5 Tips for Moving To San Diego on a Budget

Thinking of taking the plunge and moving to a major city? San Diego has options that make it enjoyable AND affordable!

Leilani Salgado
Wp Content Uploads 2019 08 Beach Bungalow Deck2 Fpo

Moving to San Diego

If you’re wondering how to move to San Diego cheaply, with little to no money, you’d be surprised to find out that San Diego is a pretty affordable place to live in California, even with a shoestring budget.

Moving to San Diego Without a Job

San Diego has a big job market so even if you move without a current job, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a job once you arrive, regardless of your prior experience. 

You can also move to San Diego and work as a freelancer. One of the easiest ways to do this without any prior experience is to apply to San Diego Brand Ambassador Facebook groups like the one here.

According to this article, you need to make at least $20/hr to live comfortably in San Diego. The average pay rate for a brand ambassador is about $20/hr so if you can find consistent work as a freelance brand ambassador in San Diego, you shouldn’t have a problem making ends meet.

Moving to San Diego Reddit

You can find listing of people looking who are moving to San Diego and looking for roommates on Reddit. You can also find apartment housing suggestions according to locals to locals as well as honest neighborhood comparisons.

Moving to San Diego With No Money

One of the pros of San Diego is that it is not as expensive as Los Angeles or San Francisco, making it relatively affordable. 

One of the things you can do is to find a volunteer program in San Diego for a couple of months where accommodation is provided for free in exchange for your skills and services. This is honestly one of the cheapest ways to experience a new city and get a feel for the vibe to see if you want to get an apartment there and sign a lease before making a big commitment. 

You can find volunteer opportunities for San Diego on Hippohelp, World Packers, and HelpX. 

Partaking in the activities that happen around town is a great way to get engaged in the Community for someone that is a new arrival. There is free yoga, beach volleyball at Ocean Beach, and always a park to hike and enjoy free of charge. The best thing about San Diego is how easy it is to be outside all year round and these natural wonders come free of charge!

Moving to San Diego Alone

If you are moving to San Diego alone, your best bet is to check Facebook groups to find rentals and find/make connections. On Facebook groups, you can even find people looking for roommates in San Diego to make your rent cheaper and more affordable. 

The average rent in San Diego is $2,400 if you want to live alone. 

You can also find private rooms or entire apartments for rent monthly on Airbnb. Airbnb is a great option to test out a variety of local neighborhoods and cultures before settling down in one area. You have the flexibility of renting a place for a few nights up to a few months.

Tips To Live Cheaply in San Diego

Use Public Transportation

San Diego has a trolley that can take you all across the county. The trolley is only $2.50 making it a really affordable way to move around San Diego.

 All over San Diego, you will see electric scooters parked along the curbs. Simply download the app and for a few bucks, you can dash all over the city! This is both fun and efficient way to get where you need to go.

Ubers are great when you are trying to get from the Downtown area to some of the outer neighborhoods or the beaches. Only a few miles away, it will save you time to take an Uber but still remains cost-efficient due to the distance.

The best way to get around the city is the Trolley System. These bright red trains are easy to spot, have three different lines (blue, orange, and green) and span more than 50 miles of the city. For more information read the article Getting Around San Diego.

Find an Apartment in a Less Expensive Neighborhood

Chula and Linda Vista are some of the most affordable neighborhoods in San Diego. Here you will find San Diego’s most affordable neighborhoods for 2022. The cost of living in Hillcrest San Diego is 25% less than other neighborhoods in San Diego.

This listing will show you all apartments in San Diego under $1k/mo. Make sure to also check out our other article that includes 5 tips for moving to a great neighborhood in San Diego.

Consider Coliving

What is Coliving?

If you are new to urban living, finding affordable rent can be tricky. CoLiving is a shared accommodation. You can rent a bed or a private room on a monthly basis. The bathrooms, kitchen, and common room areas are shared.

This housing option is a great way to make friends and meet people from everywhere. CoLiving is a way to not feel isolated in an urban setting. It is for those that are not looking to spend all their money on where they sleep.  Ultimately CoLiving is about making housing affordable so you can spend your money on what you want while living in an exciting city.

The ITH Adventure Hostel and CoLive locations are conveniently located in the heart of Downtown San Diego it will feel like a mistake that you are paying so little for such prime real estate!

ITH CoLive Balboa Park

If you want to be able to walk out your door and go wander through massive park trails and still be in a city, this is the location that best suits you. Hillcrest is located very close to the infamous San Diego Zoo and North Park areas of the city.  Living in this location on a month-to-month basis will afford you the ability to immerse yourself in an active and diverse art community. Plug into the scene here and find out what you have been missing.

Beach Bungalow 19 Fpo

ITH Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel

Are you the type of person that never wants to leave the beach? Now you won’t have to, with month-to-month rentals available at ITH Beach Bungalow. Pacific Beach is an energetic beach town full of activities for the person that wants to live in flip flops and wake up to the sound of the ocean. The chill vibes at the bungalow will carry through your daily life. Get accustomed to the endless summer and explore the diverse San Diego beaches to find the right one for you.

With the CoLive rental option, you can rent a room at this location on a monthly basis. It is the perfect way to acclimate yourself to the urban areas of San Diego.

Use Craigslist

Searching on Craigslist can be a great way to find an affordable apartment. You can rent an entire apartment or get a shared room with roommates.  Always be sure to meet your roommates before you move in to be sure the apartment is a good fit for everyone.

Best Places To Eat in San Diego on a Budget

Eat Out at Local & Authentic Restaurants

Of course, you have to go out sometimes even if you are on a budget. It is essential to try the local cuisine wherever you are. But you don’t want to feel bad by breaking the bank on one night out. So what do you do? Find the places that the locals already know about. Locally based restaurants will give you the authentic San Diego food experience, better quality, and sustainability. And of course, be less expensive so you can enjoy your meal. Here are a few places to get you going…

Best overall cheap Mexican food: El Indio Mexican Restaurant

Best burgers: Crazee Burger

San Diego Only Deals: The Crack Shack, Snack Shack, Point Loma Seafood



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I am a content creator from Chicago with a passion for writing + lifestyle & travel photography. When I'm not creating content you can find me listening to podcasts on Spotify, reading, or exploring a new place. Join me on Instagram @leilani.jeanette to follow along with my adventures and read my blog!

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