Our French Life

What Is The Cost Of Living In France?

one flew over

Asides from your mental sanity? A Lot! I jest of course, I jest. Everything is awesome. She says rocking from side to side gazing at the ‘wonderful view’.  And isn’t that just it. You cannot live off a view. You cannot live off the land and you cannot live off a dilapidated barn that you are freezing your tits off come summer and winter.

I have written about this a few times and if you haven’t read them (you can explain yourself later) I will put them at the end of this post.

So on to the nitty gritty. The what does it cost to live in France? No one, to the best of my knowledge, is skipping to the weekly market to do their weekly shopping. If you are, then I salute you. But us mere mortals are going to the big stores like Lidl, Carrefour, E.leclerc (double points on a Tuesday for us here) and if you have really forgotten that it was a bank holiday – Super U.  We do that like the rest of the nation.

Myself and Mr Normandy have a bit of a long standing joke whereby we announce with great fanfare, anything we have found to be cheaper here in France compared to that of the UK. This game is a bit boring if truth be told as we don’t get to play it very often. You see my last “oh isn’t that cheaper?” observation was probably about 2 years ago when I discovered (and I could be wrong on this front) that ready to roll pastry is cheaper here.  Yarp. Ditch the homemade versions (unless, of course, you are making mince pies as I am a purist when it comes to the mince pies) and treat yourself to one of the few things that are cheaper here in France.

puff pastry
Can you live off puff pastry?

Now yes, I do understand that I have moved to a socialist republic. I do also know (I can hear  you all scream “but Macron is centre right!!”) that the president isn’t exactly on Jeremy Corbyn’s left wing agenda however, France is built, its very foundations, are built on socialist values. This means you do pay more in taxes on your food and petrol etc. Your actual tax return is fairly similar for middle/low tax earners. It’s the equivalent of NHS contributions that are higher but you do get a whole bunch of stuff that is quite pleasant.

For example, you get clean street signs, roadside furniture as they call it. Oh really? Big deal. Well it is. That’s why around these ‘ere parts things are looked after. You have the individual communes all taking care of the maintenance side of the community. You have bins collected without fail every week.

macron wink.jpg
Any excuse?!

You have school buses that take the little ones a stones throw to the canteen, or someone is paid to walk them. You have well maintained roads, excellent hosptials (I am in Normandy and I appreciate that across France pressures are high in urban areas), libraries, affordable sports clubs and lots more.

I would love to drop a Gilet Jaune into the UK and give them a list of things they need to achieve and see how they like it compare it to France. The thing is, it is what you are used to. So for me, living in France after Tory cuts of *Surestart centres closing, libraries, no state bus to take your kids swimming, 14 hours in a&e before being moved to a ward and massive pot holes to name but a few – this place, at times, can feel like I’m in a sci-fi movie. To your average French person they’ve probably had it even better. And unless they keep fighting for things to remain as it is – the UK dystopia is heading to them in the not too distant future.

*These were great community based services you could get your baby weighed, see a midwife, stay and play groups, coffee mornings, fitness, access to further learning, activities in the school holidays for older children – all free and lots more.

Okay so we are a family of 5. So take from this what you will and we do not live in a converted barn, which even if warm, generally will have more heating costs. We have 2 teenagers (so the food is really like having 4 adults!) and a 9 year old.

The biggest by far expenditure for us is FOOD! I seriously don’t even want to contemplate the amount of money that is spent on the weekly food shop. It is nearly double to that of the UK. I used to go to Aldi and then get extra bits from Sainsbury’s. That would include all your usual toiletries, cleaning products, 3 bottles of wine, some beer, meals to be made from scratch and treat bits. So we are not washing down caviar with copious amounts of champagne.

xmas kermit.jpg
Don’t expect to find a huge turkey here at Xmas. Which is probably a good thing it hasn’t been super sized!

I’d say we were fairly average in terms of consumption.  We don’t smoke either. No I don’t smoke. I don’t smoke. My god, my doctor asks me this every time!  It’s like he can’t quite believe this heavy breathing, blood pressure of 220 and amateur French speaker isn’t a smoker. I have white coat syndrome or more specifically I get stressed when I’m in there! I never had it before. Like seriously people outside of France do not smoke as much!! You guys need to give it up its sooooo 80s and as my son says where everyone smokes at lycee “it’s so chavy”. I digress.

