Alex Mahadevan - The Penny Hoarder

Face it, college can be a real drag.

We know. That’s why we want to cut your time in academia in half.

Getting your associate’s degree allows you to jet off into the workforce quicker and can provide ample opportunities for high-paying and fulfilling careers. So The Penny Hoarder did an analysis to show you the 10 best jobs you can land with just a two-year degree.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that healthcare jobs dominate the list, because with an aging population, we’ll need plenty of these jobs in the coming years.

10 High-Paying Jobs With an Associate’s Degree

According to the latest available data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the 10 best high-paying jobs that are also seeing a lot of growth.

We also included the states with the highest concentration of each job.

1. Radiation Therapist

Median pay: $80,160

Job growth through 2024: 14%

As the child of a breast cancer survivor, I have major respect for anyone involved in the treatment of the disease — especially the unsung heroes.

Radiation therapists are the behind-the-scenes operators of the machines that blast x-rays at cancer cells in a patient’s body. With an associate’s degree and certification, this career can flourish in a variety of health care settings, from hospitals, to medical offices and to outpatient centers.

With an aging population, health care jobs like these are some of the fastest growing over the next decade. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, an organization that certifies radiation therapists, has plenty of resources on where to start if you’re interested in this career.

It’s important to note that some radiation therapists can pursue a bachelor’s degree which pays more, bumping up the median wage for the occupation as a whole.

Where the jobs are: New York, Texas, Florida, California, Illinois

2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Median pay: $69,650

Job growth through 2024: 26.4%

It’s a mouthful, but basically, diagnostic medical sonographers are responsible for the first glimpse expectant mothers get of their babies.

They also operate imaging equipment used to investigate muscle and tendon tears, the presence of breast cancer or pretty much any other internal problem in your body.

There are more than 350 viable programs for you to pick if you’re entering this field, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Where the jobs are: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania

3. Occupational Therapy Assistant

Median pay: $59,010

Job growth through 2024: 42.7%

Picture occupational therapy assistants like Dorothy oiling up the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. They help you move it, move it. (Yeah, that was two movie references in on paragraph. Sue me.)

They help you get back to work.

These careers are based out of hospitals, retirement homes, home health care agencies and can be provided by local governments. There’s a lot of flexibility when you’re looking for a job.

As for where to start, check out the Occupational Therapy and Occupational Therapy Assistant Centralized Application Service for leads on where to find a school near you.

Where the jobs are: Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York

4. Dental Hygienist

Median pay: $72,910

Job growth through 2024: 18.6%

So this isn’t a job for everyone, but dental hygienists are the real workhorses of any dental practice. They clean teeth, take x-rays and chat you up while you drool through massive balls of cotton in your mouth.

Like the previous jobs mentioned, this job requires a certification after graduation, and some students elect to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree as well. The American Dental Hygienists Association has resources on where to start if you’re interested.

Who knows, one day you might have R.H.D. after your name.

Where the jobs are: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Michigan

5. Web Developer

Median pay: $66,130

Job growth through 2024: 26.6%

The first non-health care job on the list is also the one that has the lowest barrier to entry and most flexibility: web developer.

They design and create websites just like the one you’re browsing right now (and please, stay for a while). While you can learn to code on the cheap, picking a community college for your associate’s degree can provide you with internships and help with building a portfolio.

Because there are so many resources out there to learn the basics of web development on your own, you might want to take a few classes to see what you think before committing to a two-year degree.

Where the jobs are: California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois

6. Physical Therapist Assistant

Median pay: $56,610

Job growth through 2024: 40.6%

Similar to No. 3 on the list, physical therapist assistants are support staff helping people get their groove back.

This job involves ensuring patient safety while implementing physical therapy treatments and collecting data on patient progress.

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education has approved 331 schools in the U.S.

Where the jobs are: Texas, Ohio, Florida, California, Illinois

7. Cardiovascular Technologist or Technician

Median pay: $55,570

Job growth through 2024: 22.2%

These combined fields both represent health care workers focusing on diagnosing and treating heart and blood vessel issues.

