August 18, 2011

The Cost of Living in France - Part 3

Assiette de Fromages

I get a lot of comments and blog traffic on the subject, but never realized just how difficult it is to find information about the cost of living in France until I did a bit of Googling today.

So I've decided to update my cost of living in France posts. Obviously I can only offer personal experience, but hopefully it will help any of you dreaming of or already planning a move to France.


So, what does it cost to live in a small village in rural France?

A few things to consider before you read the breakdown of costs:  our house has about 1000 square feet and has no garden or outdoor space, which affects the price of water, electricity and taxe d'habitation. Our village has a population of about 420 and is in the Hérault, another important factor, as each French département has a different tax rate.
Also, we own our house and car outright, thus we pay no mortgage or rent, have no car payments and also have no credit card debt.

EDF (electricity) €105
Phone and Internet €50
Heath Insurance (to cover the 30% that isn't covered by the state) €145
Car and Home Insurances €70
Taxes (habitation and foncières and TV) €70
Water €25
Fuel (to fill up the car twice) €120
Groceries (approx.) €420

Total €1005

That equals $1450 at today's rate of 1€=$1.44. When I wrote the first post, 1€ was equal to $1.48, and in the second installment, 1€ was equal to $1.24.

Since moving to la belle France, we've learned the art of living well on a small income.
We're surrounded by delicious local food, cheese and AOC wine. We eat a lot of vegetables, eat meat sparingly and other than the occasional pizza from the pizza van or a poulet rôti, I cook all of our meals from scratch.
We eat out maybe once a month and "going out on the town" means spending the evening having dinner with friends, either at our house or theirs.


How does our situation compare to the cost of living in a French city, the obvious example being Paris?
Of course, costs are higher in a city vs. the country, and even though I have a rough idea of what it would cost, we've never lived in Paris (even though we almost did). So I decided to ask a few Parisian friends for their input.
Here are a few links that they shared:

Anne of Prêt à Voyager
Shannon of Je Ne Sais Quoi
Emma of liberté, égalité, crème brûlée!
La Canadienne of Pain au Chocolat

If you've written about the cost of living in Paris and would like to share it, please do!

Previous cost of living in France posts:
Part One
Part Two Pin It


Amanda said...

How interesting! I particularly liked Shannon's post. I am pretty sure Gemey, Bourgeois... is as cheap as maybelline is in the US.
Now you have to write a post about salaries in France. Also, when I was in France, people didn't have credit cards debt. I wonder if it has changed.
(Your electric bill seems high).

David Peterson said...

Can you explain the health insurance item? Did that change after you got your French citizenship?
(oh and hello from NOLA)

Nancy said...

I did some research a couple of years ago on retiring abroad, but I can't recall how France panned out in comparison to other European countries. Interesting topic.

paris parfait said...

I lived in Paris for ten years and cost of living was quite high. Rent for a two-bdrm apt. (admittedly in a very nice area) was nearly 2,400 euros per month; electricity about 300 euros every couple of months; Numericable/Noos (cable and high-speed internet) about 70 euros per month. Wonderful food was plentiful and cheap; clothing expensive. People can live more cheaply in Paris, i.e. students or friends sharing flats, etc., but it remains one of the world's most expensive cities.

Jennifer said...

I enjoyed Shannon's post too.
French salaries are quite another subject! :) One I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle.
Yes, our electricity may seem high, but it is our only source for heating and cooking, so I don't think it is that bad.

We have chosen to purchase a complémentaire to cover the extra bit that the State doesn't cover.
When we moved we had to have private insurance in order to get our visas, then dropped that as soon as we got our Carte de Séjours and into the health system.

I know there are cheaper places to live in Europe, but none of them were the right place for us.
The only other country I could imagine living would be Italy.

paris parfait
I remember the prices when I was looking for apartments last winter! We were looking for a 1 bedroom and our budget was much less than yours, but I still found the prices to be expensive. Of course I haven't paid rent in a long time and compared to living in San Francisco or Manhattan, renting in Paris is probably cheap.
I didn't know that electricity in Paris would be so high, however.

Diane said...

Our taxes doubled last year and habitation and foncière tax for us is now at €135 per month. We have a 2 bedroom house!!

Anonymous said...

We used to keep close tabs on where all our money was being spent, but we're fortunate in that our budget had loosened up a bit since our first year in Paris. Our fixed costs (rent, phone/tv/internet, electricity, metro passes, CSA share, and cell phones) run about 1600 a month. I probably spend more than the average bear on grocery shopping, but we rarely spend more than 300 euros/month on dining out. Clothes, shoes, etc. are so expensive that I've almost completely broken my old shopping habit!

LaCanadienne said...

Thanks for this! I actually discovered your blog a few days ago while researching cost of living down south, and was happy to find it has a good balance of what I call the "France p0rn" (the fantasy-fuelling photos, the yummy cheese tasting stories) and practical tips.

