Ways to save money while living in San Diego

When it comes to the cost of living in San Diego, we’d be lying if we said that it was cost effective for you. It’s not. In fact, San Diego is one of the most expensive cities to live in the U.S. But look, San Diego has SO much to offer its residents; you are close to immaculate beaches, have some of the most unique, beautifully crafted restaurants, breweries & bars to enjoy, and so many more things that you can’t get anywhere else.

So, in our opinion, the cost to live here is worth it. But even still, it helps to have a few money saving hacks in your back pocket to save you some cash.  Here are best hacks for living in San Diego & saving money:

10 Best Ways to Save Money in San Diego



Saving money on where you live in San Diego

How to save money on a home or rent in San Diego

The easiest answer for this is to go ten minutes east of the coast. The most sought after areas to live in San Diego are the beach towns and downtown, so if you look just ten minutes east of those places, you will find much more affordable housing. And better still, you might find a quieter neighborhood than the one you were originally looking at.

aerial view of a San Diego suburb, Wats to save money in San Diego

How to save money on the best things to do in San Diego

Visit the San Diego Zoo for free!

During the month of October, kids can visit the San Diego Zoo for absolutely free! You can bring your children to enjoy a world renowned zoo for free in October, every year! The only requirements are the child(ren) must be between 3-11 years old and be accompanied by a paying adult. 


Explore Balboa Parks museums for free

Once a month on a Tuesday Balboa Park has Resident Free Days. These allow free entry to one of their many museums if you are a San Diego resident (meaning you must present a San Diego drivers license or a photographic ID with your address). The museums are scheduled for this on a rotating basis. The only catch is that some museums only allow free entry only to parts of their exhibits. But still, if you have children or enjoy museums this is a great way to spend some time and save money.

fountain in Balboa Park, Ways to save money in San Diego

San Diego Restaurant Week

Each year, San Diego puts on an annual Restaurant Week event, where local eateries participate to provide deals for residents! This is a great way to enjoy some higher end establishments that may not be feasible on a standard budget.



Check out the free events!

Something to love about San Diego is that there are multiple events throughout the city on any given weekend. Seriously. You want to go to the concert, see a show, attend a festival, do a group yoga class… it’s available for you! With year round beautiful weather, San Diego is able to put on events year round! You can easily find them by doing a simple online search for ‘events in San Diego this weekend’. By doing this, we’ve been able to attend festivals for free, take free yoga classes, enjoy many, many farmers markets, and much more!

Parking in San Diego

No one really enjoys finding and paying for parking, and in most other metropolitan areas, paid parking is something that you can’t avoid. However in San Diego, we have a few tips to help you save money when it comes to parking and not fronting the cost of it.

Parking in Downtown San Diego

Downtown San Diego has a blend of parking options available; from metered parking, to lots, and garages. This leaves a lot of various options for where you can physically park your vehicle and provides a lot of options for how much you want to pay.

A few tips to save you money when parking downtown:

(1) The meters are free after 8pm and free on Sundays

(2) Most meters allow you to pay for parking via an app, such as Park Mobile or Call to Park. These allow you to easily add more time to your meter without fearing you’ll end up with a ticket.

(3) Don’t bother parking downtown during a Padres game. During baseball season, the parking downtown can be tricky. Many metered spots are unavailable and the lots are either one of two things:

(a) They are closed only for monthly, residential paid parked cars

(b) They increase the prices to $12-$50/hour parking rates.

Our suggestion would be to either utilize a rideshare service, or park somewhere for free outside of downtown and rideshare to your downtown destination during baseball season.

(4) If you live downtown or are trying to go from somewhere downtown to another downtown location, take advantage of FRED. No, it’s not a person named Fred, FRED is a free ride shuttle service available downtown. Since 2014, this free shuttle service has been helping San Diegans get from one place to another all within downtown. Simply download the Free Ride San Diego app & order your ride!

street in downtown San Diego, Ways to save money in San Diego

Parking throughout San Diego

San Diego has some incredible places to frequent, most loved are the beaches! A few of our beautiful San Diego beaches are home to paid parking lots, but fear not, because most of them are within walking distance to free or cheaper parking.

(And as someone who doesn’t enjoy lugging all of their beach items, especially if what someone else would call walking distance is actually half a mile, I say with confidence that you can almost always find free parking in San Diego. And parking that is truly within walking distance of a San Diego beach.)

So, don’t bother paying for the paid parking at the beaches.


Use a different airport

While the San Diego airport is beautiful & conveniently located, it isn’t the quickest or most affordable airport for San Diegans. In fact, the San Diego airport is the busiest single runway airport in the country!

Instead you can easily fly out of the Los Angeles airport, LAX, for much cheaper. You can get to LAX from San Diego quite easily by:

-Scheduling a rideshare to the airport (Uber, Lyft)

-Take a local train from San Diego to LAX

-Or drive yourself & pay for parking

The trip to LAX is about two hours, but if you’re a cost savvy traveler, this is a great option. Oftentimes international flights out of LAX are significantly cheaper than international flights out of San Diego’s airport.

If you’re looking to explore Mexico, then flying out the Tijuana airport is a stellar option, and one that will save you a ton of money. You can learn more about what to expect and how to feel comfortable flying out the Tijuana airport by crossing their CBX bridge here.

aerial view of downtown San Diego and the san diego airport, Ways to save money in San Diego

Parking at the San Diego Airport

We all know that parking at an airport isn’t a cheap option, but sometimes it’s the best we can do. The SD Airport has a few parking lots, such as Wally Parking and Aladdin, but there is a San Diego hotel that offers airport parking for better rates!

The Sheraton Hotel & Marina offers airport valet parking for a lower cost than the standard airport parking lots. They also offer a shuttle service to and from the airport about every 20-30 minutes. This hotel is located across the street from the San Diego airport, so it’s incredibly convenient.

Military Discounts are available almost anywhere

San Diego is home to multiple military bases, which means that if you are an active military personnel or veteran, you have plenty of places to utilize military discounts. We won’t list them all here, but your best bet (and what we always recommend) is just ask if the place or venue offers a military discount. It never hurts to ask & is always great to save yourself the money by doing so.

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Thinking of moving to San Diego?

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