Author Topic: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley  (Read 7286 times)

patch45

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Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« on: November 01, 2015, 06:52:41 AM »
I'm a mobile app developer in Chicago right now, and thinking of moving out to the Bay soon, for several reasons. Although other cities are experiencing more rapid tech growth, the Bay is still the place to be. The salaries are much more competitive, and the weather doesn't even compare.

The thing that makes me nervous is the high cost of living out there. Even though I should be bringing in a decent amount of money as a dev, I think it would pain me physically to cut a check every month for the kind of rents that I've seen. I've considered living in a pickup truck with a camper shell, getting a gym membership and showering there, etc. One of the few things holding me back on that plan is cooking. I love cooking, and I while I know I could do it, I don't think I would want to live on canned food for a year. So I guess I'm still looking for other options, or a solution to this whole cooking thing.

Does anyone have any experience with truck living and cooking, or alternative living situations in the Bay?

realityinabox

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2015, 07:31:48 AM »
If you get in at Google (or a company with similar amenities), you may not ever need to cook: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-employee-lives-in-truck-in-parking-lot-save-money-2015-10

I'd also suggest looking at opportunities outside of the Bay area.  There are plenty of up and coming companies that aren't Silicon Valley.  The mustachian choice might be to forgo that insanity in general.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2015, 07:33:46 AM by realityinabox »

vhalros

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2015, 07:42:14 AM »
Boston is pretty good for Software (arguably either Seattle or Boston is second place to Silicon Valley). Housing costs are still insane, but a lot better than the Bay Area. The salaries are close enough that the increase you get from living in CA does not offset the increased cost of housing. Many many startups if that is what you are looking for.

patch45

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2015, 08:08:59 AM »
That's a good point, avoiding SV instead of trying to find a way to beat the system there. I have thought about that, and there are two things that keep me from writing it off altogether: 1. The weather is just about perfect. Boston, not so much. 2. It's only three hours from Yosemite/the Sierra Nevada, which is my favorite place in the world. Outdoor opportunities are an enormous consideration for me, so Boston probably wouldn't cut it. Seattle has closer wild spaces, but the weather for 9 months out of the year is not great

msilenus

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2015, 10:20:18 AM »
It used to be easier to use the salary differential to get ahead.  My wife and I were paying all of our rent out of it for our first year here.  That was more than ten years ago, when our rent was something like $1100/mo in Mountain View.

Note that California has an income tax rate that gets up to about 10% for high earners.  It's progressive of course, so be sure to look up the tax table in order to figure out how much more that adds to the cost of living.

If you do something extreme to eliminate rent, then you're going to do very well on saving.  Lots of employers around here offer free food and run their corporate campuses like casinos.  If you have a high-earning spouse it's also easier to come out ahead because you can double the benefit while splitting that housing cost.  Tax hits harder that way, though.

I suspect that Seattle is the sweet spot today, if you can stand the traffic and not seeing the sun for 9 months out of the year.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2015, 10:21:50 AM by msilenus »

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2015, 11:22:16 AM »
I know Portland is pretty aggressively recruiting experienced tech workers right now. And while COL has been increasing, it's still a fraction of the bay area. We get quite a bit of rain, but I think in terms of number of sunny days, we're about equivalent. Just while it would be foggy and overcast in the bay area, it's drizzly here instead.

Come to the silicon forest! Help drive our economy! =D

GuitarBrian

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2015, 02:21:09 PM »
The Bay Area.

Full disclosure, I have only been to the Bay Area 3 times. About 2 weeks at a time.

I lived in my truck camper. I thought it would be doable to stay more long term. I have a refrigerator, stove, sink, table, bathroom, and queen sized bed.

You would need to identify possible places to park. I can tell you that there is a GREAT place to park in Alameda, on top of the tube from Oakland. This road is very wide, and can't be devoloped since it is on top of the tunnel. There is an RV parked there... with a guy living there... every year (I think the same one)

You will also be able to find somewhere near your work. Look at google maps, drive around. You need to identify a few places like this:

Residential area. On a corner. With the house facing a different direction. You want to park on the side of the corner, next to the side yard.

Now, find as many of these as you can. Make sure to locate them in different cities. Because if the police hassle you... You need to leave their area. The police won't arrest you. They will simply say you can't stay here. Just agree and get in and drive off. I "save/star" Them on google maps.

Once you are working, inquire among co-workers... You are looking for a driveway, or just on the street, where you can park, with their permission. That adds to your list of possible parking.