I mean the most I’d treat myself in the food shop would be a cooked chicken to save me the bother, salmon and king sized prawns if I was feeling particularly flamboyant. Granted, with a hungry teenager that was cycling nearly 200km a week, the food did disappear fairly rapidly like a plague of locus had descended.

Please also note I, like many mothers across the UK, cook incredibly boring and shit meals like shepherds pies, spag bol, toad in the hole, fajitas, lasagne, some stir fry, fish n chips and a totally crap in the oven one on a Saturday.  Nigella I am not. Occasionally I might whip up some choc chip cookies, flapjacks, cupcakes and other bits and bobs when I’m not in the car, walking the dog, decorating, working, trying to learn French and…..yes I am a martyr. So yeah baking and cooking fine meals is not up there at the moment. As my family will testify when my youngest proclaimed at the table “do you notice that mum doesn’t even eat the meals she cooks!” Very true. I’m not stupid.

Food

Food you can say at least 200 euros a week for a family of 5. And that’s sticking to the meal plan. That isn’t including the “oh that looks nice” buys in Lidl or need a new pillow or the boulangiere during the week and Saturday cakes. This is a conservative estimate as, like I said above, I am in complete denial and I don’t want to talk about it. Oh and by the way, this has gone up in the 2 years we have been here.

Petrol/Diesel 

When we arrived the cost of diesel was 1.16 a litre it is now 1.46 or thereabouts. Depending on where you live – if its rural you will spend a lot on fuel. I used to walk everywhere in the UK as I lived in an urban environment so my monthly fuel was about £80 a month. Here (and prior to my son giving up his cycling it was more – races etc all across Normandy) it is at least 60 euros a week so 240 a month without having a grand day out which we tend to do at least 2 x a month depending on the season.

Insurances 

Yarp. These are all more expensive but not massively so just mildly irritating so. Like the no claims bonus and the cheap car insurance you had in the UK – forget it. Also double forget it when some twat reverses into you whilst you are stationery in the car park. They consider this to 50/50 fault in car parks. So I could have actually been inside shopping and it would have still been my fault. I’m not bitter. Not a bit. So mine, just for good measure, went up a bit more.  I had got my car insurance down to about £230 a year. My god I had finally arrived – old person, careful lady driver and over 15 years no claims. I mean this was right up there with the pinnacle of my successes. Gone. Taken away. In a little over a year of living here. I think its 660 – so yes nearly 3 x. Wonderful. Again the scars run deep.

On the car insurance note – your breakdown is included but make sure it covers you from 0KM from home otherwise its 30km from home which is no good if you break down 10km from home. Do you get me?

Then you have house insurance (not too bad on a par) but good luck with ever claiming. I have heard some right old stories. Make sure you get new for new otherwise you are only reimbursed for an old sofa rather than getting a new one. Then you may have a teenager that has a scooter. Check. That’s 40 euros a month. Then there are phone contracts – oh hold the phone these are actually cheaper. My son has a contract (paid by for…you guessed it) for 8.99 with Free which gives him loads of data allowance. Obviously the phone is double but you just buy one off ebay.co.uk. Job done.  My mobile, my daughter’s mobile and Mr Normandy’s all add up. Plus we still have UK ones on contract.

Entertainment

We don’t have British Telly so to speak. We don’t have a SKY box which people do around here. The set up at a cost, installed by a local man, is approx 400 euros. I think that is a one off fee. We have our Broadband (I say that loosely as its piss poor and bear that in mind if your business needs fast internet), phone line and telly for about 38 euros a month. This is cheaper than Virgin Media – slightly. Before we switched to this we used to have SKY where we had multi-room, HD, all channels sport, films etc this used to be £82 a month without internet etc. Hence we switched to Virgin even though I did have a brief mourning period for the loss of SKY it saved us a small fortune.

