Interactive Monday: What are the rental costs in your community?

Feb 24, 2019
Interactive, Budgeting, Research, Math, Economics

Hat tip to Joy Tavano of North Kingstown High School (RI) who shared this resource in a recent PLC with Jessica. The site,,  has detailed information about average rents in every county in the U.S. and better yet provides the information on a historical basis back to 2006. Given that housing costs are typically the largest cost component in a budget, this interactive provides students with a sense of the cost of living in their community. For students who consider moving to another part of the state or country, they also will learn about costs of living in that community too. 

So, here are a few ideas on how to use the interactive (which the curriculum team may turn into an activity in the future): 

National Map


  • The map does not come with a legend to explain the color scheme. Scroll over the map and explain how the colors correspond to rental costs. 
  • Now that you have the color scheme figured out, what conclusions can you draw about rental costs on the national map? 
    • Where do you tend to find the highest rental costs? the lowest rental costs? 
    • What do you think are the factors that determine rental costs in a given region? 
  • Does knowing this information impact where you might want to settle as an adult? 


State level (using Arkansas as an example)


  • How does your state compare to the national average? 
  • Where are the higher cost rental markets in your state (see state map above)? lower cost markets? 
  • What do you think explains this difference in costs in various parts of your state? 

County level 


  • How does your county compare to the national average? 
  • How much did the average rent for a two-bedroom home change over the past year? 
  • A typical rule of thumb is that housing costs should be no more than 30% of your monthly gross income. If your rent a one bedroom in your community, what would be the minimum gross income you would need to earn to follow this rule.
  • Your friend says, "Why would I want to have roommates? They're a pain in the neck and besides I would have to pay more for a bigger apartment."
    • Do you agree or disagree with the second point? 
    • Assuming 1 roommate per bedroom, what would be the most economical choice for someone considering whether to rent a studio for themselves or rent a 4 BR with 3 other roommates? 


Use this rental cost interactive as one step in having your students calculate the cost of living after high school with a Teacher FAVE, NGPF's Salary-Based Budget. 


About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.