Cost of Living in Pennsylvania

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    (Last Updated – 11/2021)

    It’s not called the Keystone State for nothing: In the world of U.S. history, Pennsylvania is one of the most important states in the country. The Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address were all written here. Philadelphia was once the nation’s capital.

    Fast-forward a couple of centuries and Pennsylvania still has plenty of appeal, with a population of more than 12.8 million — with each and every one of its counties experiencing growth over the last decade.

    But how much does it cost to live in the land of to-die-for cheesesteaks and rolling green hillsides? Let’s take a closer look.

    What’s the Average Cost of Living in Pennsylvania?

    Average Cost of Living in Pennsylvania: $44,650 per year

    On a cost of living level, Pennsylvania is about midway down. According to the third-quarter 2021 MERIC cost of living index , Pennsylvania is in 29th position, meaning it’s just slightly more expensive than Minnesota and slightly less expensive than Montana.

    If you’re looking to live in the tri-state area, though, Pennsylvania may just be your best bet: By the same set of data, neighboring New York is, unsurprisingly, 48th on the list, and New Jersey, in 42nd place, isn’t doing a whole lot better.

    But what does that look like in practice?

    According to 2020 data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the total personal expenditure in Pennsylvania is $44,650 on average, broken down as follows:

    Category

    Average Annual Per-Capita Cost in Pennsylvania

    Housing and Utilities

    $7,768

    Health Care

    $7,894

    Food and Beverage (non-restaurant)

    $3,334

    Gas and Energy Goods

    $855

    All Other Personal Expenditures

    $24,789

    Next, we’ll look into the specifics of each of those categories.

    Housing Costs in Pennsylvania

    Average Housing Costs in Pennsylvania: $762 to $1,595 per month

    When it comes to the cost of keeping a roof over your head, Pennsylvania is doing pretty well on a nationwide level. According to the most recent data from Zillow, the typical home value in the commonwealth was nearly $243,000.

    The median sale price of an existing home in the United States, for comparison, was $359,700 in late 2021, per the National Association of Realtors®. And the median price of new homes was $408,800, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported.

    Of course, how much you pay for housing monthly will depend on what kind of housing you need — and where.

    Here are the median monthly rent payments and mortgage cost (U.S. Census, 2019) in Pennsylvania, as well as the typical home price by major metro (Zillow, September 2021, or August 2021 when marked with an asterisk).

    •  Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,595

    •  Median studio rent: $762

    •  Median one-bedroom rent: $805

    •  Median two-bedroom rent: $971

    •  Median three-bedroom rent: $1,085

    •  Median four-bedroom rent: $1,155

    •  Median gross rent: $951

    Recommended: Philadelphia Housing Market: Trends and Prices

    Pennsylvania City

    Typical Home Price

    Allentown

    $271,723

    Altoona

    $133,967

    Bloomsburg

    $188,546

    Bradford

    $73,271

    Chambersburg

    $220,676

    DuBois

    $115,935

    East Stroudsburg

    $258,481

    Erie

    $162,496

    Gettysburg

    $254,164

    Harrisburg

    $231,117

    Huntingdon

    $146,654

    Indiana

    $137,445*

    Johnstown

    $92,850

    Lancaster

    $288,083

    Lebanon

    $234,323

    Lewisburg

    $206,682

    Lewiston

    $117,797

    Lock Haven

    $160,592

    Meadville

    $121,672

    New Castle

    $131,031

    Oil City

    $96,031

    Philadelphia

    $307,863

    Pittsburgh

    $199,630

    Pottsville

    $117,186

    Reading

    $235,330

    Sayre

    $165,535

    Scranton

    $155,035

    Selinsgrove

    $191,437

    Somerset

    $122,568*

    State College

    $281,746

    Sunbury

    $124,885

    Warren

    $100,514

    Williamsport

    $184,965

    York

    $239,841

    Utility Costs in Pennsylvania

    Average Utility Costs in Pennsylvania: $353 per month

    Once you’ve got that roof taken care of, you still have to supply it with power, water, possibly natural gas, and definitely cable and internet. (You don’t want to miss that Eagles game!)

