Philadelphia is, without doubt, one of the greatest places to live in the country. We have it all – great neighborhoods for every kind of resident, excellent institutes of higher education, amazing culture, nightlife, and hella good food. When it comes to big American cities, Philadelphia more than holds its own with the likes of New York, Boston, and D.C. as gateways of East Coast living. Like other big cities, however, Philly does have one significant drawback: affordability. While the cost to live in the City of Brotherly Love is nowhere near as high as in the other metro areas I listed, the costs of living – rent/mortgage for a townhome or condo – can be daunting, especially to young transplants. Luckily, affordable living in Philadelphia is not impossible. here are some tips to cut costs on living in this spectacular city.
Sure, everyone who moves to Philadelphia wants to live in Center City. It’s the epicenter of Philadelphia culture, it’s beautiful, and the shops, nightlife, and dining are world-class. But, with average rents close to $3,000 a month, it’s a dream that is out of reach for new residents who are perhaps working at their first “adult” jobs and certainly not bringing in that level of bankroll. The answer is to look beyond the obvious neighborhoods (Old City, NoLibs, G.Ho, the Ritt) and delve into Philly’s many “up and coming” neighborhoods. These are all over the place, but a good zone to start in is South Philly. Luckily, with the internet resources that today’s young consumers have, it is easy to get a bird’s-eye view of possible streets and neighborhoods, including access to public transportation, schools, markets, and other amenities, as well as to get first-hand opinions on the “vibe” and safety from former and current residents. Affordable housing in Philly is possible; you just need to evaluate your priorities and embrace alternate locations.
Owning a car is expensive. While there is no doubt that having your own wheels really ups the convenience factor of living in Philly (especially if you settle in a neighborhood that’s further away from downtown than you’d originally planned), the costs of gas, parking – oh god, PARKING – and insurance can quickly eat up a chunk of your monthly budget. The good news is that Philadelphia has an exceptional public transportation system. A Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) monthly pass costs $91 and, if you pick an apartment or condo that’s near a stop on a line that accesses your job and Center City, you can get just about anywhere within a reasonable amount of time. For an even cheaper option, embrace the power of two wheels and get a bike. Not wanting the hassle of storing one of your own and risking theft? A monthly membership to Indego, the city’s bike-share program, costs less than a nice dinner for one. You may also be surprised by how walkable Philadelphia can be, with many neighborhoods boasting a high Walk Score. This is definitely an area where you can get creative and thrifty.
Philadelphia is definitely a foodie city, but living in the midst of so many tempting dining options can be less of a blessing and more of a curse when you are on a budget. Sure, cheesesteaks from your favorite restaurant (I won’t talk politics here by mentioning any names!) are ooey, gooey, grease-drippy deliciousness on an Amoroso roll, but all those $10 lunches add up. Cooking at home is a bit of a financial challenge as well, given that grocery prices in Philly are 17 percent higher than the national average. Smart spenders will incorporate food (both dining in and going out) into their monthly budget, so they know when it’s time to save hard or when a splurge is justified. Wegman’s and Wawa are local jawns that are great places to stock up on ingredients and booze, and the Philadelphia Business Insider recommends Federal Donuts as a great place to grab dinner AND dessert for under a ten spot.
As is the case in every other city, you need not spend an arm and a leg to have a good time in Philadelphia. Per the Insider: “From free music events like the 40th Street Summer Series to hiking trails, museums, and pop-up events, the city has a lot to offer. [They are] a big fan of these options for millennials who understand the importance of tucking money away for retirement and shorter-term savings. For higher-octane entertainment, the city hosts a number of pricey events, such as the Made in America music festival, which charges $162 for a two-day pass.”
Ready to find an affordable home in Philly? Check out our real estate listings and get in touch so we can talk about exactly what it will take to make your new home here perfect.