Cost of Living in Santa Barbara – A Complete Guide

Cost of Living in Santa Barbara – A Complete Guide

As you are probably already aware (if you are considering moving to Santa Barbara), it’s an expensive place to live. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. But, assuming you’re still interested, our complete guide to the cost of living in Santa Barbara should give you all the information you need to make a fully informed decision.

What is the Cost of Living in Santa Barbara?

As you might expect, the cost of living in Santa barbara county is extremely high. But what does that actually mean? What are the actual monthly costs of living in Santa Barbara?

Well, let’s start with the most important factor, the cost of having somewhere to live. One of the main reasons Santa Barbara is so expensive to live in is the cost of renting or buying property. There is a real shortage of property for sale and rent in the city. This means that you are likely to pay much more than pretty much anywhere else in the US. On average, the cost for one person to rent an apartment is around $2400.

If you consider that the average salary for someone living and working in Santa Barbara is just over $5k, it shows how expensive this is.

What about the Cost of other Items?

So, accommodation is expensive. What about other items such as food and transport? Well, you won’t be surprised to hear that these aren’t cheap either. The average amount a single person spends on food in any given month is around $800. They also spend around $70 on transport.

Looking even closer at costs of individual items, we can see that the average lunch costs around $20, a coffee is nearly $6 and a beer is also $6.

Santa Barbara tends to attract people who have lots of money. Wherever this is the case, prices are always likely to go up. However, the upside of this is that the standard of living is likely to go up too.

Why is it Expensive?

As with most things, the cost is determined by demand. The more ‘in demand’ something is, the more expensive it is likely to be. The other key factor in determining the cost of anything is scarcity or supply. In the case of Santa Barbara, both of these are working together to create a high-expense scenario. People want to live there, mostly due to the wide sandy beaches, climate and luxury lifestyle. This, coupled with the relatively small footprint of the city, and very limited property volumes, means that living here is very expensive indeed.

However, for those who can afford to live here, it offers a standard of living that is extremely high, and that rivals any city in the world.

Is Paying More to Live in Santa Barbara?

Santa Barbara’s climate is probably one of the most favourable in the world. The amount of sun it gets, it’s temperature and humidity levels all make it a very comfortable place to live. Its proximity to the Pacific Ocean also means it’s a great place for watersports or just sitting on the beach. It’s no wonder so many people choose to make this their home, if they can afford it.

Is it a Good Place to go to College?

In terms of enjoyment, Santa Barbara would be great place to go to college. If you are into surfing or spending time at the beach, being a student in this city would be great!

In terms of options for further education, Santa Barbara county has Santa Barbara City College and the University of California.

What’s the Closest Airport to Santa Barbara?

Despite Santa Barbara, CA bring a great place to live, you are likely to want to travel now and again. So, how close is the nearest airport?

Well, the advantage of Santa Barbara being a relatively small city is that the airport is less than 12km from the city center. This means it’s really easy to jump on a flight from Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.

Aside from the airport that’s close to the city, there are also good transport to the rest of the country via road. for example, it’s just two hours of driving to Los Angeles and just under four hours to San Diego.

It is also possible to get the train from Santa Barbara to many other US cities, though in some cases this might take longer than driving.

What Contributes to the High Housing Costs?

The average monthly rent in Santa Barbara is considerably higher than the national average (double in some cases). So, why is is such an expensive city to live in? Why is the average rent so expensive?

Well, as with anything, the Santa Barbara cost of living is primarily driven by high property costs and a strong supply of people willing to pay high rent for the privilege of living in the city.

Is it possible to Save Money in Santa Barbara?

As with anywhere, saving money comes down to what your costs are verses what you earn each month.

Clearly, the more expensive the place you live is relative to your earnings, the less you are likely to be able to save. However, there are some universal principles that will allow you to save as much money as possible, no matter where you live.

The main contributing factor to your overall cost of living is likely to be your rent or mortgage. Assuming you are renting an apartment, and that you live alone, this is likely to represent the biggest opportunity you have to save some money.

As with anything, rent is based on supply and demand. This means that the more people want to live in the same place as you, the more it’s likely to cost. So, in order to save money, you need to work out whether paying that premium is worth it.

