McCormick’s Director of Taco Relations is a Dream Job for Taco Lovers

There’s a new job out there paying $100,000 to taste tacos, research tacos, film tacos, celebrate tacos, Tweet tacos and talk tacos. And not just on Taco Tuesday. Every day for four months.

Yeah, this sounds like a classic Homer Simpson dream bubble, but it’s actually legit. McCormick, the spice company, is hiring its first Director of Taco Relations. The gig pays $25,000 a month for up to 20 hours of work a week during September, October, November and December. That figures out to $312.50 an hour. (Picture the dollar signs in Homer’s glazed eyes.)

No previous taco experience required, but you must be passionate about that fabulous folded food group. Expertise in producing social media content is also a plus. You must apply by 11:59 p.m. July 20 and submit a video no more than two minutes long.

McCormick suggests including some of the following info in your video:

  • Your go-to and out-of-the-box taco recipes, taco tips and tricks, and insights gleaned as a taco connoisseur
  • Your favorite taco-themed trivia and fun facts
  • Are you team hard shell or team soft shell and why?
  • Your applicable taco experiences, qualifications and skill sets
  • Your feelings on the perfect taco toppings
  • Most importantly, you should be able to answer the question: Why is being McCormick’s Director of Taco Relations your dream gig?

The Tasks of Director of Taco Relations

If your typical day includes eating a taco with one hand while trolling TikTok with the other, then you’ve already been training for this dream job. Spotting taco trends and posting content other taco devotees will appreciate are key tasks. Other duties include:

  • Working with the McCormick kitchens team to develop innovative taco recipes
  • Sharing easy taco recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Helping taco fans and followers execute these recipes at home
  • Collaborating with McCormick’s creative and social teams for celebrating National Taco Day, National Margarita Day and Taco Tuesday
  • Making taco lovers aware of ways to use McCormick’s taco seasoning beyond the traditional taco
  • Minimal travel to McCormick’s headquarters in Hunt Valley, Md., and other taco travel required

Click here for more specifics on the job and video format.

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. 




Learn How to Negotiate Rent with 5 Genius Tactics

Last summer, my rent changed by $150. This is a normal thing for city dwellers, but my experience was anything but normal. Because rather than my rent increasing, it dropped by $150

It all started with a text message, and I’m going to show you how to negotiate rent down so that you can pay less than you do now.

I’ve lived in my apartment for three years, always pay my rent on time, and never cause disturbances. I am a good tenant.

In May 2020, though, I noticed that my local real estate market was crumbling, and decided to send my landlord a text message. Here’s what I wrote:

Hi [landlord], I’ve noticed that the rent prices in our neighborhood have dropped substantially over the past few months. For example, there are several larger, newer apartments close by available at lower rents (see [link] and [link]). COVID-19 also seems to be placing downward pressure on long-term prices for renters. 

With these things in mind, I’d like to request a 25% reduction to my rent. If you aren’t able to offer that, I understand, though I’ll have to make other arrangements. Thank you.

It Never Hurts to Ask

To my surprise, within an hour my landlord had offered me a 15% reduction instead, which I accepted. And since that day, my monthly rent has been $850, not the $1,000 I was paying before.

Later in this post, I’ll explain why my message was so effective, and how you can apply the same principles — pandemic or not — to negotiate a lower rent for yourself, too.

I never imagined that negotiating my rent down was an option for me. But today, that single text message is still saving me $1,800 per year.

How To Negotiate Rent

Before asking your landlord for a rent reduction, you should first identify that the time and conditions are right. After all, if your landlord denies your request and calls your bluff, you put yourself in a poor bargaining position moving ahead.

Here are two methods for discovering whether it’s a good time to request a rent reduction or not.

1. Talk To Your Renter Friends

Talking about money is taboo in some friend groups, but it shouldn’t be. Chitchat is one of the best ways to stay on top of current financial trends, and lays the foundation for a support system should you need one down the road.

In fact, it was in a casual conversation that a friend of mine told me his landlord had offered him a rent reduction when he informed her he’d be moving out. Our discussion is what got me thinking about my own rent, and proved to be the catalyst in me reaching out and requesting the price decrease.

2. Learn The Market

If chatting with your friends is the passive approach to learning the real estate market, scouring properties on sites like Zillow is the active one. But you don’t need to know everything about real estate to negotiate your lease: you only need to know about the type of home you live in in your neighborhood.

For example, imagine you pay $3,500 a month for a 1-bedroom apartment in New York City. When you look at other 1-beds nearby, though, you notice that they’re renting for an average of $3,000.

You can do this research for any city be it Phoenix, Seattle, St. Louis, Orlando or San Jose.

This comparison can be a strong indication that you’re overpaying, and that your landlord may have a difficult time finding someone else to move in should you decide to leave. Having this information at hand can be incredibly powerful when it comes time for your negotiation.

Of course, you’ll want to get more specific than just home type and neighborhood: you should consider size, amenities, age, and other factors when doing your research. But if you find a few similar homes to yours available at significantly lower rents, you’re probably on to something.

5 Tips For Negotiating Your Rent

These five tips will help you prepare to ask for a reduction in your rental payments. It’s not a good idea to go into the negotiation without being armed with knowledge about the market and a willingness to compromise.

1. Play the Tenant Give & Take

Unless market conditions are extremely dire, it’s rare that your landlord will agree to negotiate your rent without getting anything in return. Generally you’ll need to offer something to make it worth their while, so it’s important to find the levers you can pull in your specific situation.

For example, if the home you live in has outdoor space that requires maintenance, you may be able to negotiate lower rent payments in exchange for maintaining the property (landscaping, shoveling snow, etc.) yourself.

If you live in an urban apartment, you likely don’t have much outdoor space, but you may be able to give back your unused parking space, which your landlord can peddle to another tenant. There might be other duties you can take on such as keeping the lobby clean or simply keeping an eye on the property. Not all complexes have 24/7 staff.

As in all negotiations, the key is to offer something that’s low value to you (eg. your parking space) but high value to them. Many landlords will happily lower your rent if you tick one or several of these boxes:

  • Prepay several months in advance
  • Sign an extended lease
  • Offer to extend the termination notice from 30 days to 60 or 90 days
  • Promise not to smoke or have pets in the apartment

Most landlords are willing to accept lower rents in exchange for financial security, which is why renters who offer peace of mind in the form of extended leases and termination notices are so valuable.

2. Timing Is Everything

When you negotiate anything is often just as important as how you negotiate, and this is especially true when it comes to housing. The best time to negotiate a lower rent is one two two months before the end of your lease.

Why one to two months out? Landlords and property managers know that even a short vacancy between two tenants can cost them thousands of dollars, so they’ll be extra willing to strike a deal as your contract is coming to a close. One to two months gives you enough time to give them notice that you’ll be moving out, but is still too short a time for the landlord to easily find new renters.

3. Help Your Landlord Get Back On Schedule

Timing isn’t only important when it comes to how far out you renegotiate your lease. It’s also a larger, constant concern for landlords, since most housing markets are seasonal.

“If your lease ends in an off-season month (for example, winter in colder climates, summer in hotter places), you can offer to renew for longer than 12 months to align your next renewal in-season,” Rany Burstein, CEO of roommate finder Diggz, said. “Landlords feel better knowing that if you leave, they won’t have to scramble for a new tenant in the off-season, and it’ll be easier for them to find a replacement for you. This is valuable to them, and it’s often worth a small concession on their end. I saved $3,000 on my lease by renewing for 14 months instead of 12.”

4. Leverage Micro Events

There are many small events that impact the balance of power between a tenant and a landlord. For example, if your building is full with a waitlist, you don’t have much wiggle room to negotiate your rent. If there are a lot of vacancies in your building, though, you can likely ask for a discount.

“Landlords generally prefer to have you stay at a lower price rather than spend money on prepping the unit for a new tenant while taking on the risk of the place being empty,” Burstein said.

Similarly, if a nearby building starts undergoing heavy construction — an event that makes your unit less desirable — that swings the power in your favor, too.

“I used this strategy after construction of a new building started across the street,” Burstein said. “I had already been living there for seven years, but I was able to get $200 a month off my rent for that year just by citing the construction as a nuisance I would have to endure.”

5. Leverage Macro Events

Just as micro events between you, your landlord and your building influence rental payments, macro events do, too. This is the main strategy I employed. With the pandemic in full swing, I saw that my local market was collapsing and took action.

