SF GIRL(S): Financially Surviving San Francisco as a College Kid


Jessica Schimm is a beloved 7x7 online intern who recently graduated from SF State. This is the first of three posts she'll be writing about what it's like to navigate the tough patch of life between college and the real world, without completely freaking out. 

My roommate and I recently made the trek down to our apartment complex basement, (think Shutter Island), only to find that the only two open washing machines would not read our pay card, and a mouse scurrying from under a machine that was, for lack of a better term; convulsing.

I stood there and laughed. This was definitely not what I had in mind when I had my bags packed for my new life in San Francisco. I will be the first to admit that I came from somewhat of a privileged background, and that facing the realities of the city was a harsh, but necessary awakening.

I, like many small-town girls, had the perception that living in San Francisco during my college years would be glamorous, filled with champagne, lounges and expensive heels. Yes, now is the appropriate time to roll your eyes.

College is already designated as the ramen-diet, penny-saving years; tack on the highest rent rates in the nation and it’s like WTF SF? Needless to say, I quickly learned that Sex in the City doesn’t exist for most college girls here.  

Nevertheless, there are plenty of college kids still here, myself included, justifying our stay for the all of the greatness and opportunity San Francisco has to offer. From working out deals where you host the party if [insert name] covers the booze, to creatively blending whatever’s left over for dinner (asparagus + cinnamon toast), this is how we afford to have some fun in the city. 

We stick to local bars, i.e. the Sunset:

The cab tab is always the final blow at the end of the night, especially if you live anywhere west of the Inner Richmond. This means that we stick to SF State’s backyard; the Sunset. The bars don’t have the glamour of downtown, but they get the job done; and as long as you’re in good company, it doesn’t matter, amiright?

FunCheapSF is our best friend:

This is one of the best sites for college students. With hoards of free or dirt cheap events, you really can’t go wrong, and you’ll never know what exciting new adventures await you at a Fun and Cheap event. Who wouldn’t want to go to a “re:Donk Free Electro House Dance Party?" 

We go thrifting in Haight:

Just like Macklemore, we go to the thrift shop, with only $20 in our pockets and pay 99 cents for a new pair of tights and maybe $7 for some skinny jeans too. Promise we wash before wear.

We viciously hunt out student discounts in the city:

AMC Theaters (Van Ness) , DeYoung, Academy of Sciences, Exploratorium, San Francisco Symphony and Botanical Gardens, all offer student discounts. At this rate, it may be worth considering glueing our student IDs to our foreheads to see what other amazing deals spring before us.

We buy food at Trader Joe’s and Farmer’s Markets:

Myself and many of my peers came to the city thinking Safeway was cheap, and it probably is for our bigger families back at home. But now, when we only need to shop for one, Trader Joe’s and Farmers Markets are the best bet. Because most of the food is not sold in bulk at these venues, there is much less of a chance you will end up with uneaten groceries that are past their “best by” date. And really, let’s face it, when Oreos and Cheez-its are not an option in the food aisles, we’re saving money.

Many of my friends went to universities in college towns, and though sometimes I miss the familiarity of a more suburban environment, SF has made me edgier, thriftier and street-savvy in more ways than one. Scraping to make ends meet in the city has given me the confidence that ritzy, small-town, suburbia could never have. Thank God.

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