Author Topic: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?  (Read 12050 times)

forumname123

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How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« on: September 10, 2015, 10:13:43 PM »
Hello, next week I'm going to be moving down to the bay area (from Canada), as my girlfriend will be starting a new job in Sausalito.

Needless to say the cost of living sounds a little bit daunting, so I was hoping some of you may be familiar with the area and might be able to offer some suggestions on where to live/where to shop/etc. We're not fancy, so the cheaper the better!

Rent is the biggest cause for concern, so if anybody has any tips on where to look or anything of that nature, I would really appreciate it!

Thanks!

Hamster

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2015, 10:57:45 PM »
Rent is the biggest cause for concern, so if anybody has any tips on where to look or anything of that nature, I would really appreciate it!

Thanks!
Bunk bed for $1800 per month? Joking, but holy cow...
http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2015/09/09/san-francisco-mission-district-rentals-bunkbeds-vinyasa-homes-project/

NorCal

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2015, 11:45:33 PM »
Welcome to our little bubble of crazy!

On the downside, Sausalito itself is crazy expensive.  On the plus side, there are some nice towns that haven't turned completely stupid ridiculous expensive within easy reach of Sausalito.  They'll be car commutes, but the price differential is massive.

I don't know that side of the bay all that well, but I would start by looking at Mill Valley, San Rafael, and the surrounding small towns.  Stay away from the bridge commutes.  If you're a little more adventurous and willing to tolerate a bit more of a drive, you could look at Bolinas or Stinson Beach.

The towns around there are nice places to be.

forumname123

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2015, 11:51:40 PM »
Welcome to our little bubble of crazy!

On the downside, Sausalito itself is crazy expensive.  On the plus side, there are some nice towns that haven't turned completely stupid ridiculous expensive within easy reach of Sausalito.  They'll be car commutes, but the price differential is massive.

I don't know that side of the bay all that well, but I would start by looking at Mill Valley, San Rafael, and the surrounding small towns.  Stay away from the bridge commutes.  If you're a little more adventurous and willing to tolerate a bit more of a drive, you could look at Bolinas or Stinson Beach.

The towns around there are nice places to be.

Thanks!

Is everything in Sausalito generally more expensive, or is it just rent? I did read about a gas station there that charges double just because they can, but I was hoping that was an exception...

By 'bridge commutes', do you just mean avoid living in SF and commuting to Sausalito? I assumed it would be okay going against the grain (out of SF in the morning, back in the evening), but is it that bad? Either way, Mill Valley and San Rafael were on my radar as well so it's nice to have that confirmed. Thanks again!

NorCal

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2015, 11:12:24 AM »
Sausalito is pretty isolated from the surrounding communities by geography (sizable hills / mountains), so I could absolutely see local merchants charging more to those too lazy to leave town.  There's also a lot of high-end tourist stops in Sausalito, so you get a lot of overpriced tourist nonsense mixed in.

My travels there are limited to being a local tourist myself, so my perception might be a bit skewed as well. 

Whether everything else is more or less expensive probably depends on where you're coming from.  Gas in CA is much more expensive than the rest of the country.  Some food ends up more expensive (meat in particular due to the drought), while other food items are comparable to the rest of the country.  CA taxes are high overall, but whether you personally pay more or less depends on your income. 

The trick with commuting over the Golden Gate (aside from the $6 daily toll) is that the bridge is not easily accessible from a lot of the city.  There are some neighborhoods it's easy from, and others that it's nearly impossible from.  If you want to be a SUPER biker, you could try living in the Presidio and biking the Golden Gate.  It's a very nice ride, but that's a bit extreme for every day.  There's also a ferry from SF, but it connects to the financial district, and isn't really accessible from good housing neighborhoods.  You'd also be paying a premium to live in San Francisco over the North Bay, so you'd be adding both commute and expense.

There is the Richmond bridge as well.  I haven't commuted over that myself, but the adjectives I've heard to describe that commute aren't repeatable in polite company. 

