While France isn’t the most affordable country in Europe, it’s more than possible to live there on a budget.
You’re not the first person to dream of living in France. However, many would-be expats never pursue their dream because people often think it’s expensive to live there. While France isn’t the most affordable country in Europe, it’s more than possible to live there on a budget.
With the right planning, you can remain frugal while living in France. Whether you’re studying abroad in Paris or retiring to the French countryside, France is a fabulous and cost-effective place to live. Right off the bat, you might be able to save money on toilet paper when you make the switch to a bidet.
As with anywhere in the world, the cost of living varies greatly. There’s a significant difference between a student using youth discounts and someone renovating a chateau. With proper budgeting and planning, any expat can make an affordable life for themselves in France.
Why is France a great place to live?
A global centre for art, science and philosophy, France offers visitors and residents alike a wealth of culture and history. Each year, tens of millions of tourists experience France firsthand. Considering the high quality of life they encounter, it’s no wonder some set their sights on moving to France. Based on its nominal GDP, France ranks in the top ten largest economies in the world. In international rankings, the country also places high in education, health care, life expectancy, and human development.
If you enjoy travelling, the country is well-situated in Western Europe. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Andorra and Spain. With an American passport, you are free to cross into any European Union country without applying for a visa. In addition, France offers a multitude of options for domestic travel. It is home to the fifth-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, and for a lovely beach holiday, France has access to the Mediterranean Sea.
Beyond travel opportunities and high quality of life, France is a great place for foreigners to relocate due to it having a relatively straightforward process to borrow local funds to purchase real estate.
Ways that France is more affordable
Considering everything France has to offer, many people think it is an expensive place to live. Living in France, however, is actually more affordable than you might expect. Even in the capital city of Paris, it’s possible to live a luxury lifestyle on a limited budget. To start, many of the best things about living in France are completely free. The French (Parisians especially) love picnics, long walks, and wandering the cobblestone streets to window-shop.
When it comes to cultural offerings, many events such as gallery openings, exhibitions and special performances are free or available at a reduced cost. After the show, you can spend hours in a cafe chatting with friends, reading, or people-watching for the price of a cup of coffee or glass of wine.
Furthermore, if you are a student under the age of 26, you can take advantage of a variety of youth discounts and enjoy discounted prices for everything from opera tickets to a public transportation pass.
Ideas for saving money and living frugally
While many aspects of the French lifestyle itself will save you money, it’s a good idea to have a plan for how you are going to live frugally. Otherwise, you run the risk of joining the French people that exceed their authorised overdraft every month. Your plan should start with where in France you’re going to settle.
For cost-effective housing and lower prices all around, look to settle outside the big cities, if possible. Country and coastal towns are good options for expats trying to save money. You can enjoy a simple and traditional life while still having access to modern services and amenities.
Two regions to consider are the Béarn and Languedoc regions The Béarn region, in southwest France, is in the heart of Basque Country and less than an hour from Spain. Also situated in the southern part of the country, the Languedoc region is a coastal area and major wine producer.
Whether you decide to settle in Paris or somewhere else in France, you should build your social life around budget-friendly activities. For example, consider starting a book club. This frugal activity is perfect for making friends and improving your French. Perhaps you can even work your way up to reading French Literature classics like Les Misérables and The Count of Monte Cristo.
Other ideas for reducing your living costs in France include shopping at second-hand stalls, cultivating your own vegetable garden, and buying your gas at the supermarket. In addition, since water in France is notoriously expensive, have a small bucket to catch the cold water in the shower while you’re waiting for it to warm up. You can use that water to wash dishes or water plants.
Understanding financial differences between the U.S. and France
While ideas for living frugally are helpful, it’s also important to understand the financial differences between the United States and France when it comes to utilities and general living expenses. Knowing what ways the countries differ will help you make a budget and could save you money in the long run.
France has one of the world’s best infrastructures, and that alone will likely save you money. Cable TV, internet, and telephone services cost less than most places in the U.S. because electricity and gas are deregulated. This means that you’re able to choose which utility company supplies your home. Do your research to save money when you budget for utility bills.
That quality infrastructure extends to public transportation. The Metro, the bus and the RER train system make moving around the country affordable and easy. If you do decide to purchase a car, you should know the used car market is significantly smaller than what you’re likely used to in the U.S. due to the fact the French tend to drive their cars for a long time. It’s imperative you know the risks involved with buying a used car. After finding it difficult to find a used car in good condition with less than 100,000 km on the odometer, many expats elect to buy new. For an even better price on your car, cross the border into Italy to do your shopping.
Looking for a sign to move to France? The dollar is strong right now which means you will save money on startup costs. Then, you can use these tips to remain frugal while living in France.
Guest Post by Dan Matthews