    Here’s how the average utility bill breaks down in Pennsylvania.

    Utility

    Average Pennsylvania Bill

    Electricity

    $115

    Gas

    $101

    Cable & Internet

    $106

    Water

    $31

    U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Sales, Revenue, and Average Price, 2021; Inspirecleanenergy.com; DoxoInsights, U.S. Cable & Internet Market Size and Household Spending Report 2021; and Rentcafe.com, What Is the Average Water Bill?

    Groceries & Food

    Average Grocery & Food Costs in Pennsylvania: $278 per person, per month

    Man (or woman, or child) can’t subsist on cheesesteak alone, tempting though it may be.

    So how much does it cost to keep a family in groceries in Pennsylvania?

    Remember that above, we mentioned the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ $3,334 estimate for annual per-capita food and beverage expenditures. When you divide that figure by 12 months, you get about $278 per person — or $556 for a couple, or $1,111 for a family of four. (Of course, these numbers are not exact, and don’t account for the fact that children tend to eat less than adults, for example.)

    Thanks to the Council for Community and Economic Research’s second-quarter 2021 Cost of Living Index, we have additional data to clarify the cost of food in Pennsylvania even further. (Surprise, surprise: Where you are in the state matters.)

    Here’s how the grocery items index breaks down in different Pennsylvania metros.

    Pennsylvania City

    Grocery Items Index

    Allentown

    98.9

    Reading

    98.9

    Scranton

    108.4

    Pittsburgh

    108.8

    Wilkes-Barre

    110.2

    Philadelphia

    118.0

    Transportation

    Average Transportation Costs in Pennsylvania: $4,332 to $11,773 per year

    Even as more and more of us work from home, if only thanks to the pandemic, many more still commute to work every day — not to mention schlepping the kids to and from school, music lessons, or football practice.

    While your specific annual transportation costs will vary greatly depending on what your family and situation look like, MIT’s Living Wage Calculator offers some excellent data on the cost of transportation in each state, including Pennsylvania:

    Family Makeup

    Average Annual Transportation Cost

    One adult, no children

    $4,332

    Two working adults, no children

    $7,945

    Two working adults, two children

    $11,773

    Health Care

    Average Health Care Costs in Pennsylvania: $7,894 per year

    In Pennsylvania — as in all other U.S. states — health care isn’t free. In fact, Pennsylvanians are apt to spend slightly more on health care than housing each year, about $7,894 per person, according to averages collected in Bureau of Economic Analysis 2020 Personal Expenditures by State data.

    That said, this figure will vary greatly depending on what kind of health insurance coverage you have and how often you need to seek medical attention. Your costs could be considerably lower — or higher.

    Child Care

    Average Child Care Costs in Pennsylvania: $1,028 to $1,437 or more per child, per month

    Keeping the kiddos looked after is always a major line item in the monthly budget for parents, and those raising children in Pennsylvania will need to plan carefully to afford those costs.

    Although your exact expenditures can vary greatly depending on your child care plan, here are some average figures per costofchildcare.org :

    Type of Child Care

    Average Cost Per Month, Per Child

    Infant Classroom

    $1,437

    Toddler Classroom

    $1,141

    Home-based Child Care

    $1,028

    Need help finding the right child care program for your family? The Pennsylvania Department of Education offers a helpful, searchable online database of child care providers.

    Taxes

    Income Tax Rate in Pennsylvania: 3.07%

    We all have federal income taxes to contend with — but your state income tax rate can vary significantly depending on where in the country you are.

    Pennsylvania, unlike many other states in the nation, levies a single-rate tax, which means everyone pays the same rate, as long as they’re earning taxable income. According to the Tax Foundation’s State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2021 that rate is 3.07% — which is pretty low, on a nationwide level.

    That said, keep in mind that the Pennsylvania sales tax rate is 6%, with additional percentages added in Allegheny County and Philadelphia.