I do have a friend that lives in Mill Valley, and he loves it.  It's a good little community (if a bit hippy-ish), and they're happy there.  There's lots of outdoors space and a sense of community.  I haven't checked prices recently though.

forumname123

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2015, 12:04:24 PM »
Extremely helpful, thanks again!

llorona

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2015, 11:15:06 PM »
Most of Marin County (where Sausalito is located) is pretty spendy as far as housing is concerned. If I were in your shoes, I'd start by looking at Craigslist to get a sense of what rent prices are like in various areas like San Rafael and Novato. You could also look up the road at Rohnert Park and Petaluma.

Dicey

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2015, 11:32:16 PM »
You didn't say where you will be working.

I would avoid SF at all costs at present. Real Estate and rents are being driven up by the massive influx of relatively wealthy high tech workers. If you can design your life north of SF and just visit on occasion, your cost of living will be considerably lower. It won't be cheap, because the area north of SF is beautiful, but it's too difficult a commute to Silicon Valley. 

I would look from San Rafael to Novato. Mill Valley is likely to be more expensive. Stinson Beach is even more expensive and difficult to get into and out of. Looking eastward, El Cerrito might be an option. Richmond would be cheaper, but the crime rates are significantly higher. And I do mean significantly. For food and gas, Costco is your friend. There's one in Novato and one in Richmond.

forumname123

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2015, 11:49:22 PM »
Thanks for the replies, posting here was clearly a good idea.

I won't be working while there (visitor visa), but my girlfriend has a job lined up in Sausalito. We certainly don't need to be in Sausalito, nor in SF, so the areas you guys are suggesting seem to fit the bill nicely.

She's not crazy about commuting, so anything over 30 minutes would be less than ideal. I think Novato would be kind of the outer limit for distance, as it looks like about a 25 minute drive or 40 minutes by bus (based on google maps, anyway). Living in a nice area that also has cheaper rent can definitely help justify a longer commute though...

Dicey

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2015, 11:50:53 PM »
Further conversation with DH adds Point Richmond to the list, but with extreme caution. Still not advocating Richmond proper, just the newer Point Richmond area. Big difference. Also, don't be fooled by the map. There is lots of housing between San Rafael and Novato, so some middle commute distance may be achievable. I agree that north of Novato is too far. Other towns to consider on the East Bay side are Pinole, Hercules and Rodeo, roughly 30 miles from Sausalito and far less expensive. You'd have to try the commute out during peak hours and these are basically suburban towns, but less "hip" could mean more affordable options.
BTW, in the Bay Area, 30 miles does not equal 30 minutes, Depending on route and traffic, the drive time could be twice that.

Another crazy idea might be to try renting a houseboat right in Sausalito. No idea how to go about it, but it might be fun and semi-cost effective if it's bicycling/walkingdistance from work.

forumname123

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2015, 12:06:19 AM »
Thanks Diane. The rent prices in Pinole/Hercules/etc look way better! I'm worried about the distance though, and someone else had mentioned avoiding the bridges is wise... We'll have to weigh the price against those factors and see what makes sense. We will be camping for a few days when we first arrive, so maybe we will go for a drive from Novato->Sausalito->East bay and see what makes sense.

Is Richmond really that bad? Worth avoiding?

I am all over the Sausalito houseboat idea, but because of high docking fees the rent on those is pretty bad too. I'm even more intrigued by the 'anchor outs', but haven't seen many up for rent...

llorona

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2015, 01:18:52 AM »
Yes. Richmond really is that bad, unless you're in Point Richmond or up in the hills. There's also a neighborhood called the Richmond Annex that's supposed to be okay.

Pinole is definitely worth looking at. It's cute and safe.

If you look at places in Contra Costa County (where Richmond and Pinole are located), remember to factor in the cost of toll. To get to work in Sausalito, your girlfriend would need to cross the Richmond Bridge at a cost of $5 a pop.

