February 10, 2013

How I Live in San Francisco for $41/day

Our plan was to go after enterprise customers when we reached our target retention levels of 30%.  The team did a great job of getting us there and now it’s my turn to fulfill my end of the bargain with getting enterprise customers.  San Francisco has the largest concentration of our most qualified customers for Ecquire – Google Apps and Salesforce users.  On top of needing more customers, it looks like we need another engineer to keep up with demand which I didn’t plan for so I don’t want to take a paycheck if I can avoid it in case the right person comes along.

For the last four weeks, here’s how I ate the healthiest, been the healthiest, happiest and most productive I’ve ever been while being in one of the most beautiful cities in the World for $1,050.

The Perfect Storm
I knew that I was going to have to be in the Bay area at some point but I happened to watch Jack Reacher and read The Flinch within a couple days of each other.  I would not recommend doing this if you are a risk averse person.  During this time, my best friend had his 4th kid and his car broke down so I left him the keys to my car.  I made a decision to get rid of everything I owned except what could fit into two bags.

Contents of my bags

Killspencer Messenger bag:

Computer Charger
Passport Folio
Survival manual
Water bottle (actually did the hydration challenge)

North Face Bag:

New Balance Minimus
Flip Flops
Three pairs of workout shorts
5 pair of Underwear
1 Nivea 3 in 1 Shampoo/Body Wash/Shaving Cream
4 Tshirts for workout or for wearing.
1 under armor shirt for running when cold
Lock, Goggles, Deodorant, Cologne, Mach 3, Floss
4 pair of Lululemon Socks (premium socks but worth it)
2 Pair of ifttt socks (Thanks, Nate)


On My Person
Chrome Hoodie:
Contents of Chrome Hoodie: Clipper Card, Tooth Brush, Tooth Paste, Phone Charger (If I left my bags anywhere, this would be all I needed to stay over anywhere. Notice the strategic placement of the toothbrush.  This compartment also housed the Clipper card).



Not on my person:  Three really nice dress shirts (more on this later)

Still don’t believe that I actually just have two bags and did this? This happened the first night I was in SF (Thank you Alice for the reservations).

Where / How I slept:

Each night I’d either stay at the Adelaide Hostel, at a friend’s house or on someone’s couch in exchange for coffee as apart of the Couches 4 Coffee Program offered by one of the startups I help.  If I stay at the hostel, it’s $25/night and $27 on the weekends. It’s in the Tenderloin district which gave me all the entertainment I needed.


Where / How I worked: 

From being a mentor at the Thiel Foundation, I was able to use NextSpace offices on 1 Hadelaide when I needed to.  If I wasn’t there, I worked out of Ritual Coffee, The Hostel, RocketSpace (thanks Bangel for not blowin my cover), or Four Barrel Coffee.

Where / How I ate: 

San Francisco  has the best farmers markets every day and where I’d usually get a fresh apple and banana for breakfast totaling 91 cents.  Here’s a list of Farmer’s Markets in SF where you can get the freshest, cheapest and best food every single day.

I’d regularly go to Plant, Corazon, or Herbivore for a fresh juice ($4.75) as a meal once or twice a day.

Rincon Market has about 5 meals there for under $5.  I’d usually get quinoa salad with cranberries from there for $4.99.

The only thing I can do during the day is exercise or work on Ecquire. That’s it. I can’t really go anywhere else so finding the next meal I could get for under $5 or for free became fun and like a game.  So the free meal from twitter on their roof was magical (Thanks, Nim).




Here’s what my schedule looks like on a given day:

Meeting with potential customer took precedent over everything and was the sole reason to come to SF.  This was what a sample schedule looked like for me.

5:00AM: wake up.
Eat banana and apple, hard boiled egg. $1
Walk or run to the Y (1.5 Miles)
Swim at Y, Hot Tub, Steam Room, Shower. $5 day pass
6:45: Ecquire
11:00:Lunch at Plant, Herbivore, or Corazon (juice) $4.75
11:45:  Ecquire
2:00 Rincon – Quinoa/couscous salad with cranberries $4.99
3:00 Ecquire
4:30 Crossfit SOMA (I paid for this myself, it’s the only expense I had)
6:00: Run to Rincon or Plant from Soma Xfit for dinner. $4.75-$12
6: 30: Yoga
8:00: Ecquire
8:30: Read Survival Manual
9-10: Pass out at Adelaide Hostel. $25-27

Daily Total: $41

Credit Where Credit’s Due:

If I had to give credit to two places it’d be Plant for the ability to get a freshly made juice for $4.75 and the Embarcadero YMCA. Because I am on my brother’s YMCA membership, I can access the YMCA as a day pass for $5/day. Here’s what I got out of $5/day at the Y (Special thanks to Jolson, Lauren, Dan, Danny, TeeJay and Richard of the YMCA)

Shower (with soap and shampoo)
Hot Tub
Steam Room
Swimming Pool
Towel Service (clean and free towels to use)
Workout Facility
Blow Dryer – not for hair but for when I had to emergency wash clothes and then dry them.
Locker to store stuff for the day so I don’t show up at meetings looking like I live in San Francisco for $41/day
Plastic Bags for clothes (very functional)
The swimsuit dryer thing.
Computer lab.
The Most beautiful rooftop that’s open most of the day to go work quietly in the sun.