Cardiovascular technologists are lifesavers — literally. They are involved in teams treating heart attacks, but also help install stents and pacemakers. Technicians run stress tests and electrocardiograms.

Like most health care jobs, they require certification upon graduation.

Where the jobs are: Texas, Florida, California, New York, Pennsylvania

8. Respiratory Therapists

Median pay: $58,670

Job growth through 2024: 12.3%

Respiratory therapists help patients with the essential life function: breathing.

They care for everyone from infants to the elderly, and they also assist doctors during emergency situations, such as drownings, patients in shock or heart attacks.

The demand for these jobs is the highest it’s ever been, and they offer stable careers, according to the American Association for Respiratory Care.

Check out this nifty map that compares each school with respiratory therapy programs.

Where the jobs are: California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, New York

9. Geological and Petroleum Technician

Median pay: $56,470

Job growth through 2024: 11.8%

Given President Donald Trump’s push for energy independence, geological and petroleum technician jobs should grow by even more than the 11.8% the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted in 2014.

These workers pretty much do it all. They gather samples for scientists to test, record data, install lab and field equipment, monitor oil wells and even do scientific tests of their own.

Once you find a school, you’ll probably take mostly science and math classes.

Where the jobs are: Texas, California, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Pennsylvania

10. Radiologic Technologist

Median pay: $57,470

Job growth through 2024: 8.7%

Radiologic technologists maintain x-ray equipment, run x-rays on patients and record results.

But don’t just think of them as some machine jockeys — they have to know all about the anatomy of the human body, radiation safety and patient care.

Click here to find an accredited program for this career. Like the other health care jobs above, it requires certification after you graduate.

Where the jobs are: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania

Methodology

Using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Department’s employment projection database, we pulled out the jobs that require an associate’s degree.

Next, we looked at the median wage and projected job growth through 2024, and used a nerdy mathematical method developed by these two guys to throw out bad data and rank the jobs based on those two metrics. And voila!

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

Newsflash: Millennials are stressed about their financial future.

Okay, so maybe that’s not the most surprising fact to come out of Deloitte’s latest survey of nearly 8,000 20- and 30-somethings in 30 countries.  

After all, we’re saddled with student debt, we matured during the housing collapse and are constantly the target of articles decrying our work ethic and spending (think: avocado toast).

But here’s a fact that should turn your view of the millennial generation on its head: We want more stability in our jobs.

The Myth of Millennial Job-Hopping

Yes, the age group Gallup called “the job-hopping generation” -- in a 2016 report that also called us “the least engaged generation in the workplace” -- is increasingly looking for long-term careers, according to the Deloitte study.

Last year in the same survey, 44% of millennials said they plan to leave their job within two years. This year, the figure dipped to 38%.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 27% of participants in the 2016 survey said they would stay longer than five years in their current job, while 31% answered the same in 2017.

A Pew Research Center study from earlier this year actually confirmed that millennials don’t job hop at a rate any higher than that of Generation X. Actually, they reported staying longer than their older cohort.

And one step further, in an era of the the gig economy, two-thirds of the members of Generation Y surveyed said they prefer full-time work.

Why Are Millennials Sticking Around Longer?

Indeed, the preferences of a generation accustomed to disappointing economic conditions is continually being shaped by those conditions.

“We have reported how millennials seem especially concerned about issues that directly impact the individual or which create an atmosphere of threat and uncertainty,” Deloitte notes in the analysis. “This anxiety might be why most would currently prefer a permanent, full-time job rather than working freelance or as a consultant on a flexible or short-term basis.”

But it’s not just the crummy global political economic conditions influencing millennials’ company loyalty -- it’s firms themselves. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said their employers offer flexible time restraints — when to start and stop a project — and 67% said their boss gives them some amount of freedom where to work.

Hello, pajamas. Goodbye, frantic rush to pick up your dry cleaning. (Though working from home does have some hilarious side effects.)

So, listen up boomers and Generation X, we’re not the lazy, entitled generation jumping from firm to firm on the career carousel. We don’t have a different work ethic; we have a different work style.

“Flexible working arrangements support greater productivity and employee engagement while enhancing their personal well-being, health, and happiness,” according to the Deloitte survey.

