How Much Does It Cost to Spend a Month in Flagstaff, Arizona?

by Gigi Griffis

It’s that time again.

Time to pull together some numbers and share with you what kind of costs are involved in maintaining the full-time traveling lifestyle.

For the past couple months I’ve been living in Flagstaff, Arizona…a northern Arizona town best known for its very close proximity to the Grand Canyon. As usual, I’ve been tracking my spending along the way. And today I’m going to share real figures for my second month here (my first month’s figures were incredibly skewed, as I purchased a new computer and a new car…two things you probably wouldn’t have to do yourself if you decided to spend a month living just a hop, skip, and jump from the Grand Canyon).

Before I dive into those figures, though, a couple important notes about how I travel and live (and how that impacts these budget figures):

First, remember that I’m working while I’m traveling, which means someone spending all their time exploring, taking day trips, and eating out is likely to spend a lot more.

Second, I fall somewhere in between the extreme budget travelers and the luxury crowd. I don’t stay in hotels (usually) and I don’t couchsurf. This means that while you can easily spend more than I do, you can also easily spend a lot less by always eating in, couchsurfing or staying in dorms or at campgrounds.

Third, the below budget is just my day-to-day expenses. It doesn’t include business expenses, big one-time purchases (like a new computer or car), etc. For details on how I manage those during full-time travel, visit this extensive post.

Category Dollars
Accommodations $650
Transportation $159.96
Groceries & supplies $530.92
Eating/drinking out $101.94
Entertainment & activities $83.27
Luna (vet bills, supplies) $0
Health & wellness $367.05
Other $0
Totals $1,893.14

Notes on my spending:

While I’m here in Arizona, I’m living in a lovely little house with a roommate. $650 is a pretty good price for a room around here (particularly a furnished room). I haven’t seen many options lower than that. I found the place on Craigslist. For those using something like Airbnb, options start quite a bit higher…around $1,000+ per month.

As for transportation, I’ve mostly stayed put this month, with the exception of a visit to the Grand Canyon and a day trip to Sedona. The transportation costs above reflect gas for my little 2002 Suzuki Aerio, gas contributions to my friend who drove us to the Grand Canyon, an oil change (since my new car was due for one), and the cost of getting the “new” (used) car professionally cleaned. Actual gas costs were probably only about $50 or $60.

Now, the second largest of my categories is obviously food. This high budget item is high for a few reasons: first, because food is something I refuse to go low budget on. I want to eat good, fresh food. And when I’m in the states, I try to pay particular attention to eating organic and avoiding GMOs. (This is something you don’t have to worry about as much in Europe, as most European countries have outlawed GMOs and many of the scary chemicals in American food.) This focus on organic, buying from higher-end grocery stores, etc. makes for a larger grocery bill.

The second thing to note about my food budget is that it reflects two major cooking adventures. One was a dinner party with seven adults and three kids and the other was a very fancy dinner for two. Dinner parties tend to crank up the grocery budget both because I’m feeding more than just myself and because I’m usually buying more and pricier ingredients and taking advantage of the opportunity to get all fancy with my cooking (a thing I love doing).

Oh, and keep in mind that food budget also includes Luna’s food. I’m still making her meals and shopping for her happens in tandem with my own grocery shopping.

On the upside of the food spending, my eating out budget came in rather low this month. In part, this is because most of that spending was just coffees and teas during my many afternoon meet ups with creative, writerly, and philosophical friends. In part, it’s because most of the eating out I’ve done in the past two months has been on dates and very sweetly other people have been offering to pay.

Finally, you’ll note that my health bill was rather pricey this month. My actual monthly payment is around $100 right now (thanks Obamacare!), but I’ve been doing a lot of health stuff while I’m here in Arizona and some has been out-of-pocket (and I’m not sure to what extent insurance will be reimbursing me yet), so it adds up. If you were here and perfectly healthy and paying just an insurance premium, you could easily knock a couple hundred off that line item.

Interested in seeing more travel budgets? You’ll find them all here.

Interested in Arizona? I’m working on an unconventional guidebook. Check it out and sign up to be the first to know when it hits a bookshelf near you.

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lee March 7, 2016 - 8:10 pm

always enjoy your reviews of cost to stay…………….comparing and contrasting my own travel.

big question please: i have thought of selling my car when i am gone 6 months at a time. the savings in insurance would cover almost a month of costs.

did you find any problem obtaining a drivers license when you returned? Did they ask for just a local address or for car insurance were you required to have a permanent address?


gigigriffis March 8, 2016 - 9:44 am

Hey! My driver’s lic was up for renewal anyway and since I was going to be in AZ for 4+ months, I went ahead and renewed here. I use my best friend’s address as a permanent address and AZ licenses are good for a long time…like 20 years or something, so I shouldn’t need to renew again for ages. I got my new license on the same day that I registered my new car. It was pretty straightforward. And for my car insurance I used my permanent address at my best friend’s place.

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[…] Flagstaff, Arizona  /  one month ($1893) […]


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