BTW the Embarcadero Y is in the Financial District of SF and a block from Salesforce where I creeped everyday looking for someone new to talk to coming out of that building like when I saw Jevon and he asked me to send him our latest deck.

Across the street from the Y is Patty’s Cleaners. I have a few dress shirts that I drop off here and purposely only pick one of these up at a time. It was very confusing to Patty why I only wanted one shirt at a time when both were ready but we worked it out. I’d shower at the Y after a morning workout, walk to Patty’s across the street with a t-shirt, put the nice shirt on right there and have the best looking shirt in the room when I showed up for a meeting.


Supplemental Income

All of these expenses are travel expenses while I’m here but I don’t need any money to pay myself for anything so I can sustainably stay. And I was able to supplement some of my income by doing calls.

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 1.48.57 PM

If you ever want to talk urban survival or get some of the goods that I can’t post publicly, give me a call there. Atlee snapped this photo of me doing a clarity call from RocketSpace.

Lessons Learned:

Be impeccable with the timing of your clothes drop off and pick up schedule and just planning in general. I had a lapse and forgot I probably wanted a change of clothes and my hoodie at night. Luckily, I was walking on the street in a short sleeve shirt, freezing my bits off and I ran into Paul and Nik from Learndot. They looked perplexed at what I was wearing and invited me to dinner then to crash on their place. I told them I could pay for dinner because they saved money on the hostel but they refused. Damn Canadians are so nice. SO try their software if you sell b2b solutions.
Amazingly benevolent people are more pronounced in the startup world than I think anywhere else.  Like Lane Becker and his wife Courtney.  They demanded that I stay in their spare bedroom for a few days. I’m pretty sure Lane could befriend a wolverine. He and Courtney are great.  Thanks guys.

Having nothing for granted is a pretty great place to be.  Enjoying a place to sit comfortably in the sun was something I would have never got so much enjoyment out of before.

The less shit I have and the less money I have, the more fulfilling each day seemed for me. Like I used to do and like most of you do, we take for granted being able to use a bathroom. For me, discovering a good place was like each day’s small treasure.

The other thing I noticed is that every single person I talk to about what I’m trying to do finds it interesting, inspirational and then offers to help in any way. It’s always good to be reminded of the fact that people are inherently good. Another thing I noticed at the YMCA is that the guys who come in there who are constantly smiling, the most personable and look the healthiest, the ones you can hear laughing seem to be the ones without money and the people in dress clothes going to or coming from work for the most part seem like miserable pricks. Of course I’m no one to judge based on appearance but someone who’s smiling and laughing have to be doing something right. Right?

I immediately want to push myself further having done this and already started taking notes on how I could do this again for $10/day.

5 Comments on “How I Live in San Francisco for $41/day

Jeff SKI Kinsey
February 12, 2013 at 8:46 pm

I like it. A lot. In winter of 2003/04 while finishing up my book, I spent the winter in Ft. Lauderdale, on a motorcycle, and tried to stay under that $10 per day limit. Made it most days. It is both rewarding and frustrating… like the night on the park bench in the rain [but under a shelter roof]. My secret was a hotel only every third or fourth night. Unti the prices changed with Spring. The startup life isn’t for everyone.

Abdul Haseeb Awan
March 7, 2013 at 1:16 am

I went to Montreal for Lean Machine. Food was free in the event. I booked a hostel but my group mate took me to his house for second night. Did ride share to cover my gas cost and all this helped me in actually spending 50$ for three days :)

I am sure we will remember these days one day !

March 9, 2015 at 12:01 am

I am applying for a coding college in San francisco that promises a job in 12 weeks, but I have very little money to spend on living while attending the course. My wife and infant daughter will be staying with her mom in Oregon, but I will need to find ways to live on very little for the three months before I get a job. I admire your frugal living and I’d love to talk with you to recieve more advice on this endeavor. Sincerely, Joseph Meeko :)

March 9, 2015 at 12:02 am
Paul DeJoe
March 9, 2015 at 3:49 am

Way cool, Joseph. Feel free to reach out anytime if we can help with any more tips.


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