California Living: Truth About Cost


There is no doubt that California is a wonderful state where one can decide to settle in. The sunshine and mild weather that you get to enjoy is just one of many reasons why you should make that move.

There are several cities in the state that has a lot to offer such as an awesome food and shopping scene, picturesque environment, access to beaches, job opportunities, amongst others.

You should however be aware that some of these cities have a high cost of living. That is not to say that there are no areas in California that have a more affordable cost of living. This is why it is important that you make your research and find out if the cost of living of the city you want to reside in fits your budget.

California (CA)

California Housing Prices

Generally, housing prices in California is on the high side and well above the national average. For some people residing there, the only way to comfortably afford rent is by getting a roommate and sharing the cost.

But there are still some neighborhoods in the state that have really affordable housing cost. As such, if you find housing cost in major cities to be above your budget, a better option will be to go for a cheaper neighborhood that is within driving distance.

We will now take a look at the average rents in some of the major cities in California so as to provide you with a better picture.

Los Angeles

As expected, Los Angeles is quite expensive than most cities in California when it comes to housing costs – be it renting or purchasing a home. Multi-million dollar homes for millionaires and celebrities are quite common here.

To rent a one-bedroom apartment, you will have to spend about $2,828 monthly and about $3,862 monthly for a two-bedroom apartment. The average price for purchasing a home here is $1.02 million. Bear it in mind that housing costs have been on a steady rise and the cost of renting in the city has gone up about 14%.

The cost of purchasing a home has also gone up by about 13.8%. This places housing cost in Los Angeles at about 134% above the national average. You are free to say that there is nothing angelic about the housing costs in L.A.

San Francisco

San Francisco is also a place that has really expensive housing cost. The median amount for renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city is $3,523 monthly and for a two-bedroom apartment, the average amount is $4,606. To buy a house, you are looking at an average amount of $1.6 million.

Despite the fact that rent increases are not that high as it is 12% for the one bedroom, 6% for the two bedroom and 11.5% for the home purchase over last year, there is no denying that the rent is still very high. It is even more than double the national average.

San Diego

Although more affordable than San Francisco and Los Angeles, housing costs in San Diego is still on the high side. A one-bedroom apartment will cost an average of $2,808 monthly, a two bedroom apartment will cost an average of $3,592, and to purchase a home it will take an average amount of $890,000. Housing costs in San Diego has increased about 22% over the last year.


Like we already mentioned earlier, if the housing costs of major cities in the state is too expensive for you, you can decide to go to other more affordable cities that have a much cheaper rent but will at the same time grant you easy access to the amenities and lifestyle of a major California city.

One of such places is Bakersfield where the average rent price for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,615 monthly, $1,527 monthly for a two bedroom apartment and it will cost you an average amount of $392,000 to purchase a home there.

Although there was an increase in the rents over the past year, rents in Bakersfield still stand at just 3.7% above the national average. Compared to the other cities that we have already discussed, you will see that is much more affordable.


Some might assume that the state capital will be the most expensive when it comes to housing cost but that is not the case with Sacramento. Housing in Sacramento is even cheaper than some of the cities in the state.

The rent price for a one bedroom apartment is an average of $2,224 monthly. For a two bedroom you are looking at an average amount of $2,516 and to purchase a home the average amount stands at $516,500.

California Utilities

Another important thing that you have to factor in with regards to your moving budget is the cost of utilities. These utilities include water, electricity and internet. Some places in California provide alternative sources of energy so you could have energy for your home from a more sustainable source.

The cost of utilities vary among the different cities in California. In some places, although there is a high housing cost the utility prices will be cheaper while some areas that have cheap housing cost has high utility costs.

This is why it is important that you put all the necessary factors into consideration before making your final choice on the city you will want to reside in.

You also have to be aware of the fact that due to several years of low rainfall as well as practices around groundwater usage in the state there has been scarcity of water. This has led to water shortages and as expected really high water bills.

Below is an overall cost of utilities in California cities when compared with the national average.

Sacramento is only 6.2 percent above the national average
Los Angeles is 9.9 percent above the national average
San Diego is 10 percent above the national average
San Francisco is 33.8 percent above the national average
Bakersfield is 54.1 percent above the national average

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California food prices

Food is quite affordable in California and an average Californian spends about $233 to $266 monthly on food. The cost of food in the state is just a little above the national average with some cities being cheaper than others.

Sacramento comes in as the most affordable in terms of food cost while San Francisco has the highest.

California Healthcare Cost

Different people have different healthcare needs some more serious than others. This is a huge determinant to the amount you would have to spend on healthcare in the state.

That notwithstanding, there are standard visits that people should ensure is made each year. They include a visit to a general practitioner and an eye doctor. It is also recommended that you visit the dentist every six months.

Putting just these standard visits into consideration, healthcare costs across different cities in the state are quite similar. They are as follows;

Bakersfield: $318.90
San Diego: $355.40
Los Angeles: $388.80
Sacramento: $425.26
San Francisco: $484.08

Generally, the cost of healthcare in the state is above the national average.


Most of the cities in California provide their residents with public transportation services. This is very useful for people who are looking to save money that would have been spent on purchasing gas, vehicle maintenance, and other expenditures that are synonymous to car ownership.

While public transportation will help you save, transportation costs in the state is still above the national average.

We should also take a look at the three most extensive public transportation systems in the state which are public transport systems for Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

Metro in Los Angeles

Metro in Los Angeles comprises six rail lines and 114 bus lines. It is without doubt a really good way to get around the city. With regards to the rates of this system, a single day will cost you $7, $100 for a 30-day pass, and $1.75 for a one-way fare.

Comparing these rates with the average monthly parking spot cost of $200, you’ll see that using the public transportation system is a better option if you want to save money.

MTS in San Diego

The MTS in San Diego comprises buses, light rails, and trolleys. It takes care of all the urban areas of San Diego County as well as some rural routes to the East. Precisely it has 95 bus routes and four light rail lines. Monthly passes go for $72 and a one way fare is $2.50.

Although the city has a walk score of 71, public transportation is still very helpful when to want to get to certain places in the city.

Muni in San Francisco

The Muni System for San Francisco covers 24 surface stations, 87 more surface stops, as well as 9 subway stations. It comprises of light rail trains, cable cars, fuel-efficient buses as well as street cars. A monthly pass costs $98 while a one-way fare costs $3.

Another public transportation system for San Francisco is the Bay Area Rapid Transit system also referred to as just BART. The buses cover 50 stations through six routes and operate for the whole of the Bay Area.

The amount that you’ll have to pay for taking BART depends on where you got on and the distance to where you are going. That being said, the cheapest fare is about $2 while the most expensive is just a little shy of $14.

San Francisco has a really high walk score but whenever you don’t feel up to walking, public transportation to the rescue.

California Taxes

California has a statewide sales tax of 7.25%, but different cities can still add to that so don’t be surprised if that is the case in the city that you choose to settle in. This also means that taxes can be more expensive in some cities.

Goods and Services

Knowing the price of certain goods and services that you would require frequently will help you when you are drawing up your monthly budget.

Below is a breakdown of the cost of some of these goods and services for different cities.

City Average cost of pizza on a night out Average cost of ibuprofen Average cost of dry cleaning Average cost for a haircut
San Francisco $13.70 $12.57 $15.67 $26.14
Bakersfield $11.87 $10.06 $19.24 $22.40
Los Angeles $12.99 $12.82 $19.68 $24.75
San Diego $12.49 $12.82 $15.29 $24.25
San Francisco $13.99 $11.81 $15.00 $33.00


Another regular expenditure to consider for families with children is childcare. You may have to choose between enrolling your child in a private preschool either for a full day or half day as public preschool is not available in all cities.

If you opt for a full day private preschool in San Francisco for example, then you are looking at spending about $2,583 monthly. In Los Angeles, it will cost you about $1,267 monthly. In both cases, it is above the national average monthly cost.

Putting everything we’ve discussed so far into consideration, it is clear that the general cost of goods and services in California is above the national average.

The Salary You Need To Live in California

Some would say that your rent should take up just 30% of your monthly income. If that is the case, then you will need to rake in $106,240 yearly if you are to comfortably pay for a one-bedroom apartment in the state, which is an average of $2,656 monthly. Seeing that the average California salary is $111,622 this is quite attainable. But if you feel it is too expensive then you can check out more affordable cities such as Bakersfield.

Whatever choice you decide to make with regards to your city of choice and housing cost, it is in your best interest that you ensure that it does not exceed your budget.

Offers a variety of perks

All said and done, California is definitely not the most affordable state in the U.S. However, there is no denying that there a lot of wonderful things about the state from the lifestyle to the job opportunities to the many outdoor recreational activities that one can partake of. So if you can afford the state, do not let anything stop you from moving there. Go on and live your life.

Cost of Living elsewhere