Cost of living in San Francisco as a student | Amber (2023)

San Francisco, one of the most prominent cities in the USA, is undoubtedly a desirable study destination with its lovely architecture and chic atmosphere. But to study abroad, you need to have the money, which is why we made this comprehensive guide to the cost of living in San Francisco as a student. Organising your finances and budget is important for getting the most out of your stay in San Francisco. It is a city worth relocating to because of its amazing food scene, cool climate, historical sites, and thriving business prospects.

About San Francisco

San Francisco is located on northern California's sunny Pacific coast, at the tip of a peninsula that separates the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. The city is well-known for its beautiful scenery, warm climate, and uphill streets. It is also one of the most culturally diverse areas to reside in the United States, and it is home to some of the world's most brilliant brains due to its closeness to Silicon Valley. To gain a sense of San Francisco's history, visit one of its fascinating museums or galleries. Music fans will feel at home in this city, which takes pride in its music scene. San Francisco has something for everyone, whether you appreciate classical concerts, up-and-coming local musicians, or world-famous pop artists.


Let's start with what your biggest spend is in your cost of living in San Francisco: tuition. Depending on the university and course you've applied for, tuition costs vary. Each university in San Francisco has a different cost of attendance. Your university education will also cost you fees, which pay for registration, tuition, management, exams, and graduation.

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Standford University

Stanford University is one of the most renowned institutions in the United States. Stanford's admissions procedure is extremely hard, and the university is one of the most selective, with an admittance rate of only 4.3%. It offers over 50 graduate and undergraduate programmes, has seven schools, and is ranked third in the world by QS.

Berkeley University

Berkeley is one of the most sought-after institutions in the world by international students due to its environment and educational options. Berkeley University provides 106 four-year bachelor's degrees, 97 PhD programmes, and 88 master's programmes in addition to its medical programmes. According to the QS world rankings, it is ranked 27th.

San Francisco State University

One of the renowned public universities in San Francisco is San Francisco State University. It has 23 campuses and offers 118 bachelor's degrees, 94 master's degrees, and 5 doctoral degrees within the California State University system. San Francisco State is regarded as a reasonably priced university. The university has a 67.3% acceptance rate.

How can you save on tuition fees?

Numerous scholarships are offered to students by universities and the government to help fill that financial gap. Scholarships are an excellent method to lower your living expenses in San Francisco. To reduce your San Francisco living costs, there are numerous government-funded scholarships available; all you need to do is inquire with your university to see whether it offers students any scholarship options.

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Student accommodation costs

Your entire cost of living in San Francisco will be greatly influenced by the type of student housing you choose. There are many options for student housing from which you can choose. Either on-campus housing or off-campus housing are options for you. Private rentals and specially constructed student housing are further choices (PBSA). PBSAs are residential communities created with students' needs in mind. PBSAs come fully equipped and with all utilities. PBSAs are your best choice if you need rational and comfortable student accommodation in San Francisco.

How can you save on student accommodation costs?

Finding a double occupancy room and staying with friends can help you lower the cost of living in San Francisco. You can find more affordable housing a little beyond the city centre. You might look for dorm-style student housing in San Francisco and commute to your university from there.

Travel Costs

San Francisco is known for its hills, so even though you can walk or bike there, you might choose to take public transportation. There are a lot of choices. You can get around San Francisco by bus, light rail (Metro), vintage streetcars, and charming cable cars. All are commuter-friendly, allowing for rapid and secure transportation. In San Francisco, the majority of public transportation is free for those under 19. You can save on San Francisco living costs if your university has signed up for participating schemes and you are over 18, you might be able to receive cheap travel while you are a student. To discover more, speak to your university.
A car is unnecessary because of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's "Muni" system's numerous bus, streetcar, and cable car routes. Individual bus and rail journeys cost $2.50, while cable car rides cost $7. Children and the elderly receive discounts on all forms of transit. If you want to ride a lot, think about investing in a Muni Pass, which provides unlimited rides for periods of one, three, or seven days and costs between $21 and $42.

How can you save on travel costs?

Want to live and stay healthy while saving money? develop a walking habit to go where you need to go! If you intend to travel somewhat frequently, you might also take into account buying combo passes, or specific term passes to save on San Francisco living costs. Numerous public transit companies provide large travel discounts to university students. To reduce the cost of living in San Francisco, ask your university if there are any discounts you can take advantage of.

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Food and Groceries

We cannot overlook the price of groceries and food while talking about the cost of living in San Francisco. Because they vary from person to person, these costs are more difficult to calculate. A student, though, will likely spend $80-100 a month on food. The following is a list of some of the most frequent meals and shopping expenses for college students:

How can you save on your food expenses?

To reduce your San Francisco living costs, try to prepare as many meals at home as you can. You'll notice that eating out will significantly deplete your financial resources. It could be tough to fit cooking into your daily routine at first, but it will get a lot easier, and you might even start to like it. If you're looking for inspiration in that area, choose one from our blog's simple recipes for college students.


You need to include in the price of basic utilities when calculating the cost of living in San Francisco. On a basic level, utilities are required to keep your home operating efficiently. Depending on where you live and how frequently you use these utilities, the monthly cost of electricity, hot water, heating, and cooling can range from $250 to $300. WiFi typically costs between $60 and $80 a month.

How can you save on utilities?

Since utilities are paid by household rather than per individual, you can save San Francisco living costs by renting an apartment with friends. You can also select student housing in San Francisco that includes all of your utilities in the rent to lower your cost of living. All utilities are added to the bill at 524 Columbus Residences (North Beach), San Francisco, with a starting rate of $625 per month.

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Miscellaneous Expenses

Your cost of living in San Francisco as a student will be considerably impacted by the money you spend on recreation. Your spending plan will cover the cost of your gym membership, shopping, outings, museum visits, and sporting events. These costs could change based on your tastes, but if you save $50 to $100 every month, you should be able to afford the costs.

How can you cut down on these expenses?

These should be the first costs to be cut if you feel the need to lower your cost of living in San Francisco because the majority of them are unneeded. Plan to replace some of these expenses with less expensive alternatives. For instance, if you want to reduce your gym subscription, look into other fairly priced gyms in the area. Ask around at your university, which probably has a free gym facility you may use.

We tried to break down your San Francisco living costs to make planning your visit there simpler. It's not always easy to manage your money, so we certainly hope you can use this advice as a guide while you develop your budget. San Francisco is a city with a lot to experience and learn. Therefore, any student who can study in the USA is lucky.


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