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Cost of Living in Philadelphia, PA 2021

By: Davina Ward
March 22, 2021

Beyond delicious hoagies and cheesesteaks, Philadelphia is known for its deep historic roots. Not only is the city rich with colonial history, but it's also the location where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

In the present day, The City of Brotherly Love sits as one of the foremost metropolitan areas in the country. Densely populated and consisting of interesting geographical features, including the Delaware River, Philadelphia calls both city-lovers and outdoor adventurers in equal measure.

Sound interesting? If you're considering a move to Philadelphia, make sure you build an accurate budget first!

We've got you covered. This guide will break down the cost of living in Philadelphia for anyone considering making the move.

Philadelphia Housing Costs

Don't worry. For most, making the move to Philadelphia doesn't break the bank. Despite being one of the most populous cities in the nation, Philadelphia boasts a lower cost of living than other comparable cities. In fact, Philadelphia's median rent rate is less than half of San Francisco's.

With one-bedroom apartments sitting at a median rent price of $965, Philadelphia offers substantial bang for your buck. If you need a bit more space, you can splurge on a two-bedroom unit for just $1,118. That's a very competitive rate for city living.

That said, rent prices in the city have seen a recent increase. Our Philadelphia rent report shows a 0.4% jump in February. However, this jump isn’t reflective of a universal increase. In a year-over-year comparison, Philadelphia rent prices are down by 6.2% from last year as of March 2021.

Making your move before rent prices rebound might be enough to get you a substantial deal on a great apartment.

As a historic city, Philadelphia offers renters a plethora of options when it comes to choosing a home. Select an apartment in one of the high-rises that make up the city skyline or find a converted unit in a historic building. The options are endless!

Philadelphia Transportation

Major cities tend to be hit-or-miss when it comes to public transportation options. Fortunately, Philadelphia hit the mark on its public transportation. Residents can choose from buses or rail to get to where they need to go.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is responsible for providing transportation throughout the city. If you're looking to save on your commute cost, choose a weekly pass over a single daily pass. A one-day convenience pass will cost you $9, while a weekly pass costs $25.50.

Looking for more savings? According to MIT's Living Wage Calculator, the average single adult Philadelphia resident spends $4,332 on transportation annually.

However, if you prefer a more frugal approach, you can save up to 75% by choosing a monthly public transportation pass for $96. With that, you’ll spend just around $1,152 on the year.

If you're lucky, you might be able to walk everywhere! The city is extremely walkable and bike-able, for that matter!

Philadelphia Food Costs

The average Philadelphia resident spends $3,690 on food annually. For a family of four, with two adults and two children, this expense increases to a whopping $10,806 yearly.

That said, those amounts reflect a situation in which every meal and snack is made at home. If you're searching for a bargain, Philadelphia is home to a few of the gold standard grocers when it comes to budget shopping. ALDI and Trader Joe’s offer incredible savings that typically beat the prices of their local competitors.

Late nights at work, lack of time, and busy days all contribute to grabbing a meal at a local eatery, such as Reading Terminal Market, which is Philadelphia’s indoor farmers market. It’s one of the oldest and largest public markets in the US. Pair that with Philadelphia's delectable food options, and it's not surprising that many residents eat out regularly.

If you intend to join them, expect to pay $63.25 for a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant and a standard 15% tip, according to data from Numbeo.com.

Philadelphia Healthcare Costs

Unfortunately, healthcare costs have been rising across the country. As healthcare insurance can help to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses, it's necessary to find an affordable plan for you and your family.

The annual medical costs for an individual and family of four are $2,729 and $7,008, respectively.

Healthcare.gov offers a look at different plan options available. You can search through options that include low-cost, single member, and family plans to help you find the best match. The site also provides essential data and tools. Those include open-enrollment dates and how to report a move to ensure that you don't lose coverage.

There are many low-to-no-cost healthcare options in Philadelphia. These city health centers offer fee programs based on income and family size to ensure affordable service for all. If you need help enrolling in a health insurance plan, you can do it in-person at any of the city health center locations.

Philadelphia Utilities

Philadelphia experiences a full four seasons. These usually consist of a mild spring and fall season, hot summers, and cold winters.

The weather will definitely have an impact on your utility bill. So, it's important to seek out energy-efficient apartment units to save on your utility bill.

