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:
Average Annual Per-Capita Cost in Pennsylvania
Housing and Utilities
Food and Beverage (non-restaurant)
Gas and Energy Goods
All Other Personal Expenditures
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).
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.
Average Pennsylvania Bill
Cable & Internet
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.
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.
Grocery Items Index
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:
Average Annual Transportation Cost
One adult, no children
Two working adults, no children
Two working adults, two children
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.
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 :
That said, keep in mind that the Pennsylvania sales tax rate is 6%, with additional percentages added in Allegheny County and Philadelphia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Although there are many home loans on the market to choose from, SoFi offers a range of fixed-rate home mortgage loans at competitive interest rates and with as little as 5% down.
Photo credit: iStock/Sean Pavone SoFi Loan Products
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