How Much Did It Cost Us To Live in France for one year?
From October 2011 to October 2012, it cost our family of five a little over €3,200 Euros per month to live in France.
In 2019 dollars that’s about $3,616, but back in 2011 and 2012, the exchange rate was less favourable, so our average monthly and annual expenses were slightly higher; around $4160 per month ($832 per person per month).
Throughout this article, I use our actual expenses expressed in Euros. I also display the USD equivalent using the 2011 / 2012 exchange rate because that is what it cost us at the time.
Please keep in mind that currency prices fluctuate over time. Back in 2011 / 2012, the exchange rate was about 1,30 for both CAD and USD. (So €100 Euros cost you about 128 dollars back then). Since then, the US dollar has strengthened against the Euro, but the same is not true for CAD. In other words, it’s gotten cheaper for Americans but more expensive for Canadians to live in France.
Your expenses will be different than ours:
Now before you pack your bags and apply for visas to move to France, you need to understand that your expenses may look completely different than ours. It just depends on your unique situation, your lifestyle, whether or not you have kids, where you live etc.
For instance, if you plan on living in France for more than one year, you might decide to buy a house or a car; two expenses we didn’t incur our first year living in France. You might dine out more than we did, do more site seeing, live in a less expensive town or a more expensive city such as Paris, which is notoriously expensive compared to the rest of France.
So keep all this in mind as you look through our expenses.
Our monthly expenditures explained
Below is a summary of our average monthly expenses and directly below that is a detailed explanation about each expense category..
Summary:Our average monthly expenses while living in France
1- FURNISHED HOUSE:
Rent (€1,100 to €1,300 / Month) = ($1,430 to $1,690 / Month)
(€885 = $1,151 per Month) or ( €177 =$230/ person per Month)
(€100 / month = $130)
4- HEALTH & MEDICAL:
( €450 / month= $585 )
5- CLOTHING & SHOES:
(€50 / Month = $65)
6- AFTER SCHOOL SPORTS FOR KIDS :
(€130 / kid per year= $208)
( €50 / Month= $65 )
8- TAXES & VISAS:
(€365 Euros for a one year long stay visa= $475)
9- SIGHTSEEING, ENTERTAINMENT etc:
( €71 / Month= $92)
Below is a detailed explanation of our expenses which I summarized above.
1- RENT: 3 to 4 bdrm 100 + sq m home
- EUROS: €1,100 to €1,300 / Month
- DOLLARS: $1,430 to $1,690
By far, one of our biggest expenses was rent which accounted for just over 40% of our annual budget.
We arrived in Marseille France back in Octobre of 2011 and rented a fully furnished 100 sq foot, 3 bedroom Hausseeman style home near the Saint Charles train station and the old port. We paid 1,300 euros for 9 months. By French standards, this might be considered on the higher side but living in a city with public transportation has its costs.
We could have found a place in a more rural setting for half of what we paid in Marseille if we wanted; however, you often need cars in more rural settings to get around. Something we weren’t willing to do at the time.
At the end of the kids first school year in France, 9 months after arriving in Marseille, we decided to move to La Garde, a charming small town one hour east of Marseille and one hour west of Saint-Tropez where we paid 1,100 euros per month for a slightly bigger home with 4 bedrooms which was also fully furnished.
- Marseille City: €1,300:( 2011-2012)
- 3 Large Bedrooms in 100 Sq Meter (1,100 sq ft) Flat in the center of the city close to metros, shops, amenities, trains etc.
- La Garde City: €1,100 (2012-2016)
- Four bedrooms 100 sq Meter “Maison de Ville” in a more suburban setting. No metro, but access to the excellent bus system and train which goes all over Europe. We ended up buying a car.
- Montpellier: €1,450 (2016-present)
We found our first two furnished flats on sabbaticalhomes.com. We found our home in Montpellier through a friend.
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What Does Fully Furnished Mean:
Fully furnished USUALLY means it has everything you need the minute you walk in the door.
- Refrigerator, oven,
- linens, towels
- dishes, utensils, pots, pans etc.
- T. V. (sometimes a dishwasher or washing machine).
Our first furnished apartment in Marseille was kind of a dump
Although renting a fully furnished home or apartment in France sounds turnkey, it’s far from perfect. Unless you can afford to rent a fully furnished luxury apartment or house which can cost thousands of Euros a month, your French rental may lack some crucial things and be a little run down or both.
