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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10 Cities Near Seattle To Live in 2021

With its natural beauty and laid-back culture, there are many excellent reasons to move to the Seattle area. But the city has seen rapid population growth in recent years, along with an increased cost of living — causing a drawback for some. Fortunately, there are plenty of cities near Seattle that offer fantastic alternatives for every lifestyle.

Whether you’re looking for a safe suburb to raise a family in, a home base for outdoor excursions or a hip neighborhood with a thriving nightlife, there’s a city that offers what you’re looking for, all without traveling more than 30 minutes or so outside downtown Seattle. Consider adding the following places to your list.

Kirkland, WA. Kirkland, WA.

  • Distance from downtown Seattle: 11.1 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,069 (down 3.1 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,521 (up 5.8 percent since last year)

Located on the Northeastern shore of Lake Washington, Kirkland offers easy proximity to downtown Seattle combined with a wooded, suburban feel. Many families find Kirkland appealing as an alternative to Seattle. They can find more space, excellent schools and the opportunity to live close to an urban center.

The city of Kirkland is on the waterfront. Its popular public parks on the lake offer opportunities for boating, swimming and beach volleyball. It also showcases a picturesque collection of restaurants and shops, perfect for an evening out.

Commuters to Seattle will enjoy a short drive into downtown, or you can choose the excellent public transit connections.

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Redmond, WA. Redmond, WA.

  • Distance from downtown Seattle: 15.3 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,141 (down 7.3 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,712 (down 5.8 percent since last year)

Redmond is perhaps best known as the home of Microsoft. A resulting concentration of tech talent has attracted other tech companies as well as their employees, creating a diverse community of young professionals and families.

Redmond is sprawling and spacious, with wide sidewalks and plenty of trees. Many streets have bike lanes and paved bike paths connect to other nearby cities.

The city is in a beautiful natural setting and is home to Marymoor Park, which hosts outdoor concerts and features dozens of sports fields and a climbing wall.

Redmond also has excellent schools and a pleasant, walkable downtown core with many shops and restaurants.

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Des Moines, WA. Des Moines, WA.

  • Distance from downtown Seattle: 14.9 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,425 (down 1.4 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,767 (down 1.8 percent since last year)

Des Moines is a quiet, affordable waterfront city located midway between Seattle and Tacoma along the Interstate 5 corridor. The municipality stretches along the water, with many options for stunning views of Puget Sound.

The small downtown includes some great restaurants and waterfront walks, with plenty of nearby trails and parks that offer hiking, biking and even camping.

Des Moines is on a rapid transit line that makes it easy to access nearby SeaTac and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport or commute south to Federal Way or Tacoma.

The city will appeal to families and young professionals seeking an affordable option without sacrificing livability.

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Issaquah, WA. Issaquah, WA.

  • Distance from downtown Seattle: 17.2 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,013 (down 13.0 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,389 (down 14.7 percent since last year)

The city of Issaquah spreads from the Sammamish Highlands down across the valley and into the hills known as the Issaquah Alps. Homes on these hills have beautiful views of the valley, while those in the lowlands are close to the quaint downtown core, which offers restaurants, cafes and many shopping options.

A dispersed, suburban city with an excellent school system, Issaquah has long been a popular choice for families. Recent development has also added housing choices for young, single professionals seeking an option outside the city.

There are plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities in the area, including hiking and mountain biking trails at the popular Tiger Mountain. Close enough to the wilderness for the occasional cougar sighting, Issaquah is also near enough to Seattle for an easy commute along Interstate 90.

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Sammamish, WA. Sammamish, WA.

  • Distance from downtown Seattle: 21 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,665 (up 1.0 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,945 (down 2.5 percent since last year)

The Sammamish Plateau is known for world-class golf courses, but that’s not all it has to offer. This city to the east of Seattle frequently appears on best-of lists for livability, yet it is still more affordable than many similar cities nearby.

Some areas of Sammamish have an almost rural feel, while others are much denser. It’s possible to find a home that feels tucked in among the woods or an urban apartment, all in the same city.

In addition to golf, outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the bike path around nearby Lake Sammamish and the proximity to wooded trails in the mountains.

Families will appreciate the above-average schools and quiet, safe streets.

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Snoqualmie, WA. Snoqualmie, WA.

  • Distance from downtown Seattle: 28.5 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: N/A
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,699

If you’ve chosen to live in the Pacific Northwest for the outdoor adventure opportunities, Snoqualmie has a lot to offer. Just under 30 miles east of Seattle along I-90, Snoqualmie is perhaps best known for the iconic Snoqualmie Falls, which are not only a scenic tourist attraction but also power generators that provide electricity to the town.

Natural beauty surrounds Snoqualmie, with plenty of opportunities to get out and explore the surrounding Cascade foothills in all seasons.

While it has become increasingly popular as a bedroom community for Seattle, Snoqualmie retains its own identity and small-town feel. It has a vibrant arts community, restaurants and shopping options.

In 2019, it was rated the safest city in Washington.

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Everett, WA. Everett, WA.

