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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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.

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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.

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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%.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Uses for aluminum foil

Aluminum foil is a Penny Hoarder’s BFF when it comes to preserving leftovers. But if you’re just using that handy foil to wrap up day-old food, you’re totally missing out on so many other uses for this extraordinary kitchen standby.

The Many Uses of Aluminum Foil

You might be dating yourself if you are still calling the shiny workhorse “tin foil” though it’s not uncommon to hear that phrase used. Foil was made of tin until after World War II when the stronger and cheaper aluminum became widely used. Now you know. Read on for 10 clever money-saving ideas.

1. Sharpen Scissors

Don’t toss a pair of dull scissors or pay someone else to sharpen them. Sharpen scissors with aluminum foil, says Rachel Timmerman, a Virginia blogger with The Analytical Mommy. Fold a piece of 10-by-10-inch aluminum foil three times. Then, cut the foil about 20 times with the scissors to make them as sharp as the day you bought them.

2. Substitute for Dryer Sheets

Crumble a ball of foil and toss it into your dryer, says Gladys Connelly, technical writer for The HouseWire, a product review site. This works exactly the same as a dryer sheet would, Connelly says. “It eliminates static and fluffs up your clothing,” she says. Spray lavender oil or your favorite scent into the middle of the aluminum sheet before you crumple it to make the foil smell just as good as a dryer sheet, Connelly recommends.

3. Lower Your Heating Bill

If you have cast-iron radiators, you can DIY a heat reflector out of aluminum foil. Tape some heavy-duty aluminum foil to a piece of cardboard with the shiny side up. That’s literally it. Place the heat reflector behind your radiator or under the radiator’s top. The heat waves will naturally bounce from the foil into the room instead of going into the wall behind the radiator.

4. Cover Your Paint Tray

Don’t toss your plastic paint tray after each use. Keep the tray clean by wrapping it in aluminum foil. When you’re done, just pull off the foil and your paint tray will look as good as new, Connelly says.

A woman uses aluminum foil to get gel nail polish off her nails.
Getty Images

5. Remove Gel Nail Polish

You can’t use acetone and a cotton pad to remove gel nail polish. Instead, you’re supposed to soak your nails in acetone. But it would be wasteful to use a bowl of acetone just to remove the polish. So Malaika Desrameaux, a Miami content creator with Self Care Sunday Love, figured out an aluminum foil method. 1. File the tops of your gel nails to get rid of the glossy layer. 2. Soak a cotton ball with acetone and put the cotton ball over your nail. 3. Wrap your nail (with the cotton on top) with a 3-by-5-inch piece of aluminum foil. 4. Repeat on all fingers, and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes. 5. Remove cotton and aluminum foil, and peel off the gel nail polish.

6. Polish Silver

No need for a special polish or even any elbow grease to make Nanny’s heirloom silverware gleam again. Place a sheet of aluminum foil into a pan, add cold water and 2 teaspoons of salt. Put silver into the pan, and leave it for two minutes. Rinse off with water and let it dry. The aluminum causes a molecular reaction, cleaning the silver for you.

7. Clean Jewelry

Similar to the process for polishing silver, you can use aluminum foil to clean jewelry by creating an ion exchange (a molecular reaction with the aluminum). Place aluminum foil in a bowl, and fill the bowl with hot water and 1 tablespoon of bleach-free powdered laundry detergent. Soak jewelry in the solution for one minute, rinse with water and air dry.

8. Battery Replacement

You’re desperate for a battery to fire up the flashlight. Try aluminum foil, says Melanie Musson, a home safety expert with US Insurance Agents. “If your flashlight requires two C batteries but you only have one, you can fill the empty space with compacted foil,” Musson says. It may not be at full strength, but you’ll have a little light to get you by.

9. Garden Buddy

Aluminum foil will miraculously improve your green thumb. Birds are afraid of the shiny foil because of the noise it makes. So tie foil strips around the branches of your fruit trees, you’ll keep the birds from nibbling at the bounty. Same goes for mice and rabbits. These creatures don’t like the feel of the aluminum foil, so placing bits of it on your shrubs serves as a natural deterrent. Bugs bugging you and eating your plants? Nestle foil with soil or stones at the base of plants. Or mix some strips of aluminum foil in with your mulch. In both cases, the foil will keep the moisture in your soil and prevent the weeds from growing while keeping the pests at bay.

10. Custom Cake Pan

Don’t run to the store every time your child wants a cake that looks like something other than a rectangle. Need a dog-shaped pan? A heart pan? Make the shape out of heavy-duty aluminum foil, and place your DIY foil creation into a baking pan big enough to accommodate the shape.

11. Grill Cleaner

Don’t bother purchasing pricey grill scrubbers when a rolled up ball of aluminum foil works perfectly well, Connelly says. The foil ball should be large enough – about 3 inches around – to hold comfortably with tongs (remember that the grill is hot). Grab the foil ball with the tongs and swipe back and forth across the grate before it has cooled. Food bits will be easier to remove when the grate is warm. If you already have stubborn burnt food on the grill, then put a piece of aluminum foil on the grate, and close the grill. Turn on the heat and let it run for a few minutes. Then, remove the foil, turn off the heat and try the original cleaning method. It should be easier now because the foil sheet trapped the heat to help loosen any stubborn debris.

12. Ironing

Aluminum foil is a natural heat reflector. So if you place a piece of it under the cover of your ironing board, the aluminum foil will speed up your ironing time.