Looking for more ways to save will be important. Philadelphia residents' utility bills are generally higher than the national average. The average utility bill for a Philadelphia resident is $264.86 including gas, electricity, and water.

However, this does not include the cost of internet or cell phone service. It can be difficult to estimate your utility bill because many costs are location and carrier-specific. That said, the average monthly cost of internet service in Philadelphia sits at $60.99 monthly.

Be sure to take the time to research your options before deciding on a service. Some service plans and bundles for WiFi and cell service come with add-ons such as free streaming services included, especially for new customers. If you're lucky enough to catch the right promotion when switching, you can get the most bang for your buck.

Fitness and Entertainment

Philadelphia residents enjoy numerous options when it comes to fitness and entertainment. Residents can take a stroll through the city center and view some of the gorgeous works of architecture or freestanding art monuments.

Fitness lovers can head out on the town to enjoy a run through one of the city's many parks or break a sweat at a local gym. In short, there are tons of fitness and entertainment opportunities in Philadelphia. Here's a breakdown of a few of those options and how they’ll affect your budget.

Fitness Options

For a fitness buff who wants a basic gym set up with few to no amenities, expect to pay $35.17 a month on average. However, if you enjoy amenities such as an indoor pool, sports court access, a sauna, and more, you'll likely have to shell out a lot more.

However, if you're low-maintenance and looking for a way to stay fit at home, many gyms are offering digital memberships. Those may include live classes and workouts. These memberships generally cost less than in-person gym access. So, it could be a great way to save.

If frugal fitness is your jam, the Nike Training Club app offers absolutely free standalone workouts and full-on training plans.

Sports Lover? Catch a Game

Philadelphia enjoys the rare status of a city represented by a sports team in each of the four major professional US sports leagues. That's right. You can catch a professional basketball, football, hockey, and baseball game within city limits.

However, depending on which game you see and where you sit, there will be vastly different costs for the experience. Here are the average ticket costs for each sports team to help you plan your game day budget.

If you want to save big, buy tickets well in advance, eat before you go to the venue, and try to find seats that’ll let you see the action without spending an exorbitant amount!

Parks — The Free Option

One great thing about public parks is that they’re a free form of entertainment and recreation. When you live in a city like Philadelphia, you learn to appreciate the vast wonderland of the public park system.

As a start, head out to Fairmount Park, the city's biggest park system. It consists of two major parks divided into East and West sections. They cover 2,052 acres of land. The massive park is home to tons of art pieces, historic houses, trails, waterfront access, woodland, and more. In the summer, you can even catch an outdoor concert at the concert venue.

Grab your bike, lace up your sneakers, or even strap on a pair of roller skates to enjoy the miles of scenic trails offered to residents.

Other Expenses to Consider in Philadelphia

Building a comprehensive budget means including the costs that people often overlook or are hard to anticipate when moving to a new city. These so-called hidden costs can make or break your budget. So, it's essential to plan ahead.

Philadelphia has its share of hidden costs that you should know about. Here are a few:

  • Income Tax: Residents are hit with a double local income tax rate from the state and city. The statewide income tax rate is 3.07% + the citywide income tax rate of 3.8712% for residents. If you’re moving from another state with no income tax, this will greatly impact your tax home salary.
  • Sales Tax: Philadelphia tacks on a city-wide sales tax in addition to the state sales tax rate. In total, city residents pay 8% in sales tax.
  • Parking Costs: If you're bringing a vehicle with you to Philadelphia, you'll have to add parking costs to your vehicle budget line. Parking within city limits can be a real hassle, and meter fees can really add up, especially if you must commute for work.

When it comes to gauging a living wage, there are too many variables to come up with a completely accurate number. That's why it's best to follow the golden rule of budgeting — you should earn at least three times the price of your rent.

The logic behind this rule is straightforward. Housing costs are generally the biggest expense in a budget. Ensuring that you can cover the cost of rent three times over helps you build a solid financial foundation. Not to mention, you can use the rest of the amount to cover your other financial responsibilities.

As a one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia currently sits at $965, renters should earn a minimum of $2,895 per month before taxes to live comfortably. That translates to $34,740 before taxes.

Final Thoughts

If making the move to Philadelphia passes the financial feasibility test, then you've got the green light to go ahead with your move.

If you're ready to find your dream apartment in Philadelphia, take the quiz above!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More

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