In the case of Santa Barbara, you might consider if it might be worth not living right in the city center, or perhaps not so close to the beach. Sure, it’s not idea, but moving just a few miles down the road might save you hundreds of dollars each month.

Another option which is likely to have a huge impact on your overall cost of living is having someone live with you. Whether that’s a friend or a stranger, if you can share the cost of your rent, and then split other costs such as heating and other utility bills you can really make a difference to your NET position at the end of the month.

The cost of living in Santa Barbara is always likely to be higher than in most places, that’s unlikely to change. In fact, if anything, it’s likely to get worse. Anything you can do to cut your living expenses is likely to help considerably.

We won’t go through all the different ways you could look to save money here, but we will give a few examples so you can see what sort of mindset you need to use if you are going to save money, and to give you ideas for the creative ways it is possible to save money each month.

  1. Coffee

We all love a good cup of coffee in the morning. And let’s face it, the days of instant coffee are long gone. However, dropping in to Starbucks every morning is a cost we could all do without. At $6 for a cup of coffee, the expense definitely mounts up. If you add it all up, that’s $30/week, $120 per month and something in the region of $1440 per year…on coffee.

Of course, we’re not suggesting you never go to Starbucks (or other coffee shop), but there are things you can do to help you avoid it every day – without having to kick your coffee habit.

There are some really good and affordable coffee machines on the market today. For just $250 and 5 extra minutes each morning you could save yourself over $1000 per year.

Now, $1000 isn’t going to make the difference between living in Santa Barbara or not, of course. But it is a great example of how a small lifestyle change can have a considerable impact on your life.

  1. Subscriptions

We’ve all done it. You sign up for a free trial for a new subscription and never cancel it. Each month you see the payment go out and vow to cancel it – but you never do. Again, the reason you’ve not done it is because it’s a relatively small amount of money. $10 perhaps. The pain simply isn’t enough to get you to make the change. However, this adds up. Let’s say you have 5 of these small subscriptions that you could live without. That’s $50 per month. Over a year that’s $600. Again, on their own, this isn’t going to make or break your finances, but if you can apply changes like this across all your spending habits, you could save thousands.

  1. Fitness

Fitness is something most of us spend lots of money on. Whether it’s the latest fitness gear, home workout kit or expensive gym memberships, fitness is big business.

However, you will often find that you can enjoy 95% of the benefits of your training without the added gimmicks that might give you that last 5%. For example, working out outside is free. Instead of running on that $5k treadmill in a climate-controlled gym, why not go for a run along the beach. There are many people in the world who would give anything for that experience. If you live in Santa Barbara, you can do it for free, every day!

As you can see from the examples above, there isn’t a magic answer for saving money. However, there is a mindset that will allow you to consistently save money in small amounts . these small amounts will then accumulate and add up over weeks, months and years. Will they take you from being able to live in one of the cheaper parts of the world to California, Santa Barbara, probably not. However, it will make living wherever you choose to live significantly more affordable, and make it more likely that you are able to invest money for your future, or support dependents.

What Does Santa Barbara Cost to Visit?

Santa Barbara is an expensive city to live in, but what if you just want to go there on vacation? Well, unsurprisingly, that’s fairly expensive too. Hotels and restaurants are more expensive here than most other places in the world. However, most people who have been there will tell you that, if you can afford it, it’s definitely worth it. Those long sandy beaches, great restaurants and relaxed way of living make it a great place to go on holiday.


Santa Barbara, California is a great place to live. The standard of living is among the highest of any city in the world. However, that comes at a cost. The cost of living in Santa Barbara is significantly higher than the national average. The city lies really close to some beautiful beaches on the west coast. This means that the cost of living is inflated by more people and greater competition for housing, public transportation, public schools and many other living expenses.

If you can afford to live in Santa Barbara, the cost of living is more than justified. However, your earnings would need to also be significantly above average for this to be comfortable, and for most people it won’t be affordable.

Previous Post
cost of living in east los angeles

Cost of Living in East Los Angeles – A Guide

Next Post
Blue States With Low Cost of Living: A Complete Guide

Blue States With Low Cost of Living: A Complete Guide

Related Posts