The latest buzz-worthy news circulating around the bay area has been centered around the open letter that was recently posted on Medium by former Yelp employee, Talia Ben-Ora. In case you haven't already heard, Ben-Ora wrote a blog post attacking Yelp's CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, for under paying his employees. Ben-Ora went into great detail about her biweekly income of $733, mentioning that she could not afford to use her heater or even buy groceries. At the end of her annoying rant -- I mean "blog post" -- Ben-Ora had the nerve to link to her PayPal, Venmo and Square accounts, mentioning that she had been fired and now has zero dollars.
So, should we all feel bad for Ben-Ora? Personally, I don't feel sorry for her at all. In fact, most people would be ecstatic just to find a paying job in the bay area that offers employee benefits and health insurance.
San Francisco is Expensive
It's true that the cost of living in San Francisco is high. In fact, in 2015 San Francisco was ranked the third most expensive urban area in the United States. It's a well-known fact that you are going to be paying a high price to live in San Francisco, and millennials in particular should be prepared to pay the price before deciding to move here. After living in Tel Aviv (another very expensive city), I was fully prepared to face the high cost of living in San Francisco. But that's the difference between most millennials and myself- I understood that I had to live within certain means to make living in SF work.
So, from one millennial to another, here are 5 tips on how to get the best bang for your buck when living in SF:
#1. Live with roommates or find a studio in an affordable area.
This one should be obvious. If you can't afford to live on your own, find an apartment or a house with roommates. In Ben-Ora's very open post, she mentioned that she paid $1245 a month for rent. She also explained that she lived 30 miles out of the city, so I'm assuming she lived alone since she was paying a high price to live outside of SF. So, my first piece of advice for millennials looking to move to San Francisco is to find a comfortable living situation that you are 100% certain you can afford. Sure, this may mean you will have to live with 3 or 4 other people, but it sure beats not being able to pay your rent on time, or having to face the winter without heat. Not in the mood for roommates? Last I heard, studio apartments located in the tenderloin neighborhood are also pretty affordable.
#2. Start working, after work.
Remember when you were younger and your parents would encourage you to take on an "after-school job"? I do. I have fond memories of working at the local grocery store bagging groceries at the young age of 14. The point is, most people have to work to make a living - especially when you live in San Francisco. For example, if Ben-Ora had found another job in addition to her position at Yelp, she might have been able to afford groceries and heat. In fact, if she took the time to think outside the box, she could have found a position at a restaurant that would have allowed her to eat while she was at work (It's always nice to kill two birds with one stone). This in mind, my second piece of advice for millennials looking to live in SF is to fully understand your financial situation ahead of time. Think about how much money you will need to pay for basic life requirements such as food and heat. If you can't afford that on top of rent, I highly suggest you take on another job.
#3. Opt for public transportation and ride sharing services.
San Francisco was ranked the second best US city for public transportation, walking, biking and getting around without a car. Also, the city's underground subway system, BART, is great for commuting. If you posses a decent amount of common sense, you will learn that public transportation can be very affordable in SF, plus you won't have to worry about paying for parking or parking tickets. So, my third piece of advice for millennials moving to the bay area is to take advantage of the city's wonderful public transportation system. Not a big fan of buses and subways? Try taking a Lyft Line or Uber Pool the next time you need to get from point A to point B. These are both great alternatives and usually only cost around $5 per trip.
#4. Shop at Trader Joes.
I know, some of you might be thinking that there are better places for buying affordable groceries. Trader Joes, however, offers a great selection of food choices at very reasonable prices. Going back to Ben-Ora's insightful blog post, she mentions more than once that she couldn't afford to buy food. This is a quote from her post,
"Because I can't afford to buy groceries. Bread is a luxury to me..."
Now, I am 100% certain that you can buy a great loaf of bread at TJ's for about $1. And, if you were economical, you'd be smart enough to freeze the loaf and make it last more than a day or two. Also, while I've never visited the Yelp office, I'm almost certain that they have a fully stocked kitchen with an amazing selection of food. If Ben-Ora was that hungry, she could have managed to take home some fruit or granola bars, or maybe even a piece of bread or three. So, my fourth piece of advice to millennials relocating to SF is to shop at Trader Joes (there are multiple locations across the city), or to take home food from your office if you are lucky enough to work somewhere with a fully loaded kitchen.
#5. Be prepared to work hard.
My final, and most important piece of advice for millennials moving to San Francisco is be prepared to work your ass off. In fact, if you aren't a hard worker, I really recommend that you don't move to the bay area. One of the reasons SF is so expensive and so desirable to live in is due to the fact that it's a city with a whole lot to offer. You are surrounded by beautiful scenery, intelligent people, delicious foods - the list can go on forever. But, keep in mind that you have to put in the time and effort to live in a city like SF. Personally, I enjoy working and I am 100% focused on building my career. This in mind, remember that the bay area is a good fit for people who want to develop, grow and learn. If you fail here, rather than writing a whiny blog post, you should get up and take action. Think about ways you can succeed in the future. Find a mentor or a coach to provide you with advice. Don't waste time complaining, and learn how to make the most a bad situation by working hard to achieve a better outcome.
To conclude, I will honestly admit that I've lived in San Francisco for a year and a half now, and that it was a hard adjustment at first. Just like most millennials living here, I found it expensive, especially compared to other cities like Dallas, Texas where I grew up. However, the benefits of living in San Francisco outweigh the costs. If you are a hard worker and understand how to manage your expenses, than I'm almost 100% positive you will be able to find manageable ways for living in this expensive, yet wonderful city.