Erik S. Haney CEO | Founder
Erik S. Haney
CEO | Founder

Santa Barbara Cost of Living [2024] |💰Santa Barbara Living Cost Guide [Rent, Home Prices + More]

Situated between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara is a gorgeous coastal city in Southern California. The city is not only a popular tourist destination, but it is also known for its diverse economy, pleasant weather, and many colleges and universities. All of these benefits and more draw thousands of people to the area every year. If you are thinking about moving to the city, then you may be wondering whether or not you can afford the Santa Barbara cost of living. This is everything you need to know about the cost of living in Santa Barbara, including real estate prices, daily expenses, and more.

Santa Barbara Cost of Living Index

The Santa Barbara Cost of Living Index is one of the best ways to analyze whether or not you can afford to live in the city. The Cost of Living Index compares the cost of goods and services in an area to the national average. The national Cost of Living Index is set at 100.

The Santa Barbara, California Cost of Living Index is 154.7. This means that the Santa Barbara cost of living is 54.7% more expensive than the national average. It is also slightly higher than the California Cost of Living Index of 149.9. Housing is the main contributor to the high cost of living. Grocery and healthcare costs are also above the national average, while utilities and transportation costs are below the national average.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

Is Santa Barbara expensive? Another great way to answer this question is to take a look at the Consumer Price Index. The Consumer Price Index, also known as CPI, is used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to measure changes in the prices of everyday expenses in a given region. Santa Barbara is a part of the Western region. Over the past year, the CPI in Santa Barbara has risen 3.9%. Over the past three months, the CPI has risen 0.4%.

The biggest contributor to this rise is the cost of energy, which advanced 5.1% due to an increase in the price of electricity. Food prices were also a major contributor, rising 3.8% since 2022.

Consumer Expenditure Survey

Another good way to analyze the average cost of living in Santa Barbara is to check out the Consumer Expenditure Survey. This survey is also conducted by the BLS and analyzes the spending habits of consumers in a given region. During the 2021-22 calendar year, the BLS reports that households in Santa Barbara spent an average of $78,778. This is higher than any other region in the United States and is higher than the national average of $70,052.

The average household in Santa Barbara spends less than the national average in the categories of food, transportation, healthcare, education, and social security. The categories of housing, entertainment, and cash contributions are all higher than the national average.

Family Budget in Santa Barbara

Are you curious about the Santa Barbara, California cost of living for you and your family? According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, a family of four would need to earn $122,397 ($10,200 per month) to comfortably live in Santa Barbara. This is how this budget breaks down monthly.

  • Housing: $2,374
  • Taxes: $1,541
  • Child care: $1,434
  • Health care: $1,433
  • Transportation: $1,386
  • Food: $859
  • Other necessities: $1,172

Of course, these numbers will depend greatly on your family size and lifestyle. For two people with no children, you would only need to earn $79,475 per year. A single person in the Santa Barbara area would only need $62,400 per year to live comfortably.

Cost of Household Items, Utilities, Gas & Groceries in Santa Barbara

How much does it cost to live in Santa Barbara? The cost of living in Santa Barbara largely depends on how much you spend on everyday expenses such as utilities, gas, and groceries. Here are a few Santa Barbara living expenses you will need to consider.

  • Steak (1lb): $10.00
  • Milk (1 gal.): $4.57
  • Eggs (1 dozen): $5.00
  • Potatoes (5lbs): $20.50
  • Bread (1 loaf): $4.66
  • Beer (1 bottle): $1.73
  • Movie ticket: $15.00
  • McDonald’s meal: $12.00
  • Average cell phone bill (monthly): $43.00

Source: Numbeo

The average cost of utilities in Santa Barbara will be around $171.20 each month. You can also expect to pay around $50 per month in car insurance, according to CarInsurance.com. Santa Barbara spends less than the national average on transportation due to the public transportation options the city has to offer. Santa Barbara MTD provides bus service throughout the city, while Amtrak’s Coast Starlight Train and Pacific Surfliner Train connect the city to a nationwide train network.

Santa Barbara Real Estate Market

Are you on the hunt for Santa Barbara homes for sale? As mentioned before, Santa Barbara real estate is one of the main contributors to the high cost of living in the area. The Santa Barbara, CA real estate market is very competitive, and homes in the area receive two offers on average and sell in around 38 days.

According to Redfin, the average home price in Santa Barbara is $1.7 million, which is higher than the national average of $412,020. Santa Barbara, California real estate prices are up 7.9% compared to last year. Before you search for Santa Barbara, CA homes for sale, you will want to choose the right neighborhood for your needs.

Graph of the median sale price in Santa Barbara, CA

A few of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Santa Barbara include:

  • Bel Air: Quiet neighborhood with large homes and spacious yards. Median home price of $2.79 million.
  • Alta Mesa: This safe neighborhood boasts a crime rate that is 23% lower than the national average. Median home price of $1.68 million
  • Lower Riviera: Popular neighborhood close to many of the city’s top-rated schools. Median home price of $2.47 million
  • West Mesa: This beachfront neighborhood offers stunning waterfront views and easy access to surfing and swimming right in your own backyard. Median home price of $2.07 million.

Santa Barbara Rental Market - Average Rent in Santa Barbara

If you are more interested in renting Santa Barbara real estate, then there are many options for you to consider. According to RentCafe, the average rent in Santa Barbara, California is $2,836 each month. Although Santa Barbara rent is high, it is still lower than many California cities such as San Francisco ($3,336), San Diego ($3,016), and San Jose ($3,021).