You don’t have to wait for a global pandemic to negotiate your rent, though. Financial crises and local events like factory shutdowns impact housing supply and demand just as well. Staying aware of what’s going on in your local rental market means you’ll be poised to act when the market turns in your favor. As the saying goes, never let a good crisis go to waste.

Most landlords are sensible, risk-averse investors willing to be flexible with tenants who make reasonable requests. Yet most of us don’t even make the request in the first place. The worst that can happen is your landlord says no, and your rent stays the same. In the best case, though, you might just be able to save yourself thousands of dollars a year.

Contributor Jordan Bishop writes on personal finance and hospitality topics. He is the founder of Yore Oyster, a website specializing in financial products reviews. 




Living in the North: What to Expect

You’re planning on living in the north. How do you get ready? What do you need to know? What has a life without winter in the south left you unprepared for? ApartmentGuide shares everything you need, to prepare for your new northern adventure!


When it comes to living in the north, the first thing that comes to mind is likely snow. Winters – and sometimes harsh winters or stretches of weather – are part of northern life. The snow begins to fall in autumn and is still on the ground during spring. However, living in the north means at least six months of very nice weather. Embrace the seasons and find what you like about winter, whether it’s snowmobiling, fashion opportunities or cuddling in front of a fire.

Most complexes hire snow removal companies to handle snow. This helps keep things less icy, but not ice-free. Be careful in the early morning going out to your car. All that melted snow (from either salt or sun) is ice now and it can be hard to see. Stay alert for black ice on the sidewalks and roads (a thin coating of clear ice which gets its name from being transparent, allowing a black road to be seen through it), a common cause of injuries and car accidents.

How to Winterize

It never hurts to prepare your home for the winter. Even if you do just a few small things, it will still save you money on your energy bill. Things like window insulation film, heavier drapes and draft guards are quick and inexpensive to install.

What to wear

Of course in the dead of winter, you want to make sure you have your gloves, hat, and a giant parka. But, there are other ways to keep comfortable too. Wearing several thinner layers under the parka will help seal out the cold air. This will also help you remain comfortable if the weather is windy. Be sure to invest in a good pair of weatherproofed snow boots too. This way your work shoes will stay looking great.

Your Car

If you drive a convertible, you may rethink that when winter hits. It will depend on the age and style of your roof, and the power of your heater. (You’d be the envy of everyone come summer, though).

One thing you’d probably never think of is getting winter tires. Winter tires use softer rubber and different tread patterns to give you a better grip on the road when it’s cold (under about 40 degrees Fahrenheit) or snowing. You’ll still need to drive with caution – they’re better, not magical – but it can make the difference between life and death.

For the driving itself, you need to learn some new habits. The most important is to slow down any time there’s ice or snow on the road. You’re much less likely to skid out of control when driving slowly. Even if you do lose control, don’t slam the brakes in a panic. Slowly go with the skid until you are no longer on the ice. Keep an ice scraper and some gloves in your glovebox, and a blanket in the trunk, in case of a breakdown. Make sure you have a phone charger in the car.

Many cities in the north use salt to de-ice the roads during the winter. The salt works great to get rid of the ice, but it can cause the undercarriage of your car to rust. That can mean some costly repairs. One solution to this problem is to take your car through the car wash when it’s not too cold. Make sure you choose the option that cleans underneath your car, too. Do not procrastinate on this. Expect car washes to close for the day if it’s too cold outside.

Many apartments in the north offer garage rentals. Renting a garage, at least during the winter, can be a huge time-saver. Defrosting and scraping snow or ice off your car can be a long, tiring process. Even if frost forms on the windows, you have no choice: you have to scrape. If the weather dips too far into the negative digits, your car may not even start. A garage can solve that problem for you during the winter.

Four seasons

You have four distinct seasons in the North. You’ll get to see the leaves change color in the fall, and the flowers bloom in the spring. It gets somewhat hot in the summer (although it’s pretty mild), and of course, it gets cold and snowy in the winter. Be sure to check out local parks during the autumn and spring. They’ll make you remember why you live up north. Anticipate much longer days in summer – yea! – and shorter days in winter.

Gorgeous gardens

Northern states, especially the Midwest, are known for their fertile soil. If you have a green thumb or love the farmers market, you’ll love the north. Since the spring and summer months don’t usually get unbearably hot, working in a garden is very pleasant. You can also just enjoy the beautiful gardens you’ll find all across your new city.

Ice hockey

Football, baseball, and basketball are still big in the north. But if you’ve been living in the South, you may get to experience ice hockey for the first time, as a spectator or participant. It’s an exciting, fast-moving sport and any northern fan will probably be happy to talk you through the basic rules. Watch parties are also a great place to meet people; your common areas or the neighborhood bar are both good bets.

Fireplaces and fire pits

There’s no better reason to live up north. The sheer relaxation of sitting in front of a fire is a primal pleasure, one that makes many people anticipate winter with gusto. Many apartment complexes have common areas with fire pits, a great place to meet your neighbors on a chilly evening (take a thermos of hot cocoa and cups with you to assure this!). If you have a fireplace in your apartment, ask the manager to show you the ins and outs of using it, then enjoy!

A new culture

Prepare to trade in your margarita habit for a different kind of libation (except perhaps in summer). You certainly won’t hear “y’all” bandied about, (unless the speaker is being sarcastic) and depending on where you are, you’ll have to train your ears to hear a new accent. Your neighbors will support different sports teams, and their favorite foods might include anything from cheese curds to lobster rolls, depending on where you move. Have fun exploring new events, new foods, and various cultural pockets of your new city.

Living in the North

Living in the north takes a little know how when it comes to the weather. However, northerners have systems in place to handle inclement weather. Make yourself a cup of cocoa, put a fire in the fireplace, and enjoy the perks of living up north.



7 Smart Tips for Anyone Starting a Charcuterie Business

Kaycee Anderson debuted Coastal Charcuterie in St. Pete Beach, Fla., after her friends suggested she start posting photos of the elaborate charcuterie boards she made for her own gatherings on Instagram.

Now she’s sold more than 50 charcuterie boards — and profited $2,000 in eight months. She juggles several boards a week, sometimes several a night, along with working as an accountant and office manager at a marine construction company.

I actually started my business during the pandemic. A lot of people wanted something different that could be delivered to their homes,” she said.

Starting a charcuterie board business is harder than just placing a few slices of gouda and cheddar next to some prosciutto then dropping in grapes. But if you have a knack for selecting specialty cured meats and artfully arranging them with all kinds of food, smart grocery shopping, lots of networking and love all the hustle of a side gig, charcuterie could be calling to you.

Yes, pandemic charcuterie board businesses popped up across the country as families stuck inside together or neighbors in a bubble grew tired of pizza, wings, and sourdough bread. Meat and cheese boards with all the fixin’s became a new staple.

“The holidays of 2020 is when it really took off. I probably did 20 boards in the month of December,” Anderson said. The demand didn’t slow much as she filled Super Bowl orders for meat and cheese boards and a custom board for a fancy date night at Valentine’s. Charcuterie boards were a fun and delicious way to watch March Madness and the perfect gift to send for a friend’s baby shower on Zoom.

An elaborate charcuterie board goes far beyond the cheese boards of days past, you see. They even go beyond just a meat and cheese board. Cured meats and cheese are still staples, but boards often include nuts, fruit, pickled vegetables, spreads, chutney, jams, crackers, bread and olives. Then there are people also making breakfast charcuterie boards with pancakes, fruit, chocolate and bacon, or dessert boards with dips, fruit, cookies, pretzels and candy corn (really).

There are countless books, Pinterest photos and Instagram posts full of ideas for themes, shapes and ingredients.

7 Steps to Starting a Charcuterie Business

Anderson has picked up some tricks and secrets of the charcuterie trade, like holiday cheeses sell out early at Aldi and Trader Joe’s has the perfect bite-size olive-and-fig crackers. Realtors like giving charcuterie boards as a housewarming gift after a closing.

But there are more nuts and bolts to consider.

1. Know What ‘Charcuterie’ Means

Before you dive into the business, know the definition of what you are making. The traditional word can be traced as far back as 15th century France. “Charcuterie” is a French word meaning “products produced by a fancy pork butcher.” Charcuterie generally refers to a display of prepared meats paired with cheeses and plain vegetables on a traditional board. They remain a popular way to feed guests on a budget for small parties or wine tastings.

A woman poses for a portrait with a charcuterie board she created.
Kaycee Anderson, owner of Coastal Charcuterie, said her startup business cost was $300. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

2. Consider All the Startup Costs

Anderson’s biggest startup cost was a $60 round wooden charcuterie board that’s about three feet in diameter from T.J. Maxx. She uses it for her grazing tables, which serve about 30 people.

