Challenges, Life in Paris, Money

Cost of Living Confessions

I’ve had a lot of amazing luck in Paris, and I’ve tried to keep it rolling for as long as I can! Unfortunately, my living situation is not easily replicable for someone moving to Paris by themselves, but hopefully the series clears up any questions someone may have about making the jump!

When you’re in the process of draining your savings and trying to make it through to the end of graduate school, smart budgeting comes up a lot. I highly recommend moving to France in general, because it is an incredible country, but also for school.

The public universities offer an incredible educational value for the cost of tuition, and even though the job market is not as flexible as it could be (sigh, more on the labor market later…), I’m in a unique position to market myself. This will hopefully transform into a job before my savings account turns back into a pumpkin sometime this September!

The French government requires that I have about 550€ per month coming into my account each month. I use USForex (now OFX) to transfer a portion of my savings into my French bank account each fall, but my French bank will actually cash an American check for a flat fee after you exceed a certain amount. That’s how I plan to bring the rest of my assets over to France this April, when my dad comes to stay for a few weeks.

So, how far does 550€ a month go in France? In my situation, not quite far enough, and I ended up transferring enough for about 700€ of expenses per month. E and I were living rent-free in his mother’s 2nd apartment before she sold it in June, 2015, so things weren’t terribly tight until then.

I use Linxo to track my French account, and if you’re in the US then I definitely recommend Mint.

My 700€ tends to break down like this:

400€ on rent and utilities : this is definitely an unequal split in my favour, as our apartment with utilities is about 1100€ per month. I will be paying an equal part as soon as I can. This may happen in March when my internship contract begins, or it may be in September when I get a proper job.

E wants to return to school at some point, so I am fully prepared to take on the 700€ share of the rent in order to support him when he returns either this year or next. Fair is fair, but more than that, I want to be able to financially support his dreams the way he supports mine.

80€ on my 50% off student metro card, health insurance, and my phone bill : I have unlimited data in France and free calls to the US, it’s well worth it to pay 20€ to be able to talk to my family without worrying about fees. My insurance is through E’s work, although I pay into social security each fall as part of my tuition fees. I think my fees have risen to 80€ this year, so this 80€ spending category may have doubled to 160€… Yikes!

110€ on food : eating seasonal produce can mean that a basket of tomatoes or mushroom costs 1€ each, but there are some more expensive foods that we buy, like rice milk and avocados, that run more money each month.

This food budget includes my deep and unbridled love for Picard, the flash-frozen food shop that makes it possible to have a fruit smoothie every day without going utterly broke. Sometimes, I catch myself holding a bag of frozen fruit thinking, “Every single piece of plastic ever created still exists today” so I know that I need to figure out a new system for getting my fruits and veggies that doesn’t include so many bags.

I try to walk the 1.5 miles down the road to the Auchan, a giant shop with way cheaper produce, which can cut my food bill down to under 100€, but if I can’t, then I usually end up around 110€. I’ll breakdown what we tend to eat in a later post, and where I shop to make sure I’m staying healthy, but not ravaging my budget. We’ve been trying to switch to the organic Co-Op that’s a few streets away, and it’s proving to be an interesting exercise in budgeting vs. sustainable living.

The leftover ~110€ gets spent differently each month, sometimes it’s on toiletries like face wash, moisturiser, and shampoo, or sometimes I’m replacing my single pair of pants. Maybe it’s birthday gifts or the occasional investment (like the Filofax I got this January!) but I try not to go over that amount. I did eat through most of this budget when I went to the dentist and to the doctor in the same month, but my insurance usually reimburses 90% of those costs.

When I’m running to and from class or living in the library, I don’t notice how little I spend. Furthermore, my student status gets me access to many museums for free or very cheap, and the Comedie Française sells student tickets to the theater for around 6€. The one thing that truly irks me is that I can’t save, but I’m hoping to start up again once my contract begins.

I’ll post a list of all the free things to do in Paris that occupy my time, and maybe a list of the activités payant that I can’t wait to do soon! If you’re reading this in preparation for coming over, I’d say to save up as much as you can before coming. I had just over $16,000 plus some savings dedicated to school, and I’ve burned through most of that in the last 2 years.

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