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

The Best Places to Live in Pennsylvania in 2021

The story of the state (technically Commonwealth) of Pennsylvania has three parts: the eastern metropolis of Philadelphia, the Midwest river city of Pittsburgh and the vast land in-between with a slew of mid-sized historic and revitalized northeastern cities.

But from the Delaware Valley to the Lehigh Valley, the Ohio River Valley to the Wyoming Valley, there are innumerable places to call home, whether in Wawa country or Sheetz land. Here is our list of the 10 best places to live in Pennsylvania.

Allentown, PA.

  • Population: 120,139
  • Average age: 38.36
  • Median household income: $41,167
  • Average commute time: 29.03 minutes
  • Walk score: 59
  • Studio average rent: $1,379
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,395
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,599

The Allentown of today is nowhere near the hulking coal and refinery town Billy Joel sang about. But while the factories did shut down long ago, you still can’t keep a good man down. Allentown is one of only three cities in Pennsylvania with a population of over 100,000. Equidistant from Philadelphia and Scranton, Allentown is a big city with a lot more to offer than many realize.

The westernmost of the Lehigh Valley’s tri-cities, Allentown is a story of reinvention. When manufacturing disappeared, Allentown had to revitalize itself for modern-day living. As a result, the city’s downtown received honors from the Urban Land Institute as a “national success story” for its transformation.

As a rebuilt service economy, many companies call Allentown headquarters, including several in the energy industry. While downtown is rife with office buildings and corporate campuses, retail is more found around Allentown’s several large shopping malls in and near the city.

However, sports, always a big deal in the Lehigh Valley, are drivers in changing that. The areas around its popular minor league venues are becoming shopping, nightlife and dining hubs. Hockey’s Phantoms, top minor league affiliate for the Flyers, play downtown at the seven-year-old PPL Center and baseball’s IronPigs, a Phillies farm club, take the field at Coca-Cola Park across the river on Allentown’s East Side.

Bethlehem, PA, one of the best places to live in pennsylvania

  • Population: 75,236
  • Average age: 42.01
  • Median household income: $55,809
  • Average commute time: 29.29 minutes
  • Walk score: 64
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,182
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,391

Much as its neighbor to the west had to do, the steel city of Bethlehem also found itself having to reinvent. Now, Bethlehem is the arts and entertainment hub of Lehigh Valley.

A case in point is the iconic Bethlehem Steel. The former world’s largest steel company operated in the city for nearly 150 years, from 1857 to 2003. Today, the site of the former mill is now home to cultural works the size of Disneyland.

The vast SteelStacks district consists of the ArtsQuest performing arts center and three outdoor music venues including Levitt Pavilion, a PBS station and the Wind Creek Bethlehem casino. The massive blast furnace structure still stands serving as a backdrop along the river.

Over the last two decades, Bethlehem’s downtown has started to thrive with restaurants and retail along Main and Broad Streets. And on the south side of town, the region just north of Lehigh University is a vibrant college town district with bars, shops and cafés.

Along the riverfront is a park complex that includes athletic facilities and hiking and biking trails.

While about half the size of Allentown, Bethlehem has a higher median income than its next-door neighbor by about $15,000. However, rents across the board are cheaper in Bethlehem making it a bit better value for renters.

Harrisburg, PA.

  • Population: 49,277
  • Average age: 37.69
  • Median household income: $39,685
  • Average commute time: 25.17 minutes
  • Walk score: 55
  • Studio average rent: $837
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,038
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,272

State capitals often make wonderful places to live and work. The swath of legislators and lobbyists that call them home make sure the economy is sound, infrastructure is top-notch and access to entertainment and culture abound. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital, is no exception. The city of 50,000 is in south-central Pennsylvania about half as close to Philadelphia as it is to Pittsburgh.

The State Capitol complex sits in the center of downtown, along the Susquehanna River. State and federal combined, nearly 40,000 government employees work in Harrisburg. With politicians and their staff coming and going each electoral season, the rental industry is key in Harrisburg. Luckily, it’s the cheapest big city in the Keystone State for studio apartments and one-bedrooms, and among the lowest for two- and three-bedroom units.

A great place to have kids, Forbes named Harrisburg one of the top 10 “Best Places to Raise a Family” in the nation. There is much to do for residents of all ages. Its downtown, once rich in jazz clubs and cocktail bars, is seeing a revitalization from nightclubs to the performing arts.

For a different diversion, the city is also home to the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show, the largest agricultural expo in America.

Harrisburg also benefits from its geography as the center of one of Pennsylvania’s top tourist regions. The Capitol Building is just a half-hour from HersheyPark and Hershey Chocolate World and under an hour to Lancaster and the heart of Amish Country.

Lancaster, PA, one of the best places to live in pennsylvania

  • Population: 59,168
  • Average age: 38.10
  • Median household income: $45,514
  • Average commute time: 26.23 minutes
  • Walk score: 56
  • Studio average rent: $887
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,097
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,344

While a wonderful lifestyle to visit and experience, Lancaster is more than Amish Country, horse buggies and shoofly pie. An affordable city of 60,000, Lancaster (pronounced “LANK-is-ter”, not “LAN-cast-er”) is an Eastern Pennsylvania healthcare, manufacturing and tourism hub.

Lancaster is a surprisingly diverse city. Sure, there are a ton of residents of German ancestry, home of the Pennsylvania Dutch (as in “Deutsch,” German for “German”). But the city is also nearly 40 percent Latinx and 16 percent Black.

