San Francisco on a Budget

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Over my 25 birthday candles, I jokingly made a wish for my roommate to move out. We got along well and there was no drama, but I was outgrowing our shared 500 sq. ft. studio. No longer a freshly minted college grad, I wanted to come home to a place where I could just kick back and relax, not relegate myself to a little corner as if I were still in the dorms. They say a wish shared out loud doesn’t come true, so I was very (and pleasantly) surprised when the next month my roommate decided to move out.

Not finding a replacement meant I would now be responsible for all living expenses. I was so concerned about depleting my savings and not being able to contribute to my “rainy day” and “travel” funds that I even contemplated finding another roommate. After reading through several biographical responses to my Craigslist postings, I opted against living with that middle-aged man transferring to San Francisco, or the flamboyantly gay man who lived with his boyfriend but needed his own space. Living in San Francisco is not cheap, but just because I’m tightening my spending doesn’t mean I have to be in lock-down mode.

Here are some of my tips for still doing and getting what you love in San Francisco while on a budget:

  • KITCHEN VOLUNTEER
    There is a HUGE foodie culture in San Francisco. Food trucks abound, reservations are hard to come by, and there is always some new start-up trying to revolutionize how we order food. It’s great to live in a city where there are so many food aficionados, but I’ve become really frustrated how even the simplest meal in the city means shelling out $20.If you’re lucky to snag a reservation at Lazy Bear , a pop-up restaurant whose seats are doled out via lottery, you’ll be shelling out a cool $90, and that’s before tip or tax. However, if you sign up to be a kitchen volunteer, in exchange for volunteering your time to prep and serve, you get plenty of free food and libations, learn about exotic new dishes and ingredients, and get to meet people in the food industry. I volunteered during a vegetarian menu offering, and definitely want to go back! Berkeley’s Kitchen on Fire, a cooking school, offers a similar kitchen volunteer program. I helped out during my college days at UC Berkeley during a Couples Course. No matter where you are located, I guarantee there are cooking schools or start-up restauranteurs who would love to trade you food and wine for your labor.
  • MYSTERY SHOPPER
    I have read a lot about being a mystery shopper and it sounded like a great way to get paid for what I already do. I finally tried it a couple of weeks ago, with A Closer Look and just got a check in the mail reimbursing me for my food expenses. There is a quick quiz to take before they let you sign up for anything, I then had to fill out an extensive survey of my experience. Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America provides a list of certified mystery shopper agencies that can help you gain access to more assignments all across the US.
  • RECYCLING FLOWERS
    I had a backyard with lots of fruits and mature trees growing up, so I have been meaning to add some flora into my apartment to liven up the concrete jungle I now call home. Flowers are expensive and the orchid I did have died from the lack of sunlight, so I had been deterred from bringing in plants into my apartment. However, I noticed every Monday there is a new flower arrangement sitting in the lobby entrance at my work! These flowers are still blooming when they are taken down and tossed, only to be replaced with a new bouquet. The security guard let me take a few flowers with me when I left work Friday night, and this might just become a weekly ritual. Now I just need to find a vase to put them in!
  • DONATION-BASED YOGA
    I will splurge on groceries because I value my health and believe there is no price for health, but being healthy doesn’t have to be costly. One of the best things about the Bay Area is the donation-based yoga centers. It’s not free, but patrons pay whatever amount they feel comfortable and is within their budget. Urban Flow is my personal favorite. It’s a short bus ride away, and I love the heated classes. Rusty, Brad, and Stephanie are all great teachers. Yoga to the People  is another popular yogi hangout, which I haven’t tried because it’s just farther from my house than Urban Flow.

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So there you have it! Four fabulous tips for doing and getting what you love on a tight budget in the lovely city of San Francisco, California. Special thanks to our dear friend, guest blogger, and honorary fourth teaspoon Jennifer W. of San Francisco for sharing her urban living experience and budgeting tips without scrimping on social life. Auditor by day, city dweller by night and avid Warriors fan on the side, Silicon Valley native Jennifer is a Berkeley grad who is reveling in all that the Financial District has to offer. Though easily enticed by credit card promotion offers, Jennifer is the poster girl for the fiscally responsible, twenty-something urbanite. We look forward to more insightful blog posts from Jennifer on budgeting, city living, and the like!

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