    Miscellaneous Costs

    Enough of the pedestrian stuff. How much does it cost to have fun in Oregon?

    Now that we’ve covered all the must-haves, let’s talk about the fun stuff. Pennsylvanians spend $24,789 per year on costs other than housing, health care, groceries, and gas, as estimated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis 2020 Personal Expenditures by State. Here’s where some of those funds might be going (costs accurate as of November 2021):

    •  A one-day ticket to Hersheypark, the candy-themed amusement destination that draws thousands of visitors to Hershey, Pennsylvania: $74.95 per person (though discounts are regularly available).

    •  Admission to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, chartered all the way back in 1876 and boasting more than 240,000 art objects: $25 per person, which gets you two days of admission to both the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum.

    •  A tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous and beautiful Fallingwater, a residential structure situated in the forested countryside southeast of Pittsburgh: $30 per person for a guided tour, or $18 for a self-guided experience (though other, more expensive options are available, some of which include meals).

    •  A cheesesteak at Steve’s Prince of Steaks, ranked the No. 1 spot for a Philly cheesesteak in September 2021 by Eater: $11.11 (which includes one type of cheese, though you may want to load up on extras for additional charges).

    The good news is, there are plenty of free or nearly free diversions to tackle in Pennsylvania: The Liberty Bell, a must-see for any American, is open daily to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and doesn’t require a ticket, and the same is true of the Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site. If you’re looking for a rugged adventure, consider heading west toward Pine Creek Gorge, sometimes known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. This impressive natural landscape is loved by outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes, and there’s no cost to enjoy its bike paths and hiking trails.

    Recommended: What Are the Average Monthly Expenses for One Person?

    How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably in Pennsylvania?

    Definitions of “comfortable” vary, so it’s impossible to say how much money you’d need to earn to feel comfortable in Oregon (or anywhere else, for that matter).

    While everyone’s definition of “comfortable” is different, on a nationwide level, Pennsylvania might be a relatively easy place to get by on a moderate salary. Case in point: Its U.S. News and World Report Affordability Ranking is relatively friendly at 15, and, as mentioned above, MERIC slots it at a middling 29th in the nation.

    If you’re looking to get by as cheaply as possible in Pennsylvania, though — or anywhere, for that matter — a lot of it has to do with where you settle.

    What City Has the Lowest Cost of Living in Pennsylvania?

    Remember the Council for Community and Economic Research’s second-quarter 2021 Cost of Living Index we used to rank grocery costs?

    Well, the council ranks major metros by overall cost of living, too. Here are three of the least expensive communities in Pennsylvania to live in.

    Wilkes-Barre

    With a cost of living index of 98 (compared with Philadelphia’s 111.3), Wilkes-Barre might be a good option for those comfortable with a small to midsize city (its population hovers around 44,000) with all the basic urban resources you need. Scenically situated along the Susquehanna River and only minutes from the Lands at Hillside Farms, a working, educational dairy farm the kids will adore and adults will get a kick out of, too, this inexpensive town has a lot going for it.

    Reading

    Pronounced “red-ding,” Reading has a cost of living index that’s tied with Wilkes-Barre’s — and if you’re looking for something with slightly more urban development, this is a great alternative. Its population is just about double Wilkes-Barre’s, and it’s situated only an hour and 15 minutes or so from Philadelphia, although, of course, that could always change depending on traffic.

    It’s also got worthy attractions of its own, such as the Reading Pagoda and the Reading Area Firefighters Museum.

    Scranton

    Wave hi to Jim and Pam from this accidentally famous northeastern Pennsylvania town, whose cost of living index is just slightly higher than the other two towns on this list, at 99.9. Along with being the setting of The Office, Scranton is also known for the Steamtown National Historic Site, which educates visitors on the history of locomotion and features preserved and restored trains more than a century old.


    SoFi Home Loans

    If the relatively low cost of living in Pennsylvania, as well as all manner of historic and modern perks, holds appeal, you may want to put down roots there.

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    Photo credit: iStock/Sean Pavone
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