August 25, 2008

The Cost of Living in France

Tuesday Morning Market

The other night a friend asked us exactly how many euros he would need each month to to be comfortable living in France.
As I started to answer the question, I realized that there was no way I could.
It is far too subjective.

A Spot to Read

First of all, what is comfortable?

Did he plan on flying off to Rome, Copenhagen, Lisbon or wherever on a whim?
Would he take frequent trips to Paris?
Would he be happy drinking local wine or did he prefer more expensive Bordeaux or Burgundy?
What kind of car would he drive?
How big of a house did he want to live in?
Would he mainly eat in restaurants or cook at home?

Everyone has a different idea of "comfort".
I could only tell him how we live and how much we currently live on to give him a point of reference.

Here is our situation;
Each month we receive a moderate pension in US dollars and whatever I earn from advertisers here on Chez Loulou and other writing jobs. That comes out to, on average, $1,650 a month. Convert to euros and today that is roughly €1,120. Better than the last few months, when it was around €980!
When we moved to France 5½ years ago we never imagined that the euro would become so strong and that we would be losing a large chunk of our income every month. Every year we've had to cut back more and more to adjust.

Obviously we aren't flying off to Rome on a whim or eating in Michelin starred restaurants. Someday we will...

Yet, we're still comfortable. In a very simple way.

We're surrounded by delicious local food, cheese and AOC wine. I have the time to cook our meals from scratch so we rarely buy pre-made meals. We eat a lot of vegetables and eat meat occasionally. We wait for my yearly trips back to the States (which have been generously paid for by friends and family the last few years) to buy clothes and shoes, as they are much cheaper there. And we have lunch out in a moderately priced restaurant about once every 2-3 months.

Here's how it breaks down each month - remember that we live in a village in the south, not in a big city, so the prices might be totally different to those living in big cities like Paris or Lyon or Marseille.
We own our house outright so we have no mortgage. Also, we have no car payments and no credit card debt.

EDF (electricity) €90
Phone and Internet €50
Heath Insurance (to cover the 30% that isn't covered by the state) €120
Car and Home Insurances €60
Taxes (habitation and foncières and TV) €40
Water €20
Fuel (to fill up the car twice) €120
Groceries (approx.) €300

Total €800

Which leaves us with around €320 a month for things we need around the house, a cheap ticket to Paris to visit friends, car maintenance, fuel and tolls on the autoroute to get to Camp Cassoulet, a bit for a day trip to Spain, etc.
As my husband often says, we're doing it with mirrors.

It turns out that our situation is not our friend's definition of comfortable!
Go figure.

May 2010 - Cost of Living Update

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