The most affordable neighborhoods to rent in Santa Barbara include Eastside Santa Barbara, Eucalyptus Hill, and Lower Riviera, where the average rent is $2,298 per month. The most expensive neighborhoods in the area include Campanil - Yankee Farm, East Mesa, and West Mesa, where the average rent is $4,179 per month.

Can you afford Santa Barbara rent? According to the National Low Income Coalition’s Out of Reach Report, you would need to earn $51.29 per hour ($2,667 per month) to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the city without spending over 30% of your yearly income on housing. This comes out to about $106,680 in income per year.

Is it more affordable to buy or rent in Santa Barbara? Figuring out the city’s price-to-rent ratio is a great way to determine whether you should buy or rent Santa Barbara, CA real estate. The higher the ratio, the better the area is for renters. The lower the ratio, the better the area is for buyers. The equation for the price-to-rent ratio is:

Median Home Price / Median Annual Rent

Here’s the equation with Santa Barbara’s information plugged in.

$1,265,000 / $34,032 = 37.1. 

This high price-to-rent ratio suggests that Santa Barbara is better for renters. The 2022 Rental Affordability Report supports this claim, stating that it is more affordable to rent Santa Barbara real estate.

Average Salary & Household Income in Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara cost of living is high, but the above-average income and salary in the city can help to offset these costs. The average income in Santa Barbara is $89,243, which is higher than the state average of $84,097 and the national average of $69,021.

According to PayScale, the average salary in Santa Barbara is $84,000 per year. Santa Barbara is one of the state’s largest economic drivers. Some of the top employers in the city include the County of Santa Barbara, The University of California - Santa Barbara, Cottage Health Organization, and AppFolio.

Here are a few common jobs in Santa Barbara, as well as their average salaries, according to the BLS.

  • Fast Food and Counter Workers: $33,880
  • Maintenance and Repair Workers: $51,410
  • Audio and Video Technicians: $61,970
  • Elementary School Teachers: $86,690
  • Occupational Therapists: $105,770
  • Operations Managers: $127,880
  • Physicists: $149,660
  • Marketing Managers; $171,370
  • Dentists: $205,500
  • Family Medicine Physicians: $258,040

Income, Sales & Property Taxes in Santa Barbara

Here’s an overview of taxes in Santa Barbara.

California Income Tax Rate

Your income tax is the tax that is levied on your individual income or business-related income. The California income tax rate varies as the state has a progressive income tax system. California has nine tax rates ranging from 1% to 12.3%. Your tax rate will depend on your income.

Sales Tax in Santa Barbara CA

Sales tax is determined by the government and is imposed on the sale of goods and services. Sales tax in Santa Barbara, California is set at 8.750%.

Here’s how the Santa Barbara sales tax rate is broken down:

California State: 7.250%

Santa Barbara County: 0.500%

Santa Barbara: 1.000%

Total sales tax in Santa Barbara: 8.750%

It is important to note that the sales tax rate on the U.C. Santa Barbara campus is 7.75%.

Santa Barbara Property Tax

Santa Barbara property taxes are collected by the Treasurer-Tax Collector. Santa Barbara County property taxes are calculated by multiplying the property value by the millage rate. You can look up and pay Santa Barbara property tax on the county’s website.

Santa Barbara vs. Monterey Cost of Living

Many people who are thinking about making a move to Santa Barbara also consider the city of Monterey. Like Santa Barbara, Monterey offers oceanfront living and amazing natural attractions. But how does the Monterey cost of living stack up to the cost of living in Santa Barbara? The Monterey Cost of Living Index is 151.9, making it slightly more affordable than Santa Barbara. 

Here’s what you need to know about the expenses you’ll find in each city.

  • Average home price: $1.70 million in Santa Barbara vs. $1.19 million in Monterey
  • Average rent: $2,836 in Santa Barbara vs. $2,589 in Monterey
  • Average salary: $84,000 in Santa Barbara vs. $81,000 in Monterey
  • Median household income: $89,243 in Santa Barbara vs. $92,840 in Monterey
  • Average monthly expenses: $10,200 in Santa Barbara vs. $9,517 in Monterey
  • Average utilities: $171.20 in Santa Barbara vs. $193.54

As you can see, Monterey offers more affordable rent, utilities, and monthly expenses. However, both home prices and utilities are more expensive in Monterey. In the end, both cities have a similar cost of living. So, it is up to you to decide which city is a better fit for you.

Although the Santa Barbara cost of living is on the higher end, you won’t regret calling this incredible city home. The waterfront real estate, friendly people, and gorgeous weather make this city worth the price. When you are ready to head to Santa Barbara, then let Movegreen assist you. We are the top Santa Barbara movers and will work hard to make your moving experience a fabulous one. Call the team at Movegreen today at 866-684-7336 to discuss your relocation and receive a free estimate.

Erik S. Haney CEO | Founder
Erik S. Haney
CEO | Founder
Movegreen was established in 2007 with a vision to innovate the age old trade of Moving and Storage. The company has grown by over 20% year after year and recently expanded our territory to all of Ventura County and Northern LA County . Movegreen has received more than 15 service awards and is the premier Moving and Storage company on the Central Coast.
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