such as those for mass transit. Pretty much like it is anywhere else, except there’s just more of it than most places. :frowning:

I don’t know offhand what the percentage is, but there is also a state income tax.

As for transit, if you’re living near a transit line and your job is also near a line, that’s almost always the best way to go, both in terms of speed and price. Have a look at for the whole A-Z of Bay Area transit.

Are you serious?

Isn’t there also a city income tax if one works in San Francisco proper?


The Sunset might as well be the suburbs. If you’re living alone or with one other person, check out Nob Hill, Lower Nob Hill, Hayes Valley, Mint Hill, Potrero Hill, Bernal Heights, the Castro, and Oakland. If you have kids then go to the Sunset, or any burb in the East Bay.

As you said, not that you (or I) make $50,000 a year, but I know more than a few people who make less than that and live quite comfortably in San Francisco.

If you ever move here, or come out to check it out, email me, and I’ll buy you a beverage and show you around.

On engery costs, the flip side is that in many places around here (esp. the city/penninsula/north bay) you don’t need air conditioning, and in the winter you can get away without turning your heat on much (or at all, if you bundle well). My PG&E bill rarely breaks $150, even in the depths of winter (for an entire drafty victorian house).

Medical costs are also much, much higher. I’m too young and healthy to provide you with a comparison, but I saw a health insurance plan cross my desk the other day that provided $600 a day for hospitalization-- except in California, where it provided $900. The reason for this difference, though, I can’t explain.

PS- Stuffy, what are you eating and Fridays? I always thought they were cheaper than that? I haven’t been to one of those places is a good while, but. . .sheesh. Is that drinks? Last week I fed three friends at a good steakhouse for <$100.

Of course, he is right about the cheap food. At one of my favorite resteraunts (a teeny tiny salvadorian place), we can easily stuff 4 people to the gills with 30 bucks.

Not seeking out my cheapo haunts, though, $6-7 for breakfast, $10-12 for lunch, and $20-30 for dinner is about average and normal for me, when eating out (which i do a lot)

What, too low or too high? Last time I went I had baby back ribs my wife had some shrimp dish, we both had a couple of drinks, I’m pretty sure it was around $80 including tip(20%). Wait, I think that was Tony Roma’s, but the pricing is about the same.

OK - I’ve been a casual SD reader for a while, but I couldn’t not put my two cents in on this. About a year ago, I did the exact same thing as the OP…moved from Missouri to the Bay Area, so I’ve got lots of comments on this. In particular, I moved from KC, but I did live in STL for around 20 years.

The main comment I have is that in terms of consumer goods, it costs only slightly more to live here. Milk, bread, meat, produce, etc., are only slightly higher, almost not noticiable (if you know where to shop…ie. Trader Joes). I’ve found car insurance is about the same, maybe 10% higher.

The two stark differences are in gasoline and housing. Others have commented on gas prices, so I’ll talk about housing. In St. Louis, you can get a decent house in the burbs for around $120K - 200 K, depending on where you live. Forget about that here. In fact, a modest house here (read - of the same quality you would find near Lambert Airport) will run you at least $500 K. The cost of renting is also doubled. We pay $1300 for what would go for around $700 in St. Charles or South County, and we live next to the interstate. The quality of the housing and amount of land is also much lower, as a general rule.

The commute time comparision: East Bay to SF (by car) = St. Charles to Downtown (I-70) or Chesterfield to Downtown (Hwy 40). However, once you ride the BART, you will wonder how you ever called the Metrolink “mass transit.” East Bay to SF on the BART is about 15 to 30 min.

All in all, I’d say $50 K in STL is about equal to $80 K in SF, as long as you don’t want to do something silly like buy a house! (Can you tell I’m homesick?) :frowning: