Author Topic: Living the Dream in Palo Alto...Advice on growing and maintaining mustache there  (Read 6754 times)

Peach Stubble

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
I will be moving to Palo Alto in July of 2016. Very excited to live in such a beautiful place with relatively nice weather and people who are genuinely driven and excited about the projects they are involved with.

This being said, for the past year I have worked hard to begin growing a mustache and have come a long way, however have significant student loans remaining, and my salary will not be ginormous like some folks riding their Palo Alto successes (my salary will be approximately 65k pre-Cali tax). Significant other will be expected to be making 90-100k pre Cali-tax.

Knowing that real estate in Palo Alto near the University where I will work is very high (check out rents on Trulia rent), what should I do? I want to live close so that I can bike to University in 10-15 minutes or less, and absolutely minimize the amount of driving I do. I want to be in the mix of things so I can become involved and spend my time at work and productive. My significant other thinks she doesn't want to share a place with another professional or professional couple, though I hope she may change her mind at some point regarding this so as to minimize rent expense. We also love to eat healthy (think WF and farmer's markets).

Has anyone lived in this area? Any outside the box ideas or tricks for the area?

Thanks in advance, I am hoping to be able to continue my growing mustachian habits and enjoy all that Palo Alto has to offer! Very lucky and excited to be moving to such a fantastic place!


Peach Stubble

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
I should add, significantly, that we both carry 6 figure debts (private professional degrees). I know I may not pay off as soon as I like, but I feel like if I seize every opportunity I have to advance myself and minimize my expenses (grow my mustache), everything will eventually click when my income goes up. I expect to have at least 200k+ minimum income pre tax by 2019 at the very latest. Hopefully higher income and possibly sooner depending on how/what I pursue.

Thanks again for the help! Thought I needed to include the above information for a better picture.

DarinC

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 308
I can't think of a whole lot to do if you don't want to drive. Maybe build yourself an electric bike so a 15-20 minute commute can let you live a little farther out, and keep building your stash to buy your own place.

hexdexorex

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 159
Wow you plan ahead :)

Currently live near Palo Alto in a studio with SO. California makes it hard to save with high income tax and high COL. When I say hard it's not impossible. Our studio is 500 sq feet, our cars are 20 years old etc. I would try to find a rental behind a house or in a small apartment building where the owner isn't a corporation.

East Palo Alto or redwood city probably cheapest areas on the peninsula.....currently east Palo Alto can be sketch and Google just bought a huge space in redwood city so affordability there won't last long.

PA is a great place to live but it's getting really posh.

Peach Stubble

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Thanks for the responses guys!

Darin C: The electric bike thing might actually be a great idea. I couldn't imagine myself forking over the few thousand it may take to have a high quality electric bike, but living in Palo Alto if I am not right near campus (which I DO hope to be) it may make sense if 3-4 miles away.

HexDex: Yes, I felt similarly! PA does give the impression of being very POSH, and I understand Redwood City isn't all that much cheaper either. I want to either split a 2br/2ba close to campus or find something with a reasonable rent that is bikable if it has to be a 1br/1ba. I am not sure what the University housing would be like, but wonder if that may be a good option as well. Mother in law suite behind someone's house in Palo Alto sounds like a great idea. Mountain view also seems like a very nice area, also quite expensive though (marginally less than Palo Alto but perhaps a little more sqft/$... Wish I could find a place that was only $1500/month to split between the two of us, but that's not even half the cost of typical housing there. I need to find a good plan, gotta keep this mustache growing.

NoraLenderbee

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1255
Stanford has a shuttle from the Caltrain station in Palo Alto to the campus. You should look for housing further from campus than 3-4 miles, but within rideable distance to a Caltrain station. That opens up cheaper areas (San Jose, Santa Clara, Redwood City). The commute from SJ to PA by train is reasonable--I used to see a LOT of people do it.

Or check out the university housing. If it's affordable, it would definitely give you the best location.

Palo Alto has been insane for years. Mt View is almost as bad, and Sunnyvale is reaching similar proportions.

RapmasterD

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 589
  • Location: SF Peninsula
We rented in Menlo Park (next door) for seven years before buying our house a few cities northward. Back in the day we spent plenty of time in downtown Palo Alto since it was 1.5 miles away. And we didn't realize how outlandish those two towns were until we were gone for a few years.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE abundance. I LOVE money. And I LOVE people with money as long as they're not evil.

But my biggest general advice: Put on a very strong filter and keep it on...always. Be very awake, aware and conscious to avoid consumerist seepage into your brain. Bottom line: The "keepin' up with the joneses" phenomenon there is very powerful and can permeate every aspect of one's life.

Because we're living in bubba-licious times around these parts, I'm even seeing it in my town now. For example, your 1600 square foot home on a 5800 square foot plot is no longer good enough. You need to rip that sucker down and put up a 2800 square foot home. For example, seeing a Tesla around here was once an extreme novelty. And now it's absolutely no big deal. And I'm talking about a much more humbler city than Palo Alto.

Terrestrial

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 294
On 165k combined you should still be able to do PA/MV if you are okay living modestly.  If you don't want to have roomates...a decent 1 br can be had for ~2500-3k rent depending on how nice you want it and specific location.  Not backbreaking on that salary and hopefully will leave you enough to make big dents in your loans.   

Buying real estate there though will be challenging, even when you go up to 200k (300k combined?).   So much of PA inventory is over 1M now and it keeps exploding more all the time.  You may have to look at one of the more 'affordable' areas if you want to buy in the future.  Heavy air quotes on affordable.   My best friend just bought a townhouse in MV for 900k.  It's nice but just a normal place...not fancy.

Good luck!

KS

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 207
Stanford has a shuttle from the Caltrain station in Palo Alto to the campus. You should look for housing further from campus than 3-4 miles, but within rideable distance to a Caltrain station. That opens up cheaper areas (San Jose, Santa Clara, Redwood City). The commute from SJ to PA by train is reasonable--I used to see a LOT of people do it.

This was what I was going to suggest! Depending on what type of employee you will be at Stanford (from what I understand, benefits can vary a bit) it's possible you will even have a free unlimited transit pass as part of your benefits. Might be worth asking if you get one before you decide where to live. The one they have is good on Caltrain and all VTA light rail/buses, I believe. Even if you don't get the free pass, the rent difference may make up for whatever a monthly pass costs. Sunnyvale to PA (for one example) is pretty fast, for even cheaper rent Santa Clara or SJ are just a few stops further south.

Of course, this could depend on where your significant other works as well. Also good to look into and keep in mind since you have some time would be: outside of work, what kinds of things do you like to do, and where are they located? Do you have friends in the area already, where are they? etc etc.  Some amount of "commuting," whether for work or play, is pretty hard to avoid in the Bay Area without paying absurd amounts of rent but you can probably minimize it quite a bit if you think through all the angles.

Palo Alto is very pretty though, I can definitely understand wanting to stay in that little zone if possible! Although as RapmasterD pointed out, it (and this is true for much of the Bay Area) is somewhere you do have to be extra careful about "keeping up with the Jones" syndrome because the Jones' are spending a crap-ton!

Eric

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4061
  • Location: On my bike
Wish I could find a place that was only $1500/month to split between the two of us, but that's not even half the cost of typical housing there. I need to find a good plan, gotta keep this mustache growing.

They're out there, although not always easy to snag.  If you're set on being in Palo Alto, it might be hard.  If you're willing to move along the Caltrain corridor, you should be able to do it.  I currently pay $1300 for 550 sq ft in Sunnyvale that's about 4 blocks from the station.

Here's the big thing to remember though.  While rents are high, everything else can be had dirt cheap.  Food is grown locally, so you can get great in season produce deals.  The weather is always awesome.  Because of that, your utilities will be low.  You can bike everywhere.  There's lots of hiking or mountain biking close by.  Or a beach.  Lots of good parks with tennis courts and baseball diamonds and big open fields.  Even just walking through residential neighborhoods is pretty fun if you're into cool landscaping and unique houses.

Good luck.

Sid Hoffman

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 743
  • Location: Southwest USA
Palo Alto is very pretty though, I can definitely understand wanting to stay in that little zone if possible! Although as RapmasterD pointed out, it (and this is true for much of the Bay Area) is somewhere you do have to be extra careful about "keeping up with the Jones" syndrome because the Jones' are spending a crap-ton!

One of the forums I frequent is an automotive forum and it includes an employee of McLaren of San Francisco.  For those unaware, your basic McLaren nowadays is the 650S and although base price is something in the 200's, median transaction price is about $320,000.  The dealership is in Palo Alto and the cars apparently sell like Camry's in Palo Alto.  They have also had a bunch of P1's delivered through that dealership too, which is a $1M+ car.  I've spent a little bit of time in San Jose for work and passed through Sunnyvale and Palo Alto on the way up to SF proper and it certainly looks like a tough place to live affordably on such low (for the area) income of $150k for a couple.  I'm curious to see how it works out for the OP, but boy, that's a long time before we get to hear their first-hand experience!  :)

Peach Stubble

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Wish I could find a place that was only $1500/month to split between the two of us, but that's not even half the cost of typical housing there. I need to find a good plan, gotta keep this mustache growing.

They're out there, although not always easy to snag.  If you're set on being in Palo Alto, it might be hard.  If you're willing to move along the Caltrain corridor, you should be able to do it.  I currently pay $1300 for 550 sq ft in Sunnyvale that's about 4 blocks from the station.

Here's the big thing to remember though.  While rents are high, everything else can be had dirt cheap.  Food is grown locally, so you can get great in season produce deals.  The weather is always awesome.  Because of that, your utilities will be low.  You can bike everywhere.  There's lots of hiking or mountain biking close by.  Or a beach.  Lots of good parks with tennis courts and baseball diamonds and big open fields.  Even just walking through residential neighborhoods is pretty fun if you're into cool landscaping and unique houses.

Good luck.

+1000

I like the way you're thinking, I really want to tap into the cheap riches California has to offer, ie locally grown food, etc. My "problem" seems to me that I feel so eager to be close to the campus to save time for studying. I really feel like it might feel better to be able to take that 15 minute bike ride then bike ride to the bus, etc. Plus, I feel like I might lose study time and enjoyment time if I need to wait and ride on Caltrain each day. Maybe I should just get over it?!?! I just feel like I want to feel the Palo Alto experience and be able to bike to the farmer's markets and parks there and just buckle in there, but maybe that is being frivolous or making a mistake. What I really want is a way to get our combined rent to $2000 total or less in the best, most prime location I can for the two of us. Maybe student housing or splitting  2br/2ba with another tenant is the way to go, that's what I was thinking of initially but not sure how student housing works or if splitting rent in a 2/2 is feasible, recommended, or easy.

historienne

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 355
Do the student housing if you are eligible.  The grad student housing is super convenient and pretty nice - certainly better than you will be able to find for a similar price within close walking/biking range of campus. 

But, if you are an employee and not a student, you probably don't qualify unless you can sublease from a student.

KS

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 207
I really feel like it might feel better to be able to take that 15 minute bike ride then bike ride to the bus, etc. Plus, I feel like I might lose study time and enjoyment time if I need to wait and ride on Caltrain each day. Maybe I should just get over it?!?!

There's not necessarily a one size fits all right or wrong answer here, mostly I think those of us mentioning other locations are encouraging you to keep an open mind while doing your research, and look into some non-PA options as well. Then it will be a matter of doing the math for all the possibilities you find, money vs time and hassle. (Caltrain is mostly pretty good, I used to take it from Sunnyvale to San Carlos every day, and actually kind of missed the "me time" for reading/knitting etc when I changed jobs and downsized my commute at the time. VTA light rail, in my limited experience with it, is painfully slow and would be a tougher sell.) Lots of other cities here already do have things like the farmers markets, active downtown areas and such, and it seems as it's getting more popular more of them are heading that way too.

Also, in terms of how fast prices and things can change around here, you have quite a long time until your move, so specific rents for your actual situation will be tough to pin down. If your SO isn't in the tech industry, you may be wanting to root for another tech bust to help you out. As others have mentioned, housing will be the biggest hurdle, if you can sort that out everything else is pretty easy. Good luck, and check the meetups section when you do get here, there are actually quite a few mustachians around here, in spite of the high COL!

Terrestrial

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 294
It sounds like you may be a student when you get there, maybe in a professional program of some sort?

One thing to keep in mind (I'm sure this will vary by program)...when I was getting my master's I was at campus at all sort of odd times for group meetings, team projects, etc.  If you will have to go there at odd times, or multiple times a day, it may be worth it to stay close and have as easy a commute as possible.  Commutes work okay when you have a regular 9-5 and are only making the trip once a day. I would imagine it gets a lot more annoying if you are going frequently or at weird times of day and weekends, and that may outweigh the cost benefit.

Happy in CA

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 54
Congratulations on your upcoming move to the Bay Area.  Despite the high COL the quality of life is really high and, IMO, worth it.

Lots of good advice here.  If you really want to be within a quick bike ride, I would concentrate your search in Mountain View, as there are tons of condos there, many of which are owned by individual investors.  Look on Craigslist and keep on looking, you will find something.  Mountain View is less expensive than Palo Alto and has more apartments; it also has a much nicer downtown than Redwood City or Sunnyvale. 

Though this may be a bit far down the line, Stanford does have housing that only employees are qualified to buy.  There are some townhomes on the hill that seem to be under market value due to the sale restrictions.  I have never seen the inside of one but online listings make them look very nice.  I have sometimes wondered if I could get a retirement job at Stanford so I could move there!

trailrated

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1136
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Bay Area Ca
  • a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor
For reasonable rent you might want to check out houses that have "in law units" that they rent out. Some are way nice and you don't have to worry about noisy neighbors with connected walls etc. The Bay Area has a lot to offer, hope you enjoy it out here!

NoraLenderbee

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1255
Palo Alto is very nice--I lived there for 10 years--but the other towns mentioned are also nice. They have parks, farmers' markets, restaurants, etc. The PA "experience" is not really different except way more fancypants.

ysette9

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5405
  • Location: Bay Area, CA
    • Insert Snappy Title Here (Journal)
It isn't totally clear whether you are a student or an employee of Stanford, but you mentioned studying so I am going to go with grad student. My husband and I both did grad school there; I did part-time while working full-time (company paid for it) while he quit working and went to school full time. He also did the CalTrain from San Jose option to keep housing costs low.

A couple of points I want to make:
1) He was on campus 14+ hours every day so he was taking the train at odd times of the day and night. That meant slower and less frequent trains.
2) One thing Stanford does really well is networking. It sounds cheesy, but it really is true and the friends and acquaintances you make there can be very beneficial to your future career. For that reason alone I would recommend you live on campus or as close to campus as possible if you possibly can swing it.
3) I live one city north of Palo Alto but work near Stanford. Even though I am close, it takes me 20-30 minutes to commute on surface streets each way. It is a pleasant commute because driving tree-lined Palo Alto neighborhoods is not being stuck on freeway gridlock traffic, but it is still time. If you are a student, you won't have a lot of time to spare.
4) The whole peninsula area (Mountain View through Menlo Park and further north) is really lovely. I think you'll really enjoy this life style.

Good luck!

Peach Stubble

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
It isn't totally clear whether you are a student or an employee of Stanford, but you mentioned studying so I am going to go with grad student. My husband and I both did grad school there; I did part-time while working full-time (company paid for it) while he quit working and went to school full time. He also did the CalTrain from San Jose option to keep housing costs low.

A couple of points I want to make:
1) He was on campus 14+ hours every day so he was taking the train at odd times of the day and night. That meant slower and less frequent trains.
2) One thing Stanford does really well is networking. It sounds cheesy, but it really is true and the friends and acquaintances you make there can be very beneficial to your future career. For that reason alone I would recommend you live on campus or as close to campus as possible if you possibly can swing it.
3) I live one city north of Palo Alto but work near Stanford. Even though I am close, it takes me 20-30 minutes to commute on surface streets each way. It is a pleasant commute because driving tree-lined Palo Alto neighborhoods is not being stuck on freeway gridlock traffic, but it is still time. If you are a student, you won't have a lot of time to spare.
4) The whole peninsula area (Mountain View through Menlo Park and further north) is really lovely. I think you'll really enjoy this life style.

Good luck!

Yes Ysette, you are correct! I will essentially be in a graduate school type position. The idea of taking advantage of networking is one that I was concerned with and really want to take advantage of. That being said, I am still open minded and an open book on all locations including ones that involve the CalTrain. How much "better" timewise and lifewise is it to live in Palo Alto vs. Menlo Park vs. Mountain view (those seem to be the 3 places I know are "close" and seem most interesting to me (admittedly I know relatively little of the area in comparison with those who actually live there!)

Peach Stubble

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Just found out that I'll actually be making between 70,000 and 80,000, likely in the mid 70k's, so that was definitely good news! Not sure exactly what the tax rate I will be in will be though. I think multiplying by 0.6 to calculate take him is a fair method to include the state and federal taxes?

DarinC

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 308
That sounds about right. You can always calculate it precisely in a spreadsheet, which can be fun to play around with. For example at my current salary, if I decrease my taxable spending by $300/month that allows me to increase my 401k contributions by $375/month because of the reduction in state/federal taxes (A 25% increase in 401k contributions from reduced taxes). If my salary were doubled, then the increase for me would be 38%.

dragoncar

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8774
  • Registered member
That sounds about right. You can always calculate it precisely in a spreadsheet, which can be fun to play around with. For example at my current salary, if I decrease my taxable spending by $300/month that allows me to increase my 401k contributions by $375/month because of the reduction in state/federal taxes (A 25% increase in 401k contributions from reduced taxes). If my salary were doubled, then the increase for me would be 38%.

tax-rates.org is really good, although it might be a year behind

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3008
or google tax schedule 2013 or 2014 and you find whatever your income is on the list