We do have Netflix 10 euros a month and an Amazon Fire Stick (30 euros for the stick) and then 9 euros a month subscription. This then gives you access to a lot of apps like TV Player, All 4, SKY news, BBC hub etc.  The TV player has BBC1, BBC, ITV but we can’t record and you have to get a VPN which costs 2 euros a month. As I’m typing this I realise that it costs us more than 38 euros a month for our entertainment! We do have the Iplayer app but we cannot get anything on it as the internet connection is so bad and it can’t cope with going back to the UK to get the programmes.

We could install SKY but we decided not to as it makes us watch French telly every night and helps us improve our French.

If you have a modern telly i.e a Smart telly (buy in the UK) many have these apps in any event, so you don’t need an Amazon Fire Stick.  If you already pay for Amazon you will also avail of their films and prime delivery.  So there are various options available to you. Ball park figure allow 50 euros a month.

Utilities

EDF – electric is similar here (approx 80 per month) for us in any event. Again it really is going to depend on how you heat your home. Having said this I do have a double electric oven. If you have electric heaters it will be extortionate.  Don’t forget our house is like a new build. Our Gas is also nominal a bottle is changed every 8 months as I only have a gas hob.  Our main source of heating is wood and even then we only go through about 8 stere a year at 60 euros. Our neighbour goes through 25. We haven’t had a water bill yet so bracing myself for that. Then there’s your tax habitation and fonciere which will depend on the size of your house, how many bathrooms you have, the rental value and what you earn. But I would say use your current council tax as an indicator.

Health

This is one you don’t need to pay in the UK. So it’s an additional insurance, however, you do not have road tax here in France and MOT’s are every 2 years. I have a very competitive mutuelle for us all 128 euros per month for 5 of us. Make sure you understand the top up levels as it can be more than 100% (say what?) yes that’s right as some specialists charge more. Also make sure you get glasses and dentistry if you have teeth and eyes that don’t work.  I have put a link to the best broker I know who arranges all our insurances. You’re welcome.

School

Again you could send them in with a packed lunch in the UK. Here it is from 3.45 -3.60 per day, per child. So with 3 x children this soon adds up and the lunch tickets run out pretty darn quick. Plus I have school fees (nominal compared to UK but allow 500 a year) and my eldest is now at lycee. Whilst he did get a bourse from getting a bien in his brevet there is still the cost of his boarding and his lunches mentioned above. School trips are fab and are generally cheaper. A week’s skiing 400, 11 days in Germany 200 euros, A week in the UK  240, A week in Madrid 420. These are great trips that you want your kids to avail of and I know would be much more expensive in the UK but they still cost money so depending on the number of kids you have put 50 by each month for this as well.

You will also need to take out insurance for each of your children. This covers them for any accidents that happen to them or to others. This is fairly nominal it can be included on your home insurance or you can take out a policy with the school for approximately 10 euros for each child for the year.

Oh, forgot to say you have to buy all the school materials – exercise books, folders, pens everything! See below for help with this but it normally costs approximately 200 for 3 kids back to school in September. I would have to add bits during the year and this does not include lycee books they will need – approximately 100 euros.

money pit
Dream of a big house and land? Great. But it costs more to heat, more to furnish, more to clean and more money to do up. Don’t let it be a money pit.

Renovation Costs

I cannot stress this enough that your cheap doer upper will cost you a fortune to do up if you are assuming the cost to get it done is a UK price. For instance, if you think the electrics will cost about 5k – it will be 15k. Triple everything. It might not be but it will certainly be more realistic than what you thought in the first instance. Everything like the insulation, fires etc is normally double the price. Get what you can in the UK. Go back and get it if you have to. Well you do have to otherwise that pot of money will be dwindled down to nothing and you will not get that back ever again. Think about the amount of money you have to pump into a project for eg a gite will you ever see that return back? Where is the money coming for your retirement? Please sit down and put it all on paper. A dream is great but financial ruin and living in semi poverty is not, I’m guessing, part of the grand plan.

Miscellaneous

Well then there’s just everything else. Car repairs (more expensive), Car MOT, car, car and car!!! The initial cost as well of getting it put onto French plates. Also we have 2 as we couldn’t manage with one car. You will not be going anywhere when and if your only car is out of action. The rest is all the normal stuff you used to pay for days out, birthday’s, Christmas, Beauty treatments, Hairdressers, gym or class memberships, contact lenses, glasses, clothes. More spent on clothes as there is no school uniform so wear and tear is more. Lunches out and all that cafe culture – ha ha!

