How Much It Costs to Live in Denver Right Now

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Many of the readers who responded to our recent post "Why It's So Hard to Make a Living in Denver Despite Strong Economy" told us that costs in the Mile High City are putting a major squeeze on their pocketbooks. And indeed, Denver is currently among the twenty most expensive cities to live in in North America as measured by updated price data for basic commodities in the area.

Our source is, which describes itself as "the original source for cost-of-living comparisons" and uses crowdsourcing techniques to come up with its number. The latest figures in the site's cost-of-living index for North America are based on 1,899 prices as entered by 364 different contributors and was last updated yesterday, April 24.

At this writing, according to the site, Denver is the seventeenth most expensive place to live in North America, based on prices arrayed in six major categories: food, housing, clothes, transportation, personal care and entertainment. The focus in food is on staples such as milk, eggs and bread; housing looks at the cost of rent and some common appliances; clothes range from casual to business-appropriate; transportation includes gas prices and more; personal care incorporates toothpaste, toilet paper and doctor visits; and entertainment encompasses the amount charged locally for movie tickets, a dinner out on the town and the charge for a pack of cigarettes, among other things.

Based on our experience as longtime consumers in metro Denver, Expatistan's prices seem on, or at least near, the nose.

Below, see the complete breakdown for Denver, followed by Expatistan's list of the twenty most expensive cities in North America.

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Basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district: $14
Combo meal in fast-food restaurant (Big Mac Meal or similar): $7
500 gr (1 lb.) of boneless chicken breast: $3.94
1 liter (1 qt.) of whole-fat milk: $0.84
12 eggs, large: $3.34
1 kg (2 lb.) of tomatoes: $4.17
500 gr (16 oz.) of local cheese: $7
1 kg (2 lb.) of apples: $3.26
1 kg (2 lb.) of potatoes: $1.50
0.5 l (16 oz) domestic beer in the supermarket: $2.06
1 bottle of red table wine, good quality: $16
2 liters of Coca-Cola: $1.64
Bread for 2 people for 1 day: $1.89

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Monthly rent for 85 m sq (900 sq ft) furnished accommodation in EXPENSIVE area: $1,873
Monthly rent for 85 m sq (900 sq ft) furnished accommodation in NORMAL area: $1,556
Utilities 1 month (heating, electricity, gas ...) for 2 people in 85 m sq flat: $124
Monthly rent for a 45 m sq (480 sq ft) furnished studio in EXPENSIVE area: $1,509
Monthly rent for a 45 m sq (480 sq ft) furnished studio in NORMAL area: $1,045
Utilities 1 month (heating, electricity, gas ...) for 1 person in 45 m sq (480 sq ft) studio: $77
Internet 8 Mbps (1 month): $48
40” flat screen TV: $380
Microwave 800/900 Watt (Bosch, Panasonic, LG, Sharp, or equivalent brands): $138
Laundry detergent (3 l/100 oz.): $13
Hourly rate for cleaning help: $26

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1 pair of jeans (Levis 501 or similar): $46
1 summer dress in a High Street Store (Zara, H&M or similar retailers): $51
1 pair of sport shoes (Nike, Adidas or equivalent brands): $85
1 pair of men’s leather business shoes: $100

Continue for the data about the cost of transportation, personal care and entertainment in Denver, plus Expatistan's list of the twenty most expensive cities in North America.

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Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 150 CV (or equivalent), with no extras, new: $22,056
1 liter (1/4 gallon) of gas: $0.57
Monthly ticket public transport: $106
Taxi trip on a business day, basic tariff, 8 km (5 miles): $12

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Personal Care

Cold medicine for 6 days (Tylenol, Frenadol, Coldrex or equivalent brands): $5.29
1 box of antibiotics (12 doses): $25
Short visit to private doctor (15 minutes): $95
1 box of 32 tampons (Tampax, OB, ...): $5.42
Deodorant, roll-on (50ml/1.5 oz.): $2.81
Hair shampoo 2-in-1 (400 ml/12 oz.): $4.72
4 rolls of toilet paper: $2.96
Tube of toothpaste: $1.86
Standard men's haircut in expat area of the city: $20

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Basic dinner out for two in neighborhood pub: $42
2 tickets to the movies: $24
2 tickets to the theater (best available seats): $213
Dinner for two at an Italian restaurant in the expat area including appetizers, main course, wine and dessert: $80
1 cocktail drink in downtown club: $11
Cappuccino in expat area of the city: $4.47
1 beer in neighborhood pub (500ml or 1pt.): $5.44
iPod nano 16GB: $145
1 min. of prepaid mobile tariff (no discounts or plans): $0.20
1 month of gym membership in business district: $71
1 package of Marlboro cigarettes: $6

Expatistan Cost of Living Index in North America

1st: New York City (United States) — Price index* 282
2nd: San Francisco, California (United States)  — Price index* 272
3rd: Washington D.C. (United States) — Price index* 261
4th: Honolulu, Hawaii (United States) — Price index* 240
5th: San Jose, California (United States) — Price index* 233
6th: Boston, Massachusetts (United States) — Price index* 225
7th: Los Angeles, California (United States) — Price index* 220
8th: Oakland, California (United States) — Price index* 214
9th: Seattle, Washington (United States) — Price index* 214
10th: San Diego, California (United States) — Price index* 209
11th: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (United States) — Price index* 208
12th: Chicago, Illinois (United States) — Price index* 208
13th: Miami, Florida (United States) — Price index* 206
14th: Sacramento, California (United States) — Price index* 203
15th: Portland, Oregon (United States) — Price index* 199
16th: Minneapolis - St. Paul, Minnesota (United States) — Price index* 199
17th: Denver, Colorado (United States) — Price index* 198
18th: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (United States) — Price index* 187
19th: Providence, Rhode Island (United States) — Price index* 186
20th: Toronto (Canada) — Price index* 185

*Price Index:

To calculate each cities' Cost of Living Index value, we start by assigning a value of 100 to a central reference city (that happens to be Prague). Once the reference point has been established, the Price Index value of every other city in the database is calculated by comparing their cost of living to the cost of living in Prague.

Therefore, if a city has a Price Index of 134, that means that living there is 34 percent more expensive than living in Prague.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts