The Best Cities for Artists in America

No starving artists here: These cities are the best places for artists to live well and practice their craft.

Having access to art and culture is one of the best parts of living in a city. While it’s true that art is found and created anywhere — in cities, there are some definite benefits. Cities act as cultural hubs that draw both new and existing artistic talent. There is a feedback loop of inspiration that cities foster.

With people from many different cultures, backgrounds and walks of life living in close quarters, there is vibrant multiculturalism. Urban density makes it easy to try and experience many different things from theater to food. Artists feed off that creative energy. And when you also live surrounded by other creative individuals, you are constantly being inspired to create new work

But it takes more than that to make a city a great place for artists. It’s widely known that both historically and in modern times, artists are often underpaid for their work. That “starving artist” trope didn’t come from nowhere — artists still need to pay for things like rent and food. They still need to make a living in this world the same as everyone else.

That’s why, on top of a thriving cultural scene, artists need to live in a place that supports their passion and livelihood. That ranges from affordable housing for work and creation, walkability to get around to gigs and much more.

So if you’re an artist with a dream, these are the best cities for artists to create and live.

Finding the best cities for artists

Art is for everyone because there are so many different ways to create. You have visual mediums like painting, drawing or photography. There are performance arts like dancing or theater. And there are musicians across an incredible breadth of genres and instructions, from voice to electronic DJ.

Having a thriving artistic community makes a city a better place to live. There are shows and performances to go to, which improves the quality of life for residents and encourages tourism. But to have such a community, artists need to make a viable living in that city. Quality of life and cost of living for essentials like food and housing, plus affordable rent remain important for those looking to dive into their artist endeavors.

To determine the best cities for artists, we looked for cities with a good walk score and t the average price for studio apartments. Many artists need or want separate spaces to create and work in, same as with offices for other industries, so having affordable studios for rent is key.

We also looked for how many museums there are per density and how many artistic organizations were in the city by density. That included theaters, artistic collectives, performing arts centers and more. All cities also had a population of over 50,000.

The following 10 places emerged as the best cities for artists to live and work in.

10. Baltimore, MD

baltimore md

In recent years, Baltimore has risen the charts as one of the best cities for creatives. This is especially true for the visual arts.

There are more than 60 diverse museums within the area, and it’s the home of renowned museums like the Baltimore Art Museum and the Walters Art Museum. Their substantial collections feature historic art from around the world, as well as exciting contemporary work. The city also supports modern, experimental art in outdoor public spaces like the Glenstone museum and sculpture garden and Downtown Frederick Public Art Trail, making art accessible to all.

There are also ample opportunities in the performing arts. The city is home to seven different performing arts companies and numerous dance and music groups.

Living here, artists can enjoy an abundance of creative outlets and good, affordable quality of life. With an average city median income of $51,000, the average cost for a studio apartment is $1,346. This was down 8.3 percent from last year. That gives artists lots of choices for space, as well as affordable rates.

Baltimore also has good public transportation, and a high Walk Score of 72.

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9. St. Louis, MO

st louis mo

This city that was once the gateway to the West is now a gateway for artists to comfortably live and create in an up-and-coming art city. While it is not the most walkable city, there are many other benefits. The average rent for a studio apartment is $1,328 — with plenty of availability.

St. Louis has an especially good reputation for performing arts, with 14 performing art companies and ten dance companies. Performance venues like The Fabulous Fox, housed in a grand old movie theater, and the Center of Creative Arts give the community hubs to experience art. And the contemporary visual arts scene is also on the rise.

The public can appreciate art in outdoor spaces like Citygarden, and museums like the Grand Center and the St. Louis Art Museum boasts exceptional modern art collections. So there are plenty of places for artists to congregate and work together.

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8. Chicago, IL

chicago il

Chicago has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the United States’ best cities for art, alongside staples like Los Angeles and New York City. But of those two, Chicago is the only one to make it into the top 10 best cities for artists. This means it’s much more affordable than the other two, but still gives artists the creative stimulation they crave. It’s also the place where many greats get their start.

Chicago has many benefits — the downtown area is a dense urban grid, with a very high WalkScore of 84. For outlying areas, there’s excellent public transit. However, most art and culture institutions are downtown — from theaters to museums — so it’s a very centralized area. There are outdoor spaces like Millennium Park for fresh air, access to nature and art installations (hello, The Bean). Museums like the Art Institute of Chicago enjoy tremendous renown for their collections.

Plus, there are top-ranked performing arts opportunities, from theater to music to improv at Second City, one of the nation’s best comedy and improv schools. While average studio rent is $1,784, making it the second most expensive city for studios in the top 10, you’ll have access to world-renowned art institutions for learning and displaying your art.

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7. Berkeley, CA

berkeley ca

Although Berkeley is largely known as a center for engineering, science and tech due to UC Berkeley, art and culture are equally strong here. This city of over 121,000 has an incredibly diverse population. And the presence of the university invites fresh, young minds from around the world, feeding innovation and creativity.

Berkeley also feeds off of the cultural thrum of the surrounding Bay Area and nearby San Francisco.

But being in the tech-heavy Bay Area, life is expensive. A Berkeley studio costs an average of $2,250. This makes it the most expensive of the top ten cities. But on the upside, Berkeley is extremely walkable, making it easy to get to the many artistic opportunities that exist. Berkeley is especially known for its performing arts. It’s home to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, a Tony-winning regional playhouse and other top theater and performance companies.

For visual artists, collectives like the ACCI Gallery and museums like Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive exist. West Berkeley and the North Shattuck areas are especially popular artist neighborhoods.

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6. Philadelphia, PA

philadelphia pa

Aspiring and working artists priced out of New York have been turning to Philadelphia. This has made it one of the most exciting artistic hubs on the East Coast. Steeped in history, the city also buzzes with vibrant young minds and modern energy.

Rent and cost of living are significantly lower than in NYC. A studio costs, on average, $1,745. Two top art schools call Philly home: the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Temple University’s Tyler School of Art.

And there is art everywhere, from museums to public spaces. The Philadelphia Art Museum is the third-largest in the U.S., and the Rodin Museum has one of the largest collections of his work outside Paris. Performing arts-wise, there is a great live music scene, especially for classical music thanks to the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The Avenue of the Arts acts as a hub, with performance spaces for everything from dance to experimental work. Dancers will also find a welcoming community here, as there are multiple esteemed dance companies.

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5. Seattle, WA

seattle wa

Seattle’s reputation for incredible live music needs no introduction. Grunge originated here, thanks to influential bands like Nirvana. And music and performance are still part of the lifeblood of the city. But there’s more to Seattle’s art scene than that.

There are over 80 theater companies and great dance companies like the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Galleries and small venues provide space for experimental, undercover art movements. But “mainstream” art also has a place here at museums and places like the Seattle Art Museum, Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

In Seattle, studio apartments run an average of $1,481. And this is down almost 14.2 percent from last year, so there is plenty of space available and demand.

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4. Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C.

The U.S. capital is a hotbed for history and art, which go hand in hand here. There are abundant museums and inspiring architecture everywhere you turn. But it’s not just about the past. There is also a thriving contemporary art community.

Check out spots like the Culture House DC, a 19th-century church painted in bold colors and now houses an artist collective. And there are frequent art festivals and performances of music, dance and theater.

If you’re an artist looking for a city with a lot of options for studios, D.C. is the place for you. The average rent is $1,686, plus it’s also a very pedestrian-friendly city that’s easy to navigate on foot.

All in all, D.C. offers a great emerging art scene in a city that’s affordable and safe, with plenty of history to inspire you.

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3. Pittsburgh, PA

pittsburgh

In 2018, Pittsburgh ranked as one of the top cities in America for artistic vibrancy. It’s no small wonder. Similar to Philadelphia, artists love the affordable cost of living — $1,194 for a studio.

In Pittsburgh, they’re finding world-class museums, outdoor festivals, creative collectives and performing arts companies that are pushing boundaries and generating buzz. Some must-visit spots include the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Andy Warhol Museum and The Mattress Factory.

Outside of town, you’ll also find Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, Fallingwater.

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2. Minneapolis, MN

minneapolis mn

Coming in at No. 2 in the top 10 best cities for artists is one half of the Twin Cities itself: Minneapolis. Of course, this Midwest hub is well-known for its friendly residents, parks, lakes and outdoor access. But it also has fantastic opportunities for art.

Minneapolis has 55 different museums to visit, among them the eye-catching Weisman Art Museum. As a city that loves nature, lots of art is outdoors and open for everyone. Minneapolis is especially well-known for its vibrant murals, easily found all over the city. Oh, and of course, there’s a great music scene. What else would you expect from the home of Prince?

Add in low rent on studios, $1,236 on average, and you’ll discover why it’s no wonder so many artists find inspiration here.

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hartford ct

Topping the list of the best cities for artists is the Connecticut capital of Hartford. This scenic city celebrates both contemporary and historic art through its many institutions, from museums to collectives.

World-class touring performances come through at venues like the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts. And local companies like TheaterWorks showcase contemporary work. The city is also committed to promoting diverse artists and voices. For example, the unique Artists Collective highlights the work of the African Diaspora. And the Real Art Ways organization supports experimental and new work in a variety of mediums.

Beyond the artistic community, Hartford is also very affordable for working artists. It boasts the cheapest prices for studio apartments — the average being $1,121.

Good quality and cost of living go a long way toward supporting an artist’s lifestyle. And if the urban scene isn’t sufficiently inspiring, Connecticut’s natural beauty is also sure to spark the imagination.

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The 50 best cities for artists

Now that you’ve seen the top 10, let’s branch out to discover even more cities that have created an atmosphere where artists can thrive and create. Please note, our methodology allows for ties.

Methodology

To find the best cities for artists, we used the following data points:

  • Performing arts businesses and establishments per density
  • Museums per density
  • Walk score
  • Average rent of a studio apartment

We looked at cities with at least 50,000 people according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 population estimates and ranked each city in each of these four categories. Then, we added up the rankings for each of the four categories to determine a final score for each city. Ties were allowed in our rankings. The cities with the lowest overall score were determined to be the best cities for artists.

We excluded cities from this study that had insufficient rental inventory or other data.

Business and establishment data comes from commercially sourced business listings. This may not account for recent business openings or closures.

Rent prices are based on a one-year rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory as of April 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each 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.

Source: rent.com

Cook Fish In Your Dishwasher: Alternative Uses for Common Appliances

Ever wondered what else you could do with your toaster oven or rice cooker when you weren’t using them to cook with? The common household appliances you can find in your apartment’s kitchen come with their intended use, but with a little imagination and some know-how, you can find clever and alternative uses for the most basic of appliances. Here’s our list of everyday appliances and unique ways you can use them.

Dishwasher

The steam and heat produced by your dishwasher is perfect for steaming up fresh fish or vegetables. Season the fish with a little olive oil and lemon juice, and wrap the raw fish liberally with foil (salmon particularly holds up well in the dishwasher). Place the fish on the top rack of the dishwasher, set it for a hot pots and pans cycle and let the dishwasher run through a cycle. In no time at all you’ll have a perfectly poached piece of fish. Just make sure not to add any dish soap to the washer!

Microwave

We all know that your microwave’s powerful heating capabilities are perfect for warming up your favorite foods, but that technology also makes the microwave great for disinfecting and deodorizing common household items. Instead of reaching for antibacterial soap, soak your kitchen sponge or dish rag in water mixed with white vinegar or lemon juice, then throw it into the microwave and heat on high for 30 seconds to disinfect and deodorize. You can also disinfect plastic cutting boards this way – wash the board well, rub it with the cut side of a lemon and microwave on high for one minute.

Rice Cooker

Give your guests the spa treatment by steaming towels to offer them before dinner. Wet and wring out several small washcloths, fold in thirds horizontally and roll and place inside the steamer. Steam for five minutes, or until hot. Remove with tongs and place on a tray or plate for each dinner guest.

Coffee Maker

If you’re short on time and low on clean dishes, but still need to eat lunch or dinner, you can use your coffee maker to prepare soup. Start off simple by using your coffee maker to cook your favorite canned soup, like tomato or chicken noodle. The coffee pot not only heats up the soup, but the convenient handle makes it easy to pour the soup into various cups and bowls. Or, take it one step further by preparing ramen noodle soup in the coffee maker. Open the packet of uncooked noodles and put them into the carafe. Fill the water tank with just enough water to cover the noodles, never filling more than halfway. Put the seasoning packet in the drip station and push the button to start the pot. Within minutes you’ll have a steaming, hot bowl of ramen noodle soup. Make sure to clean your pot thoroughly before making a pot of coffee.

Blender

Blenders can be used for more than just making smoothies or milkshakes. A decent quality blender can be used much like a food processor, crushing ice or chopping nuts to make peanut butter. You can also make salsa in the blender. Combine four ripe roma tomatoes, one jalapeno with the seeds removed, ½ chopped sweet onion, lime juice and olive oil in the blender on the pulse setting. If you prefer a chunkier salsa, just pulse a few times. Add chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and pulse a few more times. Remove salsa from the blender and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Toaster Oven

A counter-top toaster oven is the perfect appliance for cooking in small spaces. And, it’s a great alternative for energy-conscious consumers, since you don’t need to heat up a big gas or electric oven to cook something small, like a baked potato or small pizza. But in addition to cooking, a toaster oven can also warm your plates before serving good. Many standard ovens only go down to 200°F, which may be too warm, but a toaster oven can be set at a lower temperature. Try warming a set of plates for five minutes at 170°F.

Coffee Grinder

Avid coffee drinkers know that the freshest, best-tasting cup of coffee is brewed from coffee beans that have been ground in small batches. But a coffee grinder can also grind spices like cloves, cardamom pods or peppercorns. You can make your own homemade bread crumbs by tearing up a piece of bread into small pieces and grinding according to how large or fine you want the crumbs. Create your own potpourri by grinding up dried flowers, orange or lemon peel and cinnamon sticks. Or, turn recycled white or colored paper into confetti with a few pulses of the coffee grinder.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/ZargonDesign

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Source: apartmentguide.com

10 States With the Highest Sales Taxes

Before you embark on a shopping spree in any of the 10 worst states for sales taxes featured here, you’ll want to make extra room in your budget. Our biggest offender clocks in at 9.55% once both state and local sales taxes are factored in (continue reading our round-up to find out which state is the priciest culprit).

However, retirees and other relocators shouldn’t judge a state by its sales tax alone. While this expense may be costlier in some areas, residents in states with a high sales tax may be able to reap the benefits of other tax-related perks, such as not having to pay state income tax.

Got your attention? Take a look at our list to find out which states will nickel-and-dime you the most on everyday purchases.

Sales tax values are for 2020 and were compiled by the Tax Foundation. Income tax brackets are for the 2020 tax year. Property tax values are for 2019.

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10. New York

The state of New York.The state of New York.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Least tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 4% state levy. Localities can add as much as 4.875%, and the average combined rate is 8.52%, according to the Tax Foundation. In the New York City metro area, there is an additional 0.375% sales tax to support transit. Clothing and footwear that cost less than $110 (per item or pair) are exempt from sales tax. Groceries and prescription drugs are exempt, too. Motor vehicle sales are taxable, though.

Income Tax Range: Low: 4% (on up to $8,500 of taxable income for single filers and up to $17,150 for married couples filing jointly); High: 8.82% (on taxable income over $1,070,550 for single filers and over $2,155,350 for married couples filing jointly).

Starting in 2021, the top rate is 10.9% on taxable income over $25 million (regardless of filing status).

New York City and Yonkers imposed their own income tax. A commuter tax is also imposed on residents of New York City, as well as on residents of Rockland, Nassau, Suffolk, Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, and Westchester Counties.

Property Taxes: In the Empire State, the median property tax rate is $1,692 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the New York State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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9. California

The state of California.The state of California.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Most tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 7.25% state levy. Localities can add as much as 2.5%, and the average combined rate is 8.68%, according to the Tax Foundation. Groceries and prescription drugs are exempt from these taxes, but clothing and motor vehicles are taxed. 

Income Tax Range: Low: 1% (on up to $17,864 of taxable income for married joint filers and up to $8,932 for those filing individually); High: 13.3% (on more than $1,198,024 for married joint filers and $1 million for those filing individually).

Property Taxes: If you’re planning to buy a home in the Golden State, the median property tax rate is $729 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the California State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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8. Kansas

The state of Kansas.The state of Kansas.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Least tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 6.5% state levy. Localities can add as much as 4%, and the average combined rate is 8.69%, according to the Tax Foundation. These rates also apply to groceries, motor vehicles, clothing and prescription drugs. 

Income Tax Range: Low: 3.1% (on $2,501 to $15,000 of taxable income for single filers and $5,001 to $30,000 for joint filers); High: 5.7% (on more than $30,000 of taxable income for single filers and more than $60,000 for joint filers).

Property Taxes: Kansans who own their homes pay a median property tax rate of $1,369 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Kansas State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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7. Illinois

The state of Illinois.The state of Illinois.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Least tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 6.25% state levy. Localities can add as much as 4.75%, and the average combined rate is 8.82%, according to the Tax Foundation. Food and prescription drugs are taxed at only 1% by the state. Clothing and motor vehicles are fully taxed.

Income Tax Range: There is a flat rate of 4.95% of federal adjusted gross income after modifications.

Property Taxes: For homeowners in Illinois, the median property tax rate is $2,165 per $100,000 of assessed home value — the second highest in our round-up.

For details on other state taxes, see the Illinois State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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6. Oklahoma

The state of Oklahoma.The state of Oklahoma.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Not tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 4.5% state levy. Localities can add as much as 7%, and the average combined rate is 8.95%, according to the Tax Foundation. Prescription drugs are exempt and motor vehicles are taxed at a rate of 1.25% (a 3.25% excise tax also applies). Grocery items and clothing are taxable at 4.5%, plus local taxes. 

Income Tax Range: Low: 0.5% (on up to $1,000 of taxable income for single filers and up to $2,000 for married joint filers); High: 5% (on taxable income over $7,200 for single filers and over $12,200 for married joint filers).

Property Taxes: For Oklahomans who own a home, the median property tax rate is $869 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Oklahoma State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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5. Alabama

Photo of AlabamaPhoto of Alabama

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 4% state levy. Localities can add as much as 7.5% to that, and the average combined rate is 9.22%, according to the Tax Foundation. Prescription drugs are exempt. Groceries and clothing are fully taxable, while motor vehicles are taxed at a reduced rate of 2% (additional local taxes may apply).

Income Tax Range: Low: 2% (on up to $1,000 of taxable income for married joint filers and up to $500 for all others); High: 5% (on more than $6,000 of taxable income for married joint filers and more than $3,000 for all others). 

Some Alabama municipalities also impose occupational taxes on salaries and wages.

Property Taxes: In Alabama, the median property tax rate is $395 per $100,000 of assessed home value — the lowest on our list.

For details on other state taxes, see the Alabama State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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4. Washington

The state of Washington.The state of Washington.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Most tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 6.5% state levy. Municipalities can add up to 4% to that, with the average combined rate at 9.23%, according to the Tax Foundation. Grocery items and prescription drugs are exempt. Clothing is taxable, as are motor vehicles. However, there’s an additional 0.3% tax on sales of motor vehicles.

Income Tax Range: Washington has no state income tax.

Property Taxes: Home buyers in the Evergreen State can expect to pay a median property tax rate of $929 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Washington State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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3. Arkansas

The state of Arkansas.The state of Arkansas.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Mixed tax picture

State Sales Tax: 6.5% state levy. Localities can add as much as 5.125%, and the average combined rate is 9.51%, according to the Tax Foundation. Prescription drugs are exempt. Grocery items are taxed at 0.125% (additional local taxes may apply). Motor vehicles are taxed if the purchase price is $4,000 or more (7% tax rate in Texarkana). However, starting in 2022, the rate on sales of used motor vehicles priced between $4,000 and $10,000 will only be 3.5%. Clothing is taxed at the standard rate.

Income Tax Range: Low: 2% (on taxable income from $4,500 to $8,899 for taxpayers with net income less than $22,200), 0.75% (on first $4,499 of taxable income for taxpayers with net income from $22,200 to $79,300), or 2% (on on first $4,000 of taxable income for taxpayers with net income over $79,300); High: 3.4% (on taxable income from $13,400 to $22,199 for taxpayers with net income less than $22,200), 5.9% (on taxable income from $37,200 to $79,300 for taxpayers with net income from $22,200 to $79,300), or 6.6% (on taxable income over $79,300 for taxpayers with net income over $79,300). Beginning in 2021, the top rate for taxpayers with net income over $79,300 will be 5.9% (on taxable income over $8,000).

A “bracket adjustment” of between $40 and $440 is subtracted from the amount of tax due for taxpayers with net income from $79,301 to $84,600.

Property Taxes: For homeowners in the Natural State, the median property tax rate is $612 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Arkansas State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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2. Louisiana

The state of Louisiana.The state of Louisiana.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 4.45% state levy. Localities can add as much as 7%, and the average combined rate is 9.52%, according to the Tax Foundation. Groceries and prescription drugs are exempt from the state’s sales tax, but localities may tax these. Clothing and motor vehicles are taxable.

Income Tax Range: Low: 2% (on $12,500 or less of taxable income for individuals, $25,000 for joint filers); High: 6% (on more than $50,000 of taxable income, $100,000 for joint filers). 

Property Taxes: The median property tax rate in Louisiana is $534 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Louisiana State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

 

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1. Tennessee

The states of TennesseeThe states of Tennessee

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Most tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 7% state levy. There’s also an additional state tax of 2.75% on sales of single items that applies to the portion of the sales price from $1,600 to $3,200. Localities can add up to 2.75%, with an average combined rate of 9.55%, according to the Tax Foundation. Groceries are taxed at 4% by the state, in addition to any additional local taxes. Clothing is taxed at the standard rate. Motor vehicles are taxed at the basic 7% rate, plus the additional 2.75% on purchases between $1,600 and $3,200. There’s no tax on prescription drugs. 

Income Tax Range: There’s no state income tax in Tennessee. However, dividends and some interest are subject to the Hall Tax at a 1% rate in 2020. The first $1,250 in taxable income for individuals ($2,500 for joint filers) is exempt. 2020 is the last year for this tax, which is being phased out. Also, the tax is waived if you’re over the age of 100.

Property Taxes: In Tennessee, the median property tax rate is $636 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Tennessee State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

Source: kiplinger.com

When You Donate Blood, You Save Lives and Earn Gift Cards

One pint of blood can save three lives. That alone is what drives people to roll up their sleeves and get that needle prick. But there’s another good reason to sign up to be a regular blood donor: Gift cards.

You get a lot more than a T-shirt and some peanut butter crackers these days when you donate blood. Blood collection organizations routinely give out $20 worth of gift cards to Amazon, restaurants and major retailers at blood drives. You can give blood every 56 days, or six times a year.

So, a couple can average $240 in perks and save 36 lives in one year. For a family of four with kids above 16 and old enough to donate, that’s about $500 in gift cards per year and 72 lives saved.

“One time we went to Kohl’s and there was a blood drive in the parking lot,” said Beverly Mattis of Wake Forest, N.C. “They gave us each a $20 Kohl’s gift card so my daughter and I went in and did some shopping afterward.”

A man wearing a face mask shows off his gift certificates after donating blood.
Exavier Jones shows off his $10 gift certificate after donating blood at a OneBlood Big Red Bus in St. Petersburg, Fla. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Exavier Jones gave blood recently at a OneBlood mobile collection bus outside casual dining restaurant Carrabba’s Italian Grill in St. Petersburg.

“I’m type O. That’s always needed, so I try to give as often as I can,” he said, explaining that any blood type can accept type O blood. He received a $10 Carrabba’s gift card and a $10 e-gift card to use at one of a variety of retailers.

How to Get the Perks of Being a Regular Blood Donor

If you register to be a blood donor with the blood collection organization in your area, you will receive texts or emails with dates of upcoming blood drives and the perks. There are many blood collection organizations around the country. Here are three of the biggest, and how to register:

There’s no requirement that you give a certain number of times a year, but there is encouragement.

OneBlood, which collects blood in the Southeast, partnered with Carrabba’s to give $10 gift cards each time someone donated between January and April. Those who gave twice received an additional $25 gift card along with the two $10 cards.

“I got $10. I’m going to go inside and have a lasagna dinner tonight,” said Bill Howard after donating at the Carrabba’s in St. Petersburg.

The gift cards are nice for sure, he said, but the main reason he gives regularly is because he was stabbed during the Vietnam War and needed a lot of blood to survive. He wants to save others like a stranger’s blood once saved him.

A man wearing a camouflage hat poses for a portrait outside of a blood donation bus.
Bill Howard donates blood regularly because his life was saved by a person who donated blood after he was stabbed in the Vietnam War. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

“I would say most of the time at almost all of our drives our intention is to have a donor gift,” said Pat Michaels, OneBlood director of media relations. “It could be Carrabba’s, Publix, Red Lobster. We have built up some wonderful partners,” he said.

OneBlood also gives out tickets donated by the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, the Daytona 500 and Carowinds amusement park near Charlotte, N.C.

Along with gift cards and tickets, many blood collection groups also give out swag such as beach towels, fleece blankets, car sun shades and insulated water bottles.

Vitalant, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is the largest nonprofit blood service provider in the country serving 40 states. It hosts more than 30,000 blood drives a year and offers a variety of perks and incentives for blood donors.

Vitalant is partnering with the Arizona Diamondbacks to encourage high school students there to organize blood drives at school. The team will host more than 1,000 students from blood drive committees. Organizers from the two schools who achieve the most donations will share a party suite at a Diamondbacks game.

Vitalant is also encouraging women to organize a blood drive with friends the same as they might host a party at their homes selling jewelry or clothes. An organizer can invite eight friends to a private party at a collection center that’s catered with fun food where donors receive gift cards and other swag.

For donors with a sweet tooth, Vitalant recently promoted a pint-for-a-pint offer. Donors who gave a pint of blood received a voucher for a free pint of frozen custard at Culver’s.

The American Red Cross recently offered $5 Amazon gift cards to some donors, and their names were entered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2022 Indianapolis 500. Winners will receive pit credentials, airfare, hotel accommodations and a $500 gift card. Other Red Cross blood drives enter donors’ names in a drawing for a chance to win a $1,000 e-Gift card to one of several stores.

More Perks for Donating Platelets

Platelets are small cells that stop bleeding by forming clots. Donated platelets are used for cancer patients, transplants, burn patients and traumatic injuries.

When someone donates platelets, a machine extracts them from whole blood then returns the rest of the blood back to the donor. The process takes about three hours.

Because it takes longer than donating whole blood, more perks are offered for people who give platelets, which can be donated every seven days. OneBlood recently challenged platelet donors to a two-month program offering gift cards valued at $25 for their second donation, $50 for their third and $75 for their fourth.

It is also promoting a three month challenge, offering gift cards valued at $25 for the second donation, $50 for the third, $75 for the fourth, $100 for the fifth and $125 for the sixth. That’s a total of $375 in gift cards in three months.

People line up at a blood donation bus to donate blood.
According to Givingblood.org, only 37% of the U.S. population can donate blood. Less than 10 percent of those people donate blood at least once a year. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Constant Need Increased During the Pandemic

Even in typical times, blood collection organizations are constantly trying to recruit more donors. Only 37% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, and less than 10 percent of those people do so at least once a year, according to Givingblood.org.

Numerous impacts of COVID-19 made it even harder to reach and encourage donors, according to Michaels at OneBlood.

“There has been every reason for there to be a shortage of blood drives,” he said. Blood drives at colleges, high schools and office buildings were cancelled for months on end because they were closed.

“We had to recover by creating new partnerships,” Michaels said. OneBlood worked with county elections offices across the country as well as hundreds of homeowners associations to connect with groups of people who would sign up for blood drives, he said.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

10 Cities Near Philadelphia To Live in 2021

The brilliant city of Philadelphia is a wonderful place to work and play. But city living isn’t the life for everyone.

Fortunately, the region – known as the Delaware Valley — has a slew of options for incredible boroughs, towns and cities near Philadelphia in which to live. These spots offer a wide range of entertainment, dining, nightlife, recreation and comfortable apartments.

Of all the incredible places to live within easy commuting distance of Philadelphia, it’s hard to narrow down to a top 10. But we are sure you’ll find these 10 cities near Philadelphia — all within five to 25 miles of Center City and listed by distance from the city — perfect places to call home.

  • Haddon Township, NJ
  • Ardmore, PA
  • Conshohocken, PA
  • Hatboro, PA
  • King of Prussia, PA
  • Langhorne, PA
  • Phoenixville, PA
  • West Chester, PA
  • Wilmington, DE
  • Doylestown, PA

Haddon Township, NJ facing the City Center in Philadelphia.Haddon Township, NJ facing the City Center in Philadelphia.

  • Distance from downtown: 7.0 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,530 (down 3.38 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,713 (down 13.88 percent since last year)

In New Jersey, townships are full-fledged municipalities, and Haddon Township is one of the region’s best cities near Philadelphia. Just 10 or so minutes from the Ben Franklin Bridge to Center City Philadelphia, the township offers both the quiet of a suburb and a main street that rivals any in the state for drinking and dining options.

Bustling Haddon Avenue in the downtown Westmont section is a mile-long stretch featuring some bakeries, cheesesteak joints, pasta shops, pizza places, taquerias, bars and taverns. Farther out, chain dining and big box stores line White and Black Horse pikes.

Haddon also offers plenty of green space, from Cooper River Park in the north along the lake to Newton Lake Park and Saddler’s Woods on the south.

Public transportation into Philly is a snap with Westmont Station a direct link via PATCO with park-and-ride facilities.

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Ardmore, PA. Ardmore, PA.

Photo source: Apartment Guide / One Ardmore Place
  • Distance from downtown: 7.7 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,357 (down 61.90 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,552 (down 35.50 percent since last year)

Among swanky locales like Bryn Mawr, Villanova and Gladwyne, Ardmore is the iconic Philadelphia Main Line’s most accessible city to everyday folk.

Ardmore’s median income comes in at a tenth that of some of the region’s richest communities and is a much cheaper home value. But Ardmore is also less insular. The city is a destination for visitors and day-trippers from across the Delaware Valley.

Ardmore splits down the middle between Montgomery and Delaware Counties and Haverford and Lower Merion Townships. Its backbone is busy Lancaster Avenue that offers retail shopping, trendy restaurants and the 500-capacity Ardmore Music Hall, one of the area’s top concert clubs.

While other Main Line towns shun outsiders, the hum of Lancaster Avenue feels welcoming to all.

And on the north end of town is one of the region’s best spots for retail therapy or even just window shopping. Suburban Square is a six-square-block upscale outdoor shopping plaza. Dating back to the 1920s, the square is one of the nation’s oldest planned shopping centers.

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Conshockocken, PA, one of the cities near philadelphiaConshockocken, PA, one of the cities near philadelphia

Photo source: Conshohocken Borough / Facebook
  • Distance from downtown: 12.6 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,705 (down 7.82 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,265 (up 7.69 percent since last year)

Throughout its history, Conshohocken has always held an important geographic location. Sitting at one of the largest bends of the Schuylkill River, the land was originally a large milling region along rail and shipping lines.

As interstates went up, the region morphed into a factory industrial center. As manufacturing declined, it was those same highways that turned “Conshy” into one of the most desirable suburban-chic and cosmopolitan residential commuter communities in the city.

Conshohocken lies between the I-476 Blue Route and I-76 Schuylkill Expressway at the “Conshohocken Curve.” As industry left, easy access to the region’s two major highways transformed it into a hub for upper-middle-class commuters into the city, especially as apartment complexes and mid-priced high-rise rental towers rose.

And as the population increased, so did the enclave which features shopping and dining spots and many glittering hotels.

The shoreline also features a section of the running and biking Schuylkill River Trail path.

Nearby, Conshohocken’s Fayette Street main street is popular among its young professional population, with a median age of 32 with 63 percent single. The downtown strip offers a selection of quaint boutiques, eateries and cafes, as well as a variety of notable bars.

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Hatboro, PA.Hatboro, PA.

Photo source: Apartment Guide / Livingstone Apartments
  • Distance from downtown: 15.9 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: N/A
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,695 (up 9.18 percent since last year)

Eastern Montgomery County has just a few towns with true main streets, but one of the best of the bunch is Hatboro. The borough sits along the Bucks County border, a suburban town settled among some residential communities.

Hatboro is known for its plethora of parks and green spaces, including the popular Hatboro Memorial Park and Memorial Pool. But its growing notoriety as a suburban craft beer lovers’ destination is what’s gaining prominence.

In the heart of the Craft Beer Trail of Greater Philadelphia, Hatboro offers Crooked Eye Brewery and Artifact Brewing, both opened within the last several years.

The breweries sit along York Road, Hatboro’s main street. The corridor also offers many bars and gastropubs, vintage clothing stores, hoagie shops and produce grocers, cafés and popular bakeries and Daddypops diner, a favorite of Food Network’s Guy Fieri.

The borough is also convenient for commuters, with Hatboro station along the Warminster Line to Center City just off York Road.

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King of Prussia, PA, one of the cities near philadelphiaKing of Prussia, PA, one of the cities near philadelphia

  • Distance from downtown: 16.9 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,204 (up 5.44 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,544 (up 0.81 percent since last year)

To speak like a true Philadelphian, pronounce the name of the city of King of Prussia the proper way, “Kingaprusha.”

If you’re familiar with the western Montgomery County city, it’s most likely for one thing: its megamall. The King of Prussia mall is massive, at 2.8 million square feet and 450 stores. It’s the third-largest mall in the nation behind only the Mall of America and the new American Dream in New Jersey.

This central town nestles right along the Schuylkill River — between four major thoroughfares: the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I-76 Schuylkill Expressway, and U.S. Routes 202 and 422. Sitting between renowned Valley Forge Historical Park and county seat Norristown, King of Prussia is both a popular commuter city and an important edge city in its own right.

One key location in KOP is the King of Prussia Town Center. Opened in 2016, the large planned lifestyle development has become a hub of residential activity in town. Acting as the city’s downtown, Town Center offers a bevy of apartments and townhouses at Village at Valley Forge with mixed-use and office space, upscale department stores and a Wegman’s grocery, retail shops and several new restaurants and bars.

Nearby are several office parks, Upper Merion High School and the Valley Forge Casino Resort.

The area is growing so quickly, local transportation authority SEPTA is developing a $2 billion regional rail line to directly connect King of Prussia with University City and Center City Philly.

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Langhorne, PA.Langhorne, PA.

  • Distance from downtown: 22.0 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,413 (down 1.55 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,691 (up 6.72 percent since last year)

One thing you can have living in the suburbs that you usually don’t in the middle of a city is an amusement park down the street. That’s one of the features of living in the borough of Langhorne and adjoining Middletown Township. Here you’ll find Sesame Place, the Sea World-owned young children’s Sesame Street theme park.

Langhorne borough proper and surrounding Middletown Township are collectively referred to as Langhorne.

The area is an important business and shopping center along Neshaminy Creek in charming Bucks County. Along with numerous national chains and big box stores, a myriad of service centers, retail shops and old-school restaurants line Pine Street and Maple Avenue.

In addition, the borough features a quaint historic district dating back to the 19th century. Sitting just off the I-295 beltway, Langhorne is a popular bedroom community for commuters to Trenton as well as Philadelphia.

The expansive Middletown Country Club splits the borough, with the multistory Oxford Valley Mall out in the Township. And surrounding Lake Luxembourg is the expansive 1,200-acre Core Creek Park. The region offers a variety of housing options, from affordable apartments to large suburban mansions.

Several locations still offer 1950s style tract housing leftover from the expansion of the nearby Levittown planned community.

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Phoenixville, PA, one of the cities near philadelphiaPhoenixville, PA, one of the cities near philadelphia

Photo source: Borough of Phoenixville / Facebook
  • Distance from downtown: 23.9 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,229 (down 14.82 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,426 (down 12.71 percent since last year)

In 1958, a large gelatinous alien creature was let loose and devoured dozens of residents of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. That of course only happened on screen, in the Steve McQueen horror classic “The Blob,” which filmed and took place in the Chester County suburb.

The movie features a famous scene where terrified residents flee the alien out the Colonial Theater’s doors. That real-life theater is the centerpiece of Phoenixville’s Bridge Street main street as well as the annual Blobfest which celebrates the landmark film.

But as important as the film is, younger residents will tell you it’s the craft beer scene that makes Phoenixville special. After languishing for years as a rundown mill town, a revitalization plan included a call for brewers to set up shop. Today the city of just 17,000 offers 10 craft breweries.

On Bridge Street alone are four breweries, along with a tap house, a distillery and three winery tasting rooms. That collection gives downtown Phoenixville the distinction of having the most breweries per square foot of any place in the nation.

For residents, Phoenixville is more than just beer and blobs. Its absolutely teeming downtown along Bridge Street has boomed with pizzerias and bistros, coffee and smoke shops and boutiques and galleries.

Phoenixville Area High School offers a high ranking and a 15:1 student-teacher ratio. And many parks and green spaces dot the region, including the large Black Rock Sanctuary wildlife refuge along the Schuylkill River bend that also features Basin Trail for hiking and biking. The Schuylkill River Trail also crosses the borough, along French Creek.

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West Chester, PA. West Chester, PA.

  • Distance from downtown: 25.0 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,631 (down 1.23 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,095 (up 7.54 percent since last year)

A little under 25 miles from Center City, West Chester is a more affordable alternative to the nearby Main Line. The seat of Chester County offers a selection of bars, restaurants and shops in its surprising downtown along Gay and Market streets.

Local businesses are accessible, catering to the borough’s young, affluent residents as well as budget-conscious clientele. Need proof? West Chester’s downtown sits on the top-three list of “Great American Main Streets.”

West Chester is a more affordable, younger enclave surrounded by old-money communities like Malvern, Kennett Square and Chadds Ford, with swaths of an urban-rural buffer.

The borough offers high-ranked schools and an average age of just 24.9 years old. A vibrant part of that young community is West Chester University, ranked a Top 10 Public Regional University by U.S. News.

Why is West Chester attractive to young professionals? Perhaps it’s the borough’s title as “Most Exciting Place” in all of eastern Pennsylvania. It’s a locale to meet new people, as the state’s second-most densely populated city, fifth-best for nightlife and fifth-best spot to lead an active lifestyle.

Or maybe it’s because it’s the world headquarters of the QVC shopping network.

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Wilmington, DE. Wilmington, DE.

  • Distance from downtown: 26.2 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,186 (down 14.08 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,477 (up 1.09 percent since last year)

Look behind Pennsylvania and New Jersey to find the best cities near Philadelphia — don’t forget about Delaware!

Wilmington is certainly having a moment. While the previous president spent his weekends at swanky Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster golf club, the current chief executive has been taking his off weekends back in his home state of Delaware. President Biden famously grew up in and around Wilmington and is known to have commuted back to his residence weekly dating back to his earliest days as the Diamond State’s senator.

Wilmington, despite being the largest city in a completely different state, is just a half-hour drive from Center City Philly. But it’s the finance industry that fuels the economy of the Corporate City.

The 1980s Financial Center Development Act liberalized financial regulations in Delaware, removing usury laws and interest rate caps. This caused financial and insurance corporations from around the world to set up shops in Wilmington.

An attractive city to big money employers is an attractive city to its white-collar workers. And one of the favorite locals is the Christina River waterfront. Popular waterfront spots include the Blue Rocks’ Frawley Stadium, the Delaware Children’s Museum, a convention center, a movie theater, parks, trails, hotels and a slew of cafes, restaurants and bars.

And for those concerned about Wilmington’s less-than-stellar crime safety record, there is good news. The city reports being “safer now than it’s ever been.” The city is noting its lowest crime rate in recent history.

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dolyestown, PA, one of the cities near philadelphiadolyestown, PA, one of the cities near philadelphia

Photo source: Doylestown Township / Facebook
  • Distance from downtown: 27.2 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,408 (up 25.06 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,999 (up 9.93 percent since last year)

Gateway to the colonial-estate-and-covered-bridge tourism lands of Upper Bucks, Doylestown is the charming exurban seat of Bucks County.

The borough offers a slew of cultural and entertainment options not usually found in a town of under 9,000, about an hour commute from Center City by either train or car.

Doylestown has one of the densest gatherings of museums out of all of the cities near Philadelphia. James Michener Art Museum (named for the native son author), the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, the Mercer Museum and Oscar Hammerstein II Farm (the final residence of its namesake) can all be found here.

Just off the center of town is the historic art deco movie house County Theater which shows blockbusters and arthouse films alike.

Elsewhere in Doylestown’s downtown along State and Main streets are quaint thrift shops, big city-worthy restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops and brewpubs.

For those seeking a more natural setting, just as appealing is the natural beauty of rural Bucks County just outside of town, packed with hiking trails, bike paths, water recreation and nature watching. Favorite spots include urban 108-acre Central Park and wooded 1,500-acre Peace Valley Park.

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Make one of these cities near Philadelphia your next home

No matter where you decide to call home, you can’t go wrong with any of the amazing cities near Philadelphia you might choose.

Whether in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester or Delaware Counties, across the river in South Jersey or down I-95 in Delaware, you’ll have tons to do all within a short commute into the city.

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 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

How to Get Free Meals for Kids While School’s Out

A little boy recieves food in a bag from a bus driver.

A student picks up food in Fayette, Miss. With the school year ending soon, there are federal programs to help keep kids fed through the summer. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

Millions of families struggle with food insecurity every summer when school is out. Income loss due to the pandemic has only exasperated the situation.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) up to 12 million children are currently living in households where they may not have enough to eat.

If you’re worried about how to put food on your family’s table, help is out there.

How to Get Free Meals for Kids This Summer: 3 Federal Programs

The American Rescue Plan — the coronavirus relief package President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021 — provided funding to expand several USDA programs aimed to reduce child hunger.

1. Pandemic EBT

Families with children eligible for free or reduced lunch and those who qualify for SNAP benefits can receive extra money for food via the Pandemic EBT program, which is being extended through the summer to make up for missed school meals.

The USDA standard benefit amount is $375 per eligible child over the course of the summer. Those living in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands have a higher standard benefit.

You’ll need to enroll in the Pandemic EBT program through your individual state, as funds are disbursed at the state level. Currently, 40 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been approved to operate Pandemic EBT programs.

Money is generally distributed in two or three disbursements throughout the summer.

2. USDA Summer Meals

All families with children 18 and under can participate in the USDA’s summer meal programs, which partners with local agencies including libraries, community centers, parks, churches and schools to distribute meals.

Program rules have been loosened so that meals can be distributed in bulk packages to cover multiple days and so parents can pick up the food without having their children present.

This interactive map helps you find local meal distribution sites. You can also locate a nearby site by texting “Summer Meals” to 97779 or calling 1-866-348-6479.

3. USDA National Hunger Hotline

The USDA National Hunger Hotline can help families seeking food assistance. Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. E.T. to reach the hotline. If you need assistance in Spanish, call 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273).

Free Meals Next School Year

Even after summer comes to an end, families will still be able to get a financial break when it comes to feeding their kids.The USDA is extending its National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option so that students can receive universal free lunch throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Waivers will also be given to provide free meals for kids in daycare and preschool programs.

If students are still learning virtually, you’ll be able to pick up meals for children to eat at home. Check with your child’s school or child care provider to see if they are participating in this program.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Micro Wedding Is Sign of the Times

Micro weddings have become ultrachic in the time of coronavirus. These smaller weddings allow you and your future spouse to exchange your vows, enter into a legal relationship and get access to each other’s health insurance all while living through these socially-distanced times.

What Are Micro Weddings?

A micro wedding is generally a wedding with less than 50 guests. In the before times, micro weddings were often a cost-cutting measure as the most effective way to cut your budget is to cut your guest list.

When you cut your guest list, you’re cutting down on the amount of space you’ll need at the venue. Simultaneously, you’re cutting down on the costs of food, alcohol and favors.

During the time of Coronavirus, micro weddings are helpful to your health as well as your wallet. You may even want or be required to cut your guest list further than the normal standard of 50 guests.

Planning a Micro Wedding

When you’re planning a micro wedding the first thing you’ll want to start with is your guest list. You may only want your closest friends and family there for your big day. Or, in this time of pandemic, you may only want it to be the two of you and the officiant. In some states, you can even eliminate the officiant via a self-uniting marriage.

Whether you have a handful of guests or just the couple at your micro wedding, venues and vendors across the wedding industry have many ways to help you share your big day while saving money.

Get Creative with the Venue

Because you have a smaller guest list, your venue doesn’t need to be nearly as large. Your favorite art gallery might be renting out space, or you might be able to book a private room at your favorite restaurant. If a venue had a minimum guest count prior to 2020, those minimums have likely been reduced or eliminated altogether.

If you are absolutely set on having a larger wedding despite the pandemic, you could book your local park or another outdoor venue to make the event safer. Be sure to remind your guests that they still need to wear masks and observe the 6-foot rule even though the event will be taking place outside.

Newly weds get married as hot air balloons are released all around them on top of a mountain.
Getty Images

Destination Weddings

You may have a bit of pent up wanderlust, dreaming of a destination wedding. Destination weddings are usually micro weddings. Because you or your guests will have to pay for extra expenses like hotel rooms and travel costs, the number of people who can attend usually becomes inherently smaller.

There are certainly some Caribbean destinations that are allowing Americans to visit during the pandemic, and some of the resorts are offering great deals. But despite more and more Americans getting vaccinated, many people are still avoiding air travel. Be prepared for some guests to decline your invitation if air travel is involved.

Instead of air travel, you can either commit to a long road trip through locales where the infection rate is low, or pick a venue within convenient driving distance. Traveling in your car with other members of your bubble is a far safer way to get from point A to point B.

Remember that even if you’re fully vaccinated, there is still potential for you to spread the virus to your guests, your hosts and anyone else you may come into contact with. The more the virus spreads, the more likely it is to harm the unvaccinated, even if those unvaccinated people aren’t in your immediate circle.

Allowing the virus to spread like this also provides it with increased opportunities to mutate into vaccine-resistant variants, which could force us all into lockdown again until boosters for new strains are available.

Invest in Quality Videography

Maybe you never dreamt of having a micro wedding. You might even be upset that you can’t have a huge party with your family and friends.

One way to help soften the blow of having a micro wedding during the pandemic is to share your big day with quality videography. You can either livestream your ceremony or hire a videographer to document the celebration.

Because business has been slower and videography has new importance during the pandemic, some venues and videographers are offering discounts on these services.

Curbside Tastings

The mere fact that you’re feeding less people at your micro wedding means you can spend less on your wedding cake and any catering your micro wedding may require.

During the pandemic, some bakeries, restaurants and caterers are offering curbside tastings to ensure everyone’s safety.

Drive-By Wedding Visits

Maybe in normal times, your sister would have been your matron of honor, but she has a disabled child who is high-risk. Even though you are both vaccinated, her child is not. She can’t risk exposing herself to even asymptomatic cases of the virus as she could unknowingly pass them on to her child.

You still want her to be a part of your big day. If she lives within driving distance, you could schedule a drive-by visit prior to the micro wedding ceremony. Either she and hers could drive by your place, where you’d be on display in your gown or tux, or you could drive by her place, stepping just outside the car to show her how good you look while keeping a masked distance of well over six feet.

It’s not the same. It’s still incredibly sad that she can’t be there, and you might even want to consider postponing your wedding until she can attend. But if the show must go on, these drive-by visits can still provide you both with a special memory from your special day.

Include Remote Readings

If you’re having a Zoom micro wedding, even those who cannot attend can participate in your ceremony. In the case of your sister, she may perform a reading or conduct a prayer through the screen. You can customize your ceremony any way you see fit, using your creativity and the power of the internet to make your micro wedding all that much bigger.

Micro Wedding Ideas for a Smaller Guest List

When planning a micro wedding, you may find that you have a bit of a budget surplus because of these cut costs. Both the budget surplus and the fact that you’ll have far fewer guests at your wedding allow you to get creative and a little more personal with the finer details of micro wedding planning.

Hand sanitizer and face masks are set out for guests to use during a wedding reception.
Getty Images

Wedding Favors

The following are a few favor ideas you might consider for your micro wedding, depending on your budget and your wedding’s theme. The dollar signs are meant to show you the relative expense but the exact dollar amount of each is based on your own budget.

  • Masks. ($-$$) Masks can be custom-printed with names and wedding date, nodding to the extraordinary times we’re all living in while giving your guests a functional gift they’ll be able to use in their day-to-day lives. You may even want to make these favors available to guests upon arrival rather than at the end of the celebration. That way if anyone forgot to bring their mask, they’ll literally be covered.
  • Hand sanitizer. ($) You can find plenty of beautiful yet affordable options for custom-printed hand sanitizer right now. Instead of the “Germ-X” label, your label will include your names, the wedding date and perhaps some adorable quote about love. This is another good favor to make available to your guests upon arrival.
  • Fauci-approved smooches. ($) Want to DIY your micro wedding favors? One cute idea is to get a glass jar, fill it with Hershey Kisses, and affix a label that reads “Social Distance Kisses.”
  • Flip flops. ($-$$) If you plan on driving to the beach for your destination wedding, flip flops can make a great wedding favor. If guests forget about the sand and wear fancy shoes to your celebration, they’ll appreciate the option to switch to beach-friendly attire upon arrival. Because your guest count is small, you can ask each guest for their shoe size beforehand so everyone is accurately accounted for. You can also go the extra mile and order custom flip flops with your names and wedding date printed on them.
  • Custom luggage tags. ($$$) This option is a little more expensive, but if you find yourself with extra padding in your wedding budget you may decide they’re worth it. Luggage tags can serve as a token of hope that life will go back to normal soon and we won’t have to stress as heavily should we have to get on a plane and traipse through the airport.