While average incomes hover around $56,000, lease prices are among the lowest in the Commonwealth. In fact, a three-bedroom unit rents for $1,455, the cheapest among Pennsylvania’s largest cities.

Along with Amish tourism, Lancaster is also a mecca for outlet shopping. Combined, the area’s two large outlet centers offer nearly 200 stores.

The historic downtown is awash in quaint boutiques, vintage stores, art galleries (many along Gallery Row), vegan restaurants and German beer bars. In the heart of downtown is legendary music venue the Chameleon Club as well as Lancaster Central Market on Penn Square, one of the nation’s oldest farmers’ markets.

Philadelphia, PA.

  • Population: 1,569,672
  • Average age: 40.63
  • Median household income: $45,927
  • Average commute time: 40.79 minutes
  • Walk score: 84
  • Studio average rent: $1,673
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,145
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,901

There are two Philadelphias. The one most people know is the Birthplace of America, home of the Liberty Bell, the Rocky Steps, cheesesteaks and the Broad Street Bullies. The other is the city that over a million and a half people call home. And real Philadelphians have an appreciation for both.

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and each has a personality all its own. When someone reveals they are from Overbrook, Fishtown, Kensington, Society Hill or another of Philly’s nearly 200 neighborhoods, it says a lot about their personality. But together they are all SEPTA riders and hoagie eaters and Birds fans.

Philly residents are a lucky bunch. The cradle of American democracy is at their doorsteps. But it is also an extremely livable city. There are some of the nation’s largest and most enjoyable parks and green spaces, including Fairmount Park and Wissahickon Valley Park. Several shopping hubs dot the city from South Street and Liberty Place to Chestnut Hill and University City.

And commuting is easy with access to I-95, the Schuylkill Expressway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, three superregional rail stations, 13 regional rails as well as the Broad Street subway and Market-Frankford elevated train. As well, the city offers stellar walk and bike scores, 84 and 76, respectively.

Surprisingly, Philadelphia is affordable. As expected, rents are the highest among Pennsylvania’s big cities. However, Philly’s cost of living is 20 percent-30 percent cheaper than similar cities and its northeast corridor neighbors.

Pittsburgh, PA, one of the best places to live in pennsylvania

  • Population: 305,049
  • Average age: 41.68
  • Median household income: $48,711
  • Average commute time: 28.93 minutes
  • Walk score: 69
  • Studio average rent: $1,255
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,522
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,831

While they share space inside the Keystone State, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are a five-hour drive and a world apart. Pittsburgh is a Midwest city with a bit of East Coast ancestry. It’s the Northeast but also Great Lakes. It’s not your father’s smoggy city of Black and Gold. Today’s Pittsburgh is a modern, livable metropolis that traded in steel mills and coal mines for shiny office towers, a thriving tech industry, vast parks and big-city nightlife.

Sure, downtown Pittsburgh at Golden Triangle is a gleaming, teeming modern smog-free city. But even if you take the steel out of the city, you can’t take the steel out of its citizens. Pittsburgh will always be the city of fries on a sandwich, confluencing rivers and the Steel Curtain.

The people of the City of Three Rivers are as diverse as the neighborhoods in which they reside. Pittsburgh offers a plethora of cultural enclaves, with large populations of those with German, Irish, Polish, Italian, Black, Jewish, Lithuanian and Puerto Rican backgrounds.

And for its size and might, Pittsburgh is quite affordable. Although Pittsburgh technically lies within one of those pricey Northeastern states, rents in the Steel City are assuredly more Midwest. The average income in Pittsburgh is higher than that across the state in Philly. But rents are lower across the board, including a reasonable $1,500 a month for an average one-bedroom.

reading pa

  • Population: 88,302
  • Average age: 36.09
  • Median household income: $32,176
  • Average commute time: 30.78 minutes
  • Walk score: 69
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,302
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,733

If it’s good enough for Taylor Swift, it’s good enough for you. Yes, that Taylor Swift. The super-slash singer/songwriter is not a native of Tennessee or Texas. She was proudly born and raised in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Maybe it’s the laid-back small city vibe that left an indelible mark on Ms. Swift. Reading is the fifth-largest city in the Commonwealth and sits just 90 minutes from Center City Philadelphia. But Reading feels much smaller, a tight-knit community of 90,000. It offers both urban convenience and Appalachian mountain town charm with a populous nearly 60 percent Hispanic and Latinx and 30 percent under age 18.

And Readingers have plenty of diversions. The wooded area surrounding Mount Penn includes many recreational activities and hiking trails. It is also the site of Reading’s most famous landmarks, William Penn Fire Tower, Peace Rock and the Pagoda, a century-old Japanese-style building that contains a café, gift shop and observation room overlooking the city.

Sports also loom large in Reading. The city has been home to the Phillies’ Double-A affiliate for over 50 years and Team Penske’s open-wheel race car operations for nearly as long.

scranton pa, one of the best places to live in pennsylvania

  • Population: 76,624
  • Average age: 42.35
  • Median household income: $40,608
  • Average commute time: 23.68 minutes
  • Walk score: 58
  • Studio average rent: $1,100
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,226
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,469

Alfredo’s Pizza Café. Froggy 101. Steamtown Mall. Anthracite Heritage Museum. Yes, all those references in The Office are actual, real-world places in Scranton. Dig deep enough and any Scrantonian will sheepishly admit that the depiction of the hard-scrabble former coal city in the show is pretty accurate.

The Electric City is the state’s seventh-largest, a working-class town just about two hours from both Philadelphia and New York. Like many Pennsylvania cities, Scranton leaned into revitalization as coal mines and steel plants closed.