You can get a gym membership, hopefully to a place with a number of locations. Even if you get a camper with a shower, it is too much work to get water, and empty the grey water, etc.

Or shower at work as others have mentioned.

South bay area is better than San Francisco. More spread out and laid back. SF parking is not as level and there are more restrictions. Also good, north in Marin county and the Oakland side.

A truck camper can be bought for plenty cheap. You don't need a shiny new one. You don't want one with a slide. Also no pop-ups. Shoot for an 8 foot, or 8.5. Maybe a 9. You are being discrete. For driving around, you don't want a huge overhang, harder to park etc. I attached a picture of my unit. I drive this 30,000 miles a year. In every situation (Manhattan, Seattle, SF... it is not that bad) there is 2 of us living in it. So with one... you will have more room.

Check out http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sby/rvs/5289143294.html $3500. Very nice condition. Along the lines of what I would be looking for.

Get solar panels. They will cover your electrical needs. I like the 327w SunPower. Or any high output grid tie (cheap) panel, or if you have the room on the roof, panels. Use an MPPT controller and a couple batteries. Even in the bay area this will keep your computer/cell phone charged... and propane heat running. The small area of the camper makes for a very frugal heating arrangement.

You may find a bike is a good idea. Depending on the parking at your job... it might be tight/underground etc.

If you don't have a pickup yet... you could look in to other options. Mostly based on the Sprinter van, or something of the like.

Assuming all that... your expenses will look a bit like this,

Gas, $~50-100 a month
Propane, $20-80 a month, average around $40 (assumes you like to cook and bake, etc.) Also will be higher in the winter, less the rest of the year.
Auto insurance for the truck, Plates, etc. No insurance/plates for the truck camper, unlike a trailer/5th wheel.
Everything else, entertainment/dining/etc that you would normally do.

You will want internet, I would suggest the T-Mobile unlimited data plan. You get unlimited data on your phone, with 5-7GB of tethering. Coverage will be good in the bay area, and I find the speeds pretty good. Last test was 32mb/20mb up/down. It is a $30 option on top of the regular calling plan. We have 6 phones @ $25 each unlimited calling/text... plus the $30 data on mine. Total $55/m. If you need more tethering data (although large downloads I just download on the phone and transfer) they have that as well. It is really the best deal at the moment.

It is also possible to rent a room. Looking on CL, plenty of options in the $1000/m range. Some $700 ish as well.

Anyway good luck! I have been doing this all my life. If you have any questions/things I missed... message me.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2015, 02:23:50 PM by GuitarBrian »

vhalros

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2015, 04:21:58 PM »
That's a good point, avoiding SV instead of trying to find a way to beat the system there. I have thought about that, and there are two things that keep me from writing it off altogether: 1. The weather is just about perfect. Boston, not so much. 2. It's only three hours from Yosemite/the Sierra Nevada, which is my favorite place in the world. Outdoor opportunities are an enormous consideration for me, so Boston probably wouldn't cut it. Seattle has closer wild spaces, but the weather for 9 months out of the year is not great

Well, the Berkshires are only a 3 hour drive from Boston. Its not the Sierra Nevada, but its not as if there is nothing. New Hampshire;s White Mountains are also about 2.5 hours away. Winter is better than Chicago, but yeah, definitely not CA weather. Transportation spending would probably be lower than in CA.

Having lived in SV briefly, you can do everything except housing cheaply and still have a pretty good savings rate. So, if truck living does work out and you actually have to rent a place, you are not totally screwed.

csprof

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2015, 05:44:03 PM »
I'm a mobile app developer in Chicago right now, and thinking of moving out to the Bay soon, for several reasons. Although other cities are experiencing more rapid tech growth, the Bay is still the place to be. The salaries are much more competitive, and the weather doesn't even compare.

The thing that makes me nervous is the high cost of living out there. Even though I should be bringing in a decent amount of money as a dev, I think it would pain me physically to cut a check every month for the kind of rents that I've seen. I've considered living in a pickup truck with a camper shell, getting a gym membership and showering there, etc. One of the few things holding me back on that plan is cooking. I love cooking, and I while I know I could do it, I don't think I would want to live on canned food for a year. So I guess I'm still looking for other options, or a solution to this whole cooking thing.

Does anyone have any experience with truck living and cooking, or alternative living situations in the Bay?

It's helpful to spreadsheet this out a little to be more concrete about it.  The biggest questions involve for whom you'll be working and what your salary is.  Earning $220k makes it not-too-bad to fork over $2k/month for a relatively meh 1br in mountain view.  Earning $100k changes that equation dramatically.  Working for Google or another employer that provides food and a lot of on-site perks makes the meh apartment pretty reasonable (who needs a gym membership when you've got a dozen gyms on campus?).  Working for a scrappy startup with no established perks -- time to find a gym and make time to cook.

Basically, living expenses here can vary wildly depending on what you're in to.  The rent is horrible no matter what, but ...

There are at least two Googlers living in automobiles of various sorts who've blogged about it:

   http://blog.thinkkappi.com/
   http://frominsidethebox.com/view?key=5688737870643200

But I suspect they're doing it as much for the "I'm young, this sounds like a hilarious life experience" as for the money.  Don't get me wrong - they're probably also doing it for the money - but it's in a more FIRE-like way than an "I can't afford to pay the rent" way.

patch45

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2015, 06:07:52 PM »
Don't get me wrong, this is not all about the money. I love the idea of doing something different, I want a challenge. I have a lot of experience sleeping in weird places, so I know I can do it, and it would almost seem like giving up if I were to just give in and get an apartment

humbleMouse

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2015, 10:29:06 PM »
Perhaps you could locate some sort of artist space/dance studio/office space to rent and live out of.  I have done this before and if you find the right situation it can work out. 

CletusMcGee

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2015, 05:56:03 AM »
Perhaps you could locate some sort of artist space/dance studio/office space to rent and live out of.  I have done this before and if you find the right situation it can work out.

+1 Schmidt Artists Lofts!

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2015, 03:14:12 PM »
Aside from living in your car, the cheapest way to live in the SF bay area is a houseboat.  I was just talking to someone this weekend that bought a live-aboard boat for $4k and pays $350/mo for a slip, which includes electricity and wifi.  I've looked into it and would expect to spend more like $15k for a decent boat under 30' (bigger boats get more expensive both in purchase costs and slip fees).  Either way, nothing else I've seen come close.  Although I do know of a warehouse with about 30 people living in it for $300/mo each, but that's not really my scene.

LifestyleDeflation

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2015, 05:49:59 PM »
It's definitely possible to live in your car in the bay area. I do it in a small enough car that I can't cook in it, but I make up for that with creative cold prep recipes and offering to com for friends at their place. And certainly you could get a bigger vehicle that would allow you space for a stove and or small refrigerator.

CanuckExpat

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2015, 06:04:49 PM »

expatartist

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2015, 07:50:49 PM »
Aside from living in your car, the cheapest way to live in the SF bay area is a houseboat.  I was just talking to someone this weekend that bought a live-aboard boat for $4k and pays $350/mo for a slip, which includes electricity and wifi.  I've looked into it and would expect to spend more like $15k for a decent boat under 30' (bigger boats get more expensive both in purchase costs and slip fees).  Either way, nothing else I've seen come close.  Although I do know of a warehouse with about 30 people living in it for $300/mo each, but that's not really my scene.

Is this a residential slip? Or for recreational boats, and s/he lives aboard on the sly? For insurance purposes I think marinas have restrictions on live-aboards, or long waiting lists.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2015, 07:52:37 PM by expatartist »

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #16 on: November 03, 2015, 10:48:47 AM »
Aside from living in your car, the cheapest way to live in the SF bay area is a houseboat.  I was just talking to someone this weekend that bought a live-aboard boat for $4k and pays $350/mo for a slip, which includes electricity and wifi.  I've looked into it and would expect to spend more like $15k for a decent boat under 30' (bigger boats get more expensive both in purchase costs and slip fees).  Either way, nothing else I've seen come close.  Although I do know of a warehouse with about 30 people living in it for $300/mo each, but that's not really my scene.

Is this a residential slip? Or for recreational boats, and s/he lives aboard on the sly? For insurance purposes I think marinas have restrictions on live-aboards, or long waiting lists.

She lives on the sly, but apparently a bunch of people do.  It's an additional $250/mo for the live-aboard permit (which still makes it by far cheaper than any other option here), but yea some marinas have a .5-3yr waiting list.

If I were to do it (still debating), I would just live on the boat while waiting for the permit.  You're allowed to stay overnight on your boat X number of days a month without it, so they have to be paying attention.  If they said something then I would find a 3-6mo sublet on CL and fall back under the radar for a while.

expatartist

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #17 on: November 03, 2015, 05:24:40 PM »
She lives on the sly, but apparently a bunch of people do.  It's an additional $250/mo for the live-aboard permit (which still makes it by far cheaper than any other option here), but yea some marinas have a .5-3yr waiting list.

Thanks for the tip! Looks like a much better option (and shorter waiting lists) than I'd imagined.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #18 on: November 04, 2015, 01:14:24 AM »
Are rents much cheaper towards the end of the BART lines?

It might be worth just living further out and dealing with the commute rather than paying SF prices.

clarkfan1979

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #19 on: November 04, 2015, 01:56:16 AM »
It depends on how much you are paying for rent in Chicago. Chicago has "pockets" of affordable rent, which I think make it a very unique city. Let's say that you are paying 1000/month in Chicago for a 1 bedroom and making 80K. Let's say that you pay 3000/month for 1 bedroom in the Bay area. You probably need to be making 120K to justify the move.

On a side note, if you bought a house or condo, your mortgage payment might be 5,000/month instead of 2,000/month. Based on that you only need to make about 36K more after taxes.

clarkfan1979

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #20 on: November 04, 2015, 01:58:32 AM »
I also like the idea of accumulating wealth in a High Cost of Living Area and then Fire in a low cost of living area. If you manage to pay off a 1 million dollar mortgage in the bay area on a high salary then sell it and move to a lower cost of living area for FIRE.

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #21 on: November 04, 2015, 10:29:06 AM »
I also like the idea of accumulating wealth in a High Cost of Living Area and then Fire in a low cost of living area. If you manage to pay off a 1 million dollar mortgage in the bay area on a high salary then sell it and move to a lower cost of living area for FIRE.

That's what I'm doing.  My COL doubled when I moved here, but so did my pay, which means my savings also doubled, halving my time to FIRE.  I highly recommend it if the numbers work out.

ysette9

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #22 on: November 04, 2015, 12:48:19 PM »
I don't have any concrete advice but I would like to add that the OP sounds like a creative and flexible person, so I recommend you go for it. It's not like you are committed to retiring here and living out the rest of our life in the Bay Area. However, there is so much that this area has to offer, including great career opportunities, fantistic weather, and a ton of outdoor activities (you don't have to go all the way to the mountains for that) that is is worth a try. Good luck!

somepissedoffman

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #23 on: December 07, 2015, 07:44:28 PM »
yeah, if you're on the adventurous side, you can look for some slightly sketchy craigslist deals.  I have a friend who lives in a building that's not zoned for residential in SF, paying ~1k for a room (shared kitchen/bath kinda frat house style configuration).  The whole building's getting evicted, because it's not, you know, legal.  But if you're willing to move around that sort of thing might be cool.

Curious to see if you go the RV/van route, the gf and I are considering that option.

I'm actually really into the idea of living on a boat, but the gf gets seasick and it's becoming difficult to get a live-aboard slip around here.

If you're feeling really adventurous, it's my understanding (check facts on this one) that you can leave your boat in the bay (not at a marina) indefinitely. (obviously can't dump waste willy nilly and logistics would be tough).  So, anchor it in the bay somewhere and then just kayak back-and-forth to work.

NorCal

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #24 on: December 07, 2015, 08:45:50 PM »
As a long time local, you won't "beat the system" unless you're willing to do some very non-traditional stuff.  Things like living in shipping containers or converting a Uhaul into a living space (The SF Chronicle recently did some pieces on these).  Joining the system works well if you have a super-specialized skillset that can justify a $200K+ joint salary.  Maybe a little less if you work in the east bay.  Even then, you'll probably be looking at living in a very small space if you want to keep a decent savings rate.

My recommendation is to look elsewhere if you want some type of balance and normality in your life.  There are plenty of great jobs in wonderful cities that aren't California crazy.

aFrugalFather

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #25 on: December 07, 2015, 10:15:11 PM »
Are rents much cheaper towards the end of the BART lines?

It might be worth just living further out and dealing with the commute rather than paying SF prices.


Yes you can save a lot of money by going far down the BART, but unfotunately the bart doesnt service much of silicon valley, it just gets you down to Fremont on the east bay side and around SFO on the penensila.  Many tech jobs are beyond the BART.

dragoncar

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Re: Alternative living in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
« Reply #26 on: December 08, 2015, 12:57:28 AM »
Are rents much cheaper towards the end of the BART lines?

It might be worth just living further out and dealing with the commute rather than paying SF prices.


Yes you can save a lot of money by going far down the BART, but unfotunately the bart doesnt service much of silicon valley, it just gets you down to Fremont on the east bay side and around SFO on the penensila.  Many tech jobs are beyond the BART.

Hell, you can live in Gilroy and take Caltrain.  I'd just rent a room in a larger apartment or house.  It's expensive compared to other areas of the country but nothing compared to your expected salary