You can also check out 511.org for average drive or commute times between various locations.

dapperdanj

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2015, 09:30:55 AM »
Quick point here - if you're working in Sausalito, do not live across the Richmond Bridge. The access to it Westbound is poorly designed, and you will sit in your car for 30-45 minutes, not moving, just waiting to get on. It's maddening. You can live decently here if you live close to work, downsize, and be creative. It's expensive, yeah, but most of the people who complain that they can't get ahead are making foolish decisions that, as a reader of this site, you will not :)

NataliaDuma

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2015, 02:02:38 AM »
Sausalito is definitely an expensive place to live in and renting places there are really high so instead of looking within the area try to look for rental places outside of the town but still within Sausalito's reach. El Cerrito, Mill Valley and San Rafael might probably be some good choices.

SnackDog

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2015, 06:35:27 AM »
Sausalito is a great place to live and work, but expensive and isolated, as many have mentioned.   You will need to look north toward San Rafael. Expect 1 bedrooms to start at $1500/mo. I reckon you could get a whole houseboat for under $2000 and maybe bring in a roommate.  Alternatively, look only for roommate situations, which could be $1000/mo or less. Don't cross any bridges unless you like nightmare commutes. 

forumname123

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2015, 08:47:20 PM »
Thanks for the latest responses, also very helpful. It's really helped me hone in on an area to focus on, vs relying on a daunting map with 100's of little towns and cities on it...

okits

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2015, 09:20:48 PM »
A little extreme, but check out the adventure dagiffy1 is on...

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/living-in-a-volt/

forumname123

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2015, 09:28:32 PM »
A little extreme, but check out the adventure dagiffy1 is on...

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/living-in-a-volt/

I've actually done that to some extent myself (a station wagon with curtains, for two of us) and didn't mind it much. After a while though we started tenting and found that much more comfortable and far less embarrassing.

On that note, does anybody know of any camping areas in the north bay area? Buying a camper of some kind would be a cool option if we had somewhere cheap to keep it...

Dicey

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #18 on: September 16, 2015, 12:14:53 PM »
If you"d like to try that route, I'd try posting an ad on CL or joining the local NextDoor group (which you might have to hack, as you need a local address to join). Mention that you are looking for a place to park/live in an RV. Offer to trade for yardwork or dog sitting or whatever you can do and see if you get any bites. There are a lot of old hippies scattered in the hills of Marin County who just might take you up on it, and cheap RV's can always be found.

I agree that life will be easier if a bridge is not part of your daily reality.

CanuckExpat

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2015, 01:42:36 PM »
On that note, does anybody know of any camping areas in the north bay area? Buying a camper of some kind would be a cool option if we had somewhere cheap to keep it...

IIRC, Jacob of ERE lived in an RV in the Bay Area somewhere. Not sure where exactly. I imagine finding a cheap place to park and plug in that hasn't had people there for decades would be difficult, but who knows.

Cranberries

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #20 on: September 16, 2015, 08:25:23 PM »
I have only lived in Marin for a short period of time, but here are my findings:

The most affordable housing in Sausalito is probably in Marin City, just north of town. Other than that I would look north to San Rafael or Mill Valley. Fairfax is also an option, though it's a bit further. Petaluma to Sausalito would be a pretty intense commute. There is a long term highway widening project between Novato and Petaluma that slows that section of the freeway down even further than normal commuting does.  Novato to Sausalito would be doable for many, but I'd try to avoid it if I had the option.  Bolinas and Stinson Beach are an hour drive from Sausalito, despite the short mileage, due to the winding roads.

Prices for groceries are slightly cheaper in San Rafael than Mill Valley (don't shop in Sausalito.) There is a Trader Joes in Mill Valley and a Costco in Novato.

The Presidio would also be worth looking into. I don't know what it costs, but it's a nice area.

Edited to add: I saw that you were considering Novato. Just so you know, Novato to Sausalito is likely to be a 45 minute commute during rush hour.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2015, 11:21:03 PM by Botanist »

Dicey

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #21 on: September 16, 2015, 09:58:07 PM »
On that note, does anybody know of any camping areas in the north bay area? Buying a camper of some kind would be a cool option if we had somewhere cheap to keep it...

