A cash-conscious student at the prestigious University of California, Berkeley has saved thousands on renting in San Francisco by flying to and from college every day for an entire year – an indictment of how unaffordable San Fran has become…
San Francisco’s iconic Bay Area is renowned around the world for its exorbitant rental rates, which rank as some of the least affordable in the world. It’s forced many Americans to weigh up whether they can afford to accept their dream jobs or university placements, given how expensive it can become just to be close enough to make the position logistically possible.
However, one resourceful graduate appears to have found a savvy means of circumventing crippling rental costs. Rather than rolling over and succumbing to sky-high housing costs, he decided to commute a staggering 92,089 miles from his home in Los Angeles to the University of California, Berkeley… By commercial plane.
The student, who goes by /u/greateranglia on Reddit, shared his story in a now-viral post. Looking to avoid the steep Bay Area rental prices — the most expensive in the entire United States, according to Insider — he devised a self-described “crazy idea” to commute to university instead of relocating.
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Bill (his real name) had already been living happily in Los Angeles and had every intention to return there after completing his one-year civil engineering program, providing another motivation to avoid moving in the first place.
Student housing near Berkeley would have set him back at least $1,600 USD per month, excluding utilities, for a mandatory 12-month lease – despite his program technically lasting only 10 months in total and not requiring daily in-person attendance. Even scarier than this are the prices in the San Francisco metropolitan area surrounding Berkley, where rent prices have increased by 5.4% since 2020 to an average of $3,080 USD per month, as reported by USA Today.
Bill spent a total of $5,592.66 USD on his commuting adventure but also leant heavily on airline miles (including over 400,000 with Alaska Airlines) coupled with a cannily-purchased credit card from Southwest Airlines. Although he was only obligated to be present on campus three times a week, Bill found himself flying up to five times a week if he had an in-person meeting or event. A helpful explainer from Newsweek shows that his spending broke down as follows:
Bill took a total of 238 flights, waking up in the early hours of the morning — 3:30am no less, almost as early as Mark Walhberg — to catch a flight from LAX to SFO, then catch a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to Berkeley before doing it all in reverse at the end of the day.
In total, Bill spent $671.29 USD of the total on BART, $520 USD on parking, $1,948.27 USD on gas, $39.96 USD on inflight WiFi, $1,552.10 USD on Alaska flights, 407,500 Alaska miles, $758.24 USD on Southwest flights, 156,945 Southwest points, $71.30 USD on United flights, 5,500 United miles, $15.60 USD on Avianca flights, 6,500 Avianca miles, and $15.90 USD on Spirit flights.
All in all, Bill not only spent a chunk of cash but also spent approximately 52 days commuting. Though it ultimately saved him thousands of dollars in rent, Bill admits that his plan was a little unhinged:
“This is probably one of the craziest things I’ve done in my life, and I’m so glad I made it through, without missing ANY classes, that itself is a miracle.”Bill, aka @greateranglia
Surprisingly, Bill isn’t the only so-called ‘super-commuter’ to recently enjoy his fifteen minutes of fame: TikTok user @sophiacelentano84 shared a video explaining that she travels from Virginia to Newark by plane for her summer internship at an advertising agency.
Explaining her rationale, she says “Because I only have to be in the office one day a week, honestly it’s cheaper for me to stay at home in Charleston, South Carolina, for the summer with my parents and just pay for plane tickets one day a week than to live in New York full-time.”
@sophiacelentano48 me 🤝 extreme forms of travel #foryou #fyp #supercommuter #corporateintern #summerinternship #marketingintern #commutingbyplane ♬ Everybody Wants To Rule The World – Tears For Fears
Though their decisions may make financial sense, they also belie the grim reality of the wider economic situation: housing should not be so expensive that people are forced to commute hundreds of miles in order to educate themselves or advance their careers, especially students who are already taking on massive amounts of debt to get their chosen degrees.
Not only does forcing these people to travel by plane have massive sustainability consequences, but it’s a sad indictment of a society where the cash flow of landlords is put before the skill advancement of the young and all the wider economic benefits that could provide.
Nevertheless, in a world where renting costs somehow soar higher than already sky-high ticket costs, these cash-conscious commuters are a welcome reminder that creativity can — sometimes — conquer crippling prices.