The Best Parks and Green Spaces in Philadelphia

From the moment William Penn, founder of the Colony of Pennsylvania, set aside Philadelphia’s Five Great Public Squares as part of his “Greene Countrie Towne” city plan, Philadelphia has been recognized for its amazing public green spaces and parks, large and small, urban and woodsy. Nearly every neighborhood contains an inviting, safe, inspiring public space. But what are some of the best?

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park PhiladelphiaFairmount Park Philadelphia
Fairmount Park

Every discussion of Philadelphia parks must start with Fairmount Park, the largest space within the world’s largest urban park system.

Stretching from the Strawberry Mansion to the Spring Garden neighborhoods, the East Park half of Fairmount Park lies on the Schuylkill River’s east bank. This side features scenic running and biking trails that wind past historic sites such as The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Boathouse Row, with its famous light display, large plateaus near Brewerytown, which include the Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course and Strawberry Green Driving Range and the vast Fairmount Park Athletic Field, where you can hop into a pickup hoops game or join an organized sports league. For a quieter outing, the recently renovated East Park Reservoir is one of the best bird-watching enclaves in the city.

Across the river, though still in Fairmount Park, the West Park runs from the Wynnefield neighborhood down to Mantua. Here you can take the kids to the first-in-the-nation Philadelphia Zoo, the Please Touch Museum or the John B. Kelly Pool right next door.

For a more adult excursion, take in a concert and an amazing view at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts or fling a Frisbee at the Edgely Ultimate Fields. In the winter, Philadelphians of all ages take to Belmont Plateau for the city’s best sledding hills.

Wooded parks

Wissahickon Valley ParkWissahickon Valley Park
Wissahickon Valley Park

For everything Fairmount Park has to offer, other city parks boast their own perks. The expansive Wissahickon Valley Park extends from Chestnut Hill through East Falls in North Philly. There you’ll find people on mountain bikes and on foot traveling the winding gravel paths of forested Forbidden Drive, youngsters learning while having fun at the Wissahickon Environmental Center Tree House and anglers casting into the trout-stocked Wissahickon Creek.

Running from Bustleton to the Delaware River in Northeast Philly’s Holmesburg section, Pennypack Park is a 1,300-acre wooded creekside hiking and biking oasis that provides nature programs at Pennypack Environmental Center, a full working farmstead with cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens at Friends of Fox Chase Farm, and King’s Highway Bridge, the oldest in-use stone bridge in America.

In extreme South Philly, you’ll find Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, adjacent to the professional sports complex, which contains a full 18-hole golf course, a nationally-celebrated skateboard park and the Meadow Lake Gazebo, long a popular spot for wedding photos.

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, a little farther south in Eastwick next to the Philadelphia International Airport, is a top hiking, canoeing and fishing spot within a stunning environmentally-protected tidal marsh.

Urban parks

Spruce Street Harbor ParkSpruce Street Harbor Park
Spruce Street Harbor Park
Photo courtesy of Anastasia Navickas

If you prefer parks that feel part of the city rather than those that feel like you left the city, Philadelphia won’t disappoint.

Atop the Circa Centre South Garage in University City is Cira Green, a new rooftop greenspace boasting seasonal coffee carts, summer movies and some of the best views of downtown.

Named by Jetsetter Magazine as one of the “World’s Best Urban Beaches,” Spruce Street Harbor Park at Penn’s Landing is an eclectic recreational sanctuary along the Delaware River with seasonal food and beer trucks, a riverside boardwalk and a cluster of more than 50 cozy hammocks, which hang under spectacular LED lights strung amongst the trees.

From biking to basketball to bird-watching, Philadelphia’s city parks and green spaces offer unlimited means of escape from the bustle of urban life.

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What is debt validation? – Lexington Law

A group of people seated in a discussion.

Information in this article is not intended to provide legal advice for your individual circumstances and does not create an attorney client relationship with Lexington Law. If you need specific legal advice, contact an attorney in your jurisdiction.

A debt validation (or verification) letter may help you resolve some issues related to collection accounts and potentially minimize the damage done to your credit score.

For example, collection agencies may “reactivate” debt that you might have forgotten about, reporting very old debt again on your credit report. Or they may even try to collect debt that you already paid or that is past your state’s statute of limitations. In these cases, you may want to use a debt validation letter.

What Is Debt Validation?