For other small, medium and large orders she assembles the charcuterie on disposable hard plastic trays that come with lids and cost about $4 on Amazon.

She’s also bought a few distinctive bowls, spreaders and tongs. But all together the startup investment was under $300.

3. Do the Math on Pricing Your Products

“The hardest part is figuring out prices and what people are willing to pay,” Anderson said. “I really had to sit down with my mom, who is in the catering business, and figure it out. My main goal was to keep it to around $9 to $10 a head. With that I’m making a really good profit.”

Her smallest charcuterie board sells for $40 and she can usually make it for a cost of around $20. But when you figure in the time for grocery shopping, assembly and delivery, that profit isn’t even $10 an hour. Yet when she makes three or more similar boards within a couple days and combines shopping and assembly time, her profit margin improves.

On most boards, Anderson automatically includes crackers, bread, nuts, olives, pickles, fruits and vegetables. Clients can pick the main ingredients from four categories: hard cheese, soft cheese, meat and spread. With the small boards, which serve two to four people, they get four options. They pick six options for the medium, which costs $70 and serves four to eight. Clients pick eight options for the large board, which serves eight to 12 and costs $100.

4. Learn to Create and Perfect Your Charcuterie Boards

Anderson, who’s 26, has been helping her mom on catering projects since she was 14 and was drawn to charcuterie several years ago.

“My mom says she watches me and I just move things around back and forth 10 times or more until I’m completely satisfied with how it looks,” she said. “It’s kind of like painting a painting to me.”

A woman creates a charcuterie board.
Anderson has made more than 50 boards and profited $2,000 in eight months. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

She learned recipes for five different spreads, including lemon whipped ricotta and a sun-dried tomato spread, from friends and family over the years. She also has several go-to charcuterie books including On Boards, That Cheese Plate Will Change Your LIfe and Beautiful Boards.

5. Cheese Here, Crackers There: Shop for a Charcuterie Board

“If I’m doing a bigger board or multiple boards I go to Sam’s (Club) hand’s down. The prices are great. I can get a big wheel of brie and distribute it between three boards,” Anderson said.

If it’s just one board she heads to Aldi.

“They have a really good variety of cheese. They have specialty cheese on holidays. For St. Patrick’s Day they had green gouda. For Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day they had cheese shaped like a heart,” she said. “I buy several of those as soon as they have them because they always sell out. Then I can premake a themed board to show on social media for people to get the idea to order.”

6. Attract Charcuterie Board Customers on Social Media

With 200 followers on Coastal Charcuterie’s Instagram page and about 200 for the Facebook page, Anderson has steady business, which goes to show you don’t have to go viral or be a serious social media influencer to have a successful side gig. She uses hashtags that local foodies follow and a variety of others including  #charcuterieofInstagram.

Anderson engages followers with photos of her boards, of course. She posts examples of themed boards for graduates and teachers at the end of school, moms at Mother’s Day and for the Super Bowl a week or so before clients would need to order them.

She created her own website and includes the link on all of her social media so customers can see more photos and place orders.

7. Balance Your Charcuterie Side Gig With A Full Time Job

“Sometimes I do two to three orders a day on the weekends. I do a lot of the prep work the night before, cutting up the cheese and meats,” Anderson said. “I make all the spreads the night before, too. Then the day of, I cut up any fruit and vegetables and assemble each board. I do them all at once.”

If she has an event after work, she rushes home and assembles all the pre-cut foods then delivers the boards.

Anderson keeps all size boards on hand for last-minute orders so she’s not running out to buy them as well as food. And if it’s really last minute, she will suggest whatever food she has on hand to the client so there’s no extra trip to the grocery store.

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer with The Penny Hoarder.




The Cheapest Places to Live in Wisconsin

Most people think of cheese or the Green Bay Packers when they think of Wisconsin but don’t always realize this Midwest state includes cities with vibrant communities, a strong cultural scene, gorgeous outdoor spaces to enjoy (and if you like snow and winter, even better) and cheap places to live.

If making a move to or within Wisconsin is in your near future, there are some cities to consider at all price points. Here are the 10 cheapest places to live in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin average rent prices

While some cities throughout Wisconsin have experienced a significant increase in rent over the past year, fortunately, most cities have kept their rent increases below double-digit percentages and some rent prices reduced immensely. In fact, Wisconsin as a whole has seen a monthly rent decrease in the last year. Luckily, the average one-bedroom apartment is $1,151 — down 5.7 percent since last year.

The cheapest cities in Wisconsin for renters

Budget-conscious renters can expect to pay between $726 to $1,028 for a one-bedroom apartment in the top 10 cheapest cities in Wisconsin.

If living in one of the most hospitable Midwest states is on your agenda, here are the 10 cheapest cities to live in Wisconsin, based on current one-bedroom rent prices.

10. Waterford

cheapest places to live in wisconsin

Photo Source: Explore Waterford / Facebook
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,028
  • Average rent change in the past year: 0 percent

Situated between Milwaukee and Lake Geneva in the southeastern part of Wisconsin is Waterford, a city that includes 1,100 acres of navigable water to enjoy by canoe or kayak. The family-friendly community actively hosts farmer’s markets, golf outings, corn hole tournaments and more to residents.

If you want to live in a tight-knit and community-oriented city, complete with a downtown Heritage District, Waterford is worth exploring.

Find apartments to rent in Waterford
Buy a house in Waterford

9. Marshfield


Photo Source: Visit Marshfield / Facebook
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $975
  • Average rent change in the past year: 8.9 percent

For those who want a bit of a suburban feel but easy access to cities like Stevens Point, Marshfield provides residents with a great healthcare system through the Marshfield Clinic Health System, strong elementary and high schools and great “Main Street” shopping along Central Avenue, too.

The city even has its own free zoo — the Wildwood Park and Zoo.

Find apartments for rent in Marshfield
Buy a house in Marshfield

8. Kronenwetter

cheapest places to live in wisconsin

Photo source: Village of Kronenwetter, WI / Facebook
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $971
  • Average rent change in the past year: N/A

Next on our list of the cheapest places to live in Wisconsin is one that’s really a village in Central Wisconsin called Kronenwetter. The town of Kronenwetter gets its name from Sebastian Kronenwetter — a state legislator and prominent pioneer resident of Marathon County.

Residents enjoy several parks and recreation centers throughout the area and the village serves two public school districts: one that serves students in the northern half of the village and one for the southern half.

The active village residents help plan events ranging from movies under the stars in nearby parks to farmers markets.

Find apartments for rent in Kronenwetter
Buy a house in Kronenwetter

7. Waukesha

cheapest places to live in wisconsin

Photo source: The City of Waukesha / Facebook
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $970
  • Average rent change in the past year: -2.5 percent

The city of Waukesha is a rich mix of neighborhoods, offering residents excellent schools, a variety of shopping choices, a diverse industrial base, an active arts community and beautiful parks and recreational amenities.

Just 18 miles west of Milwaukee, it has an urban suburb feel filled with young professionals and families attracted to the strong school system, parks and restaurants.

Find apartments for rent in Waukesha
Buy a house in Waukesha

6. De Pere


Photo source: De Pere Parks, Rec & Forestry / Facebook
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $894
  • Average rent change in the past year: 9 percent

Whether you love to go on long walks or hikes, runs, cycling or in-line skating, there is a trail for you to enjoy in De Pere since it has three separate trail systems of almost eight miles to enjoy year-round.

Here, swimmers can enjoy either the VFW Aquatic Facility or Legion Pool. Additionally, in De Pere, art lovers will appreciate the rich public art throughout the city. Moreover, this suburb of Green Bay has its own unique homes and restaurants, schools and shops.

Find apartments for rent in De Pere
Buy a house in De Pere

5. Fond Du Lac

Snowy Wisconsin.

Photo source: Fond du Lac County Historical Society / Facebook
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $789
  • Average rent change in the past year: -1.4 percent

A family-friendly community with a strong sense of history, Fond du Lac residents enjoy several amenities including a public library and active sporting centers with year-round programming. With all that said, Fond du Lac is a perfect city to call home.

The Fond du Lac County Historical Society helps connect residents to the town’s local history and there are plenty of restaurants and bars for locals and visitors to enjoy.

Find apartments for rent in Fond du Lac
Buy a house in Fond du Lac

4. Hales Corner

Hales Corners, Wisconsin.

