A Guide to Cost of Living in San Diego

6 minute read

San Diego is a beautiful city in Southern California, known for its sunny weather, sandy beaches, and diverse culture. It is also home to several prestigious universities and colleges, such as the University of California San Diego, San Diego State University, and the University of San Diego. If you are an international student who wants to study abroad in San Diego, you might be wondering how much it costs to live in this city. In this blog post, we will give you an overview of the cost of living in San Diego, as well as some tips on how to save money as a student. Let’s get started.

Location Southern California, United States
Population (2020) 1,386,932
Area 372.42 sq mi (964.56 km2)
Climate Mediterranean
Nickname America’s Finest City

Why Choose to Live and Study in San Diego?

Being America’s finest city sure does come with its perks. Despite the high cost of living in San Diego, the city offers many opportunities for students, some of which are as follows:

  1. San Diego has a high-quality education system, with many academic programs and research opportunities in various fields.
  2. You can benefit from the professional networks and career services offered by universities and colleges.
  3. San Diego has a vibrant and diverse culture, with a mix of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and lifestyles, giving you worldly exposure all in one place.
  4. The city is popular for its mild and sunny climate, with an average temperature of 21°C (70°F) throughout the year.
  5. San Diego offers a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for international students, along with a lot of support and resources.

Also Read: Cost of Living in Boston: A Guide

Cost of Living in San Diego

The cost of living in San Diego can vary with your lifestyle, preferences, and needs. However, to give you an idea of how much you might spend on average per month as a student in San Diego, we have compiled the following table to provide you with an estimate of living costs in America’s finest city:

Category Average Monthly Cost
Living accommodation $1,000 – $2,000 (INR 82k – 1.6L)
Food $300 – $400 (INR 25k – 33k)
Entertainment $100 – $200 (INR 8k – 16.5k)
Utilities and bills $150 – $200 (INR 12.5k – 16.5k)
Transportation $50 – $100 (INR 4k – 8.2k)

Let’s explore these living costs in San Diego further in detail:

Living Accommodation

One of the biggest costs of living in San Diego for students is housing. The cost of housing varies with the type, location, size, and amenities of the accommodation. Generally speaking, living on campus is more expensive than living off campus. However, living on campus has some advantages, such as convenience, security, facilities, and social opportunities.

If you choose to live off-campus, you can either rent an apartment or a room in a shared house or flat. The average monthly rent for different types of student accommodations in San Diego is as follows:

Type of Accommodation Average Monthly Rent
Studio apartment $1,500 – $2,000 (INR 1.2L – 1.6L)
One-bedroom apartment $1,800 – $2,500 (INR 1.5L – 2L)
Two-bedroom apartment $2,500 – $3,500 (INR 2L – 2.9L)
Three-bedroom apartment $3,500 – $5,000 (INR 2.9L – 4L)
Private room $800 – $1,200 (INR 66k – 99k)
Shared room $500 – $800 (INR 41k- 66k)

Also Read: Cost of Living in Atlanta


Another major expense for students in San Diego is food. The cost of food depends on your eating habits and preferences. The average monthly cost of food in San Diego for a student is about $300-$400. Here are some grocery items along with their monthly costs:

Item Monthly Cost
Milk (1 gallon) $4 (INR 330)
Bread (1 loaf) $3 (INR 248)
Eggs (1 dozen) $3 (INR 248)
Cheese (1 lb) $5 (INR 415)
Chicken (1 lb) $4 (INR 330)
Rice (1 lb) $2 (INR 165)
Pasta (1 lb) $2 (INR 165)
Potatoes (5 lb) $3 (INR 248)
Onions (1 lb) $1 (INR 82)
Tomatoes (1 lb) $2 (INR 165)
Bananas (1 lb) $1 (INR 82)
Apples (1 lb) $2 (INR 165)
Oranges (1 lb) $2 (INR 165)
Coffee (1 lb) $5 (INR 415)

Since eating out every day is expensive, you can cook your own meals at home to save money. You can also shop at local markets or discount stores instead of big supermarkets or convenience stores to reduce the cost of living in San Diego.