Our furnished apartment in Marseille, which we found online is a perfect example. From the pictures posted in the ad, everything looked great however we were extremely disappointed once we arrived in France.
The apartment literally looked like it was decorated by a couple of college students who picked up some old broken down things from a bunch of garage sales.
The white couches were filthy, the wallpaper was peeling and dirty. The rugs were badly in need of cleaning, and the sheets were old, ragged and some had holes in them. The kitchen was stocked with half of what we needed, and nothing matched. There was no bed in one of the rooms, just a pull-out couch that was broken. The owners refused to purchase a new bed for the room so we purchased one ourselves.
I’m depressed just thinking about it.
We had better luck with our second fully furnished home in La Garde, mainly because we were able to visit it. That’s not to say it was perfect either, but it was in much better shape than the Marseille apartment. The same goes for our rental in Montpellier (see photo below).
TAXE D’HABITATOIN- (Not income taxes)
If you rent a home for a 12 month period, you may be responsible for paying something called a “Taxe d’Habitation” which is an annual residence tax renters, and occupiers of a property have to pay to the government; supposedly to pay for things such as street cleaning, garbage removal and other upkeep in your area.
Because we rent fully furnished places, we usually pay this directly to the landlord if at all. Sometimes landlords will include the tax d’habitation in your monthly rent while others will require a separate one-time payment over and above your rent. The amount varies but can be as little as a few hundred Euros to a couple of thousand Euros.
We always try to negotiate with the landlords into making it part of our monthly rent.
Our food expenses were our second-largest expense after rent and accounted for just over 30% of our total annual costs.
- EUROS: €885 per month (€177/person per month)
- DOLLARS: $1,151 per month or ( $ 230/ person per month )
Our food bill fluctuated month to month, but for the most part, we averaged 885 euros a month for a year (€177 euros per person for month). This amount included two of our three kids eating school lunch every day, booze, all our meat and produce and a few days eating out.
Being a family of five, we could have easily spent more on food; however, we chose to shop at local outdoor markets and cook at home almost every day. We lived very close to the Noailles market where you can buy all your produce, cheese, meat and more.
VICES: One of the many surprises about France is that wine is very inexpensive with a good bottle costing only a few euros. Sure you can buy expensive bottles, but you don’t have to.
|Groceries||550 – 650 Euros/month||110 – 130 Euros/person|
|Beer, wine, spirits||40 Euros/month||20 Euros/person|
|Eating out||100 – 150 Euros / month||20- 30 euros / person|
|School lunch for kids||120 Euros/month two kids||60 Euros/kid (only two kids ate at school)|
- EUROS: €100 per month
- DOLLARS: $130 per month
When you rent a fully furnished home in France, utilities are often included however that was not the case for our first home in Marseille. Except for water, we had to set everything up ourselves (internet, electricity and gas). It was a pain in the butt.
Putting utilities in your name is frustrating
When you first move to a new country, you usually don’t have a bank account in that country.
The frustrating thing about this is you need a French bank account to set up your utilities. Unfortunately, you need a utility bill to set up your French bank account which you can’t open because you don’t have a utility bill yet. Do you see where I’m going with this?
We were in a classic French chicken and egg scenario. A virtual catch 22.
After more than a dozen calls, multiple bank appointments and several weeks, we were able to convince a bank to give us a bank account thanks to the help of our landlord who had to vouch for us. Without that, I’m not even sure how we would have managed to open one back then.
When we moved to La Garde 9 months later, the landlord kept all the utilities in his name and built it into our rent.
- Electricity & Gas (EDF) ( 60 Euros / month)
- Telephone & Internet (40 Euros / month)
- Water (included in rent but yours may not be included)
4- HEALTH & MEDICAL:
- EUROS: €450 per month
- DOLLARS: $585 per month
Medical and health were our third biggest expense and accounted for about 15% of our total expenses. We could have cut that bill in half if we chose to insure ourselves through a French company instead of using a US insurance company. One of our concerns was losing our continual coverage in the US. There are certain benefits to keeping continual coverage, which I won’t go into. Get in touch with an insurance carrier to find out what is best for your situation.
Our monthly insurance premium was about $400 per month or $80 per person. We paid for all our medical expenses in France out of pocket because our deductible was extremely high. The good news is, doctor and dentist visits are incredibly affordable in France, around 23 to 25 euros per visit. A teeth cleaning costs about 50 to 65 euros.