The study further notes, “This, if nothing else, should encourage businesses to further explore what might follow from having more flexible approaches to working arrangements.”

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He spent more than five years at his last job, and plans to retire as a geriatric Penny Hoarder looking for the best deals on flying cars.

Plenty of people know that sinking feeling.

You’re relaxing one evening after dinner, and an unknown or blocked number flashes across the phone display. That knot begins to grow in the pit of your stomach because you know it could be another debt collector calling.

For those of us in debt — living the true American Dream — the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) establishes guidelines for companies that have been hired to collect money from you.

(Of course, you could always find ways to pay off your debt and get that monkey off your back.)

What Are Your Rights When It Comes to Debt Collection Companies?

  • They can’t make harassing phone calls at odd hours, say before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • They can’t publicly identify you as a debtor, though they can call other people to get your digits.
  • They can’t call repeatedly or use profanity. (That doesn’t mean you can’t!)
  • They can’t pretend to be from the government or law enforcement agencies.
  • And, they have to give you the full information on the debt, among other rules and regulations.

So what about the companies that actually own your debt?

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously against expanding the FDCPA to cover banks or other financial institutions that buy your debt and scores of other people’s debt with the intention of collecting on it themselves.

At the heart of the ruling is a five-year-old class action lawsuit filed against Santander Consumer USA Holdings, Inc. A group of Maryland residents claimed that when the Dallas-based firm bought their defaulted car loan debt from CitiFinancial Auto, a subsidiary of Citi, it should have been bound by standards under the Fair Debt Collections Act (FDCA). The Supreme Court disagreed.

But don’t fret! Consumer advocates may be upset with the decision, but the move just maintains the status quo. You have the same rights under the FDCPA if you’ve got a third-party collection company bothering you.

And according to Braden Perry, a regulatory and government investigations attorney with Kansas City-based Kennyhertz Perry, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau still prohibits unfair, deceptive or abusive acts and practices.

“In my practice, whether my client is a (first)-party or (third)-party collector, I always counsel the same: Follow FDCPA and its guidance,” Perry says. “It was enacted for a reason and the simple fact that you are not subject to it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow it.”

What the Supreme Court Says About Debt Collection

The June 12 opinion was freshly-minted Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s first since his appointment by President Donald Trump. In it, he directly addressed the definition of a “debt collector.”

“Everyone agrees that the term embraces the repo man — someone hired by a creditor to collect an outstanding debt,” Gorsuch wrote. “But what if you purchase a debt and then try to collect it for yourself — does that make you a ‘debt collector’ too?”

In this case, Santander represented, at one time or another, both scenarios cited by Gorsuch. The firm was originally hired by Citi to collect the car loan debt, and under that circumstance would be held to FDCPA standards.

But Santander subsequently purchased the debt and became the owner of the defaulted loans. The FDCA only covers third-party debt collection companies, but since Santander actually bought the debt, it was now itself a creditor and therefore not covered under the law, according to the ruling.

Still, the U.S. Congress could one day alter the rules to cover companies like Santander, with Gorsuch noting it wasn’t the role of the judiciary to do so in its ruling.

“We have no difficulty imagining, for example, a statute that applies the Act’s demands to anyone collecting any debts, anyone collecting debts originated by another, or to some other class of persons still,” Gorsuch wrote. “Neither do we doubt that the evolution of the debt collection business might invite reasonable disagreements on whether Congress should reenter the field and alter the judgments it made.”

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at the Penny Hoarder. He’s not proud to admit he’s dodged calls from collection agencies in the past.

Looking for a job?

You’re definitely not alone. As of the end of May, more than 6.8 million people in the U.S. were looking for work.

But there may be good news: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in April there were more than six million job openings across the country — the most since economists began tracking the statistic in 2000.

That means we’re inching closer and closer to reaching a one-to-one ratio for job seekers and openings. (We hit about 0.85 in April.)

Hashtag winning, right?

The Number of Job Openings Isn’t as Important as You Think

Not so fast, according to Economic Policy Institute Senior Economist Elise Gould.

“Job openings are definitely important and that they’ve increased is obviously a good thing, but it can also be due to the fact that the population has grown,” Gould said.