Today, Scranton is booming in healthcare, technology, social services, finance and particularly tourism, leaning into both its unique railroad history and its proximity to top northeastern ski resorts.

Scranton’s revival helped its downtown boom. The pedestrian-friendly district has seen a bevy of new cafés, restaurants, shops and bars surrounded by loft apartments. Many of these are in restored, architecturally significant buildings that recently sat empty.

While many new residents are coming for the first time, the city has seen a large number of Scranton natives moving back from big cities. Cost of living is a big factor, but so is security. Among Pennsylvania’s largest cities, Scranton is the safest.

West Chester, PA.

  • Population: 19,698
  • Average age: 34.74
  • Median household income: $61,837
  • Average commute time: 27.91 minutes
  • Walk score: 54
  • Studio average rent: $1,350
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,598
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,995

Just 25 miles from Center City Philadelphia, the Philly suburb of West Chester is the smallest city on our list. It is also the wealthiest, with an average income of over $80,000. Fortunately, that high wage level hasn’t completely translated into high rent prices.

An average studio apartment leases for just $1,350, while one and two-bedroom units are $1,598 and $1,995, respectively.

West Chester, not far from Philly’s ritzy Main Line, offers a high quality of living. West Chester schools rank highest on our list while the average age, at just under 35, is the youngest. Though a suburb, the borough’s downtown offers much for its young and affluent residents.

In addition to several upscale and trendy bars, restaurants and retail, many businesses have set up shop in this vibrant hamlet. But West Chester’s most notable business? On the edge of town is the world headquarters and studios of the QVC shopping network. And on the south end of town is West Chester University, ranked a “Top 10 Public Regional Universities in the North” by U.S. News.

What else does West Chester offer these up-and-coming leaders of tomorrow? The borough has also been rated one of the “10 Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania” and a top three “Great American Main Streets.”

York, PA, one of the best places to live in pennsylvania

  • Population: 44,055
  • Average age: 36.62
  • Median household income: $33,906
  • Average commute time: 27.97 minutes
  • Walk score: 53
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,160
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,256

Most cities in Pennsylvania orient themselves with their proximity to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. However, York residents find themselves just 15 miles from the Maryland border and 45 minutes from Baltimore.

The 16th largest city in the Commonwealth, York is best known as the first National Capital, in 1777. But iron-benders know it as headquarters of York Barbell and the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, and chopper heads know it well for Harley-Davidson’s largest manufacturing plant.

Hungry for a snack? Stauffer’s animal crackers — made here for over 150 years — call York home. Also, it is the site of one of the four Starbucks roasting facilities in the whole world.

With deep roots in American Revolutionary history, tourism is important to the York economy.

For York residents, day trips abound. Lancaster and Amish Country are just a half-hour to the east. HersheyPark is only 45 minutes north. And the Gettysburg Battlefield is under an hour west. Working at the State Capitol? Harrisburg is only 30 minutes away.

Looking for something a little more pastoral in Central Pennsylvania? The historic York State Fair is the nation’s oldest, dating back to 1765.

Find your own best place to live in Pennsylvania

The best places to live in Pennsylvania are also some of its most renowned cities. No matter your tastes, you can set up shop somewhere great from the corner metropolises to the coal towns to the suburbs. And you can find your next great Keystone State city right here on rent.com, whether you enjoy your Primanti’s covered in fries or your Jim’s bathed in whiz wit.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments in March 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Other demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Source: rent.com

Dear Penny: We Want to Travel Post-COVID, but He’s Too Poor

Dear Penny,
He knows that I will never marry again and whatever money I have left will go to my children. When he is down here, he stays with me (he’s been with me six months, now). He buys half the groceries and many times pays for restaurants, so his monthly expenses may add up to 0. He does help around the house.  
Now that we have our vaccines, I went to visit my family, who live in another country. He decided not to join me, but he didn’t want to return home, either. 
I’m 70 and a widow of six years. I was married for almost 43 years. Two years ago, I met a man from New England on a dating site who’s just a bit older than me. We’re both healthy and physically active. We love to dance, hike and visit new places.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].
Whatever you do, don’t pursue a future with this man if you think you’re going to change him. It sounds like money just isn’t that important to him. That’s not a character flaw.
Dear Am I Too Old,
Get the Penny Hoarder Daily
What I want you to do is think about the next trip you want to take post-COVID. Would you have more fun if you took it alone, with the comfort of knowing you didn’t foot the bill for him? Or would you enjoy it more traveling together, even if that means you’ll pay for most of it?
I feel like you’re assigning a level of urgency here that doesn’t really exist. He’s already been staying with you for six months in Florida. He’s not talking about selling his home in New England. No one’s begging for the other person’s hand in marriage. You can plan a vacation, knowing you’ll pay for most of it, without committing your entire retirement to traveling together.
Privacy Policy
You don’t always fall in love with someone in the same tax bracket. That means one person often shoulders a greater share of the expenses. But if this relationship truly makes you happy, that’s a small price to pay.