Now, if you haven’t broken out into a cold sweat it is not all bad. If you don’t eat (except puff pastry) and walk everywhere you will save a fortune! No actually there is a lot of help for people here even if you earn a fairly decent wage.

sncf.jpg
Not been on a train yet, but my application for the discounted railcard is underway! Paris here we come!

For example if you earn under 36k you can be entitled to child benefit. The same as in the UK. Here it is nearly double but only counts if you have more than one child. You can also benefit from a bourse for school if you are on a low income which you may be when you first arrive. So this will help with the canteen costs and any school fees. You can also get, bit like tax credits, a top up in the form of prime active. You can get reduced habitation if you are a low earner.  You can also get money off electric. If you have 4 children the state will pay for a cleaner to come in during the week! You can get holiday vouchers, kids club vouchers, students can avail of discounted cinema tickets and reduced entry fees to attractions.  A yearly rentree payment is available to help with the cost of school material. If you have more than 3 children you can apply (19 euros) for a railcard that gives you 35% discount on all rail fares. It also gives you a discount to, say, The Buffalo Grill and other theme park attractions.

There is home help available for the elderly. Someone can come and visit you twice a day. And if you find yourself on your own and not being able to negotiate your home anymore,  you can ask your commune to place you in their looked after social housing. If you have a low income i.e state pension you may not need a mutuelle top up at all. The state will pick that up. You can join the library for free, avail of intensive French lessons and get paid 600 euros a month to do so. There is a lot out there and you need to google it or simply go to your mairie and ask to speak to the equivalent of the citizens advice bureau who will point you in the right direction.

Oh, add a mortgage if you have one! Mortgages are cheap here in France and so are loans for cars. This is an added bonus but I think you would need to have a permanent work contract to avail of interest free or very low interest credit.

So there you have it. A little guide on the cost of living here in France. I hope it gives you a rough idea of what to expect.  I have put links to posts I have written about on similar subjects before. Within those posts are more links to governments sites etc.  Please do feel free to ask questions, either on the facebook page in the comments section and I will endeavour to answer them.

You have been reading Our Normandy Life!

How To Heat Your French Home

How To Get A Job In Normandy France

Fabien at Pepite Courtgage fluent in English, insurance broker and general all round nice chap

The Caf – This is your child benefit site plus tax credits etc. There is also a simulator to see what you could be entitled to

Government website to obtain your discounted train card for families with 3 and more children

An example how ignorance with changing car tyres can cost you a fortune in “An Amateur in France”

50/50 Claim When A Twat Reverses Into Your Parked Car – REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE!

Paid For, Intensive French Lessons

School Supplies You Have To Buy

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “What Is The Cost Of Living In France?”

  1. Fascinating for us – two pensioners in Northern France; we spend so much less than you obviously, perhaps compensated by more visits to UK to see children and grandchildren : eurotunnel, hotels, petrol etc. Although in 16 years food costs have risen (I have kept all my receipts so know exactly what we spend) we originally budgeted each week €75 for food and €75 for bills. We are now spending nearly €100 on food shopping but the bills are still about our budget.Thanks for such a thoroughly researched piece. Our TV box was €15 and gives us more than enough UK TV channels; for french TV and subscription services we use the internet and various free streaming sites via a VPN. We buy a new car (always a Fiat Panda) every 5 years : 5.2 litres / 100km and insurance with as you say breakdown – €350 year paid in monthly installments. I fill up once a month for about €45.We haven’t tried to claim any particular social benefits BUT I had a 5 days hospital stay (total cost €111) and op and my wife’s diabetes treatment is totally free.I know we are a) older and b) no immediate family but find managing on whar we have quite easy. Thanks again

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    1. Hi David thanks so much for replying. Your food bill for 2 makes me feel much better about ours for 5 (4 adult portions) and I totally agree even in the 2 years we have been here the food has increased. I am pleased you are able to manage on your pensions and enjoying your life here in France! Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment

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