Average Salary in San Diego – A Complete Guide

average salary in san diego

Often referred to as America’s finest city, San Diego in California is home to 1,402,838 people.

Its idyllic beaches, plentiful amenities and family-friendly culture demand a high cost of living.

But do the wages match the lifestyle?

We’ve put together the following guide to help you decide if you can afford the San Diego way of life, including the average salary in San Diego that you can expect, average living costs and more.

Average salary in San Diego

The median income for jobs in San Diego is $81k, which has recently increased by 2%. This works out as an hourly rate of approximately $40.50, which is considerably higher than the national average of $10.94 hourly wage.

Average salary jobs in San Diego

If you want to earn the average salary in San Diego, the following jobs offer an excellent wage.

·       Software engineer

·       Project manager

·       Mechanical engineer

·       Operations manager

·       Research scientist

The exact salary you need to live in San Diego will depend on your outgoings, saving goals and the size of your family.

The cost of living in San Diego

There’s no hiding from the fact that San Diego is an expensive city to live in. Here’s a breakdown of the areas you need to consider.


Whilst the cost of living in San Diego is 3% more than in LA, its housing costs are cheaper.

Houses in San Diego cost an average of $840k. To get a mortgage approved for a house of this value, you will need to be earning at least the average salary, have a decent down payment and only a small amount of debt.

If you’re struggling to get a large mortgage approved, follow these tips to increase your chances.

·       Show more income – a large salary does help, but there are other ways to show more income such as income from rental properties, interest or dividends from investments and any money earned from side hustles.

·       Pay off debt- mortgage lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio, so the lower it is the better. Even paying off a small amount of existing debt can make a huge difference.

·       Increase your down payment to at least 20% – it could be worth saving more before buying a house so you can get a bigger loan.

·       Get multiple quotes – if you have more than one offer, you can go back to lenders to see if they will increase the amount they will lend you.

If you rent, the cost of an apartment is on average $2,916 per month.


As with every city around the world, where you buy your food at which restaurant you go to will ultimately determine how much money you spend on food.

On average, you can expect to eat out for between $15-$36 per meal. To get an idea of food prices, here is what the basics will cost you on average:

·       12 eggs – $5.65

·       500g cheese – $6

·       1kg potatoes – $2.22

·       1-literer milk – $1.10

·       Bread – $3.50

Regardless of your earnings, don’t forget to budget for your groceries.


Taking a bus or using the Metropolitan Transit System are relatively inexpensive ways to travel in San Diego.

Using your car is the most convenient way to travel, but don’t forget to factor rising gas prices into your monthly budget.


The majority of people in San Diego will have health insurance because the U.S government does not provide health benefits. Health insurance stops you from having to pay a lot of money to doctors or hospitals if you get sick or hurt. Every time you get medical care, you need to pay for it.

The average cost of healthcare in California is $537, depending on factors such as your age, health and the type of plan that you want to take out.  

The average cost of childcare in San Diego is $999 a month. This depends on how many children you have and the number of hours you require.


If you have children, childcare can be one of your biggest expenses.


Unfortunately, the tax rate in San Diego is at the higher end of the scale. Residents will need to pay 7.75% of their salaries. This amount is broken down into:

·       California state tax: 6%

·       San Diego city tax: 0.25%

·       San Diego County local tax: 1%

·       San Diego County district tax: 0.5%

Handle tax day like a pro with these tips.

·       Always file on time to avoid paying late fees and interest. If you have a valid reason why you can’t meet the deadline, make sure you file for an extension.

·       Double check your deductions – it’s important to make sure your deductions are correct to avoid paying too much or not enough tax.

·       Have you made any mistakes in your tax return? Even spelling your name incorrectly or entering the wrong social security number can cause issues and delays with your tax return.

Other monthly expenses to budget for

In addition to the above areas, you may need to factor the following into your budget.

Cell phone – cell phone bills can vary from $40 to over $100 for a family.

Pet care, food and insurance – the monthly expense for pets will vary depending on what animal you have and how many. Be aware that if your pet requires any regular medication or a specific diet, this will cost you more.

Life insurance – the amount you pay for your life insurance will vary by state,  however you will pay an average of $66 in California for life insurance.

Monthly subscriptions – from gym memberships to food boxes and magazine deliveries, Americans love a subscription. Be sure to factor these into your monthly budget and cancel them if you don’t use them or need to cut costs.

School fees – if you have children that are school age, you may decide to pay for private tuition. These fees vary considerably so it’s worth asking for a few quotes to compare.

San Diego – what to do in the local area

If you can afford to live in this beautiful Californian city, there are lots to do for people of all ages. Take a look at the list of highlights below and enjoy where you live.

·       Embarcadero – packed full of shops, breathtaking sights and eateries, San Diego’s walkable harbor front is a popular place for both tourists and residents.

·       Balboa park – a 1,200-acre park with cultivated areas, an award-winning zoo and museums to explore.

·       Point Loma – the west of San Diego bay is worth visiting to enjoy some amazing views by a rocky peninsula.

·       La Jolla – this oceanfront community is surrounded by water on three sides and is situated on a rocky headland.

·       Food and drink – San Diego has a Spanish heritage and is close to Mexico, meaning visitors and residents are treated to some mouth watering dishes such as fish tacos and enchiladas.

How does San Diego compare to the rest of America?

Many people have a desire to live in an American city, making them quite expensive places to set up home. This is because they provide extensive employment opportunities, facilities and culture. Housing and taxes are the highest factors that contribute to the high cost of living in the major American cities.

Here’s a breakdown of the top five most expensive American cities to live in.

1.       New York – 8.5 million people call Manhattan home and everything costs more there, from groceries to public transport.

2.       Honolulu – the second most expensive place to live in the U.S has just over one million residents. The good news is the employment rate there is quite low at 3.8%, so if you do decide to live here there is plenty of job opportunities.

3.       San Francisco – the average home price in San Francisco will set you back around $1.6 million in the center. It’s estimated that a family of four would need a combined household income of $128,878 to live comfortably.

4.       Washington – more than 670,000 people call Washington home. The average household income there is $90,842 which is just enough to cover living costs after taxes have been deducted.

5.       Orange County – this area is known for its Fortune500 companies and large amount of celebrities that live here. Homes are valued in Orange County at more than $1 million.

 Is San Diego affordable for you?

Now you know the average salary in San Diego and the cost of living, it’s time to work out whether it’s somewhere that you can afford to live.

For help with your personal finances, our blog contains the latest advice on all things money, from earning and spending to saving.

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