IIRC, Jacob of ERE lived in an RV in the Bay Area somewhere. Not sure where exactly. I imagine finding a cheap place to park and plug in that hasn't had people there for decades would be difficult, but who knows.
IIRC, Jacob lived in Berkeley and then in Livermore, neither of which are particularly adjacent to Sausalito, although Berkeley is closer, but would involve a bridge and a miserably heavy traffic corridor. So realistically not good locations to consider, but Berkeley's a blast to visit. Livermore, not so much. They tout their wineries and their mega-ridiculous "Premium" (barf) outlet mall, but, we know that's no attraction for a mustachian. 
If you're not familiar with the Bay Area, we tend not to quote distances in miles, but in time, because of the @#$%& traffic. Extra incentive to FIRE, I guess.

couponvan

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #22 on: September 16, 2015, 10:15:53 PM »
I lived in Novato (Hamilton Field), and as long as you are going in earlier in the morning, your commute will not be too terrible.  If you haven't made serious money before, there is actually an affordable housing area in Novato you might qualify for. (My mom squeaked into the Senior housing, and it was a fantastic deal for the area. Under $250K for a 2Br condo next to $1 million dollar homes. These were built around 2004-2005. 

If you can manage to carpool to the ferry if you work in the City, both of you will get to use the carpool lane.  I would NOT live further north in Novato than the Highway 39 interchange though, as traffic can back up do the the narrowing of 101 on the North end of Novato to just 2 lanes.

LLCoolDave

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #23 on: September 17, 2015, 12:10:01 AM »
I will start off by saying that I don't know anything about the SF area but I do have some ideas about cheap accommodation. It's a bit of a fascination of mine.

You said you lived in a station wagon. A van would give you more space. Bob Wells has a great ebook on van dwelling for $2.99 on Amazon. His first van he bought cost $1500 and he lived in it for 5 years. Pretty amazing to me. He also has a forum/blog http://www.cheaprvliving.com/ The hardest part of van dwelling in any major California city is finding free parking. A good place is a mechanic's shop after it is closed. They have vehicles there all the time and you probably won't be bothered. Simply leave before it opens.

The second option would be a cheap live aboard sailboat. You wouldn't even need to buy a boat that is seaworthy. Think $5k. As long as it floats and doesn't take on water when it rains. I know there is a marina in Alameda where a 32ft boat slip plus the live aboard fee would be $500 per month. That is tough to beat! At the high end you might pay $1000 per month. Still much cheaper than SF rents. The downside is that the boat may be difficult to sell and you might just consider it as a write off when it comes time to move.

At my local marina they have boats for sale that haven't paid their slip rent, kind of repossessed. They are not seaworthy but you could live on one. They are asking two months slip fees, like $800. Most marinas require liability insurance, maybe $300 for a year for a 32ft boat.



Hope this helps
« Last Edit: September 17, 2015, 01:20:13 AM by LLCoolDave »

CanuckExpat

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #24 on: September 17, 2015, 01:46:49 PM »
On the plus side, there are some nice towns that haven't turned completely stupid ridiculous expensive within easy reach of Sausalito.  They'll be car commutes, but the price differential is massive.

I'm worried about the distance though, and someone else had mentioned avoiding the bridges is wise... We'll have to weigh the price against those factors and see what makes sense.

If you're not familiar with the Bay Area, we tend not to quote distances in miles, but in time, because of the @#$%& traffic. Extra incentive to FIRE, I guess.

Generally good advice, but more so in your situation: avoid building a car commute into your daily life and you'll be happier.

If you browse the Bay Area reddit, pretty often you will see a post with the daily traffic condition and red lines and crashes on all the highways. A bunch of sympathetic drivers commiserating about how bad the roads and traffic and drivers are, and a bunch of smug cyclists and public transit takers idly mentioning how they didn't notice the problem.. You want to be in the latter group not the former.