Debt validation is simply the act of demanding that a credit agency prove that you owe a specific debt. The right to debt validation is protected under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Debt validation is simply the act of demanding that credit agency prove that you owe a specific debt.

How to Request Debt Validation

To protect your FDCPA rights, should follow a certain process. These steps help you document that you sent a proper validation letter and whether or not the collection agency responded in a timely manner.

1. Obtain a Copy of Your Credit Report

Obtain a copy of your credit report and highlight the
negative items you want to challenge. Make sure you have a basis for
challenging them. Examples for reasons include that you already paid the debt,
that you never owed the debt to begin with or that the debt is beyond your
state’s statute of limitations on collections.

2. Write and Mail a Letter

Write a letter including the reasons you feel the debt
is invalid. Address the letter to the collection agency that reported the debt
to the credit bureau. State that you’re requesting validation of the debt or
removal of the debt from your credit report. Then mail the letter and request a
return receipt so you have proof that you sent it and that the collection
agency received it.

3. Follow Up With a Challenge Letter

If you don’t receive a validation of your debt and it’s
still on your credit report, follow up with a credit challenge letter. Send
this letter to the credit bureau and include copies of any documentation you
have that disputes that you legally owe the debt. Make sure to note that you
contacted the creditor and did not receive a response to your validation
request, and include copies of the letter and the return receipt as proof.

4. Wait 30 Days for a Response

The credit bureau must investigate dispute letters. It will contact the reporting collection agency and request documentation of the debt. If the collection agency doesn’t provide sufficient documentation within 30 days, the credit bureau must remove the item from your credit report. Continue to check your credit report, even if you don’t hear from the bureau or creditor, to see if the item is removed.

How to Write a Debt Validation Letter

Dealing with collection accounts and agencies can be
stressful, and if you don’t think you owe the debt, you might also be angry. Remember,
it’s important to be as professional, clear and concise in a debt validation
letter as possible. You might need to use this letter later for proof that you
asked for validation of the debt, so you don’t want to complicate the issue or
use unprofessional wording.

Instead, keep it as brief as you can, including only what
you need to for the validation request. That includes:

  • What debt you are writing about
  • That you are requesting validation under the
    FDCPA
  • What information you are requesting
  • That you dispute the debt and request it be
    removed from your credit report
  • Your request that the creditor stop trying to
    collect the debt

Is a Creditor Required to Respond to Debt Validation?

Creditors do not have to respond to every debt verification letter sent to them. Under the FDCPA, if a collector contacts you about a debt, you have 30 days to request validation. If you send a verification request within that time, the creditor is legally obligated to respond to you. However, if you send a letter outside of that time or based on something you see on your credit report, the creditor is not legally obligated to respond.

Some people might tell you that it’s better to simply pay the debt and ask the creditor to delete the item from your report in return. That can in some cases, be an expensive proposition that doesn’t provide any results—especially if you don’t actually think you owe the money. Payment for deletion isn’t an option most creditors can back up because many collection agencies have contracts with the credit bureaus that prohibit it.

If a collector contacts you about a debt, you have 30 days to request validation.

How a Debt Validation Letter Can Help

Even if you’re outside of the debt validation window
under the FDCPA, a debt verification letter can still offer some benefits.
First, if the collector realizes that there is an issue with their information,
they might remove the negative item from your credit report. Even if that doesn’t
happen, you at least have documented proof you took these steps, and that can
help you when you try to dispute the information with the credit bureaus.

For more help with staying on top of your credit report and disputing incorrect items, get in touch with the credit consultants at Lexington Law.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

12 Cheapest Small Towns in America

Small-town living has plenty of perks: light traffic, a strong sense of community and a slower pace of life. Perhaps best of all, there’s the cost of living, which typically is cheaper in small towns than in expensive big cities.

To get a better sense of what inexpensive small-town living really has to offer, we compiled a list of the 12 cheapest small towns in America, with small towns defined as places with populations of 10,000 to 50,000 people. We based our rankings on the Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) calculations of living expenses in 269 urban areas. C2ER’s expansive study tracks prices for housing, utilities, healthcare, groceries, transportation and miscellaneous goods and services (such as going to a movie theater or hair salon).

It goes without saying that you should weigh the pros and cons before you pack up and relocate to one of the 12 cheapest small towns in America. While a low cost of living is attractive, it can be offset by issues such as scarce jobs, small paychecks or a lack of things to do in the area. Plan an extended visit to ensure the small town fits your lifestyle.

The most recent Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) Cost of Living Index, published February 2021, is based on price data collected during the first three quarters of 2020. City-level data on city populations, household incomes and home values come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unemployment rates come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of April 7 for the period ended February 2021.

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Benton Harbor, Mich.

photo of lighthouse and pierphoto of lighthouse and pier
  • Cost of living: 12.6% below U.S. average
  • City population: 9,843
  • Median household income: $21,916 (U.S.: $65,712)
  • Median home value: $63,300 (U.S.: $240,500)
  • Unemployment rate: 6.0% (U.S.: 6.0%)

Benton Harbor sits by the shores of Lake Michigan about 50 miles west of Kalamazoo, which is one of the cheapest larger cities in the U.S. The small town’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s home to Whirlpool (WHR), the global manufacturer of washers, dryers, refrigerators and a range of other home appliances.

But despite being host to a Fortune 500 company, Benton Harbor is among America’s cheapest small towns, boasting a cost of living that’s more than 12% below the national average.

True, median income is roughly a third of the national level, but the unemployment rate is in line with the country as a whole. Poverty and crime are also high in Benton Harbor – factors that contribute to a median home value that’s an eye-popping 74% lower than the national median. Indeed, housing-related costs, including rents and mortgages, are 32% cheaper in Benton Harbor, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Neighboring St. Joseph, about the same size as Benton Harbor, is a popular beach resort town with significantly higher household incomes and home values.

2 of 12

Hutchinson, Kan.

Strataca salt mine Strataca salt mine
  • Cost of living: 13.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 40,914
  • Median household income: $46,927
  • Median home value: $96,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%

Hutchinson, known as “Hutch” by the locals, is about an hour’s drive northwest from Wichita. Founded in the early 1870s as a railroad town, Hutch soon became known for its salt deposits, which were first discovered in 1887.

Today, Hutch is synonymous with the Kansas State Fair, which it hosts annually. The town is also home to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Basketball Tournament. Local cultural attractions include the Fox Theatre, which opened in 1931. The grand movie palace is considered to be among the finest examples of theater art deco architecture in the Midwest.

Where Hutch stands out among America’s cheapest small towns is that it boasts the lowest housing costs on this list. Indeed, they run 41.3% below the national average. Apartment rents are 43% lower than national average, while home prices come in at a 40% discount.

However, other major costs of living aren’t too far off from what the average American pays. Although prices for groceries are almost 7% lower than the national average, healthcare and miscellaneous goods & services are essentially the same as the U.S. average.

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Meridian, Miss.

photo of a courthousephoto of a courthouse
  • Cost of living: 14.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,848
  • Median household income: $32,422
  • Median home value: $83,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.7%

Meridian was rebuilt from 1890 to 1930 after being almost totally destroyed in the Civil War. As a result, it has not one but nine registered historic districts. The Highland Park Dentzel Carousel, dating back to 1909, is one of the more whimsical ones.

Meridian’s other claim to fame is as the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, known as the “Father of Country Music.” Music remains a centerpiece of Meridian’s cultural scene to this day.

Today, the federal government plays an important role in its economic life, as Naval Air Station Meridian and Key Field are two of the largest employers.

Happily, the men and women in uniform, and Meridian’s civilian citizens, catch a break on expenses. The cost of living stands 14.1% below the U.S. average; what really pushes Meridian into America’s absolute cheapest small towns are its comparatively modest housing costs. Indeed, housing expenses are a third lower than what the average American pays.

4 of 12

Burlington, Iowa

photo of a bridge in Iowaphoto of a bridge in Iowa
  • Cost of living: 14.3% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,974
  • Median household income: $47,540
  • Median home value: $93,200 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.9%

Burlington sits on the Mississippi River, about 165 miles east of Des Moines. Manufacturing has long been a staple of the area economy, but a number of major employers have left over the years. Today, top employers include Great River Health System and American Ordnance, which makes ammunition for the U.S. military.

Utilities in Burlington are close to 12% more expensive than the national average and healthcare costs are essentially the same. Inexpensive housing is what makes Burlington a truly affordable small town. Housing-related costs are 35% cheaper compared to what the average American pays. Rents, on average, are almost 40% lower than the national average.

True, median incomes are 28% lower than the national figure, but then, median home values are cheaper by more than 60%.

5 of 12

Ponca City, Okla.

photo of a courthouse in Ponca City, OKphoto of a courthouse in Ponca City, OK
  • Cost of living: 14.5% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,134
  • Median household income: $44,043
  • Median home value: $96,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

Ponca City traces its lineage back to the days of the Land Run of 1893, when pioneers decided to build a town in north-central Oklahoma near the Arkansas River and a freshwater spring. Not long after its founding, enterprising oil men successfully drilled wells in the area, and Ponca City remains an oil town to this day. The area’s largest employers include energy companies such as Schlumberger (SLB), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Phillips 66 (PSX).

Household incomes are well below the national median, but housing is a heck of a deal. The median value of a Ponca City home is just $96,600. Nationally, it’s $240,500. Indeed, total housing costs are just two-thirds of what the average American pays, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Residents also catch a break on healthcare, which is 12.4% less expensive.

Although it’s among the cheapest small towns in America, Ponca City’s low costs of living do come at a cost of their own: The town sits pretty much in the middle of Tornado Alley.

6 of 12

Martinsville, Va.

photo of Martinsville Speedwayphoto of Martinsville Speedway
  • Cost of living: 15.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 12,852
  • Median household income: $34,371
  • Median home value: $87,700 
  • Unemployment rate: 9.8%

Martinsville needs no introduction to race fans. The tiny Virginia town, an hour’s drive south of Roanoke, lays claim to the Martinsville Speedway of NASCAR fame. Racing enthusiasts laud the short track for its tight turns and intimate seating.

Beyond the track, manufacturing has always been central to the area’s economy, and although a number of firms have moved on over the past decades, factory work remains important. Major employers include Eastman Chemical (EMN), a manufacturer of plastics, and Monogram Foods.

Martinsville has a rich history dating back to colonial times, and the town boasts multiple historic districts and historic sites including the John Waddey Carter House and the Dry Bridge School.

But Martinsville also is notable as one of America’s cheapest small towns. Housing expenses are 32% below the national average. Fittingly for a racing town, gasoline is about 6% cheaper per gallon.

7 of 12

Salina, Kan.

photo of downtown Salina, KSphoto of downtown Salina, KS
  • Cost of living: 16.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 46,998
  • Median household income: $50,490
  • Median home value: $129,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3%

The small town of Salina sits at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 135, about 90 miles north of Wichita and 180 miles west of Kansas City.

Manufacturing and healthcare are among the town’s most important industries. Major employers include Schwan’s Company, the maker of Tony’s frozen pizza; Great Plains Manufacturing, which serves the agricultural industry; and the Salina Regional Health Center. Salina is also home to several institutions of higher education, including the University of Kansas School of Medicine Salina Campus and Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

This economic mix is producing both low unemployment and low living costs. Housing expenses run two-thirds of the national average, according to C2ER. Groceries are cheaper too, running about 8% lower than the national average.

Utility bills, however, take a bit of a bite. In Salina, they’re almost 2% higher than the U.S. average.

8 of 12

Statesboro, Ga.

courthouse Statesboro, GAcourthouse Statesboro, GA
  • Cost of living: 16.8% below U.S. average
  • City population: 31,495
  • Median household income: $29,203
  • Median home value: $113,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

As home to the flagship campus of Georgia Southern University, Statesboro offers many of the benefits of college-town living but at exceedingly affordable prices. Thanks to its status as an academic hub, cultural attractions tied to the local university include a performing arts center, symphony, museum, planetarium and botanic gardens.

Another perk? The charming city of Savannah is just an hour’s drive to the southeast.

Although the university is the area’s largest employer, manufacturing jobs also play an important part in the local economy. At the same time, it should be noted that Statesboro has a high poverty rate, or 41.8% vs. 13.3% for the state of Georgia as a whole.

Statesboro’s place among America’s cheapest small towns is largely due to housing costs, which are about 32% lower compared with the national average, while healthcare runs roughly 14% below average. For example, a visit to a doctor costs about 24% less in Statesboro. Dental care is about a fifth less expensive, according to the C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

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Tupelo, Miss.

photo of house where Elvis Presley was bornphoto of house where Elvis Presley was born
  • Cost of living: 19% below U.S. average
  • City population: 38,271
  • Median household income: $50,694
  • Median home value: $145,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%

Tupelo’s biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Indeed, the town, 100 miles southeast of Memphis’s Graceland, is looking forward to hosting its 23rd annual Elvis Festival in June. (Last year’s gathering was a virtual-only affair.)