He’s been married twice and has four children. He is very close to his kids, grandkids and siblings. I have met them and they are good, decent people. He has lots of friends and is very outgoing.
Your boyfriend sounds like someone who manages what little money he does have wisely.
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He’s self-employed with a business next to his home. He works when he feels like it. He would like to live and work in New England for four months and spend the rest of the time in Florida, where I live.
Is this relationship doomed because of our differences in attitude on finances? Should we just enjoy what we have?
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
I don’t think your relationship is doomed — and age is a very big factor here. My answer would be very different here if you were in your 20s or 30s. If you were building a home, a nest egg and a family together, your differences on money could be too difficult to reconcile, no matter how in love you were. But in your 70s, it’s a lot more realistic that you can keep your finances separate.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
I pointed out that this is his busy time for business and he should take advantage. But he says he has worked hard and it’s his time now to enjoy life.
He doesn’t have much money. His Social Security is minimal. He saves it and lives off of the money he makes from his business and the settlement his ex-wife sends him, which will end in two years. His house is paid off, his expenses are low, and he is careful with his money.
You found a guy who isn’t rich, but does he make your life richer? Your letter screams “yes” to me.

You share the same hobbies. You like his family and friends. It seems like he’s an equal partner with you, even though he can’t pay 50% of the bills.

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My husband left me financially secure. We were always careful with money and never lived an extravagant lifestyle. I’ve got two adult children who are financially independent.

Dating During the Pandemic: The Struggle is Real [Study]

It seems younger generations might be taking pandemic guidelines more responsibly.

We’re a little more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic. People around the world have had to adapt to this new normal, from working from home to remote learning and watching sports on television played in front of empty stadiums.

Social activities also took a hit. Fewer people are dining out with friends or going to the bar. Zoom happy hours became a thing. Drive-by weddings were all the rage.

And then there’s dating.

The struggles of dating during the pandemic

It’s no surprise that dating during the pandemic has become a more virtual experience. Match Group, the company that owns Hinge, Tinder and other dating apps, saw an 11 percent increase in subscribers during the pandemic.

Apps like Bumble started adding badges to indicate pandemic date boundaries — think only socially distanced with a mask, only virtual meetups and others.

We conducted a study of single renters to determine how their attitudes about dating during the pandemic have changed over the past year. While there are some differences between men and women and age groups, it seems attitudes are (mostly) the same.

Older daters are less cautious about meeting in person

With in-app video features and zoom dates, users can meet and qualify their dates from the safety and comfort of their homes. A 2020 Match.com study shared that six percent of respondents were not using video before the pandemic, and since coronavirus hit, 69 percent are now open to video chatting.

Our survey also found that overall, 15 percent of daters had more virtual or video meetups than before the pandemic and 22 percent are waiting longer to meet someone for the first time. When you break it down by age groups, you notice a definite trend from younger single renters who are dating to older generations.

precautions on first date graphic

It seems as daters get older, they are less responsible in terms of meeting for the first time compared to Gen Z and younger millennials (who often get criticized for ignoring social distancing guidelines).

In fact, while nearly a quarter (24 percent) of renters between the ages of 18-29 waited longer to meet someone for the first time, that number shrinks to 19 percent for actively dating renters between the ages of 45 and 60.

Additionally, younger generations are also more likely to go on video dates and take precautions for themselves or ask their dates to do the same, such as wearing a mask or waiting for a negative COVID test before meeting in-person.

However, actively dating single renters between 30-44-years old (the majority of the millennial generation) have the highest rate of video first dates at 18 percent.

Daters are enjoying more outside experiences

In what should come as no surprise, outside dating adventures are the most popular options for renters during the pandemic. When asked about the types of dates that people went on more often during the pandemic, outside dates like walks and picnics (34 percent) and dinner or drinks at an establishment with outside seating (29 percent) are the most popular options.

most popular dates during pandemic graphic

Inside dates or dinner and drinks at indoor restaurants are still fairly popular, with both receiving about 16 percent. Interestingly, dates at either person’s homes also come in at roughly 25 percent of the time, indicative of people trying to limit their exposure outside of their personal bubbles.

Tinder remains most popular among dating apps

Tinder had the highest day of swipes ever in late March, with more than 3 billion swipes. In fact, Tinder has reported increasing quarterly paid subscribers counts from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020 with a 15 percent revenue increase year-over-year.

This correlates with our survey data, which shows Tinder as the most popular dating app among single renters, followed by Bumble.

most popular dating apps during pandemic graphic

Interestingly, our findings show a higher percentage of men claiming they are active on all of the dating apps or sites that we listed. This possibly shows that men are using more platforms simultaneously to find love, while women prefer to stick with a few favorites.

4 out of 10 singles say dating is harder than ever before

Nearly 40 percent of all single renters who went on a date in the past year say the experience is more challenging during the pandemic. That’s not surprising when you consider social distancing restrictions and limitations on society.

graphic about how people feel dating during a pandemic is harder than before

When diving deeper, you notice a trend that women who have been dating over the past year say the whole experience has been more challenging compared to men in the same situation. Perhaps this relates to our previous takeaway where women are active on fewer dating apps, potentially limiting themselves to a smaller number of possible partners.

It’s also worth noting that as renters get older, they feel dating is becoming more challenging because of the pandemic. However, our survey does not look into other factors at play for middle-aged renters, such as increased life or job responsibilities, possible health issues and a shrinking dating pool.

Dating tips during the pandemic

Adapting to this new dating landscape isn’t always fun or easy, but it’s definitely possible! Whether you’re hesitant to try dating right now or you want to, but simply don’t know where to start, here are a few tips for dating during the pandemic.

1. Give dating apps a chance

Dating apps often get a bad rap, but they’re the best option for meeting new people when you can’t go out to parties, bars and other places where you’d normally meet someone. And there are plenty of dating apps out there to choose from, all of which have unique offerings. You may need to test out a few different ones before finding an app that you like, so don’t turn away from them if you have a bad experience on one.