Photo source: Hales Corners Recreation Department / Facebook
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $785
  • Average rent change in the past year: -7.70 percent

Located just over 10 miles from Milwaukee, Hales Corner in the state’s southeastern part has a small suburban feel where it’s easy to meet and get to know your neighbors.

Expect to find great brewpubs, greenery in the form of parks and hiking trails and even a botanical garden here. The Boerner Botanical Gardens features 11 specialty gardens — including a bog walk and rose garden, too.

A one-bedroom apartment in Hales Corner decreased by 7.7 percent since last year. Fortunately for renters here, it’s possible to find an apartment for less than $800 a month.

Find apartments for rent in Hales Corner
Buy a house in Hales Corner

3. Merrill


Photo source: City of Merrill, Wisconsin / Facebook
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $778
  • Average rent change in the past year: 17.3 percent

Nicknamed “The City of Parks,” thanks to its many parks located throughout Merrill, the city is also home to approximately 10,000 residents. Merrill is on the Wisconsin and Prairie rivers.

The active community hosts several year-round events for its residents, from a farmers market to parades. Since there are so many parks and nearby rivers to enjoy, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities from fishing and kayaking to hiking and birding, too.

Merrill is also home to several businesses included Agra Industries, Church Mutual Insurance Company, Lincoln Wood Products and Merrill Manufacturing.

Find apartments for rent in Merrill

2. Racine

racine wi

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $758
  • Average rent change in the past year: 1.20 percent

Located on the shore of Lake Michigan and just 22 miles south of Milwaukee, Racine takes advantage of its proximity to the lake with many opportunities to enjoy lakefront activities, whether it’s yoga or swimming at one of its popular beaches or canoeing or kayaking.

Art and architecture fans will appreciate having close access to the Racine Art Museum, home to the country’s largest contemporary crafts while visitors from all over the world make the trek to Racine to see the S.C. Johnson’s world-renowned architecture headquarters, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

And, of course, residents have bragging rights to kringle, the oval-shaped Danish pastry produced mostly in bakeries in Racine County. Furthermore, you can’t come to Racine without having a kringle or two.

Its downtown area is charming and filled with independent boutiques and restaurants. In addition to being home to S.C. Johnson, other businesses such as Twin Disc, Modine and In-Sink-Erator have locations in Racine.

Find apartments for rent in Racine
Buy a house in Racine

1. Wisconsin Rapids

wisconsin rapids wi

Photo source: Wisconsin Rapids Downtown Farmers Market / Facebook
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $726
  • Average rent change in the past year: 13.1 percent

Most people don’t know cranberries grown in the United States come from Wisconsin, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington and the Wisconsin Rapids area is well-known as cranberry country.

Besides cranberries, Wisconsin Rapids is an attraction magnet. There is the award-winning Wisconsin Rapids Aqua Skiers, a show waterski team, the Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Zoo and even the Tri-City Curling Club, one of only 80 facilities in the country that offers training and competitions for locals and visitors to enjoy.

Additionally, Wisconsin Rapids is also known for its arts and cultural institutions. A downtown farmers market takes place twice a week from early June through end of September, as well as many unique shopping opportunities and family-operated restaurants, cafes, food trucks and taverns.

Luckily, there is no shortage of fun and activities in the Wisconsin Rapids area and more people flock to this area as a one-bedroom apartment increased in rent by more than 13 percent over the past year. Even with the double-digit increase, it’s possible to find a place for around $726 a month.

Find apartments for rent in Wisconsin Rapids
Buy a house in Wisconsin Rapids

The most expensive places to live in Wisconsin

It’s possible to find a one-bedroom apartment in Wisconsin for less than $1,500 a month. Even some of the most expensive places to live in Wisconsin, such as Saint Francis or Kenosha, offer a one-bedroom apartment for $1,469 and $1,436 respectively.

If budget is a concern, here are some of the most expensive places to live in Wisconsin.


Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and’s multifamily rental property inventory as of June 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.

We excluded cities with insufficient inventory from this report.

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.


How to Cool Down a Room Without AC

Three-fourths of all homes in the United States have air conditioning, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and it raises electric bills the most during summer. Every hour your air conditioner is off or on a higher temperature setting is the same as putting spare change in your bank account. And that spare change can add up to significant savings over three or four months.

“We can confidently say that your HVAC is the biggest bulk of your utility bill, so making adjustments there would be the biggest bang for your buck so to speak,” said Sally Thelen, spokeswoman for Duke Energy, which provides power in six states. 

Now there’s no reason to sit home and sweat when it’s 95 degrees outside, but if you know how to cool down a room without air conditioning, you can keep it off for a few hours here and there and you’ll be a lot cooler when you see your electric bill.

17 Tips to Keep Your House Cool Without Air Conditioning

The Department of Energy, Duke Energy, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and a few Floridians offered expert advice on how to cool your house without cranking up the AC.

1. Add a $20 Screen Door

Screens on the front and back door allow for great cross ventilation in the mornings and evenings, or all day if it’s too hot outside. You can buy a wooden screen door for about $100 and pay to install it if you aren’t handy.

But there are several options starting at $18 that you can install yourself by mounting them to your door frame with Velcro or a similar easy process.

2. Make Your Own DIY Air Conditioner

Make the air flowing through your house from Mother Nature or a fan cooler.

  • Fill a mixing bowl or shallow bowl with ice, and place it in front of a fan.
  • Hang a wet sheet in front of an open window.
  • Roll up a towel dampened with cold water and affix it to the front of a box fan.

3. Push out Hot Air by Placing Box Fans in Windows

Say goodbye to hot air. Put box fans facing out of the windows of rooms you’re using. Then turn on a ceiling fan to keep the cooler air moving.

No need to buy several fans, just move them from the family room or kitchen to the bedroom at night.

4. Close Doors to Unused Rooms

Closing doors to unused rooms so that cool air from a ceiling fan, a cross breeze or the air conditioner only needs to circulate in the occupied areas of the house. You can roll up a towel to block the space under the closed door.

5. Close Shades, Blinds and Curtains

You don’t have to sit in the dark all summer. But covering the windows during the hottest part of the day keeps the sun’s rays from heating your house more. Blackout curtains are extra effective at keeping cold air in.

6. Open Windows in Morning and Evening

If morning and evening temperatures are between 50 and 70 degrees where you live, open the windows then to create a cross breeze. Close them when the temps rise and the sun gets brighter.

7. Change the Direction of Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans should rotate counter-clockwise in the summer to create a breeze that’s going downward.

Hunter, the ceiling fan manufacturer, says you can set your air conditioner thermostat four degrees higher than your desired temperature with fans moving air in the right direction. Eighty degrees will feel like 76 degrees.

There’s a switch on the center module of most ceiling fans that changes the direction it turns.

(In the winter they turn clockwise with the fan speed on low so they recirculate the hot air that rises to the top of a room.)

A woman opens up a window at her home.
Getty Images

8. Create A Cross Breeze

To get a good cross breeze of outside air on breezy summer evenings, open windows just a few inches. The less you open them, the more of a draft you’ll create. If your windows open at the top and bottom, open the lower glass on one side of the house and the upper glass on the other.

9. Use All Exhaust Fans

Ventilation from the fan above kitchen ranges and a bathroom exhaust fan improves the effectiveness of airflow through your house and reduces moisture.

10. Fill in Cracks and Leaks to Maintain Cool Air

Keep cool air in and hot air out by filling all leaks and cracks in your home. Use weatherstripping to seal air leaks around movable things such as doors and windows and caulk for filling in cracks and gaps in walls or stationary frames around doors and windows.

11. Use Cotton Sheets to Stay Cool in Your Sleep

Cotton is one of the most breathable materials, so make sure your sheets are cotton.

12. Wear Clothes Made of Natural Fibers to Stay Cool by Day

Clothes made from natural fibers such as cotton or linen allow for more airflow and less sweat than synthetics when it’s hot. Make them your summer fashion choice when you are trying to keep cool without AC.

13. Sleep and Socialize In the Basement

Heat rises, so if you have a basement, set up a temporary sleeping area there. Some families have summer lunches and dinners in the basement. And it’s definitely where the kids should play. (Don’t crowd too closely or you’ll experience too much body heat.) If you have a two story house, sleep on the first floor.

14. Turn off Unnecessary Lights

Again, no need for Summer 2021 to be all dark. But if you want to keep your house cool without AC, always make sure you turn off lights in rooms you aren’t using because the light bulbs emit heat.

15. Use Appliances at Night

Run your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer at night when it’s cooler.