Not a fan of The King? The cultural scene also includes the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Tupelo Automobile Museum. But Tupelo’s second-biggest claim to fame is arguably its super-low living costs. Electric and gas bills are about 12% lower than the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index. Housing is 34% cheaper and groceries go for 16% less.

For residents not making a living as Elvis impersonators, major employers include North Mississippi Health Services, Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB) and BancorpSouth (BXS), which is headquartered in Tupelo.

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Richmond, Ind.

Amish man in horse and buggyAmish man in horse and buggy
  • Cost of living: 19.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 35,539
  • Median household income: $39,724
  • Median home value: $88,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.1%

Few cities of any size can claim Richmond’s place in the early history of recorded jazz. Some of the first jazz records were made in this small town, featuring greats such as Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. There’s a Walk of Fame celebrating jazz and other artists who recorded with Richmond’s Gennett Records.

While jazz will always be part of its history, today’s Richmond, which is an hour’s drive west from Dayton, Ohio, is known more for its colleges and seminaries. They include Indiana University East, the Earlham School of Religion (part of Quaker-influenced Earlham College) and the Bethany Theological Seminary.

Inexpensive housing is a key to Richmond’s place among our nation’s cheapest small towns. Residents spend 34% less on housing than the average American does. Apartment rents are about half the national average. Average home prices are 26% less. Healthcare is also a bargain. For example, a visit to the eye doctor costs about 50% less than the national average. An appointment with a physician is cheaper by a third.

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Muskogee, Okla.

museum in Muskogee, OKmuseum in Muskogee, OK
  • Cost of living: 19.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,624
  • Median household income: $38,194
  • Median home value: $92,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.3%

Muskogee packs a lot of history, culture and colleges into a small package.

Located about 50 miles south of Tulsa, the town traces its roots back to 1817. It’s home to four institutions of higher learning, as well as the Oklahoma School for the Blind. Jim Thorpe – All-American, the 1951 film starring Burt Lancaster, was shot on the campus of what was then known as the Bacone Indian University in Muskogee. The town also boasts six museums and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

And let’s not forget what is arguably the town’s most famous appearance in popular culture – Merle Haggard’s hit song “Okie from Muskogee,” which became an emblem of Vietnam-era America. 

Today, the area’s employers include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a VA medical center and paper company Georgia-Pacific.

But what really puts Muskogee on the map is its ultra-low cost of living. The biggest break comes from housing-related expenses, which are more than 35% lower than the national average, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Transportation, groceries and healthcare are notably cheaper, too.

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Pittsburg, Kan.

Russ Hall at Pittsburg State UniversityRuss Hall at Pittsburg State University
  • Cost of living: 19.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 20,171
  • Median household income: $34,956
  • Median home value: $88,500 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%

The cheapest small town in America is Pittsburg, Kan., based on the 269 urban areas analyzed by C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Pittsburg is about a two-hour drive due south from Kansas City on Route 69. When you get there, you’ll find a small town with a cost of living more than 19% below the national average.

Once upon a time, the town was known for its abundance of coal and the Southern and Eastern European immigrants who worked the mines. Today, the area relies more heavily on higher education, thanks to the presence of Pittsburg State University. Famous alumni of Pittsburg’s local university include actor Gary Busey and Brian Moorman, retired two-time Pro Bowl punter for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Although median incomes are almost $31,000 below the national average, median home prices are a whopping $152,000 cheaper. That helps make housing costs 37.2% less expensive than what the average American pays. A myriad of other items are cheap, as well. For example, a haircut will set you back an average of $14.82 vs. $18.88 nationally. Shampoo costs 89 cents, whereas the average American pays $1.05.

Source: kiplinger.com

Mint Success: Transitioning from College Kid to Young Professional

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart

“Mint is so crucial to my personal finance I honestly have no idea where I would be without it.” That’s what Austin, TX photography consultant Lawrence Peart says when reflecting about his transition from college student to young pro, financially speaking. His experience so far shows that it is possible to graduate from college without debt, and to adjust to the higher cost of living as a young professional, while also saving money for your future.

But Peart stands out from the crowd. We looked at Minters’ numbers to see how college students and recent graduates use their money or handle debt, and found that there’s a big shift in many categories from ages 18 to 25 – incomes increase, spending categories fluctuate, and debt repayment – well, you know how that goes. Student loan payback time for many!

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College Grads Make More Money…

Depending on the field that graduates enter, incomes can be across the board, but a majority of our Mint users in that age range earn between $25K and $50K annually.