2. Take advantage of video chat

Sure, messaging each other is convenient and phone calls are nice, but being able to see the person that you’re talking to is really valuable when dating. There’s a lot of non-verbal communication that happens via facial expression and you’ll be able to better gauge someone’s interest in you if you’re able to read what their voice and words alone can’t tell you.

3. Make time to talk frequently

If you’re not meeting up in person, it is easy to push off responding to messages or starting phone and video calls, even if you’re interested in the person you’re talking to. So set aside time to talk to them, whether that means messaging them on your lunch break or chatting over the phone for a half-hour after work. Make it a priority or else you and the person you’re talking to might lose interest and may stop talking altogether.

4. Meet in person — safely

Just as there’s a big difference between messaging, phone calls and video calls, there’s a big difference between video chatting and doing it in person. Facial expressions can tell us a lot, but body language gives us even more to work with when we’re trying to decipher how someone feels.

Meet up somewhere that you can stay socially distanced, but still talk and interact in some way. You can try hanging out at a park for a bit and maybe even throw a frisbee or kick a soccer ball, so you’re doing something together without getting too close.

5. Establish your comfort level

Everyone has a different experience and their own feelings about the pandemic. It’s important to know where you and the person you’re dating are at with things so you can both feel as good as possible in the circumstances.

If you’re not comfortable meeting in person, then say so and be specific in letting them know why you don’t want to meet in person. Or if you’re okay with meeting up and the person you’re meeting would prefer if you stayed 10 feet apart, be respectful and understanding of that so that they don’t feel worried the entire time you’re together. Don’t focus on seeming “paranoid” or worry about how others will view you — you should feel just as comfortable as the other person in this unique dating situation, so make your comfort level known to them.

Methodology

The information in this article was drawn from a Rent.com survey conducted in January 2021. The survey collected 1,091 responses from single renters over the age of 18. Of these individuals, 52 percent were between the ages of 18 and 29. Another 25 percent were between the ages of 30 and 44, while 17 percent listed their age as between 45 and 60. An additional 6 percent were over the age of 60.

Respondents were 55 percent female and 45 percent male. Survey results were self-reported, so they are subject to response biases.

Respondents’ reported annual incomes ranged from $0 to $200,000+. Sixty percent of renters made between $0 and $49,999; 24 percent of renters fell in the $50,000 to $99,999 income bracket; 7 percent made between $100,000 and $200,000 and 2 percent earned more than $200,000 annually. Seven percent of respondents preferred not to answer this question.

Fair use statement

This survey information and related graphics are available to help interpret economic, holiday and pandemic-related trends. Please properly credit and link to the survey information and graphics as a courtesy to their creators.

Source: rent.com

Moving In With Your Significant Other

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Finding and falling in love with your soul mate is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life.  The more time you begin to spend with one another, the better you get to know each other, but nothing reveals more about a person and your relationship than moving in together.  Before you and your significant other decide to take the plunge, there are a few things that should be discussed.

COMMUNICATION

As with any potential roommatecommunication is key.  When choosing to move in together, you are significantly increasing the amount of time, money and space to be shared.

Moving In With Your Significant Other | How-To

Moving In With Your Significant Other | How-To

EXPENSES

One of the biggest and potentially most uncomfortable topics to broach is money and expenses.  Unlike a typical roommate situation, a couple’s finances have a tendency to become much more entwined.  Before taking things to the next level, decide how all living expenses will be split, and whether or not you will share or maintain separate bank accounts.  Be clear about your expectations to avoid disappointment and frustration.

Moving in with your significant other

Moving in with your significant other

RESPONSIBILITIES

The next order of business is division of household responsibilities.  Couples may choose to assign certain tasks (one handles dishes, the other handles laundry), designate cleaning days or hours, or agree to maintain certain rooms or spaces.  Regardless of how you decide to divide the larger tasks, agree to clean up after yourselves.  Respecting and maintaining your mutual space will help preclude any resentment.  When you commit to someone, changes in work and home life are bound to occur over time; stay open-minded and flexible about adjusting the workload at home accordingly.

Moving In With Your Significant Other | How-To

Moving In With Your Significant Other | How-To

Ready to find your next apartment?

SCHEDULES

If you are dating someone seriously enough to move in, you are most likely familiar with each other’s schedules.  If your work or social calendars are not in sync, be clear about what you both need from one another to make it work.  If one of you is up at the crack of dawn to get to the gym before work, the other should be willing to abide by quiet hours after 10pm.  If one of you is committed to night work or activities, be sure to set aside designated time to spend together, such as dinner or breakfast.  Having identical schedules is not realistic, but respecting each other’s needs and desires is crucial.

Moving In With Your Significant Other | How-To

Moving In With Your Significant Other | How-To

FURNISHINGS

When moving in with your significant other, it is likely that you will also be combining and coordinating furnishings and personal belongings.  After assembling a list of your must-keep items, eliminate duplicate items and decide together what stays and what goes.  Compromise on the style of your shared space and collaborate to purchase supplementary items.  Idealists may choose to split the cost of each purchase while prudent individuals may choose to purchase items separately to ease the potential division of assets down the line.

