By Philip Brown

A couple of weeks ago I published a blog called, Should a Teacher’s Salary Be Able to Support a Family.  In the two weeks since it was published it has had almost 10,000 views!  This is a follow up to that conversation.

What does it really cost to live in Arizona?

There’s a cost of living index that analyzes these types of questions.  The index considers taxes, mortgage, groceries, utilities, clothing and other typical expenses.  Arizona ranks 20th in the average cost of living (cheapest).  That’s pretty much in the middle. 

That is great information for letting us know where we line up with the rest of the country, but it doesn’t answer the question about the actual cost of living. 

Keep in mind we are trying to address whether teachers can live on a teacher’s salary in Arizona.  Teaching, being a profession and a career, is a life-long endeavor.  So let’s look at buying a home in Arizona.

According to Zillow, the median home list price is $234,000, while the average mortgage payment is $1,061 a month.

The question of utilities in Arizona is tricky, something all Arizona residents know well.  The summers are famously hot, but the winters quite mild.  The average cost of utilities (water and electric) is just over $165 according to  (link above).
A family of four in Arizona typically spends almost $875 a month on groceries.

Medical insurance has been well document to have risen by over 100% since 2014, ( premiums cost a family $7,800 a year in my district. 

 There’s precious little information regarding average medical expenses (not including insurance premiums) in Arizona.  The premiums are of course steep, but after calculating co-pays, deductibles, paying for whatever the insurance company didn’t cover, prescriptions, equipment and other associated costs, I think an average of $1,200 a year is on the modest side!  That’s a complete and total guess.


Transportation is just over $800 a month in Maricopa County for a family of four, and taxes are right about the same, just slightly less.

Let’s throw in $120 for a cheap cellphone plan, $280 a month for student loans (, and assume there is no unsecured debt involved.


We will not be considering clothing or entertainment, nor will we consider things like dental or vision care, life insurance or donating to fundraisers that students are always working on.  Aside from those items, here’s what we have:









Transportation $800
Phone $120
Student Loans $280
Taxes $830
Total $4,881


Now let’s consider that the average teacher’s salary is $42,540 (  That’s $3,545 a month before social security, medicare and ASRS, which all add up to around 20% of the gross income.  That bring us to $2,836 on average, per month.

Compare that to the standard cost of living in Arizona and you perhaps can appreciate why teachers are leaving!