Cost of Living in France: A Personal Experience

Many people often dream of living in France and probably wonder how much they’ll need if they ever want to live here. Whether you intend to study, work or travel you are guaranteed to need some money, the question often is – how much? So I thought I would contribute to the information out there about living in this country and hopefully it will useful to someone one day 🙂

You can also compare my post to my friend Jennie’s Post on Living in France, which helped me a lot when I first thought about living here.

My Living Situation

My living situation is that I am not living in a major city, I live in Dunkerque which is an medium sized city of about 70,000 people (comparable to Ballarat or Bendigo in Australia). It is 1 hour from Lille (the major city of the region, comparable to Melbourne) and 2 hours from Paris and on the coast.

I have also chosen to live with a host family. This automatically decreases the cost of living. However my situation is slightly different in that I have almost an entire floor to myself, which includes a kitchen, bedroom and my own bathroom.

What I Earn

As an assistant I am contracted for 12 hours a week and earn 795 euros after social security deduction.

I also have a second job, I am working for an Australian company (I can do all of the work on the internet) where I work 10 additional hours a week from home. This gives me an extra $200 a week (approximately 160 euros). But I am trying to not touch it and only live off my assistant salary, so I have money for travelling afterwards. Plus I would like to buy a car once I get back home, so I have only touched my extra wages from my second job maybe once or twice since I got here (for things like Christmas gifts and holidays)

Monthly Expenses

Groceries – 20-30 euros a week/80-120 euros a month

This shopping includes all of my breakfasts, diners and snacks (I usually eat lunch at the school canteen)

This is by shopping at Lidl and only going to a more expensive supermarket to grab one or two items that I can’t find at the Lidl. I once did my grocery shopping at a Monoprix and the smallest bag of groceries for one meal came to 18 euros. It physically hurt to hand over the money (I did truly hold onto the 2o euro note for a little bit too long… and the cashier looked at me strangely :P)

Lunch – 33 Euros/month

I eat at the school canteen at my lycee four times a week. This costs me 2.10 Euros each time and I get a cold entree, a main meal, two desserts (meaning a choice between a yoghurt, piece of fruit or a sweet dessert), bread plus as much water as I like. There is also sometimes soup available for free on top of all of this. The French know how to eat!

Mobile phone – 20 euros a month

Pre-paid mobile card with Orange (once of the most popular telecoms in France).

Rent (includes water, electricity and internet) 320 euros a month/With CAF 80 euros a month

Again I live with a host family, but my rent and utilities costs are comparable to a lot of other assistants (most assistants I know pay about 350 euros a month for their rent and utilities)

However I just got my CAF application sorted, which is a rental discount scheme for those on a low income. They will be giving me 240 euros off per month, which is a lot more than I was expecting. I know of other people who pay 300 euros in rent per month, and then receive 100 euros as a discount from the CAF.

Transport – 3 month pass for 90 euros/30 euros a month

There are only buses in Dunkerque and I’m also eligible for a discount of about 50 Euros since I use my pass for work. But like all things in France – I put the application in about 3 months ago, and I still haven’t received the reimbursement – I know I will get it… eventually.

Total amount of money I need to survive in France: 483 -523 Euros a month

The happy news is that I do often have a decent amount of money left over each month as long as I watch my budget. I also don’t have a car which helps with the cost of living. But that is only the bare survival costs. I tend to like to have a life and end up spending a few ‘extras’ every month too such as…

Extras

Gym membership: 30 Euros/month

I felt the need to start exercising after I managed to put on a few kilos (maybe it has something to do with being tempted by French food every single day). This gym is a 10 minute walk from my house and a bunch of other friends joined too – giving me much more motivation to go and gives me access to the gym, group classes and sauna (which cost an extra 10 Euros a session).

Going Out: 30 Euros/week (approximately)

I usually go out once or twice a week with friends. Sometimes going out to movies, bars, clubs or a restaurant for dinner – this can be the biggest hole in my budget because I find it hard to say no to invitations and sometimes spending more money that I probably should… *shifty eyes*

Discounts

The good thing about living in France when you’re under 25 and on a low income, you’re entitled to a lot of discounts which makes life easier.

The most significant discounts are:

The 12-25 Youth Card

This is a transport card and guarantees a discount between 20-60% off train travel in France. There was an initial upfront cost of about 50 Euros and it’s valid for a year. I think after only a few months it has already paid off. I do a lot of train travel in France and most of the time I get at least 50% off my train tickets.

The CAF (Rental Assistance)

Although I am entitled to the rental discount for those on a low income and now receive 240 Euros a month off my rent it took a long time to get the paperwork finalised (typical of living in France). Not everyone has gotten the same amount of money off that I have , some get 90 some get 120 others get 220 – don’t ask me how they work this stuff out.

Conclusion

Living on an assistant salary does give me enough money to survive on, plus I can have a few extras. The discounts that France gives to its poor are impressive, but the flip side is that it can take a long time to get all of the applications in and then even longer to finally get the reimbursement (in Australia, I just feel getting the Government discounts/reimbursements is just so much faster). So you need to have the money to begin with and be comfortable not getting reimbursed for maybe up to 6 months.

I don’t feel the cost of living is that much different to Australia, but rent is probably significantly cheaper here and it’s great that it tends to include all of your utilities. The important thing is, if I do watch my budget I feel I have enough money to enjoy life here.

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