Especially given your situation where only one of you has job, it's not even like you have to compromise on commute for a location that works for both of. You guys are moving to the area on purpose, you may as well enjoy it without suffering a soul sucking commute. From what I hear Sausolito and area is beautiful. I'd suggest living there or about and not car commuting if at all possible

Not that familiar with that part of the bay, but I also hear Marin City is cheap (isn't that where Tupac was born?)

Just my two cents

forumname123

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #25 on: September 28, 2015, 02:03:00 AM »
Just thought I would give an update for anyone who's interested. After spending a couple days camping and touring around the North Bay, we decided to try really hard to find something in Sausalito, as we really wanted to avoid a big commute (didn't realize it was such a serious freeway!), and live on the water if possible. I also didn't really love San Rafael/Novato/etc... Nowhere near the small town, seaside thing Sausalito has going, and they just felt like little mall-filled suburbs hugging the freeway (no offence to anyone who lives there, just my first impression).

We rented a cheap short-term room in San Rafael for a month to give ourselves some time to find something we actually wanted, which turned out to be a great decision. A couple days after that we were able to make a deal on a small studio space in a houseboat, for MUCH less than anything else we had looked at. About 50% less than anything comparable in Sausalito, and about 25% cheaper than our backup plan of getting a 1 bedroom place in San Rafael. It's walking distance to her office, and literally on the water. The rental dates overlap by 2 weeks or so, so we will lose some money there, but in the long run we will save thousands vs what we would have spent if we just jumped into something right away.

I would highly recommend this for anyone looking to rent in a new city - get something for a month or 2 and give yourself the time to figure out what you want (and wait for it to come along), rather than jumping into a 1 year lease for something you might hate.

Aside from rent, we also found a gas station that is about 40 cents cheaper than the next best (long lines though), and a really cheap grocery store in Novato. It's good to know we won't have to rely on Safeway, Trade Joe's, etc, as I couldn't believe the prices there vs other parts of the country I've visited...

Thanks again for all who chimed in - it really helped us focus in on the right areas and make some much smarter choices. Much appreciated!

NorCal

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #26 on: September 28, 2015, 11:27:29 AM »
Congrats and welcome!

cchrissyy

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #27 on: September 28, 2015, 01:00:33 PM »
congrats!

Dicey

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #28 on: September 28, 2015, 07:44:05 PM »
Thanks for the update! A houseboat is a great solution.

As for groceries, most of the reasonably priced options are going to be a bit of a distance, so batch your trips. Try to find a 99 Only Store (not to be confused with Dollar Tree), a Grocery Outlet (all independently owned and operated, some are better than others), and a Winco (awesome employee-owned chain with killer bulk bin selections, which is very helpful when living in tight quarters).

Can't wait to see how you fare. Please keep those updates coming.

calimom

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #29 on: September 28, 2015, 07:55:13 PM »
Congrats on your houseboat! And sounds like you made a wise choice in a short term rental.

I didn't read through the whole thread super closely, but here are some SF Bay Area suggestions:  Marin has a great farmers' market, live music, etc. at the Civic Center in San Rafael.  The other towns have markets as well, and can be a nice way to get to know the individual communities.  Check out SFGate Arts & Entertainment for cheap and free concerts, street fairs and the like, it can be fun to explore.  Many of the museums have free or reduced admissions on certain days/nights.  The Academy of Science has a more adult oriented evening (Thursdays maybe) and serve food and it can be really fun.  SF can be a pricey city, but there are lots of ways to have a good time that don't cost a lot.

I'm sure you've already discovered the ferry system.  Going into SF for the day of just walking around can be a lot of fun.  Mission District for burritos or North Beach for pizza, and checking out street life in the Castro or Cow Hollow and the many neighborhoods. Mt. Tam is great for hiking and mountain biking. Muir Woods has wonderful redwoods but it's pretty crowded.  The beaches at Stinson are worth checking out.

I could go on and on.  Welcome to California, enjoy your adventure!

expatartist

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #30 on: September 28, 2015, 08:38:52 PM »
Hurrah for snagging the houseboat! Is the entire boat yours or do you share with others? Any tips for people looking to rent a houseboat there?

forumname123

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #31 on: September 29, 2015, 03:33:59 PM »
Hurrah for snagging the houseboat! Is the entire boat yours or do you share with others? Any tips for people looking to rent a houseboat there?

It has multiple units, so our space is just a little 300 sqft studio with a loft (private entry, no shared areas or anything like that). Small, but we've lived in smaller!

As far as tips go, I was hoping to find some secret way of landing on a houseboat myself, but in the end it all seems to boil down to craigslist. Keep an eye on new listings and be ready to pounce. Full boats seem to start at about $3500/month... We were considering splurging on a 2 bedroom and doing short term airbnb rentals to bring the cost down, but there are obviously risks involved in that. If you mean you're just looking for a short term rental, there are a bunch on airbnb to choose from, so that would be your best bet.



Thanks for the update! A houseboat is a great solution.

As for groceries, most of the reasonably priced options are going to be a bit of a distance, so batch your trips. Try to find a 99 Only Store (not to be confused with Dollar Tree), a Grocery Outlet (all independently owned and operated, some are better than others), and a Winco (awesome employee-owned chain with killer bulk bin selections, which is very helpful when living in tight quarters).

Can't wait to see how you fare. Please keep those updates coming.

Thankfully we did discover Grocery Outlet in Novato, but unfortunately it doesn't look like there is a 99 cent store or Winco anywhere close. I will definitely keep my eyes open though!


Congrats on your houseboat! And sounds like you made a wise choice in a short term rental.

I didn't read through the whole thread super closely, but here are some SF Bay Area suggestions:  Marin has a great farmers' market, live music, etc. at the Civic Center in San Rafael.  The other towns have markets as well, and can be a nice way to get to know the individual communities.  Check out SFGate Arts & Entertainment for cheap and free concerts, street fairs and the like, it can be fun to explore.  Many of the museums have free or reduced admissions on certain days/nights.  The Academy of Science has a more adult oriented evening (Thursdays maybe) and serve food and it can be really fun.  SF can be a pricey city, but there are lots of ways to have a good time that don't cost a lot.

I'm sure you've already discovered the ferry system.  Going into SF for the day of just walking around can be a lot of fun.  Mission District for burritos or North Beach for pizza, and checking out street life in the Castro or Cow Hollow and the many neighborhoods. Mt. Tam is great for hiking and mountain biking. Muir Woods has wonderful redwoods but it's pretty crowded.  The beaches at Stinson are worth checking out.

I could go on and on.  Welcome to California, enjoy your adventure!


Thanks! We actually haven't even made it into SF yet, but we'll probably make a trip on the weekend. I have a growing list of restaurants and such to try (cheap ones obviously), but if you or anybody else have any specific recommendations that would be great as well.

Looking forward to hitting some farmers markets too, but the last few I've been to were skewed more toward the whole hip/trendy and expensive side of things which I don't care for, so my expectations are low.

NorCal

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #32 on: September 29, 2015, 09:30:33 PM »
Looking forward to hitting some farmers markets too, but the last few I've been to were skewed more toward the whole hip/trendy and expensive side of things which I don't care for, so my expectations are low.

You did move to California.  That's kinda what we do here :-)

Dicey

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #33 on: September 29, 2015, 11:03:47 PM »
As for groceries, most of the reasonably priced options are going to be a bit of a distance, so batch your trips. Try to find a 99 Only Store (not to be confused with Dollar Tree), a Grocery Outlet (all independently owned and operated, some are better than others), and a Winco (awesome employee-owned chain with killer bulk bin selections, which is very helpful when living in tight quarters).

Thankfully we did discover Grocery Outlet in Novato, but unfortunately it doesn't look like there is a 99 cent store or Winco anywhere close. I will definitely keep my eyes open though!

Sorry I did not have time to research much before posting earlier. I thought there was a Winco around Novato, but I must be mistaken. Scratch it from the list for now. As for 99 Only, there's one on San Pablo in Berkeley. There is also an especially good Grocery Outlet around Fourth St. in Berkeley. IIRC, it has a bigger selection because it has a larger footprint than many and the buying offices are there. I used to swing by there in my pre-FIRE days and I saw screaming deals there that I never saw in any other GO locations.

Not to be missed is the Berkeley Bowl, which sells more kinds of produce than you've probably ever seen under one roof (fun trivia: the original store was an old bowling alley, hence the name). Berkeley is a food lover's paradise with ethnic markets galore, so if you appreciate cooking good food, it's worth the trip across the bridge. Check out the Cheese Board Collective as well. And the bread, so much great bread, Acme and Metropolis, for starters. When you get tired of food shopping and want a thrill of a different kind, stop by Good Vibrations.

jengod

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #34 on: September 29, 2015, 11:05:43 PM »
Brother has house in El Cerrito a block from the BART station and his COL and commute to downtown SF is very tolerable.

OctaviusIII

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #35 on: September 30, 2015, 12:05:24 AM »
Welcome! I should add that you're now in the most ludicrously-run city in Marin :( And perhaps you should get involved with Coalition for a Livable Marin since you won't be working! It's about housing, biking, transit, all those good things.

For food, I'd recommend hunting for deals at Target, the Safeway in downtown San Rafael, and any grocery stores in Marin City or The Canal. Those are the lower-income parts of the county, so are less likely to be ludicrous.

forumname123

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #36 on: September 30, 2015, 07:23:29 PM »
Thanks to the last couple posters - some great suggestions. Bonus points for the adult store plug...

Dicey

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #37 on: September 30, 2015, 07:40:44 PM »
Thanks to the last couple posters - some great suggestions. Bonus points for the adult store plug...
You're welcome. It's a fun place, but don't blow your wad there. That shit's expensive...

brooklynmoney

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #38 on: September 30, 2015, 08:18:24 PM »
For cheap restaurants in SF I love Cordin Bleu it is a great experience!

couponvan

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #39 on: October 08, 2015, 06:09:53 PM »
My mom loves Grocery Outlet....she's in walking distance to it. Apparently they get many of our Midwest leftovers. I always dreamed of living on a houseboat!

Rylito

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #40 on: October 08, 2015, 10:47:11 PM »
Welcome to the nabe!  Unfortunately there are no Grocery Outlets or Wincos anywhere near Sausalito, but there is a Dollar Store in Marin City (no grocery stores there, though).  The best deal for supermarkets is Mi Pueblo in San Rafael.  Mollie Stone's in Sausalito is mostly ludicrously expensive, but occasionally their sale items are not too bad, so shop their circulars carefully.  Saylor's has cheap happy hour specials for food if you're looking to eat out.

electriceagle

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #41 on: October 08, 2015, 11:06:03 PM »
Is Richmond really that bad? Worth avoiding?

If you're not afraid of working-class brown people, give it a try. You'll certainly save money and might even learn something.

Dicey

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Re: How to live cheaply in San Francisco / bay area?
« Reply #42 on: October 11, 2015, 09:20:08 PM »
Is Richmond really that bad? Worth avoiding?

If you're not afraid of working-class brown people, give it a try. You'll certainly save money and might even learn something.
The crime statistics in Richmond tend to be significantly higher than other nearby cities, including other working-class cities where brown people live. Richmond is home to a number of refineries, which could be said to be a negative in terms of both personal health and public safety. The City of Richmond is also in deep financial shit and has a fractious political scene, so there could be other issues with delivery of services, etc, which should actually be race/color neutral, but still could have an impact on quality of life. Electriceagle is the one connecting the dots based on color. My concerns are more in the financial realm, which should not be a surprise, given that this is a blog which promotes fiscal health.