Moving In With Your Significant Other | How-To

Moving In With Your Significant Other | How-To

If you’ve made it through these major discussions unscathed, then you’re off to a great start!  Employing all of these techniques should get you off on the right foot, but maintaining them is easier said than done.  Holding up your end of the bargain is the one thing you have sole control over.  To maintain a happy home, periodically revisit the agreements you’ve made with one another.  As discussed, our lives are constantly changing and evolving and our ability to adapt to both our own and our partners schedules and needs is key.  Keep an open line of communication going to avoid falling into a rut.  Eventually, you’ll fall into a routine that works well for both of you.  Keep things fun and exciting by enjoying date nights and shared activities at home, but allow yourselves some alone time as well.

Moving in together is an exciting step for any relationship.  With a little effort up front and some deliberate maintenance, you’ll be well on your way to happily ever after!

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

Source: blog.apartminty.com

Are Home Prices Going to Surge in 2020?

It’s a new year, and with that comes old questions, like will mortgage rates go up or down in 2020? And will home prices rise or fall?

Well, a few months ago, you would have probably thought the answer to the home price question was a no-brainer.

After so many years of seemingly unsustainable appreciation, there’d just be no way home prices could eek out more gains, let along big ones.

But that logic has just been turned on its head thanks to a new report from Zillow, which claims we’re running out of homes again.

For-Sale Inventory Hits Lowest Point Since 2013

  • Uptick in housing inventory appears to have been short-lived
  • Lowest number of for-sale homes on the market since at least 2013
  • Supply is only expected to worsen from here with little home building and lots of demand
  • Could be the recipe for even higher home prices in 2020

This isn’t the first time we’ve run out of homes, but after an uptick in inventory over the past couple years, it appeared things were turning around.

However, that “inventory bump a year ago proved to be short-lived,” per Zillow, as we now have the lowest number of for-sale homes in at least seven years.

Yes, inventory is basically back to levels not seen since 2013, and if you recall, home prices were bottoming just before and around that time.

To make matters worse, supply is supposed to get even tighter before we see any relief.

While this is pretty much excellent news for existing homeowners, who will likely see their property values continue to surge, it’s especially bad news for renters trying to get into the game.

Zillow said there were just 1,489,417 homes listed for sale in December, some 120,000 fewer than there were a year ago.

That represents a 7.5% annual drop, and the lowest total dating back to 2013, when Zillow first began collecting such data.

The company referred to the temporary inventory relief seen in 2018 as a “false dawn,” led by a stock market swoon and a jump in mortgage rates, not the beginning of a “sustained trend.”

It turned out that the stock market only surged higher, and mortgage rates have since trickled down close to record lows again.

That has home buyers chasing after whatever’s out there, meaning demand continues to outweigh supply.

Where Housing Inventory Is Down the Most

Remember, real estate is local, and some metros are experiencing more inventory constraints than others.

In fact, housing supply actually went up year-over-year in four out of the 35 largest U.S. housing markets, including San Antonio (+8.1%), Detroit (+7.6%), Atlanta (+1.8%) and Chicago (+0.6%).

Here’s where inventory has dropped the most over the past year:

  1. Seattle (-28.5%)
  2. San Diego (-23%)
  3. Sacramento (-21.7%)
  4. Phoenix (-21%)
  5. Cincinnati (-16.8%)
  6. San Jose (-16.6%)
  7. Los Angeles (-16.5%)
  8. Portland (-15.7%)
  9. Austin (-15.6%)
  10. Riverside (-15.5%)

Home values increased the most in Phoenix (+6.5%), Columbus (+5.9%) and Charlotte (+5.9%) during 2019, and fell in only two markets, San Jose (-6.4%) and San Francisco (-1%).

Inventory is down quite a bit in the Bay Area, so it might not be everything when it comes to home price gains, especially when affordability hits the ceiling. But we’ll see how 2020 plays out.

Home Price Gains May Accelerate in 2020

  • Home prices rose 3.7% from December 2018 to $244,054
  • Significantly lower than the 7.6% annual increase seen a year earlier
  • With supply and interest rates low, we could see a reacceleration
  • Especially when you factor in the wave of coming-of-age home buyers

If 2019 was the year of slowing home price growth, 2020 might be the year it kicks back into gear.

Zillow pointed out that annual rate of home value growth slowed in December, marking the 20th consecutive month it had done so.

But perhaps more importantly, the gap seen between November and December was the smallest one-month decline since home price appreciation began to slow.

And with the traditional spring home buying season just around the corner, we could see a serious jump in home prices, given this supply and demand imbalance.

Last year, home prices rose 3.7% to an average of $244,054, markedly lower than the 7.6% increase seen a year earlier.

However, the value of the U.S. housing market is now a staggering $33.6 trillion. In the 2010s alone, U.S. property values increased by $11.3 trillion, a more than 50% increase.

Roughly 14% of the gain came from new construction, while the remainder was a result of higher prices on existing housing stock.

Now it appears we might be in for even more. This speaks to how long booms and busts take to actually play out.

You always assume it’s done before it goes up (or down) another notch. Just like the stock market, which continues to hit milestone after milestone. And I believe that’s what we’re seeing here.

Once you factor in the 45 million Americans reaching the average first-time home buyer age of 34 over the next decade, it becomes pretty clear. We need more homes, and fast.

Unfortunately, it also means trouble might be brewing since housing affordability has been a concern for several years now.

That might put us at a crossroads. Either we build more homes and deal with the supply issue head-on, or financing gets “creative” again to help more prospective buyers into homes they may not be able to afford.

If it’s the latter, that bust we were worried about in 2019 could be right around the corner. Just remember, it takes a little longer than you expect to get to the corner…

Read more: When will the next housing crash happen?

