Life in SF on a Broke Student Budget

Hello again! I haven’t updated in awhile because the past week or so because I’ve been busy with my move to Washington DC! I’m participating in the UCDC program at my school which entails working/interning in the capital, as well as taking two classes (one research seminar and one elective class that has to do with the city). I’ve been here for a week and recently started my internship at the Smithsonian Associates where I’m working as a Digital Marketing intern. Essentially, I’ll be helping out with promoting the various events, programs, and classes that the TSA puts on for its members. I’ve enjoyed it a lot so far, and I love that I can walk into one of the numerous museums on my lunch break and explore.

However, that is not the point of this blog post! I could go on and on, but I will save that for a different post and hopefully, have a pop culture spin on it. The point of this post is how broke I feel out here. You’re probably wondering why I’m feeling that here and now when I’ve been a college student for four years, racking up loans and other expenses. Well, it turns out that Washington DC is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the US. It’s especially hard when you’re working as an unpaid intern and paying expensive tuition and living fees to your school. I’ve been trying to find a website that lists cheap and free events in this city but so far have found little, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing as there seem to be free festivals that you stumble upon while walking around (and all of the Smithsonian museums are free!). Because I’ve been trying to find ways of saving money here, I’ve been inspired to write a post about saving money back home in San Francisco. Here are a few of the ways that have worked for me!

1. One of the best websites that list free or cheap events and happenings in San Francisco is FunCheapSF ( You can find events by day, location, and category. It’s a fantastic resource, especially if you’re like me and often times have no idea what’s happening anywhere. The website also lists their own picks, so you can easily find the most recommended events.

2. Go to free movie screenings! Okay, this is one of my favorite ways of saving money. My friends and I have been doing this for the past few years due to our cheapness and being poor students. It takes a little bit of searching, but the payoff is great. There are a few websites out there that give away passes or find passes to movies that will be coming out. However, keep in mind that having a movie pass does not guarantee you a seat in the theater. The catch is that it is first come, first serve which means that you may have to wait in line hours beforehand, depending on how popular the movie is. A few websites that I’ve gotten movie screening passes from are:
Fat Wallet (go to the last page for the most recent screenings)
Film Metro
SF Station

Again, you’ll need to do a little hunting and give up a few hours of your day, but if you really want to see a movie before everyone else and NOT pay for it, then give it a go. It can be a lot of fun to tell other people you’ve seen an awesome movie before it’s even come out! Even better is if it’s in IMAX (case in point – when I got to see The Dark Knight in IMAX a few days before it was released).

California Academy of Sciences

3. Go to the museums when it’s FREE. San Francisco has a wide variety of museums and unfortunately, almost all of them charge an admission price. However, you can save several dollars by researching when the museum offers free days.

The Asian Art Museum is free on the first Sunday of the month.
Legion of Honor, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and de Young Museum are free on the first Tuesday of the
The Exploratorium is free on the first Wednesday of the month.
The Academy of Sciences is free on the third Wednesday of the month.
To find more free museums, click here

Additionally, if you’re a Bank of American customer, you can check out several museums for free on the first full weekend of the month, just be presenting your Bank of America card. More information here:

4. Twitter is a great resource for deals/freebies/discounts! I know some people balk at our society’s dependence on social media, but it really can be useful. Most businesses and brands are on Twitter now and many offer freebies or discounts to their Twitter followers. Case in point: just this summer I won a pair of tickets to see “Billy Elliot the Musical” through MyBART and a pair of tickets of Outside Lands through EggCartel. Obviously, I was really lucky, but it is possible to win things through Twitter. Just try to keep an eye out for giveaways and tweet like crazy! You’ll never know unless you try!

5. Research restaurants before you go out to eat! Although it’s nice to be able to say you ate lunch at a really great place that you just happened to find while walking around, it would also be smart to Yelp a couple of places beforehand. You can sort places by neighborhood, type of cuisine, and price. It’s even better if you have a smartphone and can use their mobile app on the go! Typically, I stick to places that have one dollar sign ($) or two dollar signs ($$).

6. Utilize sites like GROUPON or LivingSocial. They both have great coupons and discounts on various businesses or activities throughout the city. The catch is that the offers are usually only up for one day so you should be on top of it if you’re seriously considering purchasing a deal. I’m not a huge fan of using these sites only because once I purchase one, I feel obligated to go to the business or restaurant, but if you’ve been intent on visiting a certain place, than buy it! Occasionally the sites do have pretty awesome deals like 2 movie tickets for $9.

7. You’re a student! Take advantage of it! Along with the awesome perks of being young and healthy, being a student means you have the occasional privilege of paying discounted prices. Student prices are not at every establishment, but it pays off to research or ask if there is a discount. Some theaters have student rush tickets, in which you can pay lower prices when you present your student ID card. (Side note = many theaters in SF have rush tickets, which are seats with limited view of the stage. You can buy tickets for these seats that are usually in the front at much lower prices, but you’ll need to wait hours before hand to snatch up the small number of them. My friends and I used to rush “Jersey Boys” a bunch of times and we always paid $25. It was sad when the guy sitting next to my friend realized she had paid $25 for her seat and he had paid almost $200). One of the best student discounts that I’ve used this past year is on my MacBook; I saved almost $100 just because I had a .edu email address. StudentUniverse and STA Travel also offer discounts on plane tickets and other travel packages. I also noticed that when I was in Europe and the UK, many museums and places offered lower prices to students. So even if your ID photo is hideous (like mine), keep it with you at all times because you never know when you might save a couple of bucks or more with it!


One thought on “Life in SF on a Broke Student Budget

  1. Pingback: “But it’s free!” | Where've you been?

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