When it comes to entertainment, San Diego has a lot of options for students, such as museums, theatres, cinemas, concerts, sports, and nightlife. The average monthly cost of entertainment in San Diego for a student is about $100-$200. Here are some different types of entertainment along with their monthly costs:

Type of Entertainment Monthly Cost
Museum ticket $10 – $20 (INR  830 – 1.6k)
Theatre ticket $20 – $40 (INR 1.6k-3.3k)
Cinema ticket $15 (INR 1.2k)
Concert ticket $20 – $50 (INR 1.6k-4k)
Sports ticket $20 – $50 (INR 1.6k-4k)
Nightclub entry $10 – $20 (INR 830-1.6k)
Drink at a bar $5 – $10 (INR 400-800)

However, entertainment can also be a significant expense if you don’t plan ahead and budget wisely. You can save money by taking advantage of student discounts, free events, and happy hours.

Also Read: A Guide on Cost of Living in San Jose

Utilities and Bills

As a student in San Diego, you will also have to pay for utilities and bills, such as electricity, water, gas, internet, phone, and TV. The cost of utilities and bills depends on the type and size of your accommodation, the number of people you live with, and your usage habits. The average monthly cost of utilities and bills in San Diego for a student is about $150-$200. Here are some different types of utilities and their costs1112

Type Cost
Electricity $80 – $100 (INR 6.6k-8.2k)
Water $50 – $70 (INR 4k-6k)
Gas $20 – $30 (INR 1.6k-2.4k)
Internet $50 – $70 (INR 4k-6k)
Phone $30 – $50 (INR 2.4k-4k)
TV $30 – $50 (INR 2.4k-4k)

You can save money by choosing energy-efficient appliances, turning off lights and devices when not in use, and sharing the costs with your roommates.


San Diego has a convenient and affordable transportation system, with buses, trolleys, trains, and bikes that can take you around the city and beyond. The average monthly cost of transportation in San Diego for a student is about $50-$100 (INR 4k-8k). Here are some different modes of transportation along with their monthly charges: 

Mode Charge
Bus or trolley (one-way) $2.50 (INR 206)
Bus or trolley (monthly pass) $72 (INR 6k)
Train (one-way) $2 – $15 (INR 125-1.2k)
Train (monthly pass) $72 – $182 (INR 6k-15k)
Bike (hourly) $5 (INR 415)
Bike (monthly pass) $15 (INR 1.2k)
Uber or Lyft (per mile) $1 – $2 (INR 80-160)
Car rental (per day) $30 – $50 (INR 2.4k-4k)

But transportation can also be a considerable expense if you don’t choose the best option for your needs. You can save money by walking or biking whenever possible, buying monthly passes or discounted tickets, and avoiding peak hours or surge pricing.

Tips on Reducing the Cost of Living in San Diego

As you can see, the cost of living in San Diego can be quite high for students. But you can reduce that cost through the following tips:

  • Start a part-time job or a side hustle. If you have some spare time and skills, you can earn some extra income by working part-time or doing some freelance work online.
  • Create a budget and stick to it. A budget can help you track your income and expenses, set your financial goals, and avoid overspending or debt.
  • Stop impulse buying and research before spending. Avoid it by researching before spending, comparing prices and reviews, and waiting for 24 hours before making a purchase.
  • Get to know your surroundings and use local resources. San Diego has many local resources that can help you save money as a student like public libraries for books, computers, and internet access; the campus facilities for sports, fitness, and entertainment; the student organizations for networking and socializing; and the local markets for fresh and cheap produce.
  • Stay updated with the latest offers and deals. Use coupons, vouchers, cashback apps, loyalty programs, and referral programs to get access to offers and discounts.

Also Read: A Guide on Cost of Living in Seattle

While thinking of staying in San Diego might be amazing, the high living costs can be a challenge. Make sure to research thoroughly the cost of living in San Diego before deciding to relocate there. 


What salary do I need to live in San Diego?

According to a recent survey conducted in 2022, you need to have an income of at least $76,000 (INR 62L) to live comfortably in San Diego.

Is it expensive to live in San Diego?

The cost of living in San Diego is 44% higher than the national average and 3% more than the state average.

Is 60k a good salary in San Diego?

While you may not be able to afford any additional luxuries with a $60k income, you can certainly afford to live in San Diego with it.

We hope this blog helped you provide all information concerning the cost of living in San Diego. For more such content regarding student life abroad, keep following Leverage Edu.

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