The real important statistic is the number of hires — a little over five million — which actually fell by more than 200,000 from March to April. The number was relatively flat compared to April of last year.

You have all those jobs out there, but companies just aren’t hiring enough people to fill all of the open positions. Why?

Economists at the Bureau point to the business and professional sector, which had the most job openings in April with about 1.1 million, as an example of an industry struggling to find qualified candidates.

But it could also have to do with pay.

“There sees to be an unwillingness to offer higher wages,” Gould says. “You’d see that hire rate pick up if firms were offering higher wages.”

In another jobs report this week (do these guys ever sleep?), the BLS reported that for the months of October, November and December in 2016, weekly wages in the U.S. declined 1.5% compared with the same quarter in 2015. Labor economists struggled this week to explain it.

Here’s How to Navigate the Current Labor Market

Still, many people feel comfortable with the job market -- so comfortable that they’ll leave their current jobs to scoop up a new gig. In fact, nearly twice the number of people quit their jobs than were laid off in April.

But don’t hand in your resignation just yet -- at least not without trying to make things better in your current job.

If you are one of the six million-plus unemployed Americans, here are some of the industries with the most job openings right now:

  • Professional and business services
  • Healthcare and social assistance
  • Leisure and hospitality

Gould says the healthcare sector is always solid because as our population continues to grow — and age — these jobs will always increase as well.

But she offers another piece of advice for job seekers: cross industries and traditional gender lines. For example, a man who has traditionally worked in finance may find it easier to find a job in the healthcare industry as a nurse.

“Research has shown that when people go to do job searches at their state unemployment office, workers of one gender would be suggested for jobs that traditionally tracked to their gender,” Gould said. If gender isn’t considered, it opens up the job search.

The Job Market Isn’t All Doom and Gloom

That all sounded kind of negative, right?

Sure, the latest unemployment report may have been disappointing, and the new job openings survey wasn’t quite as exciting as it may have seemed at first glance. But the economy is still growing.

And in a bit of good news for first-time job seekers from the U.S. Federal Reserve, the May 31 edition of the Beige Book (a review of economic conditions) reported employers were increasingly finding it hard to fill low-skill and entry-level jobs.

In true economist fashion, Gould sums up the current labor market without too much emotion: “We’re not treading water, and we’re definitely not sliding backward.”

So get out there and stay on that job hunt grind.

Alex Mahadevan is a Data Journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He considers himself a happy reformed economist.

While a never-ending conveyor belt of comic book movies continues to crowd movie theaters, we all know that nurses are the real-life heroes.

Even though National Nurses Week has come and gone, Chipotle is continuing its June tradition of offering a day of free food for these unsung hospital heroes.

How to Get This Chipotle BOGO Deal

On Wednesday, June 14, Chipotle will give all nurses and nursing assistants a buy one, get one deal on burritos, burrito bowls, salads and orders of tacos with a valid nurse identification card. You’re good to go if your name is followed by any of the following acronyms: RN, NP, CRNA, CNS, CNM, LVN or CNA (or local equivalents of these certifications).

The offer is valid at all Chipotle locations in the U.S. and Canada. Sadly mate, it’s void in the United Kingdom.

Dig in, heroes! (But you might want to pay with cash.)

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

The U.S. economy is in flux when it comes to jobs.

Despite a disappointing jobs report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics last week, the national unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been in more than a decade.

And, according to numbers the Bureau released Monday, 297 of the 387 metro areas in the country had positive job growth over the last year as of the end of April. Good news, right?

But as in most aspects of life, there are winners and losers. The Penny Hoarder looked at the percentage change in new jobs — or lost jobs — to assemble these lists of the triumphs and flops in the latest employment statistics.

The Jobs Report Winners Circle

Sebring, Florida

It may be small, but it sure is mighty — at least when it comes to job growth.

Sebring, a town near Orlando, Florida, topped the list with 5.8% more jobs in April than the same time in 2016. Fifteen hundred more people found employment there in the last year.

Here’s the rest of the top 10, and how much their job market grew since 2016.