Student ChartGraduate Chart

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…and Spend More Money!

The newfound earnings may seem like a lot of money to a recent grad but, when faced with the sticker shock of life outside school, the typical Mint user experiences an accompanying increase in spending on rent, entertainment, and education related expenses – mostly student loan repayment. That bill averages about $300 per month.

Most grads continue to use credit cards after graduation. In fact, their card charges increase from $1,200 to $1,900 on average. But most of them don’t pay finance charges, which means these savvy Mint users are the ones who pay their balances by the end of the month. This explains why Mint’s young users have an average credit score of 690, considerably higher than the national average of 630 for the same age group*.

Good work, Minters! But while you’re paying off your college debt and adjusting to life on the outside, don’t forget to save for your future. Only 2% of college students have significant long-term savings, and that number only goes up to 7% among college graduates 25 and under. It might seem daunting to set aside those crucial dollars, but that money will grow over time and make your older self thank your younger self.

Moving Forward

Peart is in that 7% – he follows the mantra “Save, invest early and often, reap the benefits later.” With a goal to live debt-free and retire in his 20’s (he just turned 26), Lawrence uses Mint to budget and find extra money to sock away for the future. While his income falls in the same range as the majority of recently graduated Mint users, his experience both during school and in the few years since graduation defies many of the statistics, so naturally we asked him all about it.

What kind of shift in spending did you experience between college and post-college life?

I think it might surprise most people to hear that I spend far less money now than I did in college. Once you start earning an actual income and developing a clearer sense of your relationship to money it becomes much easier to save, and feels more rewarding to do so. While in school I never had much cash, so in a way it had less value and I spent it more freely. You expect to be broke in college, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and unless you’re careful that can then extend past your college years into your working life. I even had a little saying for it: the closer I am to zero, the less I have to lose.

The average college graduate spends about $300 per month on student loan repayment. What’s your bill?

$0. My experience paying for college was a mixture of some good fortune, a little bit of privilege, and tons of hard work. I chose a public school in a reasonably cheap city, I received decent grants, I applied for every scholarship available to me every semester (and made sure I had the grades to qualify) and for all but my sophomore year I worked at least part-time to have a source of income. I graduated broke, sure, and maybe missed out on some fun things here and there, but at least I didn’t owe anything.

 Invest Young

What was the most shocking financial realization you experienced once you left college?

That you can save quite a bit of money not doing the stuff everyone seems to think you have to be doing. If you don’t buy fancy clothes, go out for drinks every day, feel the need to keep up with the newest phone every 6 months etc., all of that extra cash starts to add up.

What are your thoughts about retirement savings, and what do you practice?

I half-seriously tell myself that I want to retire in my 20’s. I don’t mean “retire” in the way most people would think of retirement, I always want to be creating and applying myself to something, but I’d like to have the ability to not work for long periods of time. To be able to wake up one day in the near future and say “I am comfortable not working the rest of the month, time do something creative” and not feel guilty about it. That’s the goal.

I set up a Roth IRA almost immediately upon getting sustained income and contribute the full amount each year into basic low-cost index funds. I admire my parents in a lot of ways and don’t question their decisions and what life events influenced them, but while they are both doing fine in retirement age they are doing so without any long-term retirement account holdings. It might be hard to imagine 40 years down the line, but the math regarding investing when you’re young is compelling.

How does Mint help you stay on track?

I worked for about nine months before I came across Mint, and even though I thought I was being good with my money, you truly have no idea until you see it categorized and laid out in front of you. Those little purchases each day, the subscriptions, the monthly payments, it all adds up fast. You might think you’re saving money, but you’re not. It really does take hard work. Mint makes it easy, and I’ll tell everyone who listens: it’s even made paying bills fun. The first week of each new month is like Christmas. I get paid, I pay off my recurring expenses and then allocate how much I want to save that month before organizing more flexible costs like groceries, entertainment, etc. I follow one maxim above all else: you don’t save what is left after spending, you spend what is left after saving.

You can be like Lawrence

Does the idea of watching the savings pile up get you excited? Try setting up a goal with your Mint account and making that progress bar move!Don't save what you don't spend - spend what you don't save
We would like to hear your story! Contact us at Editor_Mint@intuit.com with “Mint User Story” in the subject.

Kim Tracy Prince is a Los Angeles-based writer who is pretty jealous of Lawrence’s early progress. It took her many years to pay off her student loans. She celebrated by finally framing her diploma.

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