  • Distance from downtown Seattle: 28.6 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,570 (down 6.1 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,758 (up 3.6 percent since last year)

For those looking for an urban feel at an affordable price, Everett offers a great alternative to Seattle.

With an economy historically based on manufacturing for companies such as Boeing, Everett retains a blue-collar sensibility that does not prevent it from offering a vibrant art and culture scene, as well as many interesting restaurants and bars.

Sports fans can cheer on the Everett Aquasox, the local minor league baseball team, and for hockey enthusiasts, there is the Everett Silvertips. The Angel of the Winds Arena is one of the major sports and concert venues in the region, offering plenty of entertainment options.

With Puget Sound to the west and the Snohomish River to the East, Everett, like many nearby cities, has a deep, natural beauty that adds to the appeal.

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North Bend, WA. North Bend, WA.

  • Distance from downtown Seattle: 29.3 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: N/A
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $3,014 (up 12.9 percent since last year)

North Bend is the ultimate destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Its location amid the Cascade mountains’ foothills puts you close to hiking trails, mountain biking and winter skiing opportunities.

Popular local hikes, such as Mount Si and Rattlesnake Ridge, are just minutes away. Even for those who are less inclined to search for adventure, picturesque peaks provide a gorgeous backdrop for everyday life.

Famous as the filming location of the TV show Twin Peaks, North Bend has a genuine small-town feel, with a quaint downtown featuring cafes, restaurants, boutiques and breweries.

North Bend has grown rapidly in recent years, with many of its 7,423 residents choosing it for its rural location. Despite the remote vibe, it is just over 30 minutes from Seattle along I-90, making it a popular choice for commuters.

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Tacoma, WA. Tacoma, WA.

  • Distance from downtown Seattle: 33.9 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,734 (up 11.2 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,978 (up 13.1 percent since last year)

Tacoma is a city with a lot to offer at an affordable price.

The historic downtown faces Puget Sound, with gorgeous waterfront views. You’ll find great restaurants and shopping options. The downtown area is compact and walkable, but you can also get around easily by bus and rapid transit.

In the downtown core, you’ll encounter young professionals and students from the University of Washington Tacoma campus.

Up the hill, you’ll find residential neighborhoods, each with its own unique feel. Families enjoy good schools and quiet neighborhood streets.

Anyone who has driven through the city will have seen the Tacoma Dome, an event space that hosts events from car shows to concerts. Those in search of culture will also enjoy the Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass.

On the waterfront, Point Defiance Park is a popular destination for hiking, boating or picnicking with a view.

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Lake Stevens, WA. Lake Stevens, WA.

Photo source: City of Lake Stevens, WA / Facebook
  • Distance from downtown Seattle: 36.6 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,500 (up 22.5 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: N/A

Located on the lake for which it’s named, Lake Stevens is a growing community that is particularly popular among families with children.

With more affordable prices than many surrounding cities due to its slightly longer drive time to Seattle, Lake Stevens has a small-town feel with an emphasis on community. The city is a good option for those looking for a calm, quiet location well outside of Seattle.

Lake Stevens is a popular boating destination in the summer, and the town and its surroundings are full of natural beauty.

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Make one of these cities near Seattle your next home

Find a home that’s right for you in one of these Pacific Northwest cities. Your next apartment near Seattle awaits.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory pulled in April 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.
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.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Family Vacation Ideas that Won’t Break the Bank

A family vacation is one of the best ways to celebrate great weather and take a break from the long, hardworking months of winter – but not if it puts a dent in the rest of your year’s budget.

Americans alone are estimated to spend over $100 billion in vacations this year – up 16% from 2016.

But don’t let these numbers deter you from sticking your toes in the sand. With just a little bit of planning and these five budget-saving vacation ideas, relaxing and exciting family vacations that don’t drain your wallet are only within a summer’s day reach.

1. Splash Around at the Beach

Beautiful beaches don’t just exist in the Caribbean Islands. In fact, some of the very best beaches lie on our own beautiful coast, offering just as much sunshine and relaxation as your favorite 5-star resort. What’s the best part? Most beaches are free, while others simply charge a small parking fee. If you don’t live in a coastal region, skip the pricey plane tickets for a family drive. Just don’t forget to make time for your favorite stops along the way.

Saving Money on VacationSaving Money on Vacation

2. Plan a Road Trip Around Your State

Road trips are one of my favorite ways to spend quality time with my family. Not only do you save on expensive airfare, but you also have the freedom of planning your destinations, and can always change your course along the way. Instead of spending money on a hotel room, plan to stay at popular campsites along your journey. Who knows? You may just create a new family tradition and discover something new along the way.

3. Check Out Parks and Nature Centers

Most people look forward to summer as a chance to spend time in the great outdoors, so why not use this to your advantage? Check out local tourism websites both inside and outside of your city to give you ideas of places you’ve never been before that will get your family active and moving. Most towns have a plethora of great views, biking/hiking trails, and wide-open spaces that are open for exploration to the public.

4. Visit Historic Sites

Looking for an awesome family vacation that is also educational? Visiting our nation’s historic sites is not only an affordable way to pass the time, but it is also a great way to create family memories while learning about our history. Most historical landmarks are free or very low-cost. Find out what kind of history your state and the surrounding areas have to offer. Look for things like landmarks, ghost towns, ruins, battlefields, museums, and other activities that are rich with history.

5. When in Doubt, Head to the Backyard!

A great family vacation doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money and travel far away from home. In fact, some of the most classic summer memories can happen in your own backyard. Enjoy all of the benefits of summer near the comfort of your home by setting up your very own camping experience in the comfort of your home! Cook your dinner over the fire, tell scary stories, and sleep under the stars. This is a great way to get younger children accustomed to the camping experience. Just don’t forget the s’mores!

Finding a vacation destination that will accommodate the whole family is tough, but discovering a vacation spot that doesn’t destroy your wallet can be even more difficult. Avoid the crowds and save your wallet this year, with a family-friendly money-conscious vacation that doesn’t compromise on summer fun.

Source: creditabsolute.com

Tax Day 2021: When’s the Last Day to File Taxes?

Last year, the deadline for filing your federal income tax return was pushed back from April 15 to July 15 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the IRS extended the due date again – this time to May 17. In addition to giving taxpayers more time to file their 2020 federal income tax returns, the extension gives the tax agency more time to adjust its computer systems and forms to account for tax changes made by the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act – most notably, the $10,200 exemption for unemployment compensation received in 2020.

If you’re a victim of the February winter storms in Texas, Oklahoma, or Louisiana, you can wait until June 15, 2021, to file your 2020 federal income tax return. Moving the general filing deadline from April 15 to May 17 doesn’t affect these disaster-related extensions. If there are other natural disasters between now and May 17, other Americans could have their filing deadline pushed back even further, too.

If you have a federal tax refund coming, you could get paid in as little as three weeks. In the past, the IRS has issued over 90% of refunds in less than 21 days. To speed up the refund process, e-file your 2020 tax return and select the direct deposit payment method. That’s the fastest way. Paper returns and checks slow things down considerably.

If for some reason you can’t file your federal tax return on time, it’s easy to get an automatic extension to October 15, 2021. But you have to act by May 17 to qualify (June 15 for storm victims in Texas, Oklahoma, or Louisiana). Keep in mind, however, that an extension to file doesn’t extend the time to pay your tax. If you don’t pay up by the original due date, you’ll owe interest on the unpaid tax. You could also be hit with additional penalties for filing and paying late.

And don’t forget about your state tax return. Most states synch their income tax return deadline with the federal tax due date – but there are a handful of states that have different deadlines. Plus, while most states have adjusted their filing deadlines to May 17 or later, not all states have done so. Check with the state tax agency where you live to find out exactly when your state tax return is due.

Source: kiplinger.com

8 Ways to Get Rid of Allergies

Ah, spring: The time of year when flowers bloom, the air warms and … ahh-choo! … your allergies start to drive you crazy.

You might not be able to do much about the pollen and other common sneeze-inducers outside but inside your apartment? That’s another story.

Allergens — substances that provoke the immune system, even though they’re usually harmless — are often found in the home in the forms of dust and mold.

People with allergies are part of an exclusive (sniffly) club. They’re the only people who know how it feels to be constantly at war with allergens everywhere from dust to pollen to pet hair, all in an effort to continue breathing effortlessly. People who don’t have allergies? They just don’t get it.

Get rid of allergies by following these steps

When you’re prone to sniffles and sneezes during allergy season — or at any other time of year — it’s important to keep your apartment as free of allergens as possible. Read on, fellow allergy sufferers, for eight practical tips on how to get rid of allergies.

1. Get rid of dust mites

Dust mites are the ultimate allergens. To keep them out, dust your entire apartment. Use a damp rag or a Dustbuster on every surface, including your blinds and window treatments, and make sure to clean every inch of your floors thoroughly.

Then, take extra steps to keep dust mites at bay. Use dust covers on your pillows and mattresses, get rid of any unused baskets or bins in your closets that gather dust, and wash your sheets regularly.

2. Clean up

In general, the cleaner your apartment, the less likely you’ll have to deal with allergens. Set a cleaning schedule with your roommates to make sure the place is dusted, wiped down, swept and vacuumed at least once a week.

Throw out expired food and wipe out the inside and outside to avoid mold growth. Scrub your bathtub or shower as often as needed to prevent mold and mildew growth. Vacuum couch cushions and throw pillows often.

vacuumvacuum

3. Vacuum your carpet

Many renters love carpet — after all, it’s cushiony, comfortable and it keeps your feet a bit warmer during the winter. However, carpet easily traps allergens in its fibers. Invest in a high-quality vacuum, and clean your carpet from wall to wall regularly.

4. Do the laundry

Your laundry hamper traps everything from dust mites to pet dander. Likewise, your sheets and pillowcases pick up allergens more quickly than you may think. If you’re struggling with sniffles and sneezes, you may want to amp up your laundry schedule.

Wash sheets in hot water once a week. Encase your mattress in a dust mite-proof cover. On top of doing laundry more, you can also put your hamper in the closet to keep any dust or dander better contained.

