You Can Make it in the Golden State! Thriving on Your First Job

working and brainstorming

California is a great place to start a budding career, especially in science, technology, computer and robotics. Silicon Valley in San Francisco is the haven for computer engineers, programmers, and entrepreneurs, and anyone who wants to start a computer engineering career or business in technology knows it is the place to be. People are friendly, the food is great, and the sights can be breathtaking. However, the city can be expensive — and you don’t want to burn through your paychecks.

Start with a Bike

The streets of San Francisco can be quite congested, and parking can be troublesome. You might spend an hour or two looking for a parking slot and end up paying $50 for it. Cabs and Ubers/Lyfts are expensive — and you’ll need all the money you have if you’re starting to work. A bicycle is a good way for you to get around the city without burning a hole through your pockets. You won’t get stuck in traffic, and you’re keeping yourself fit in the process. Most companies will even have programs that encourage using bicycles — whether it be free bike-share memberships or straight-up cash rewards. Opt for a foldable bike if you need to cover longer distances. Bikes are allowed in the subways (Muni and BART) — however, a bulky bicycle might be too cumbersome to bring.

Don’t Splurge!

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San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. The city and its opulent lifestyle can draw you in and leave you penniless days before your next paycheck. Learn to live within your means and try to eke out what you have without dipping into your savings. Learn to cook and take trips to the markets and cantinas instead of eating out. If you can’t avoid eating out, check out the local diners and avoid fancy restaurants. Dining out with friends or colleagues once in a while is fine — but making it a habit is a recipe for disaster. Schedule your night outs a little later in the night — after everyone has had dinner at home — so you can just go drinking.

Buy a Home Outside the City

Renting a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco costs around $4,500. Even if you’re sharing the rent, you’re still paying more than $2,000 for a tiny apartment. At the same rates, you could be making payments to a home. For example, houses in Vallejo go upwards of $450,000 while you can find two or three-bedroom homes in other towns selling for $250,000.

Even without the best mortgage rates, you won’t be spending as much on premiums as you would if you kept renting in the city. After the initial down (at 10-year terms), you’ll be paying less than $4,000 a month for a property in one town or less than $2,500 for a property in another — and you’ll own an actual house and not a cramped apartment. Ditch your bike for a car and trade a few minutes of driving for the thousands of dollars you’ll be saving.

Starting a tech career in San Francisco is a great opportunity. However, the opulence and grandeur of the city can enthrall you and leave you with very little left to save. Keep your bearings (and money) by avoiding unnecessary expenses and opting for less expensive alternatives.

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