  • Lake Charles, Louisiana; 5.4%
  • St. George, Utah; 5.2%
  • Yuba City, California; 5%
  • The Villages, Florida; 4.4%
  • Provo, Utah; 4%
  • New Bedford, Massachusetts; 4%
  • Grants Pass, Oregon; 4%
  • Auburn, Alabama; 4%
  • Gainesville, Florida; 3.9%

Jobs Report Stragglers

These metros were not so lucky over the last 12 months. These regions are spread across the entire U.S., from Alaska to New York.

Casper, Wyoming

Nicknamed Oil City, Casper, Wyoming clearly wasn’t booming over the last year. With the loss of 2,400 jobs — a 6.1% tumble — it came in dead last in employment growth from April 2016 to the same month this year. In fact, since February 2015, the city has shed 6,400 workers.

And here’s the rest of the not-so-lucky regions in the latest report, and the percentage of job decline each saw:

  • Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana; 4.9%
  • Sioux City, Iowa; 2.9%
  • Weirton-Steubenville, West Virginia; 2.6%
  • Anchorage Alaska; 2.4%
  • Elmira, New York; 2.4%
  • Rockford, Illinois; 2.3%
  • Bay City, Michigan; 2.2%
  • Carbondale-Marion, Illinois; 2.2%
  • Michigan City-La Porte, Indiana; 1.9%

Of course, if you happen to live in one of the bottom 10 areas, or any of the cities that lost jobs over the last year, you’ve come to the right place for advice. The Penny Hoarder Jobs page on Facebook has a bunch of information on careers, along with posts about flexible work-from-home jobs that are available right now.

I mean, where else could you find out how to become an extra in the next Avengers movie, “Avengers: Infinity War”?

Not a comic book fan? While that’s a shame, affordable grocery store darling Aldi is hosting hiring events across the U.S. in anticipation of opening 400 new stores and expanding and remodeling another 1,400.

And we didn’t forget about you teens. The state of your local economy won’t have too much of an effect on the availability of these 100 awesome summer jobs.

As Rihanna would say: “Work, work, work, work, work, work.”

Alex Mahadevan is a Data Journalist at The Penny Hoarder.


On Thursday, world leaders (well, at least 194 of them) let out a collective groan as President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The accord is a voluntary agreement among 195 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other factors scientists have blamed for global warming on their own terms. No regulations, just guidelines.

Since beginning his campaign for president, Trump has repeatedly cited the agreement as a “bad deal” for Americans, noting that it hurt coal miners.

But CEOs and entrepreneurs, including Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Disney’s Bob Iger, say the reality is renewable energy will only drive U.S. economic job growth.

The Outlook for Renewable Energy Jobs is Bright

Indeed, there’s a bright outlook for renewable energy jobs.

For example, take jobs in the solar sector — 373,807 in 2016, according a January report by the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s more than four times the number of people who spent time on coal mining throughout last year.

And how about wind power? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects wind-turbine technicians as the fastest growing jobs through 2024. The bureau expects employment in this particular trade to more than double by that year.

As of 2015, those wind-energy jobs paid a median salary of $51,050 and didn’t require a full college degree. That helps low- and mid-skilled workers find a place in a rapidly changing economy, says a report by jobs site Indeed.

The same could be said of of solar. Construction and manufacturing of solar parts grew at the fastest pace of any sector of that industry, say experts with the Department of Energy in their January report.

Commitment to renewable energy would sustain this growth, business leaders say.

"Protecting our planet and driving economic growth are critical to our future, and they aren't mutually exclusive," Iger said in a statement. "I deeply disagree with the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement."

Branson excoriated the decision to withdraw in an interview with NPR, while Musk quit two of the Trump administration’s advisory councils.

Yikes. If you’ve got that many rich dudes throwing shade at your decision, maybe you didn’t make the most business-friendly choice.

And there’s more: According to latest available data from BLS, only 53,420 people were employed in the coal mining industry as of May 2016.

That’s more than 20,000 fewer than The Washington Post reported earlier this year. That article also highlighted that the coal industry employed fewer workers than Arby’s.

Yes, Arby’s.

And the outlook for coal isn’t good.