- Medical Insurance: 400 dollars/month paid to US company
- 5 Doctor visits in France: 115 Euros
- Medicine, aspirin etc.: 30 Euros
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5- CLOTHING & SHOES:
- EUROS: €50 per month
- DOLLARS: $65 per month
Clothing can be pricey, but if you shop during the sales in January and June, you can get some outstanding deals of up to 75 percent off. We didn’t t spend that much on clothing our first year; however, we did end up buying multiple pairs of shoes for our children. Their feet grew fast.
6- AFTER SCHOOL SPORTS AND EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITES FOR THE KIDS
- EUROS: €130 per year
- DOLLARS: $208 per year
After school sports and activities are rarely organized through French schools. Instead, parents typically sign their children up for after school activities beginnning in Septmbre through one of the many local organization and association offered in your area.
From martial arts and circus school to sewing and horseback riding, there are literally thousands of activities your child can do during the school year.
To find out what is available in your area, go to your local French town hall “Mairie” or check the cities website and look for a for all the associations. Here is the link to the one in Montpellier. Or you can go to your cities annual association held at the end of August or Septembre where associations pitch a tent and attract new students.
Prices for extra-curricular activities are very reasonable and can cost anywhere from 130 to 400 euros per year per activity. It just depends on the sport and your location. Many associations and organizations offer classes on Wednesday when French students get out of school early or on Saturday but some offer classes through the week.
Our kids played Soccer, called Le Foot” or “FOOTBALL” in France, not to be confused with American football, Judo, and our youngest took Ballet.
- EUROS: €50 per month
- DOLLARS: $65 per month
Our first year in France, we didn’t have a car, so we relied on public transportation: metro, bus, tram or trains in Marseille.
My middle child, who was in middle school at the time took the metro to get to school in Marseille, so we purchased a monthly metro pass for him. My eldest son, who was in high school, walked to school, so he didn’t need a pass. We enrolled our youngest child in the local preschool, so I walked her to school every morning. And because she was less than six years old, she could take public transportation with me for free.
At the time, these were the prices for transportation in Marseille France.
- Metro Passes in Marseille (60 Euros)
- Bus tickets, train tickets, metro tickets about €1 per trip.
8- ONE YEAR VISA:
- EUROS: €365 per adult for a one-year long-stay visa
- DOLLARS: $475
VISA- (To live legally in France for more than 90 days up to one year)
If you’re not a citizen of an EU country and want to stay in France for more than 3 months, you need a company to sponsor your visa or, you can do what we did and apply for a one-year long-stay visa on your own. It gives you the right to stay in France for up to 12 months but not to work.
Once you arrive in France, to complete your visa process, you have to do some more paperwork juggling with the OFII and pay another fee (360 euros per adult). They then paste the visa in your passport, and you are free to stay in the country for a total of 12 months from the date of your arrival. Every year after that, you have to renew your visa at a prefecture. It used to cost €110 euros per adult but the price increases from time to time. We did not have to pay anything for the kids.
(**Update: The renewal fee has increased to €269 as of 2019 )
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9- SIGHTSEEING, ENTERTAINMENT, etc.:
- EUROS: €70 per month
- DOLLARS: $92 per month
While living in Marseille, we spent about €840 for sightseeing and entertainment. Many things we did and saw were free. We just paid for transportation to get there, usually by train or bus.
If you have a child between the ages of 3 and 6, you’ll be delectably surprised to learn that pre-school is Free in France which came as a huge surprise to me. I fully expected to pay anywhere from 900 to 1,00 dollars a month for pre-school since this is how much it can cost in the US and some parts of Canada.
Preschool is a great way to integrate your children with other French kids quickly. Our daughter loved it.
I’m going to be honest; I didn’t include all our expenses because everyone lives life differently. I’m not sure what will go in your budget, but here is what went into ours.
- Haircuts (€12 to €20 for men) (€15 to €40 for women)
- VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access US sites such as Hulu which are blocked outside the US.: (5 Euros). Netflix wasn’t available in France back in 2011/12.
- Pay as you go phone subscriptions: €10 to €15 euros a month
- Chef knives: Every place we rented had horrible knives.
- Wok and bamboo steamers, rice cooker: I cook a lot of Thai and Chinese food.
- Bed Pillows and linens: I hate old ratty linens and flat pillows.
- Two new laptops and a couple of tablets:
Your next adventure
If you want to move to France, my advice to you is to figure out as much as you can before you move even if that means coming to France for exploratory reasons.