Guest Book

Similarly, because micro weddings have so few people in attendance, you can use creative ideas for a non-traditional guest book. Your guest book can then be integrated in your day-to-day married life.

Here are some ideas that can be customized to any micro wedding budget:

  • Picture frame. ($-$$$) When you get your wedding pictures back from the photographer, there’s likely to be one photo that just blows you away. Before the wedding, purchase a frame where you can display that much-anticipated picture. Buy a frame with a removable mat. Then, you can have your guests sign the mat in lieu of a guestbook on your wedding day. Their well-wishes can be displayed in your home alongside your favorite wedding photo.
  • Ornaments. ($-$$$) Have you ever known someone who has a tradition of picking up a Christmas ornament on every vacation? Their tree then reminds them of all the journeys they’ve enjoyed. You can do a similar thing for your wedding day — especially if you have a small guest list. Instead of a guestbook, provide ornaments and paint pens coordinated with your wedding colors. Each guest will sign one. Every year, you can display your wedding-day memories on your tree, remembering those who were there with you.
  • Tiles or stepping stones. ($-$$$) Are you and your soon-to-be spouse remodeling? Or doing some landscaping work? If so, you can integrate your wedding day into your design plans. For instance, if you’re doing interior repairs and plan to lay tile, you can put out some tiles at your micro wedding in lieu of a guest book. Each guest would then sign one, and you could integrate your guest book into your home. If you’re doing outside work, you could have each guest sign a wet stepping stone, even adding their handprint if they want to. You can then integrate these stepping stones into your garden.

Stationary

Things are a lot more hopeful right now with somewhat improved vaccine distribution, but there are still so many unknowns. As you plan your micro wedding during uncertain times, you might want to familiarize yourself with some Corona-era additions to the wedding stationary world:

  • Change-the-date announcements. Change-the-date cards are now incredibly common for wedding postponements. Just like wedding invitations, these cards range from cute and witty all the way to incredibly formal. You can look for a template that matches the tone of your wedding day.
  • Virtual wedding invitations. Maybe you’re doing your part by giving the virus as few opportunities to mutate as possible. That’s why you’re doing a Zoom micro wedding with just the two of you plus your officiant. Paper invitations to your wedding are still a beautiful touch, but the most convenient way to invite your guests to livestream the event is through a virtual invitation. With virtual invitations, your guests will have access to a clickable link where they can participate in your ceremony live.
  • Elopement announcements. Whether you elope or simply choose not to announce to anyone but your micro wedding guests that you’re getting married, after-the-fact wedding announcements are a good way to include family and friends. Prior to the pandemic, these were commonly used for elopements, so you can find plenty of templates online even if they predate 2020. But you can also find pandemic-specific announcements whether you eloped or did, indeed, plan and have a few guests. Ideally, this announcement will contain a link to a wedding website where friends and family can view either pictures or video of your celebration after the fact.

It can be hard to break it to family or friends that they are either not invited or are uninvited to your wedding. But you are not the only one going through this situation. The silver lining is that because so many couples have faced the same circumstances, there are plenty of templates online and professionals who have worded the same sentiment for numerous clients. You don’t have to stress about the wording on your own.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. She blogs at Femme Frugality.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Barclays jetBlue Plus Card – 60,000 Point Bonus

Update 5/5/21: Deal is back, not as good as the recent 100,000 point offer though. Hat tip to reader Scotty

Update 8/10/20: Still available. Hat tip to reader EB

The Offer

Direct link to offer

  • Barclays offering a sign up bonus of 60,000 JetBlue points after $1,000 in spend within the first 90 days of account opening on the JetBlue Plus card.

Card Details

  • Full Review Here
  • Card earns at the following rates:
    • 6x points per dollar spent on jetBlue purchases (previously 2x points)
    • 2x points per dollar spent on restaurants and groceries (previously 1x point)
    • 1x points per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Annual fee of $99 (not waived first year)
  • Free checked bag for the primary cardmember and up to three companions on the same reservation when you use your JetBlue Plus Card to purchase tickets on JetBlue-operated flights
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points every year after your account anniversary
  • Enjoy all Mosaic benefits for one year after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases after your anniversary date
  • Get 10% of your points back every time you redeem to use toward your next redemption
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $100 statement credit after you purchase a Getaways vacation package with your card
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases including cocktails, food and movies

Our Verdict

This is the highest bonus we’ve seen on this card, it was last offered in late 2017/early 2018. The standard bonus is 40,000 and we frequently see 50,000 points but this 60,000 offer is extremely rare. There is also a 60,000 point bonus on the business version of this card. JetBlue award flight prices are linked to the cash price of a ticket, much like Southwest. If you have any questions about Barclays credit cards, read this post first.

If you can make use of jetBlue flights then I do think this is a great offer and I will be adding it to the list of the best credit card bonuses.

Hat tip to reader Christian R

Post history:

  • Update 4/29/20: Offer still available and being promoted by jetBlue
  • Update 2/3/20: Reposting as there is now a direct link. Hat tip to reader Yawgoog

Source: doctorofcredit.com

3 Easy Ways to Get Free Meals for Kids While School’s Out

A little boy recieves food in a bag from a bus driver.

A Jefferson County School District student receives several bags with meals, Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Fayette, Miss. As one of the most food insecure counties in the United States, many families and their children come to depend on the free meals as the only means of daily sustenance. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

Millions of families struggle with food insecurity every summer when school is out. Income loss due to the pandemic has only exasperated the situation.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) up to 12 million children are currently living in households where they may not have enough to eat.

If you’re worried about how to put food on your family’s table, help is out there.

How to Get Free Meals for Kids This Summer: 3 Federal Programs

The American Rescue Plan — the coronavirus relief package President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021 — provided funding to expand several USDA programs aimed to reduce child hunger.

1. Pandemic EBT

Families with children eligible for free or reduced lunch and those who qualify for SNAP benefits can receive extra money for food via the Pandemic EBT program, which is being extended through the summer to make up for missed school meals.

The USDA standard benefit amount is $375 per eligible child over the course of the summer. Those living in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands have a higher standard benefit.

You’ll need to enroll in the Pandemic EBT program through your individual state, as funds are disbursed at the state level. Currently, 40 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been approved to operate Pandemic EBT programs.

Money is generally distributed in two or three disbursements throughout the summer.

2. USDA Summer Meals

All families with children 18 and under can participate in the USDA’s summer meal programs, which partners with local agencies including libraries, community centers, parks, churches and schools to distribute meals.

Program rules have been loosened so that meals can be distributed in bulk packages to cover multiple days and so parents can pick up the food without having their children present.

This interactive map helps you find local meal distribution sites. You can also locate a nearby site by texting “Summer Meals” to 97779 or calling 1-866-348-6479.

3. USDA National Hunger Hotline

The USDA National Hunger Hotline can help families seeking food assistance. Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. E.T. to reach the hotline. If you need assistance in Spanish, call 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273).

Free Meals Next School Year

Even after summer comes to an end, families will still be able to get a financial break when it comes to feeding their kids.The USDA is extending its National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option so that students can receive universal free lunch throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Waivers will also be given to provide free meals for kids in daycare and preschool programs.

If students are still learning virtually, you’ll be able to pick up meals for children to eat at home. Check with your child’s school or child care provider to see if they are participating in this program.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com