Don’t forget your favorite childhood stuffed animal we all know you still have. Wash them in the machine, if possible. If not, put the toy in a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer for 24 hours. This will kill dust mites hiding in the stuffing.

dogdog

5. Keep Fido or Felix groomed

Pet allergies are some of the most common, so if you own a cat or dog, your furry friend may be to blame for your sniffles. Cut down on Fido’s dander by keeping him groomed and clean. Use a brush or fur-grabbing tool to pick up loose fur, and take it immediately out of your apartment so it doesn’t find its way into your carpet or bedding.

Also, give Fido a bath every once in a while — the more on top of his grooming you are, the less likely his dander and fur will get all over your apartment.

6. Close your windows

When the weather starts to warm up for spring, it feels blissful to open your windows and let in the breeze. However, it’s not just a breeze you’re letting in — it’s pollen, too. Keep your windows closed if you notice yourself getting really stuffed up during the typical spring allergy season. Also, you can buy washable curtains and dust your blinds often.

air filterair filter

7. Replace your vent filters

Dust, dirt, lint and other debris often build up in vents. And you know what that means: Your heat or air conditioning then blows that debris into your apartment, filling the air with potential allergens.

If your landlord didn’t replace the vent filters before you moved in, see if he or she is willing to make that upgrade now. Most landlords will be happy to.

8. Declutter

Clutter is your worst enemy when it comes to ridding your apartment of allergens. That pile of clothes in your closet and the stack of old magazines in the basket in the living room gather tons of dust.

The moral? If you’re not using it, throw it out. Keep your apartment clear of any spots that can easily fill with dust. You’ll be free of allergens in no time — or at least freer.

Take action to get rid of allergies

Figuring out how to get rid of allergies can be hard. But you can increase your chances of eliminating your apartment of allergens by following these simple tips. Not only will they cut down on the number of tissues you’ll go through, but it will make your apartment a nice, clean oasis, as well.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

10 Money Books for Children and Teens

Reading is one of the most valuable skills children learn. Not only does reading enable us to navigate the modern world, it provides an endless source of learning and entertainment.

I am incredibly thankful that all of my children are avid readers who love nothing more than to have a fresh new book in their hands, but over the years, I’ve learned that you can’t just toss any book at them and expect them to read it. They’re engaged by compelling stories and by things that match up well with their interests in the moment. They’re not immediately going to gravitate to a book about money unless it speaks to them in some way.

Why worry about it at all? The reality is that financial education is a big part of modern parenting. Many schools provide very little in terms of practical financial education, leaving it up to parents to prepare their children for this aspect of adult life, and it can be a real challenge.

There’s an abundance of great financial books for adults, but it’s harder to find great options for children that really hit the sweet spot of being age-relevant and interesting to them. Here are 10 options that manage to balance these two goals.

In this article

The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Money by Stan and Jan Berenstain is a wonderful picture book for read aloud time or for early independent readers. It tells a relatable story from the perspective of the two younger Berenstain Bears about the challenge of having limited amounts of money. Children are going to be familiar with the idea of not having enough money to buy the things that they want, but what do they do in that situation? This book handles it with care.

Another good financially minded book choice for preschool children is Curious George Saves His Pennies by H.A. Rey. It focuses on the challenge of having enough patience to save for a large goal without getting distracted, balanced with George’s colorful adventures and distractions.

Brock, Rock, and the Savings Shock by Sheila Bair and Barry Gott takes the idea of compound interest and makes it into an accessible children’s book with a lot of clever rhyming and beautiful illustrations. The book focuses on twin brothers, one of whom chooses to spend on momentary impulses while the other saves his money, leading to the end when the saving brother has a lot of money built up thanks to the compounding.

Another great choice for early elementary children is The Squirrel Manifesto by Ric and Jean Edelman and illustrated by Dave Zaboski. It’s a beautifully illustrated book that brings to mind the fable of the grasshopper and the ant, focusing on a parable involving a squirrel saving resources for the winter to come.

For upper elementary kids: Lunch Money

Lunch Money by Andrew Clements and illustrated by Brian Selznick tells a great story of a rivalry between two entrepreneurially minded children, but within the rollicking tale comes a lot of good ideas about working to earn money, the value of cooperation, investing in yourself, and putting aside money for the long haul. These ideas are really effortlessly weaved into the story.

An alternative choice is How to Turn $100 into $1,000,000 by James McKenna, Jeannine Glista and Matt Fontaine. While this isn’t story-oriented like many of the other selections here, the provocative title and the perfect approach for older elementary-age children who are beginning to have somewhat more expensive tastes make this a great choice for adolescents.

Money Hungry by Sharon Flake tells a very memorable story about a 13-year-old girl who seems obsessed with money, finding all sorts of ways to earn a dollar here and a dollar there. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that she’s driven by a fear of poverty and some painful memories of not having enough when she was younger. This book has spurned some wonderful conversations in our home about money, needs and how different people see those things differently.

Another really great option for middle schoolers is Katie Bell and the Wishing Well by Nephi and Elizabeth Zufelt, which takes something of an opposite approach to Money Hungry. Here, the titular character finds all of her financial wishes easily granted, but finds that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and that much of what we think of as a wealthy life comes from other things, like relationships.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen is a beautiful story about a teenager with a summer job who is using that opportunity to both earn money and escape from some difficult life issues, particularly the death of a parent. The book intertwines money issues with the multitude of concerns and difficulties teens often face, resulting in a wonderful story with a great conclusion.

A completely different type of financial book that might just click with your high schooler is I Want More Pizza by Steve Burkholder and editors Rebecca Maizel and David Aretha. This is a nonfiction book, but it’s extremely applicable to and targets almost perfectly the financial concerns of high schoolers. Should they get a job? Should they be saving for college or for a car? It does a great job of addressing the exact questions I often hear from the high schooler in my home.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

Competing Against Multiple Offers on a House

For every piece of property on the real estate market, there could be anywhere from zero to infinite buyers who are hoping to call it home. OK, “infinite” is a stretch, but multiple-offer scenarios can be common when the race is on to purchase a new home.

Which house hunter comes out with keys in hand, however, depends on many circumstances.

Whether it’s a hot seller’s market or a slowly simmering buyer’s market, knowing how to handle a multiple-offer situation can help homebuyers beat out the competition.

Multiple Offers in a Seller’s Market

A seller’s market means the demand for houses is greater than the supply for sale, causing home prices to increase and often giving sellers a serious advantage.

It can get pretty competitive for those who need to buy a house, and multiple offers on a house become the new norm.

Seller’s markets and their state of multiple offers can happen for a few reasons:

•   More houses typically go up for sale during peak homebuying season in the summer, so seller’s markets are more common in the winter when inventory is low.
•   Cities that see steady population growth and increased job opportunities often experience a higher demand for housing, leading to multiple interested buyers making offers on limited inventory.
•   A decrease in interest rates could mean more people are able to qualify for mortgages, causing an uptick in homebuyers that might work to the seller’s advantage. More interested parties can mean more negotiation power.

Multiple Offers in a Buyer’s Market

In a buyer’s market, there’s a greater number of houses than buyers demanding them. In this case, homebuyers can be more selective about their terms, and sellers might have to compete with one another to be the most sought-after house on the block.

In a buyer’s market, house hunters typically have more negotiating power. The number of offers on the table is usually lower than in a seller’s market, and the winning bid is often lower than the listing price.

Are Buyers’ Agents Aware of Other Offers?

Unless house hunters are buying a house without an agent, there are certain cases where the buyer’s agent could be tipped off to other offers on the house.

A lot of it depends on the strategy of the sellers’ agent and whether it’s designed to stir up a bidding war with obscurity or transparency. Either way, the sellers and their agent could choose to:

•   Not disclose whether or not other buyers have made offers on the property.
•   Disclose the fact that there are other offers, but give no further transparency about how many or how much they’re offering.
•   Disclose the number of competing offers and their exact terms and/or amounts.

It’s up to the sellers and their agent to decide which strategy works best for their situation and, according to the National Association of Realtors® 2020 Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice, only with seller approval can an agent disclose the existence of other offers to potential buyers.

How Do Multiple Offers Affect a Home Appraisal?

After all that energy is expended trying to beat out other buyers, what happens in the event of an all-out bidding war? Some buyers may be tempted to keep increasing their offer to one-up the competition. Unfortunately, this could lead to drastically overpaying for the house.

In these cases, buyers can add an appraisal contingency to their offer, asserting that the appraised value of the property must meet or exceed the price they agreed to pay for it or they can walk away from the deal without losing their deposit.

But what about in competitive seller’s markets when making contingencies could mean losing the deal? In those cases, buyers might have to put down extra money to bridge the gap between what their lender is willing to give and what they offered.

How Can Buyers Beat Other Offers on a House?

There are a few things homebuyers can do to improve their odds of winning when there are multiple offers on a house, though certain tactics may vary based on the local real estate market or specific circumstances.

A Sizable Earnest Money Deposit

Earnest money is a deposit made to the sellers that serves as the buyers’ good faith gesture to purchase the house, typically while they work on getting their full financing in order.

The amount of the earnest money deposit generally ranges between 1% and 2% of the purchase price, but in hot housing markets, it could go up to 5% to 10% of the home’s sale price.

By offering on the higher end of the spectrum, homebuyers can beat out contenders who offer less attractive earnest money deposits.

Best and Final Offer

Going into a multiple-offer situation and expecting a negotiation can be tricky. It’s typically suggested that buyers go in with their strongest offer, one they can still live with if they lose to a contender—aka they know they gave it their all.

In some cases, sellers deliberately list the home for less than comparable sales in the area in an attempt to stir up a bidding war. By going in with their highest offers, buyers could end up paying what the house is actually worth while still winning the deal.

All-Cash Offer

By offering to pay cash upfront for the property, homebuyers effectively eliminate the need for third party (lender) involvement in the transaction.

This can be appealing to sellers who are looking to streamline the sale.

Waived Contingencies

Whether it’s offering the sellers extra time to move out, waiving the home inspection, or ensuring that their current residence is sold before making an offer, potential homebuyers can gain wiggle room when they start to waive contingencies.

Contingencies are conditions that must be met in order to close on a house. If they’re not met, the buyers can back out of the deal without losing their earnest money deposit.

By waiving certain contingencies, buyers show that they’re willing to take on a level of risk to close the deal. This can be appealing to some sellers.

Signs of Sincerity and Respect

Because many sellers have nostalgia for their home, buyers who show sincerity, respect, and sentiment may score extra points.

By writing a letter that lays out what they love about the home and engaging in positive interactions with the sellers and their agent, buyers can put themselves in a more favorable light that could lead to winning in a multiple-offer situation.

An Offer of Extra Time to Move

In some cases, sellers might appreciate (or even require) a bit of a buffer between the closing date and when they formally move out of the house.

By offering them a few extra days post-closing without asking for compensation, flexible buyers can get ahead of contenders who might have stricter buyer possession policies.

A Mortgage Pre-Approval Letter

Most offers are submitted with a lender-drafted letter that indicates the purchasers are pre-qualified for a loan.

A pre-approval letter can take it a step further by showing that the buyers are able to procure borrowed funds after deep financial, background, and credit history screening.

Pre-approval signifies to some sellers that the buyers can put their money where their mouth is, lessening the possibility of future financing falling through.

Kick-Starting the Homebuying Process

One way for house hunters to get a leg up in the homebuying process is by ensuring that their home loans are secured in advance.

With competitive rates, exclusive discounts, and help when you need it, SoFi mortgage loans make the first part of competing against multiple offers a whole lot easier.

Get a leg up and find your rate in two minutes.


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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Source: sofi.com

The Best Places to Live in Wisconsin in 2021

When people think of Wisconsin, they usually think of cheese, the Green Bay Packers or its largest city, Milwaukee.

The best places to live in Wisconsin are scattered throughout the state and include communities both big and small. After all, this Midwest state is home to 777 cities, each with its own strong community and unique personality.

So, whether you’re looking for an apartment while attending one of their excellent universities or colleges, making a move for a new job or looking for something new and different, there is a city and community waiting for you.

Here are 10 of the best places to live in Wisconsin.

Appleton, WI.

Photo source: Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau / Facebook
  • Population: 73,637
  • Average age: 40.8
  • Median household income: $58,112
  • Average commute time: 22.3 minutes
  • Walk score: 41
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom average rent: $918
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,281

Creative outdoor murals line the buildings, while cute boutiques, cozy coffee shops, and delicious food is found throughout historic downtown Appleton.

The city is among more than a dozen that make up the Fox Cities community and overlooks the Fox River.

It’s family-friendly and has a dense suburban feel with highly-rated schools. It’s also home to Lawrence University, a residential liberal arts college and conservatory of music.

Eau-Claire, WI, one of the best places to live in wisconsin

Photo source: Visit Eau-Claire / Facebook
  • Population: 67,250
  • Average age: 40
  • Median household income: $55,477
  • Average commute time: 20.9 minutes
  • Walk score: 47
  • Studio average rent: $608
  • One-bedroom average rent: $722
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $844

Whether it’s gathering with friends and neighbors to enjoy some of the many live music options throughout the city, including the Jazz Fest in the spring, followed by Country Fest, Rock Fest and Blue Ox Music Festival in the summer, or taking in some local art or walking along the historic bridges, Eau Claire is known for its welcoming vibe.

It’s especially welcoming to independent artists who create art installations, building murals and more.

According to a study released by Smart Asset, Eau Claire is also the third most livable small city in the country.

Fond-Du-Lac, WI.

  • Population: 43,145
  • Average age: 42.8
  • Median household income: $52,724
  • Average commute time: 22.4 minutes
  • Walk score: 49
  • Studio average rent: n/a
  • One-bedroom average rent: $822
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $895

Fond du Lac is a family-friendly community with a strong sense of history. The Fond du Lac County Historical Society connects residents to the local history of the town.

The public library and several sporting centers offer programming year-round and there is no shortage of restaurants and bars to enjoy dining and imbibing.

Green Bay, WI, one of the best places to live in wisconsin

  • Population: 104,984
  • Average age: 39.8
  • Median household income: $49,251
  • Average commute time: 22.8 minutes
  • Walk score: 45
  • Studio average rent: $955
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,152
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,252

Most people know Green Bay for its football team (Fun fact: the Green Bay Packers football team is the only NFL team owned by its fans) but there is more than football in this northeastern part of Wisconsin and at the mouth of the Fox River.

While it can get cold during the winter months, Green Bay residents love spending time outdoors whenever possible. Easy access to the Fox River also means water-based activities such as fishing.

As the state’s oldest settlement, it’s also known for its family and business-friendly community.

Kenosha, WI.

  • Population: 98,545
  • Average age: 40.5
  • Median household income: $55,417
  • Average commute time: 29.2 minutes
  • Walk score: 51
  • Studio average rent: $1,254
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,344
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,581

Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan and at the northern border of Illinois, Kenosha is sometimes called a bedroom community between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Outdoor activities are popular, whether it’s water-based activities on Lake Michigan or playing a round of golf at one of the Kenosha County golf courses.

Kenosha is also home to Carthage College and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

La Crosse, WI, one of the best places to live in wisconsin

  • Population: 51,965
  • Average age: 39.1
  • Median household income: $45,233
  • Average commute time: 19.2 minutes
  • Walk score: 60
  • Studio average rent: $773
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,100
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,245

Nestled along the Mississippi River, La Crosse is the largest city on Wisconsin’s western border. It’s home to a few colleges, including the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Western Technical College and Viterbo University.

La Crosse has charming historic homes that have since been converted into bed and breakfasts, such as the Castle La Crosse Bed and Breakfast, while the Dahl Auto Museum pays tribute to the eight oldest Ford dealership under continuous family ownership in the nation.

Nature lovers can enjoy scenic views from 600-foot-high Grandad Bluff which overlooks the city of La Crosse.

Madison, WI.

  • Population: 249,409
  • Average age: 39
  • Median household income: $65,332
  • Average commute time: 23.7 minutes
  • Walk score: 64
  • Studio average rent: $969
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,350
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,935

Madison is the home of Wisconsin’s state capital as well as the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It’s also one of the best cities for millennials.

The second-largest city in the state, Madison is a progressive urban city that is both affordable and offers great employment opportunities.

Outdoor lovers will appreciate the hiking and biking trails and the walkable downtown has bookshops, coffee shops and restaurants around every corner.

Milwaukee, WI, one of the best places to live in wisconsin

  • Population: 599,058
  • Average age: 37.8
  • Median household income: $41,838
  • Average commute time: 27.5 minutes
  • Walk score: 70
  • Studio average rent: $1,276
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,428
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,803

Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s largest and most populated city, with almost 600,000 residents calling it home.

Located in the southern part of the state and along Lake Michigan, it’s known for its many cultural offerings, from the architecturally significant Milwaukee Art Museum to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater to its wildly popular annual Summerfest, one of the largest music festivals in the world.

It’s also home to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University campus as well as two major professional sports teams: the Milwaukee Bucks and the Milwaukee Brewers. Several Fortune 500 companies have headquarters here too, including WEC Energy Group, Northwestern Mutual and Harley-Davidson.

Wauwatosa, WI.

Photo source: Discover Wauwatosa / Facebook
  • Population: 47,772
  • Average age: 43.9
  • Median household income: $82,392
  • Average commute time: 24.6 minutes
  • Walk score: 57
  • Studio average rent: $1,221
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,504
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,962

Wauwatosa, sometimes called Tosa by locals, is just 15 minutes west of downtown Milwaukee. Residents love the small-town feel and having easy access to independently-owned shops and restaurants.

A major employer is the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center and Wauwatosa is home to several colleges and universities.

Tosa Village, originally called Hart’s Mill in the 1800s, is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike as the thriving historic district includes parks, cultural attractions, restaurants, and bars.

Architecture fans will appreciate a trip to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956 and completed in 1961. The church is on the National Register of Historic Places and among Wright’s last works and completed after his death.

Waukesha, WI, one of the best places to live in wisconsin

  • Population: 71,536
  • Average age: 41.3
  • Median household income: $65,260
  • Average commute time: 26.7 minutes
  • Walk score: 33
  • Studio average rent: $898
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,012
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,299

Waukesha is a city of neighborhoods, filled with strong schools, great shops, and an abundance of green spaces to play.

An active farmers market during the summer takes place in downtown Waukesha, where families and friends meet up.

It’s ideal for those who want a suburban environment with access to urban amenities and residents include families as well as young professionals.

The city is also conveniently located close to Milwaukee, just 18 miles west of the largest city in Wisconsin, and 59 miles east of Madison, making it easy to get to either place.

Experience the best cities in Wisconsin

Wisconsin checks off a lot of checkmarks when it comes to living in a vibrant Midwest state with great attractions, schools, outdoor and recreational activities.

Whether you’re looking for a slower pace of life or the energy of a busy city, there is a Wisconsin community ready to welcome you. We hope this list of best places to live in Wisconsin helps you choose your next home.

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

5 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall

The days may be getting shorter, but the list of home-shopping benefits is getting longer.

Real estate markets ebb and flow, just like the seasons. The spring market blooms right along with the flowers, but the fall market often dwindles with the leaves — and this slower pace could be good for buyers.

If you’re in the market for a home, here are five reasons why fall can be a great time to buy.

1. Old inventory may mean deals

Sellers tend to put their homes on the market in the spring, often listing their homes too high right out of the gate. This could result in price reductions throughout the spring and summer months.

These sellers have fewer chances to capture buyers after Labor Day. By October, you are likely to find desperate sellers and prices below a home’s market value.

2. Fewer buyers are competing

Families who want to be in a new home by the beginning of the school season are no longer shopping at this point. That translates into less competition and more opportunities for buyers.

You’ll likely notice fewer buyers at open houses, which could signal a great opportunity to make an offer.

3. Sellers want to close by the end of the year

While a home is where an owner lives and makes memories, it is also an investment — one with tax consequences.

A home seller may want to take advantage of a gain or loss during this tax year, so you might find homeowners looking to make deals so they can close before December 31.

Ask why the seller is selling, and look for listings that offer incentives to close before the end of the year.

4. The holidays motivate sellers

As the holidays approach, sellers are eager to close so they can move on to planning their parties and events.

If a home has not sold by November, the seller is likely motivated to be done with the disruptions caused by listing a home for sale.

5. Harsher weather shows more flaws

The dreary fall and winter months tend to reveal flaws, making them a great time to see a home’s true colors.

It’s better to see the home’s flaws before making the offer, instead of being surprised months after you close. In fact, the best time to do a property inspection is in the rain and snow, because any major issues are more likely to be exposed.

Top photo from Shutterstock.

Related:

Originally published October 2015.

Source: zillow.com

What are Uninhabitable Living Conditions?

Tenants are entitled to a safe and livable rental property, regardless of how much rent they pay.

According to most state laws and housing codes, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to provide habitable living conditions, which means the rental unit meets basic requirements such as reliable heat, plumbing, electricity and solid structural elements.

Your rights apply when you first sign a lease, and throughout the rental term. Generally, landlords should also do minor repairs and maintenance when required.

But what if major problems crop up that affect your everyday life, health or safety? Uninhabitable living conditions can include anything that’s unsanitary or poses a danger to occupants residing there. Here are some common issues you might face, and what to do about them.

Common uninhabitable living conditions you might face as a renter

Anything that makes living on the premises difficult or impossible or that is an obvious building code violation falls under the term uninhabitable living conditions:

Rodent or insect infestation

Rat eating food on a plate in a dirty kitchen.

Bedbugs, cockroaches, fleas, mice, rats or bats all make your rental unit uninhabitable. Cockroaches can spread disease, while rodents can damage apartment walls, electrical systems, plumbing, and roofs. Mice or rat droppings pose health hazards including Hantavirus, a serious respiratory infection.

Structural issues

Holes in the floor or walls, a leaky roof, broken exterior doors, crumbling ceilings – they’re all potentially dangerous hazards that could prevent a tenant from staying.

Mold, mildew, lead or asbestos

Poor indoor air quality usually makes your rental uninhabitable. If you see traces of black on walls and ceilings, that’s likely hazardous mold, which may cause allergic reactions or respiratory problems. Mildew, chipped lead-based paint or deteriorating asbestos insulation can also be unhealthy.

Inadequate utilities

Tenants are entitled to sufficient hot water and enough heat to stay comfortable during the winter months.

Exposed electrical wiring

Exposed electrical wiring.

Loose, live or improperly grounded wires can cause a fire or injure someone if touched. Faulty outlets, flickering lights or any other kind of electrical issue can make your place unsafe to live in. Power failures related to the city grid, however, are not under your landlord’s control.

Plumbing problems

Toilets that regularly clog, overflow or won’t flush, along with leaky pipes and sinks that don’t drain all violate the basic requirements of your lease.

Defective appliances

Landlords who provide appliances as part of the lease should make sure they’re safe to use and in good working order, especially stoves and refrigerators.

If you can’t prepare or store food in your unit, it’s uninhabitable.

Air conditioning that doesn’t work in states that experience dangerously hot summer months also qualifies.

Unsafe common areas

Stairwells, elevators, hallways and entrance or garage doors should be well-lit and in good working order. If they’re not, they could be classified under uninhabitable living conditions.

moldy ceiling

How do I report uninhabitable living conditions?

Depending on where you live and how severe your issues are, you have recourse if you think your rental unit is unsafe or dangerous. Here’s what to do:

  • Report any issues and defects immediately: It’s important to document all problems: Take photos and video, and keep detailed notes. Your lease might explain how to give notice – such as by registered mail – so be sure to check.
  • Follow up regularly: Keep track of when you alert your landlord, what response you received, and whether the problem was addressed. If your landlord promises to fix the issue, find out when and how it will happen.
  • Reach out to local housing authorities: If your complaints are ignored, this might be your next step. They’ll advise you of your rights and outline where you go from here. Some states have government agencies that can impose fines or take legal action on your behalf.
  • Withhold rent: In most areas, tenants with landlords who don’t address uninhabitable living conditions can stop paying rent until the problem is fixed. Or, you can pay for repairs and deduct costs from your rent. There are different procedures to follow depending on where you live, so consult with a lawyer or housing authority first.
  • Move out: While your lease might say you need to give three months’ notice before leaving, if you have a serious problem that affects your health – like rats or mold – you can move out without giving notice.
  • File a lawsuit: You might want to speak to a lawyer specializing in landlord-tenant disputes. Some offer deferred fee services so you only pay if you win.

Protect yourself by being proactive

One way to avoid dealing with uninhabitable living conditions is to avoid renting one in the first place. Inspect every apartment or condo you visit, paying attention to how the place is maintained.

And since laws vary from state to state, be sure to read up on your rights as a tenant by contacting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

Source: rent.com