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

What Your Credit Score Says About You

Your credit score is more than just a number. It represents how reliable a borrower you are and how well (or poorly) you manage your debt. Just like your SAT scores back in high school (which I prefer to never think about again), it will spark judgement.

Prospective lenders, landlords and maybe even a new dating partner will use your score as a make-or-break sign. If you’re curious to know where you stand, be sure to get your free credit score report with Turbo.

Depending on where your score falls on the credit score scale (which runs between 300 and 850 on the VantageScore scale) what does this three-digit figure actually reveal about you?

Note: Some creditors will use the FICO score system, which is graded and calculated differently from the VantageScore. We’re using VantageScore below.

Superprime: 818 – 850

A score between 818 and 850 is the equivalent of an A/A+ on your school report card. It implies you’ve been very responsible with your credit, paying your bills on time and in full each month. Even if you had a low score at one point, you’ve worked hard over time to reclaim a top spot on the credit score charts. In short, you’re very mindful and responsible when it comes to credit.

Your score also reveals that you’re a relatively safe bet when it comes to borrowing money from a lender or renting out an apartment. Using your VantageScore, the lowest mortgage rates tend to go to borrowers with credit scores in the 818-850 range, which means your high score will also help you save money down the road.

Prime Plus: 727 – 817

If superprime is the honor-roll student, prime plus is the one occasionally acing tests and getting high B’s otherwise. This score tells people that you’re a solid bet, and maybe just a tad new to the game still. You’ve been hard at work building your score and doing the right things. Continue maintaining a nice level of available credit and pay on time, and you’ll hit that Superprime title in no time!

This range will make you eligible for most credit cards, loans, and mortgages with a slightly higher interest rate than those in the superprime category. Still, you should have no problem securing most cards or major loans, even those required for a house or car.

Prime: 636 – 726

This range shows you’re either somewhat new at building credit or you’ve made a few mistakes, suggesting you have some room for improvement when it comes to managing your credit well.

Since payment history, debt-to-credit ratio, and available credit are the three biggest factors in crunching your credit score, a figure in this range could signal that you were late paying a bill recently or are carrying a tall balance on your credit cards (or both). A score of 636-726 will hardly exempt you from qualifying for credit, but it may cost you a higher interest rate on that loan.

Non-Prime: 546 – 635

Hmm. Did you recently foreclose on your home? Are you delinquent on some bills?

At this level, your score suggests you are going through some tough credit times or, at least, recovering from some recent setbacks. While you may be making the right moves to rebuild your credit now, it may take many months or several years. Meanwhile, lenders will see this as concerning. You may qualify for new credit, but it will likely come attached to a higher-than-average interest rate.

High Risk: 300 – 545

At this point, I’d lay low and not apply for any new credit until your score breaks 545. Your score is telling people, “I’m not in a good place!” And banks and landlords may see you as too big a risk.

If you’re getting over a bankruptcy or a foreclosure, it may take seven to ten years before the stain falls off your credit report. In the meantime, your credit score may be slow to heal.

To help, you could take on a secured card, which is sort of like a credit card on training wheels. It’s designed for people who can’t qualify for a typical credit card yet (perhaps due to very low credit).

How it works: You load the card with your own money, just like you would a prepaid card. You then use it like a credit card, charging a few expenses on it and paying off your bill every month (or, essentially paying yourself back).

The activity on a secured card gets reported to the credit reporting agencies. Use it wisely and your credit score could inch up sooner than later. Eventually you may be able to qualify for a traditional credit card and really start to enhance your credit game to boost your score. Patience and good behavior will go a very long way.

General Credit Score Questions

Various credit cards

Knowledge is the best tool when it comes to building your credit score and reaching that Superprime status. To help you reach your credit score goals, here are a couple of common questions.

What’s the Credit Score Wheel?

The credit score wheel is a way to visualize the various elements that factor into your credit score. This wheel will look a little different depending on if you’re looking at VantageScores or FICO scores, as the two are calculated using different weights.

The VantageScore 4.0 criteria are as follows (in descending order of importance):

  1. Payment History: Paying your bills on time is the most heavily-weighted criteria here.
  2. Age and Type of Credit: Having numerous types of credit (credit cards, mortgage, auto loan, etc) over a long period of time is another huge factor.
  3. Percentage of Credit Used: Having your individual credit balances under 30% of total available credit can help grow your score.
  4. Total Balances and Debt: Maintaining a low level of total debt will help your score reach Superprime.
  5. Recent Credit Behavior: Opening too many accounts too quickly will hurt you. Allow a sizeable gap between opening accounts.
  6. Available Credit: This goes hand-in-hand with percentage of credit used. Don’t use too much credit, only what you need.

Does My Credit Score Impact my APR?

Many wonder if their credit score will impact their APR. In short, yes, your credit score heavily impacts your APR.

Those with a higher credit score, especially those in the Prime Plus and Superprime territory, will have a far lower APR than those in the other tiers. Unfortunately credit is necessary to build credit, so you’ll likely have to start with credit cards that have poor APR. (Just use them sparingly and don’t leave a balance!)

Your Credit Scores: A Never-Ending Battle

Woman pushing credit card up a hill

Your credit score is always moving in one direction or another. You can’t get lazy and expect it to stay put, so make sure you’re always aware of where your credit use is at. Don’t spend what you don’t have, don’t open too many accounts, and keep an accurate budget.

You can reach Superprime eventually. Before you know it, you’ll be the one on the block all the other credit card holders want to be like!

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Source: mint.intuit.com