Since we're doing our annual budget right now anyways, I've posted our Paris monthly expenses here.

Robert said...

I wonder if there are any statistics available for the cost of living in those parts of France which are neither Paris nor tiny little villages? Say, living in an apartment, without a car, in a provincial city - Toulouse? Reims? Nancy? - that has decent public transportation? I think I could live pretty frugally there (assuming that the government allowed me to of course!) but if specific data are available, that would be great.

Jameson said...

Great post! Thank you!

Blu said...

Budgets are always so scary when you write them down!

Telephone & Internet is a real rip of in France!

Kasia Dietz said...

Very insightful from all! Paris is pricey indeed.

I was curious about the cost of living in a village in France... though not having a mortgage is a huge plus!

Veronica said...

Blu, I think telephone and internet are pretty good value in France. We pay just over 30 euros/month for combined Internet and phone: and that's virtually all we pay, for 8 Mbit Internet access and unlimited calls from our landline to most countries. The only extra we pay is for calling cellphones. I don't feel ripped off except in the sense that being in the country we pay the same for much slower speeds than city dwellers. I get the impression similar offers are quite a bit more expensive in other countries.

Emm said...

Blu and Veronica, Loulou's phone and internet costs sound reasonable by US standards. I pay about $100 a month for a limited plan cell phone and basic cable, no TV. Not happy about that, but I need the high-speed download for work.

J.N. Urbanski said...

I'm surprised that it's difficult to get this information elsewhere. I can imagine the French are too busy enjoying their gorgeous life to write about it. I know I would find it hard to concentrate with so much quality booze and cheese on every corner.

Jennifer said...

You must have a big garden? We have no outdoor space at all, so it keeps our taxes quite low.

Thanks for sharing your costs in Paris. A great help!
My clothes shopping habits have changed since moving to France too. I usually save my money for when I go to the States.

Thanks for the great post! I'll add it to my cost of living in France post. I'm sure it will help others out.

Jennifer said...

That seems to be difficult information to find. If you find it, I would love it if you would share it with us!

You're welcome!

Funny that you should say that because compared to all of our friends and family in the US, we hardly pay anything!

Jennifer said...

Not having a mortgage is how we survive! I take it you own your apartment in Paris?

That's the same kind of plan that we have, and we opted to keep our France Telecom line as well, which costs around 15€ a month.
Our friends and family in the US pay $80-120 for high speed internet (granted their speeds are higher) but that doesn't include the free calls. I think we have a good deal.

That's what most people I know in the US pay. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

Well, I don't know about every corner...

bonnie groves poppe said...

I've been in Roquebrun in the Herault for a couple of years. I bought a house a little over a year ago, no mortgage, so that is not part of my expenses. I still have not received a bill for my taxes! I have not done a budget. My electricity is at 40 euros, and my water was 200 for the year. I have a "reversible climatisation" for heat plus a woodburning stove, and bottle gas for cooking (so far about 2 small containers per year). I am a single person, so my expenses are less than a couple's would be. The exchange rate is the problem. I have aroud $3000 US per month, which seems like plenty at the moment, but as the dollar changes in value so my income is affected.

Diane H. said...

Very interesting discussion. We've tried and failed to do a realistic comparison of cost of living for Canada/Provence/California (the three places we've lived). The variables are just so big. Our electricity when we lived in Provence was ASTRONOMICAL, but the house we were renting for the year had no insulation, so if we moved permanently we would do something about that.

We also found it was almost impossible to compare food budgets since the food experience was so different. Eating out at good restaurants was much, much more expensive in California. In France we spent more at the markets because everything looked so good.

Our healthcare costs are low in California as long as we're healthy, but any illness blows up all other considerations.

Totally agree that where in France matters a lot. We ended up renting a large four-bedroom house with a pool and a huge yard in the Drome area of Provence for less than a two-bedroom apartment we were considering just outside Nice.

I have noticed that no matter where we live or how much money we have our cost of living seems to exactly match our income...

Jennifer said...

Thanks for sharing your "budget" and your costs with us. It's nice to hear about others experiences.

There's a great cheese producer near Roquebrun...have you tried their cheese?

Jennifer said...

It is extremely hard to compare our cost of living in America to our cost of living here. We didn't own a house there, so always had to pay rent and always had a new car every few years. Also, because my husband was self employed and I was either self employed or worked for a small company, our health care was a fortune! $600 a month for the 2 of us...and that was 9 years ago. Who knows what it would cost now?

What I can say is that the stress level for us here is almost zero compared to when we lived in the US. A very good thing!

tony said...


Thank you for this informative and entertaining blog site.

I live in South Australia and have begun a journey whose destination is life in rural France.

I plan to retire there in a few years time and am at the research and planning stage.

I've been a Francophile ever since I arrived in Paris at the age of 20. I am now 57.

I've found the information about cost of living invaluable.

Again, thank you.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for your nice message. I'm glad I was able to help. Good luck with your plans!