From visas and housing to food and entertainment, I tracked all of our expenses for one year and created a detailed accounting of our first 12 months living in France.
How Much Does It Cost to live in France for one year? Our actual expenses
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).
Benchmarking: Explanation of our expenses:
Your lifestyle, whether or not you have kids, where you live and other personal circumstances will determine what goes onto your budget.
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
You might do more site seeing.
Living in Paris, which is notoriously expensive will cost much more than most other places in France.
Keep all this in mind as you look through our expenses.
Cost of living in France Summary: Average monthly expenses
This is a summary of our average monthly expenses. Scroll down to get a detailed explanation about each expense category.
1- FURNISHED HOUSE: Rent (€1,100 to €1,300 / Month) = ($1,430 to $1,690 / Month)
2- FOOD: (€885 = $1,151 per Month) or ( €177 =$230/ person per Month)
3- UTILITIES: (€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)
7- TRANSPORTATION: ( €50 / Month= $65 )
8- TAXES & VISAS: (€365 for a one-year long stay visa= $475)
9- SIGHTSEEING, ENTERTAINMENT, etc.: ( €71 / Month= $92)
10- PRESCHOOL: (Free)
A detailed explanation of our expenses.
Below is a break down and more detailed explanation of the cost of living in France 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 October of 2011 and rented a fully furnished 1000 sq foot, 3 bedroom Hausseeman style apartment near the Saint Charles train station and the old port.
We paid 1,300 euros per month. 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 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 (2016-2022)
- Montpellier: 2023 bought a home.
You might be interested in reading: 10 Largest Cities In France You’re Pronouncing Wrong + what makes them so popular.
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. Everything looked great from the pictures posted in the ad; 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 garage sale.
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 could 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
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 to make 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 per person for a month). This amount included two of our three kids eating school lunch every day, booze, all our meat and produce and a few days of eating out.
Considering the cost of living in France, 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 France’s many surprises 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
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 expenses 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
You might be interested in reading this: What To Do When You’re Sick In France: Finding A Doctor!
5- CLOTHING & SHOES:
- EUROS: €50 per month
- DOLLARS: $65 per month
Clothing can be pricey, but you can get some outstanding deals of up to 75 percent off if you shop during the sales in January and June. 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 ACTIVITIES 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 beginning in September through one of the many local organizations and associations offered in your area.
There are literally thousands of activities your child can do during the school year, from martial arts and circus school to sewing and horseback riding.
To find out what is available in your area, go to your local French town hall, “Mairie” or check the city’s website and look for a list of all the associations. Here is the link to the one in Montpellier. Or you can go to your city’s annual association held at the end of August or September, 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 Wednesdays when French students get out of school early or on Saturdays, but some offer classes throughout the week.
Our kids played Soccer, called Le Foot” or “FOOTBALL” in France, not to be confused with American football and judo, and our youngest took Ballet.
- EUROS: €50 per month
- DOLLARS: $65 per month
The cost of living in France in our first year was significantly less than it is now, mainly because we didn’t have a car. 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, and metro tickets cost 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, there’s still one final step you have to complete your visa process. This involves getting a medical appointment and dealing with OFII, where you have to pay another fee. Ours was 360 euros per adult. They then paste the visa into 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 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.)
You might be interested in reading this: What Kind Of Visa Do I Need To Visit Or Live In France Legally?
9- SIGHTSEEING, ENTERTAINMENT, etc.:
- EUROS: €70 per month
- DOLLARS: $92 per month
While living in Marseille, we spent about €840 on 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 preschool 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.
11- MISC. EXPENSES
I’ll be honest; I didn’t include all our expenses because everyone lives life differently. I’m not sure what will go into 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 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’m not too fond of 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 is to figure out as much as you can before you move, even if that means coming to France for exploratory reasons.