5 Things To Consider When Moving Cross Country Or: Wow, SF is Hella Expensive
A little over two years ago, I made a decision to leave my 1,000 sq. foot, one-bedroom apartment with a screened-in porch, brand new appliances, in-ground pool, fitness center, and dedicated parking spot to share a two-bedroom apartment with a 40-year old woman that hung 13 eyeball paintings on the wall and told me that she once “accidentally” smoked crack.
That’s how much I wanted to live in SF.
Don’t get me wrong — I knew what I was signing up for (well, okay, not the crack story but everything else). I just needed to be here. When I would have to fly back home to Raleigh, honest to God I felt like crying. And it’s nothing against Raleigh and the people that live there. My parents and their corgi are very happy in N. Carolina. It just wasn’t for me.
So if you’re someone who’s been feeling a bit stuck where you are and want some advice from someone who’s done it before, well, you're lucky that I have just enough of an ego to offer it up unsolicited.
1. Pay For Good Movers
How much do you love that old band t-shirt that you got from your first concert? Or the music box that your grandmother smuggled out of her war-torn country to give to your mother as a wedding present?
Well sorry, nana but the movers lost it. Or broke it. Or held it for ransom.
That’s exactly what will happen if you do what I did, which was cheap out on moving costs because I am stupid. I’m not being hard on myself, I literally Google’d “cheap movers” and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
On average, a cross country move with actual reputable movers and not ex-KGB should run you around $2–5K. You’ll need cash to tip and in some cases, to pay half upfront. Keep in mind that some movers will add on charges for things like # flights or steps from the street to your front door.
If they offer insurance, read over the agreement carefully before blindly signing. You may be able to get coverage with your own insurance provider. The bozos I hired offered $.60 per pound for damaged items but guess how much lost items weigh? Correct.
2. A Bed In a Living Room Is More Common Than You Think
Something that I didn’t realize is that Craigslist is like, still a thing. And a popular thing in cities like SF. Of course, there are still sites like Trulia, Zillow, Apartments.com but as I was told by SF natives and recent transplants, those sites are for…what’s the word, ah yes, suckers. Mostly because you’re going to pay $$$ for the apartment plus possibly a realtor fee. Screw that.
So I logged onto CL and started my initial search. Did I have any idea what neighborhoods I should be looking in? No. Did I look up any of these neighborhoods ahead of time? No. Did I think that the Tenderloin sounded nice because I like beef tenderloin? You bet your ass.
Once I actually dug into these listings, I started to understand what I was up against. Just a few examples:
- A bunk bed with a mini-fridge, microwave, and shared bathroom down the hallway
- A bed in the middle of a living room separated by a hanging sheet
- A basement apartment in what I assume to be the set for an upcoming Saw movie
- A note from the landlord that kindly asked for no elderly applicants as one had just recently died on the property
And if you end up needing a roommate, I can not stress enough that you’re better off going through something like a Facebook group to vet them than a smile, handshake, and the naive hope that 13 eyeball paintings are just temporary.
3. Get Used To Sh*t
No, like actual human feces. This entire city is covered in human waste. Feces, urine, trash, needles….it’s a lot to take (and breathe) in some days.
There’s not really much you can do about it, other than maybe donate your time or $$$ to helping clean up the city. Certain areas like Civic Center have dispatched neighborhood clean up crews that try to tackle it the best they can, including actually treating the homeless population with a little bit of dignity (a rarity at times in this city).
It’s going to be an adjustment and for the most part, you just get used to it. But this is coming from someone who went to college where, depending on the wind, the entire campus either smelled like chocolate (the Hershey’s factory was down the road) or pig shit.
4. Avocado Toast Will Fuck Up Your Bank Account
Have you ever looked at an avocado, a piece of bread, and some seasoning and thought: damn, I wish someone would charge me $14 to eat that because if so, absolutely pack up and move to SF tomorrow.
It’s incredible how expensive it is to live, eat, and entertain here. So much so that it’s thrown off my entire sense of what appropriate cost of living should be.
For example, I live alone now in a studio apartment in Nob Hill. If I had to guess I’d say my entire apartment probably comes in at around 500 sq. feet and I pay $2100/month.
When I travel back to N. Carolina to visit my family, I ball out like a god damn Vanderbilt. Lattes for everyone! You get alternative milk! And you! And you!
Of course, there are ways to save some $$ when you’re here. This list from EaterSF offers up some budget-friendly restaurants; Civic Center and Lower Haight both host farmer’s markets every weekend and if you can skip out on the Ubers and Lyfts, the bus is only $3, usually on time, and pretty convenient.
5. Explore, Explore, Explore
There’s nothing that I love more than urban hiking around SF. I made myself a promise that I would check out every neighborhood in SF, on foot, when I moved and I can proudly say that I have now done that about 5 million times.
The entire city of SF is only 7x7 so yeah, after two years you’re going to run into the same neighborhoods. But then there’s BART that’ll take you to Oakland, Alameda, or Berkeley—each with their own unique vibe, coffee shops, boutiques, and yes you guessed it…human waste.
Bumming around SF, I have found so many cool little hangouts. Like did you know there’s an entire alleyway covered in murals in the Mission? Or that Golden Gate Park is larger than Central Park? Or that there’s an actual Dutch windmill out by Ocean Beach?
Yeah, I didn’t either. But that’s what makes SF such a special place to live, even with all the things that also make it so tough. And it’s not for everyone, I totally get that. But there are people out there that think Nutella is gross so what the hell do they know?
Trust your gut. If SF is calling out to you, you know what you need to do. Because the last thing you want is to look back and think that there was a moment that you could have done it, could have made it work, and you passed it up. No one has to live with the choices you make other than you.
Do what makes you happy and if that means sharing a bedroom, a bathroom, or cramming all your belongings into a studio, well god damn it, you go do it. And I bet that in the end, you’ll learn something regardless of how it all turns out. And isn’t that kind of the whole point of life? Taking chances, learning, and growing?
Happy Travels ✌️