A paragraph in the energy and environmental research organization Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis’ 2017 U.S. Coal Outlook begins with good news about a coal-friendly administration, but it continues with, “Too many companies are still mining too much coal for too few customers.”

Some Governments Say They’re Still Committed to Renewable Energy

“Disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement. Climate change is real,” General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt wrote on Twitter yesterday. “Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”

Not all governments, Jeff. Particularly at the state level.

The United States Climate Alliance, a group of three states (bet you can guess which ones) has pledged to meet all the goals of the Paris Agreement, at least within their borders.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, California Gov. Jerry Brown and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (see, I told you) formed the group the same day as Trump’s announcement.

Those Climate Alliance states represent more than 20% of all U.S. economic output, so if those three governors can keep up the momentum with renewable-energy jobs it could have an impact regardless of Trump’s next move.

Another seven states — Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Virginia — have also agreed to support the aims of the Paris Agreement.

The U.S. technically can’t withdraw from the Paris Agreement until 2019. And until then, Trump has promised to renegotiate the agreement.

So maybe don’t break out the Mad Max armor just yet.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

Another day, another credit card breach at a major retailer.

This time, Kmart is the victim (AGAIN).

Gareth Glynne, senior vice president of retail operations for Kmart and Sears, said in a statement that the company's payment systems were infected by malicious code that its anti-virus programs couldn’t detect. It was like a virus, but not exactly.

The bottom line is that if you recently shopped at a Kmart, your credit card information might have been compromised.

Kmart launched an investigation after hearing that customers experienced unauthorized credit card activity after making purchases at its stores.

What We Know About the Latest Kmart Payment Hack

Unfortunately, Kmart hasn’t provided a list of the stores that may have been compromised. But on the bright side (if there is one in these increasingly common hacks), the forensic investigation revealed that the culprits didn’t nab any personal information, like names, addresses, email addresses, birthdates or Social Security numbers. Whew.

The breach occurred after every Kmart location implemented the card chip system you see cropping up at most retailers. That means that most likely, only shoppers who used cards that don’t have a chip were affected. There is no evidence that Kmart.com or Sears were affected by the breach, according to Glynne’s statement.

Cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs, who reported on the breach earlier this week, said he heard rumors about the breach from credit unions and small banks.

In October 2014, Kmart reported a payment system breach in an eerily similar letter.

What Should You Do If You Think You’re Affected?

Time is of the essence. Most banks won’t hold you accountable for unauthorized purchases as long as you report them right away. So check your credit card statement ASAP, and call your bank if necessary.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

Every year before summer begins, the man known as Dr. Beach releases his ranking of the best beaches in the U.S.

Beachgoers often use the rundown from Dr. Beach — whose real name is Stephen P. Leatherman — to plan which coast to visit on their next sandy sojourn.

Last week, Dr. Beach released his rankings, and for the second time Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Florida, tops the list. Kapalua Bay Beach in Maui and Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach off the coast of North Carolina came in second and third, respectively.

In his list, Leatherman considers 50 criteria including sand softness, water and sand color, algae, the presence of jellyfish and other pests, the slope of the shoreline and the average number of waves within a break zone.

But seriously, when was the last time you packed up your umbrella and ditched a beach because the sand was too gray?

And the rankings don’t consider one factor that’s important to most families when they plan their summer vacation: cost.

The Penny Hoarder looked at the average hotel room costs in the 10 counties that have a beach in Dr. Beach’s holy list.

Then, blaspheming the sandman himself, we ranked these beaches from most to least affordable based on those numbers and gas prices (which are obviously subject to change by the time you hit the road). Shout out to data and analytics specialists STR and GasBuddy for the statistics.

And for you true Penny Hoarders, we’ve included Airbnb links for each location — because we know you’re looking for the best deal.

Obviously, the cost of a beach vacation will vary depending on where you are in the country and a variety of other factors, and for many, a beach vacation isn’t exactly the most cost-conscious holiday choice. While Dr. Beach’s picks aren’t exactly cheap, our reworked list will show you which top beaches are the most budget-friendly and which are the biggest splurges.

Beach Balling on a Budget

It seems like the South offers the most beautiful, and mostly affordable, beaches in the country. Even better, the Florida ones offer beach weather year-round.

1. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida

Average room night: $138.53

Gas prices: $2.19

What Dr. Beach had to say: “The white beach is composed of crystalline quartz sand which is soft and cushy at the water’s edge, inviting one to take a dip in the sparkling clear waters. There are boardwalk trails, but my favorite is the kayak and canoe trails through the mangroves to see the large blue herons and other birds that frequent this wonderful natural area.”  

2. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Average room night: $145.08

Gas prices: $1.98

What Dr. Beach had to say: “This is a nature-lovers coast so visitors should bring their canoes and kayaks to paddle through the tidal inlets. It is also fun to walk or bicycle down to Captain Sam’s Inlet to see thousands of birds. The water is not clear here, but it is clean and provides fantastic seafood for low-country cooking.”

3. Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, Florida

Average room night: $147.33

Gas prices: $2.25

What Dr. Beach had to say: “With some of the finest, whitest sand in the world, this beach attracts sand collectors from all over. Siesta Beach has clear, warm waters ideal for swimming. The beach is hundreds of yards wide in the shape of a crescent due to anchoring of onshore rocks to the south. This beach is great for volleyball and other types of recreational fitness.”

4. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina

Average room night: $136.20

Gas prices: $2.43

What Dr. Beach had to say: “Ocracoke, once the home of Blackbeard the pirate, is still a special place — it is my favorite getaway beach. Here you will find some of the wildest beaches in the country. Big surf dominates in late summer so families with children may want to come earlier in the year. Don’t expect to play golf or stay at the Ritz; the main pursuits are swimming and beachcombing.”

Beautiful — But Not Exactly Cheap

The beaches in this tier span the continental U.S. from New York to California. Beware of high gas prices.

5. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

Average room night: $149.42

Gas prices: $2.35

What Dr. Beach had to say: “The beach is backed by large sand dunes covered by American beach grass interspersed with large and extravagant mansions. Some of the best beach access in the Hamptons exists on Coopers Beach, and a snack bar serving lunch and drinks can be found here as well.”

6. Grayton Beach State Park, Walton County, Florida

Average room night: $177.17

Gas prices: $2.31

What Dr. Beach had to say: “This beach boasts of its sugar-white sand and emerald green water where development has been restrained so big sand dunes still dominate the landscape. At the same time, all the amenities of great restaurants and accommodations are close by in the old town of Grayton Beach or Seaside.”

7. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

Average room night: $154.92

Gas prices: $2.77

What Dr. Beach had to say: “With its lush subtropical vegetation, unique Mediterranean climate, and fine sparkling sand, beach-goers flock to this beach for great ship-watching and the summer’s warm and mild surf. The local landmark, Hotel del Coronado, was built over a hundred years ago, offering spectacular architecture and Old World elegance.”

8. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Average room night: $179.69

Gas prices: $2.37

What Dr. Beach had to say: “The sand is fairly coarse so the beach slopes steeply into the water. The picturesque old Coast Guard station still sits atop the glacial bluffs, allowing for a spectacular view down upon the Nauset Spit barrier system and bay. During the summer, beach-goers take quick, refreshing dips in the ocean as water temperatures only reach 60-70 degrees.”

Biggest Splurge

Duh. The most expensive of Dr. Beach’s picks are in Hawaii.

9. Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii

Average room night: $227.46

Gas prices: $3.43

What Dr. Beach had to say: “This white coral sand beach resides in a landscape dominated by black lava flows. During the summer months, Hapuna is a perfect place to swim, snorkel or scuba dive in the crystal clean waters, but big waves during the winter can generate powerful rip currents. Fortunately, there are well-trained lifeguards at this state park.”

10. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Average room night: $332.50

Gas prices: $3.44

What Dr. Beach had to say: “This beautiful crescent-shaped, white sand beach is bounded by these rocky anchors where good restaurants can be found. The fine coral sand beach slopes gradually into the deeper water where the rocky bottom is punctuated with corals that attract vividly-colored tropical fish.”

Note: The affordability ranking was generated assuming a 12-gallon gas tank.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. Clearly, he’s already missing home on Siesta Key.