A woman makes food in her kitchen as her toddler feeds her.
Getty Images

16. Cook in the Morning

Don’t cook in the evening when the sun is still high in the sky and the house has been heating up all day. Cook in the morning and just heat it up in the microwave before dinner. Or serve more cold options such as sandwiches, fruit and cereal.

17. Unplug Electronics

Electronics generate heat, so unplug them when they aren’t in use to keep your house cooler. They also draw small amounts of power around the clock, even when not in use. Ever heard the term energy vampire?

How to Conserve Energy When You Use Air Conditioning

Sometimes the summer heat is so intense, ceiling fans won’t cut it and you just have to run the air. Many of the tips above will allow you to keep your thermostat and power bills lower. Here are three more ways to use less air conditioning while keeping your home cool.

1. Keep Air Conditioning on Low, Not Off When You’re Away

Whether to leave the air on or off when nobody’s home is an age old debate. Some say it takes more energy to cool a room after it’s become blazing hot without running the conditioner all day than to cool it down a few degrees from a higher temperature.

“Generally speaking our recommendation is to turn it up, but not off,” said Thelen at Duke Energy. “It will work much harder from zero to cool an entire house. We suggest bumping it up to 78 or higher and then returning to a comfortable level on the thermostat upon return.”

2. Change Air Conditioning Air Filters Regularly

A dirty air filter makes an HVAC system work harder, which uses more energy.

Check out these nine energy-efficient home improvements to reduce your electric bills even more.

3. Close the Damper

Close the fireplace damper. The Department of Energy reminds us to close the damper so precious cooler air doesn’t escape up the chimney and hot air doesn’t enter the house.

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.




5 Tips for How to Pack a Carry-On and Avoid Baggage Fees

If you’re flying again after a year’s hiatus, don’t forget that checked luggage costs an average of $40 per bag on many airlines.

By fitting everything into a carry-on suitcase, an individual traveler can save at least $80 round trip. A family of four can save $320. Wouldn’t you rather spend that money on a great dinner or two or three extra nights in your hotel?

Whether your trip is for the weekend or a week, follow these tips to pare down your packing list, conserve space and save money.

5 Expert Tips: How to Pack a Carry-On

Pack Versatility in Your Carry-On Bags

Clothes that can be worn several ways allow you to have multiple outfits and save valuable space.

For Women:

  1. An elastic-waist maxi skirt is a skirt by day, and can be pulled above the bust to become a strapless dress for nights out when you’re traveling. (The skirt is also comfortable to wear on long flights.)
  2. A long sleeve, button-down shirt can be worn the standard way, or with sleeves rolled up and the shirt tail tied in a knot around your waist. Try this and you’ll have a great wrap to cinch that strapless maxi dress. Or leave it unbuttoned and untied you’ll have something akin to a cardigan.
  3. A long sleeve knit top can be paired with the skirt as a shirt, or tied around your shoulders and neck to go with a dress. It can also be an added layer under or over the  long sleeve button down.
  4. A small bag of jewelry takes up a lot less valuable space than clothes. Add lightweight, bright earrings or a necklace and you’ll change the look of your limited outfits.

For Men:

  1. Again, the same button down shirt can look completely different with a tie one night and untucked with sleeves rolled up the next day.
  2. Look for quick-drying pants with leg extensions that zip on and off so they can be shorts or long pants. They’re perfect for packing in carry-ons.
  3. A tie (or even two) takes up a lot less space in your carry-on than a second or third shirt and you’ll have several different looks.

Wear and Wash to Save Space 

If you aren’t going to have a washing machine where you’re traveling, then a general rule is only pack things in your carry-on bag that you can wash in a sink. From underwear to workout clothes to that great black dress, you’ll get away with a lot fewer items on your trip if they can be washed in the sink and hung to dry.

This means when you’re packing your carry-on, it’s best to include clothes made from nylon, polyester and lightweight cotton. They take 2 to 4 hours to dry when hung inside and 1 to 2 hours outside. Wash what you wore at night and you’ll have clean clothes the next day.

Some airlines now charge for carry-ons. It’s true. In that case, to save money you’ll need to downsize even more to avoid baggage fees. Here’s how to pack a backpack.

Hikers and campers have been wise to quick-drying, odor resistant underwear for a while. This polyester mesh underwear, found in outfitter stores, has wicking to keep moisture off your body when you sweat and is made with an antimicrobial treatment that reduces odor building up in the fabric. These undies could become as indispensable as Swiss army knives.

Packing Liquid Toiletries in Your Carry-On

How many times have you thought you mastered how to pack a carry-on bag, then you realized you didn’t include that bulging bag of toiletries? It can be one of the most bulky items in your carry-on bag.

Here are some tips to save space.

  • If you are staying with a friend, at a hotel or an Airbnb, many liquid toiletries, razors and soap will be provided. (If you aren’t sure about your Airbnb ask your host before you pack.) It probably won’t be your favorite brand of shampoo, hairspray or conditioner, but in order to save space and save money on baggage fees, your hair can have slightly less shine.
  • Don’t buy travel-sized products. It’s so fun to grab those cute little bottles of mouthwash, lotion and hair products at the grocery store but at $1.99 to $2.49 each, they can easily add $10 to $15 to the cost of your trip. Resist them and you’ll be spending that money on a couple cocktails or a yummy lunch. Bring your own little bottles of liquid toiletries (don’t forget sunscreen) instead of buying them.
  • You’re better off buying clear, plastic travel-size bottles at a dollar store.
Pro Tip

Remember, you can’t carry-on bottles of liquid over 3.4 ounces on flights.

  • Don’t forget to pack liquid detergent in a little bottle. You’ll need it to have clean clothes where you’re going.
  • If you already have miniature bottles of hair and body care products that you’ve saved from motels, use those, of course. But be sure to bring the empty bottles back home so you’ll have them to fill with our own liquid toiletries for your next trip. (For more efficient storage at home, keep them in your empty carry on bag.)
  • Always collect any extra miniature sized bottles at a hotel. It’s okay to ask the housekeepers for more.
  • Use conditioner for shaving cream when you’re traveling to save space in your carry-on luggage.
  • For people who menstruate, try a period cup sometime before your trip. If this personal item works for you, then you don’t need to pack tampons or pads.

Limit Choices when Packing a Carry On Bag

Plan clothing alternatives based on potential weather surprises during your travel, not whether you’ll be in the mood for pinstripes, a geometric pattern or floral print. You’re packing for a trip, not a fashion show. Once you have the mindset of traveling light it allows you to save space and save time. Getting ready each morning or night is easier because you’ve already picked your outfit back home instead of when you get to where you’re going.

Limiting yourself to two pairs of shoes gives you a lot more room when you’re packing your carry on. It’s best to take a pair of athletic shoes for exercise as well as daily activities. Add some flip flops for the beach or going out at night. These pair well with a dress or skirt for women.

Packing light for women means you’ll need: one skirt, one dress, two long sleeve shirts (knit and button down), two short sleeve or sleeveless shirts, and one set of workout clothes. Add a pair of pants or jeans if you prefer them to a skirt or dress or if where you’re going has a cold climate.  (We’ll get to sweaters and jackets soon.)

For men, you’ll need one of each of the following: shorts, long pants, long sleeve knit shirt, button down and a set of workout clothes. Pack two short sleeve shirts.

Wear Extra Clothes When You’re Traveling

Now for those coats, fleeces and sweaters. Don’t pack them — wear them. This can save space in a big way in your carry-on bag.

“When I flew to Iceland for $99 I had to take puffy pants and jackets. I put on as much of that big outerwear as possible and wore it on the plane,” said Jen Ruiz, travel author and blogger on “I’ll wear it versus packing it in a bag and taking up all the space. A jacket can double as a blanket for you on the plane.”

Her advice conjures up a vision of Friends when Joey wears all of Chandler’s clothes at once. If the flight attendant asks: “Could you beeee wearing any more clothes?” then rest assured you’re showing your commitment to the rules for how to pack a carry-on bag.

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.


Age at Home: How to Save Money on Senior Care

Many elderly people who require highly skilled nursing and watchful eyes around the clock have no choice but to live in a nursing facility. Others choose to move to one because of the socialization and ease of living with all meals and other services provided.

But most seniors would prefer to age in place, according to a 2018 AARP survey. It found 77% of Americans age 50 and older say they would like to remain in their current residence instead of moving somewhere else.

It’s not always possible, and certainly not easy to make this happen. Yet the benefits of a better adjusted, happier senior — along with saving thousands of dollars — make aging at home worth the effort.

How to Save Money Keeping Seniors at Home

Genworth, a Virginia-based provider of long-term care insurance, conducts an annual survey on the cost of care for retirees. The median price for one month in a private room in a nursing home in 2020 was $8,821. A semi-private room cost $7,756 a month. The average cost of a home health aide in the retiree’s home was $24 an hour.

With those daunting figures, family caregivers often think it makes sense to quit their jobs so they can devote themselves to caring for their seniors, and not pay for someone else to do the job.

Don’t do it, said financial journalist Jean Chatzky, who serves as an ambassador to AARP. She and others recently shared advice about caring for seniors during a webinar.

“The amount they would spend on care may be equal to the amount they would earn. But when you factor in all the other things, (such as) retirement contributions, Social Security credits, career trajectory, it makes sense to stay working,” Chatzky said.

Here are various options for keeping seniors in their homes and decreasing the costs of doing so.

Explore Adult Group Care Programs

Finding a great place for a senior to spend his or her days while a family member who’s also a caregiver works can enable the elder to stay in their home and the caregiver to stay employed.

Programs that provide group care for adults during the day can be the key to allowing a caregiver to continue working.

There is a range of options at various prices and levels of care where seniors can spend up to 10 hours a day with peers playing cognitive games, doing physical exercises, making crafts, having one or two meals and connecting with others.

To understand the benefits of a group day program for seniors versus a paid caregiver at home, consider the pros and cons of having a child in preschool versus at home with a nanny. The cost is less and there is more structure and socialization with a group.

There are several options for adult care programs outside the home:

A group of people play games at a non-profit senior daycare center at a church.
Joe Bukowski, left, assistant director of the adult care program for seniors at Edenton Street United Methodist Church, talks to Winston Carter, as he plays indoor golf in Raleigh, N.C. Katherine Snow Smith/The Penny Hoarder

Not-For-Profit Group Adult Care

Some churches and other non-profit organizations offer adult care programs five days a week for the whole day. While churches have offered pre-school programs for children for more than a century, Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, N.C., was one of the first to develop an adult care program for seniors in 1991. The Ruth Sheets Center now cares for 25 seniors a day and is licensed for up to 32 when COVID-19 limits are lifted.

Ten hours of care costs $71, or about $7 an hour.

The program, which operates in the church’s fellowship hall, accepts seniors with varying degrees of physical and cognitive abilities. It’s okay if they have Alzheimer’s disease, are in a wheelchair or need assistance going to the bathroom.

“We do cognitive activities throughout the day. It might be as simple as naming the states, which can lead to a variety of different conversations. They might get to one state where somebody used to live or they often visited so this turns into an off-shoot conversation,” said Matt Frazier, Sheets Center executive director. “The whole key is to try to get everyone involved, to spark the mind.”

A typical day at the Sheets Center includes exercising, cognitive games, crafts, morning and afternoon snack, hot lunch and rest time. A Licensed Practical Nurse is on duty to help with clients who are insulin dependent (this costs a little extra) as well as any emergency health issues for all clients. Everyone on staff knows CPR and is certified as a Clinical Nursing Assistant or Patient Care Assistant.

They all understand the importance of keeping clients engaged, not just putting them in front of a movie, Frazier said.

When seniors make Valentines to send to family and friends, a caregiver gets people talking about past relationships or special people in their lives. During a horse racing game, seniors name each of their handheld miniature horses and explain why they chose that name.

“If someone has experience riding horses, or we have a staff member who has a fear of horses they can tell their stores,” Frazier said. “We make sure socialization goes along with the competition.”

For-Profit Adult Day Programs

There are numerous for-profit adult day programs. One is SarahCare, which has a wide range of activities based on clients’ abilities, according to Marcia Jarrel, executive director of the Lake Boone Trail program in Raleigh.

“Care plans are developed with the family and staff to help create meaningful and appropriate activities,” she said.

SarahCare has day programs for seniors in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Prices vary but generally range from $60 for a 4-hour half day to $85 for an 11-hour full day, which includes breakfast, lunch and a snack.

SarahCare offers a wide variety of group and individualized activities. Each client plans their own custom day, which can include technology tutoring, letter writing, painting, bowling and close to 100 other things to do.

It also gets the community involved. High school students come to play Chess or other activities and the seniors themselves may go out to children’s daycare programs to rock babies or roll a ball with toddlers.

If family caregivers at home can’t shower seniors, that’s an option at SarahCare for $21. Transportation costs $14 one way and $28 round trip.

Visit the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging to find local agencies that can direct you to adult care programs in your area and financial programs that might help pay for them.

A group of senior citizens play games.
Getty Images

Check Out Local Community Centers

Many cities and counties have one or several senior centers offering classes, events, meals, camaraderie and other services at little or even no charge. Family caregivers can drop off their senior for several hours to give the elder an interesting outing and the caregiver a little time away.

This can be a valuable supplement to care at home several times a week for limited periods, but most senior centers do not offer continuous care throughout the day. Some, however, do have day-long programs. Clients need to be in good physical health and able to to follow programs on their own.

Important: Don’t Call It Daycare

No matter what you find for your senior to enjoy during the day, it can be insulting to a senior to refer to it as “daycare,” a term associated with little children. Frazier said his clients’ families say things such as, “You are going to your program today,” “going to see friends,” “going to church” or simply: “It’s time for the Sheets Center.”

DIY At-Home Senior Care

When their mother fell and broke her shoulder at age 89 three years ago, sisters Lynn Ellen and Donna Warren started a tag-team in-home care program that has only increased as their parents in Raleigh have gotten older. Two years ago, their father suffered a liver abscess that went undiagnosed and caused damage to his heart, kidneys and liver.

When he came home from the hospital, the two sisters learned to administer his IV and care for his abscess.

Both parents are better now but at ages 92 and 95, their health is deteriorating. Still, their daughters make it possible for them to remain in their own home without paying for any outside aid.

Ellen is local, so she spends about every other day with her mother and dad. Warren lives two hours away in Virginia and comes for five-day stints every three weeks, bringing lots of meals each time.

“Fortunately, we are both retired, and our children are grown. We decided we wanted to do this for them as long as we can,” Ellen said. “We are saving a ton of money and it’s what our parents prefer (over) moving into a place. They would go through so much money there very quickly.”

They’ve brought in limited outside help that’s covered by Medicare while learning several techniques for making home care easier and more affordable.

  • Free IV class

“The hardest medical stuff we had to figure out was when Daddy got discharged from Duke University Hospital. We had to keep him on the IV for the antibiotics,” Ellen said. The hospital gave them a free class and they didn’t leave until they really knew what they were doing.

  • Free therapy

Ellen’s mom has wet macular degeneration and her sight is very limited. Medicare completely covers an occupational therapist to help her continue daily functions. The therapist put bright dots on the switches of the toaster oven, microwave and washing machine so that they can be more easily operated.

“Medicare also provides other visual aids such as special lighting and an eye patch. The occupational therapist comes once a week for two hours to help Mom learn to do these things on her own for when we aren’t there,” Ellen said.

Meanwhile, her father’s primary doctor thought physical therapy could help his patient regain strength and improve his mobility. A physical therapist evaluated the situation and came for several weeks to teach a routine of leg lifts and arm exercises. The evaluation and actual therapy were completely covered by Medicare.

  • Free remote for visually impaired

Through the occupational therapist, Ellen learned their local cable company would give them an oversized remote with large buttons so her mom can now turn the TV on and off and change the channels and volume. Even if she can’t see it well, she can listen and get it going for her husband, who has limited mobility.

  • Lift chair

Another thing that helped was adding a “lift chair” to the home. These chairs include various reclining positions and a remote control that lifts up the chair and tilts it forward to help people with mobility issues go from sitting to standing. Prices start around $300.

  • Bathroom remodel

When Ellen and Warren decided to keep their parents at home as long as possible, they realized they needed to remodel their bathroom to make the door big enough for a wheelchair and get rid of the 6-inch ledge at the base of the shower door. There was extensive work required such as moving a wall and reworking plumbing.

“We made it all one level, added grab-bars and a fold-down seat in the shower,” Ellen said. The job was more than they expected, around $14,000.

“That is a lot of money, but that’s what a retirement home might charge for two people for just one or two months,” she said. “We did this three years ago and it has made it so much easier for all of us.”

Look into Benefits for Veterans

The VA has a program called Veterans Aid and Attendance that provides a variety of services and money for veterans 65 and older who were honorably discharged.

Veterans with a net worth of no more than $129,094 may qualify for $2,170 or more per month toward the cost of several types of senior care, including nursing homes, memory care and adult day services.

Veterans who meet the above requirements are also eligible for financial help in modifying a bathroom so they can live at home with a disability or as they age. The lifetime benefit is $6,800 for eligible veterans with a service-connected disability, or $2,000 for veterans with non-service-connected disabilities.

Katherine Snow Smith is staff writer for The Penny Hoarder and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps & Lessons Learned.




The Cheapest Places to Live in Massachusetts

Sometimes it feels like a Tom Brady-sized paycheck is necessary to live in Massachusetts. Maybe that’s why he left for Florida?

Massachusetts has a rep for lighthouses, its baseball team and lobster rolls. It’s less beloved for its often exorbitant rent prices though.

Fortunately, not every city is quite as expensive as Boston.

Massachusetts state average rent prices

Let’s get this out of the way real quick — few places in Massachusetts have what you would call “cheap” rent. That’s just not the New England way, unfortunately.

In fact, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in The Bay State is $2,736, an increase of 5.5 percent from last year. As legit Bostonians would say in utter disbelief, “No suh!”

The cheapest cities in Massachusetts for renters

Sadly, that rent rate is the truth. The good news is that not all cities in Massachusetts are quite so pricey. Some are downright affordable, so it’s absolutely possible to enjoy the Massachusetts way of life without going breaking the bank. Here are the 10 cheapest places to live in Massachusetts, in order.

10. Framingham

Framingham, MA.

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,996
  • Average rent change in the past year: 5.88 percent

The suburb of Framingham has access to both Boston and Worcester, given that it’s situated directly in between the two cities. In particular, its location only 20 miles west of Boston makes it ideal for the nearly 72,000 residents of Framingham, since many commute by rail.

However, Framingham does attract many big-ticket employers, thanks to a highly educated population. In fact, Framingham’s biotech industry draws commuters in from surrounding areas. Other major area industries include manufacturing, education and healthcare.

Framingham residents earn an average annual take-home pay of $81,400. Impressive as that is, renters need it to front an average one-bedroom rent of $1,996 per month, up 5.88 percent from last year.

Framingham isn’t all commuting and bills though. The diverse community enjoys a broad range of cultural options, including more than 30 ethnic restaurants found in downtown Framingham. The city’s portion of Route 9/Worcester Road is also known throughout New England as a destination for all things retail and foodie. Yum!

Find apartments for rent in Framingham
Buy a house in Framingham

9. Walpole

Walpole, MA.

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,980
  • Average rent change in the past year: -17.5 percent

If you ever wanted to call Walpole home, now’s the time.

The thing that likely lands it on our list of the cheapest places to live in Massachusetts is that rent is down 17.5 percent from last year, with a one-bedroom apartment going for about $1,980 per month.

At just under 6,000 residents, Walpole is one of the smaller towns on our list — it makes up for its petite size though with plenty of character. A mere 13 miles south of Boston, Walpole encompasses all of the things people love about historic New England.

The downtown itself features locally-owned and operated shops, so appropriate for a quiet community known for its tree-lined streets and historic homes. The weekly farmer’s market is a favorite for locals, as are the multiple Irish pubs.

There are three town commons, complete with green space to enjoy the occasional picnic or frisbee session. Don’t forget to hit up Turner Pond and Lodge in the winter for ice skating!

Find apartments for rent in Walpole
Buy a house in Walpole

8. Weymouth

Weymouth, MA.

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,980
  • Average rent change in the past year: 8.16 percent

Love history? Weymouth is the place for you. The second oldest township in the Commonwealth, Weymouth dates all the way back to 1622, although it was originally known as the Wessagusset colony.

Weymouth has changed quite a bit over the past 400 years, but it nonetheless retains ever so much New England charm. The only downside is that rents in Weymouth have increased 8.16 percent over the last year, to $1,980 per month for a one-bedroom unit.

Originally an agricultural and fishing community, Weymouth today is “South Shore’s medical mecca,” thanks to a heavy healthcare presence.

Weymouth is ideally located in southeastern Mass just 12 miles southeast of Boston. Although winters are brutally cold, the summers in Weymouth are delightful. The hottest month of July averages a temperature of only 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

There’s plenty to do here as one of the cheapest places to live in Massachusetts. Locals love stopping by any of the town’s four village centers for food, drink, shopping and downtime.

Outdoor fun is a must in this area, which includes George Lane Beach and Webb Memorial State Park.

Find apartments for rent in Weymouth
Buy a house in Weymouth

7. Andover

Andover, MA.

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,944
  • Average rent change in the past year: 9.55 percent

Andover is yet another historic New England community, but it nonetheless exhibits a charm all its own. Named for the England city where most of its settlers hailed from, the Town of Andover incorporated way back in 1646.

Not too long after that (in 1770) Andover saw the establishment of Phillips Academy, the famed independent secondary “prep” school known around the world that has graduated impressive students like Dr. Benjamin Spock, former President George H.W. Bush and even former Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr.

Located 26 miles north of Boston, downtown Andover is accessible by car or rail. Eclectic boutiques and eateries liberally dot the area, and downtown has many nature trails that give locals and visitors the opportunity to explore Andover’s largely unspoiled beauty. Harold Parker State Forest is another must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts.

Andover rent clocks in at $1,944 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, up 9.55 percent from this time last year. Despite this increase, it remains one of the cheapest places to live in Massachusetts.

Find apartments for rent in Andover
Buy a house in Andover

6. Bridgewater

Bridgewater, MA.

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,943
  • Average rent change in the past year: 7.21 percent

Some 25 miles south of Boston is Bridgewater, where the average one-bedroom rental will cost you a whole dollar less, $1,943, per month than the previously mentioned Andover. This is an increase of 7.21 percent from last year.

With nearly 27,000 residents, Bridgewater’s niche is somewhere between a small town and a major New England metropolis. Known for its low crime rate and family-friendly atmosphere, Bridgewater residents tend to stick around for a while.

It’s also home to Bridgewater State University, an acclaimed institution that is the largest of nine state universities in Massachusetts.

Like much of the state, Bridgewater boasts incredible access to nature. Among them, The Wildlands Trust— Great River Preserve is more than 125 acres worth of trails, habitats, vernal pools and rare animals. Bridgewater State Park is another excellent spot for hiking, plus it features a lake for water sports.

Be sure to keep an eye on the calendar and take in an event or two at historic Sachem Rock Farm!

Find apartments for rent in Bridgewater
Buy a house in Bridgewater

5. Canton

Canton, MA.

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,910
  • Average rent change in the past year: -15.15 percent

Great news, wannabe Canton residents — rent is down in this Boston suburb by a whopping 15.15 percent compared with last year, helping propel it higher on our list of the cheapest places to live in Massachusetts. This brings rent for a one-bedroom apartment to a monthly average of $1,910.

Located 15 miles southwest of downtown Boston, the town of Canton is home to more than 23,000 residents. Settled in 1650 under the name Punkapoag, it was eventually renamed Canton because settlers thought that it is on the exact opposite end of the earth from Canton, China.

The area was an early industrial hub, with Paul Revere himself setting up a gunpowder factory during the American Revolution, as well as the country’s first copper rolling mill.

Things have changed a lot since the olden days, though. Today, Dunkin’ Donuts is among the businesses calling Canton home. Since everyone in New England loves Dunkin’, this is big deal!

Find apartments for rent in Canton
Buy a house in Canton

4. Burlington

Burlington, MA.

Photo source: Burlington Recreation / Facebook
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,889
  • Average rent change in the past year: -20.51 percent

Rent prices in Burlington have dropped more than 20 percent in the last year, so it’s a better time than ever to get into the area — one of the cheapest places to live in Massachusetts. Currently, a one-bedroom apartment in the city will set you back about $1,889 per month.

Roughly 12 miles northwest of Boston, Burlington has about 25,000 residents and counting. The suburb is gaining in popularity thanks to its enviable location and comparable affordability.

In particular, the 270-acre Landlocked Forest in Burlington is an outdoorsy paradise, with trails and boardwalks suitable for everything from hiking to cross-country skiing in the winter.

Shopping enthusiasts might prefer to skip the trails for 3rd Avenue, where all of the best stores are. Wayside Commons and Burlington Mall are other beloved retail areas.

All in all, Burlington is a delightful suburb to raise a family or live as a young professional, wherever you are in life.

Find apartments for rent in Burlington
Buy a house in Burlington

3. Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury, MA.

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,737
  • Average rent change in the past year: -25.12 percent

Down more than 25 percent from last year are rent prices in Shrewsbury. Slightly further inland than many of the other cities on this list, Shrewsbury is 45 minutes west of Boston and 10 minutes east of Worcester in Central Mass. This is the first city on our list to rent below $1,800 per month — a one-bedroom goes for an average of $1,737.

Shrewsbury is home to Ski Ward, a year-round recreational facility. In the winter, visitors enjoy snow skiing, snow tubing and snowboarding. In the summer, it’s the ideal place for beach volleyball, as well as summer skiing and summer tubing.

Another establishment that makes life in Shrewsbury extra sweet is Hebert’s Candy Mansion, known for its homemade candy, but also full of other goodies like ice cream sundaes and luxe coffee. People literally come from all around to take in the full Hebert experience.

Find apartments for rent in Shrewsbury
Buy a house in Shrewsbury

2. Sunderland

Sunderland, MA.

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,649
  • Average rent change in the past year: -4.64 percent

Moving to the other side of the state, the Town of Sunderland is in western Massachusetts. At nearly 15 square miles and around 4,000 residents, Sunderland is decidedly smaller than many other cities on this list. The rent for an average one-bedroom is down 4.64 percent to $1,649 per month here.

Originally known as Swampfield, due to swampland in the town, Sunderland incorporated in 1718. Today, it features picturesque streets lined with maple trees planted in the 1820s.

Mount Toby is a major Sunderland attraction, as the 1,269-foot fire tower at the summit offers unbelievable views of surrounding area ranges. Hikers also love to take in the waterfalls while out on a trek. In autumn, locals flock to family-friendly activities such as the eight-acre corn maze at Mike’s Maze (September through November).

Certainly not one of the most metropolitan cities on our list, Sunderland still features a sprinkling of dining, shopping and entertainment options suitable for a quaint New England Town. Plus, it’s oh-so-affordable, as the second cheapest place to live in Massachusetts.

Find apartments for rent in Sunderland
Buy a house in Sunderland

1. Westborough

Westborough, MA.

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $1,445
  • Average rent change in the past year: -37.24 percent

Moving back east, the town of Westborough is everything a New Englander could want and more. And who can argue with the price? Rental rates are down 37.24 percent, with the average one-bedroom rental rate at $1,445 per month!

Westborough was originally established as a place for dairies and orchards. Located 29 miles west of Boston and east of Worcester, Westborough offers commuters easy access by car or rail to these big metro areas.

Today, Westborough houses an impressive slate of businesses, largely in the manufacturing and service industries. Although smaller than Boston by a long shot, Westborough’s 18,000-plus residents enjoy good schools and plenty of amenities for a significantly reduced price tag.

Chauncy Lake and George H Nichols Reservoir are popular spots for sunning, boating, fishing and all other things water-related.

Find apartments for rent in Westborough
Buy a house in Westborough

The 25 cheapest places to live in Massachusetts

Super bummed that the city you’re into didn’t show up on our list? Never fear, there are plenty of other affordable places to live in Massachusetts. Check out the full top 25 cheapest cities here.

The 10 most expensive places to live in Massachusetts

Wanna see how the other half lives? There are plenty of pricey places to live in Massachusetts, too. Take a look at this list of the 10 most expensive cities to live in. Try not to let your jaw drop at these rental rates!


Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and’s multifamily rental property inventory as of May 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.

We excluded cities with insufficient inventory from this report.

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.


9 Things the Coronavirus Is Making Obsolete

Man holding restaurant menu
Diego Cervo /

Change is constant. Millions of Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and infection rates have plunged. But even if everyone got vaccinated tomorrow, it’s unlikely the world would ever slip back into all of its old habits and ways.

From plexiglass separators in stores to no-contact food delivery, many of the changes that have come our way are likely to stick around permanently. And other societal shifts mean that certain things to which we’ve become accustomed are likely to join pay phones and parking meters on the slow but sure march to obsolescence.

Here’s a look at some familiar parts of life that the coronavirus pandemic is slowly pushing to the sidelines.

1. Traditional movie theater experience

Monkey Business Images / Money Talks News

Hollywood’s magical movie palaces, with their armrest-jostling and sticky floors, now seem like something out of germ-filled horror movies. Will we ever again chomp popcorn while sitting haunch-to-paunch with strangers in a crowded cinema?

Major chains like AMC Theatres have narrowly dodged bankruptcy after extended closures during the pandemic. In the meantime, moviegoers have flocked to home streaming services such as Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, where the concessions require no cash and the bathroom breaks are unlimited.

The final curtain may not be falling on the movie-theater experience, but a second, more subdued act seems to be waiting in the wings. If you’re interested in exploring affordable alternatives to the silver screen, check out “13 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less.”

2. Reusable restaurant menus

Man ordering from a digital restaurant menu
Pond Saksit /

Whether they’re plastic laminated one-sheets or those enormous books handed out by fine-dining establishments, reusable restaurant menus may soon be as outmoded as aspic salads.

They’ve never exactly been a clean option: Previous patrons dirty up menus with soda spills, cough and sneeze on them, and even lick their fingers to turn the pages. No wonder the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends disposable or digital menus going forward.

Whatever type of menu you find in your hands the next time you eat out, heed “8 Ways Restaurant Menus Trick You Into Overspending.”

3. Snow days

Studio Peace /

Kids who grew up in wintery climates — chiming in for Minnesota over here — know very well the blissful gift of a snow day, when school is canceled due to blizzardy weather or frigid temperatures. Time to pull the covers up over your head, go back to sleep and, later on, indulge in video games, trash TV and snacks.

But now that nearly every school in the nation has had to figure out how to teach classes online, weather cancellations seem unlikely, as schools can just switch to virtual learning for a day and have kids use computers for homework, not games. Those beloved snow days may be melting away for good.

4. Print magazines

VGstockstudio /

The print-magazine industry has been slipping for years, with many publications reducing their annual issue count, and others becoming digital-only.

And with fewer magazines to flip through, there are also fewer places to do so. The CDC recommends that dental offices, for example, no longer offer shared print magazines for patients to flip through, since they can’t be easily disinfected.

If you’re interested in switching to digital titles, check out “4 Ways to Read Magazines for Free or Cheap.”

5. Buffets

Buffet food at a restaurant
suriyachan /

Ah, all-you-can-eat buffets, the big eater’s friend. But this method of meal delivery is fraught with issues. Besides the food sitting under heat lamps and on steam tables, quickly getting cold, we now must worry about forking up fried noodles that everyone in the restaurant has sniffed and coughed over.

It’s no wonder that the buffet restaurants Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes (of the Garden Fresh Restaurants chain) were among the early casualties of the pandemic, as we reported in “11 Restaurants That Filed for Bankruptcy Amid COVID-19.”

6. Birthday candles

Woman blowing out candles on a birthday cake
Lucky Business /

It’s an iconic image of celebration: kids and adults alike pursing their lips and puffing away at flaming candles atop a birthday cake. But blowing out the candles means blowing spit and aerosolized germs onto a dessert that people are about to eat and out into the room around you.

7. In-person voting

A close-up picture of a mail-in ballot for an election
Svanblar /

Some states, including my own home state of Washington, moved to all-mail-in voting years ago and never looked back. Rather than leave work early to stand in line with strangers, often in inclement weather, voting by mail happens on a voter’s own individual schedule.

Voters also have time to research candidates and issues before filling out their ballots and popping them in the mail, later tracking their ballots online to ensure they were received.

According to The New York Times, a record number of Americans were able to vote by mail in 2020, and while some states still require in-person voting, a sea change is happening here.

8. Crowded elevators

Masked woman alone in an elevator
New Africa /

Think of how jammed an office elevator can get during those inevitable work rush hours. The Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance for employers, urging businesses to limit how many people can use an elevator at the same time — as well as to add floor decals to space passengers out and encourage mask-wearing.

And if you dread that awkward elevator small talk, you’re in luck: The CDC also advises elevator users to minimize chatting. The good news: No more annoying elevator pitches?

9. Handshakes

Woman in mask giving peace sign
Denis Andricic /

The CDC still recommends that those who are unvaccinated limit gestures that promote close contact — skipping handshakes, hugs and even elbow bumps.

Hugs, at least among close family members who share germ circles anyway, will likely never go out of style. But handshakes with almost everyone can be replaced with waves, verbal greetings and even peace signs or Mr. Spock’s Vulcan salute.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.