Cost of Living in France

Cost of Living in France: My Personal Experience

How much does it cost to live in France? I’ve received a few e-mails inquiring about the cost of living in France, so here is a listing of my monthly bills and yearly taxes. Hopefully this information will be useful for those who are looking to move to France and want to compare the costs. I do not live in Paris, where the cost of living is especially high, but I do live near the Alps and Switzerland in one of the more expensive areas of France. My city is the capital of its department, and has a population of about 50,000. I live with my PACS partner, David, so most of my expenses are cut in half.


Monthly Bills

Rent: 550€ total / my half: 275€

– one-bedroom apartment in old building (with poor electrical installation; can’t use hairdryer and microwave at same time for example…) about 10 minutes from train station and city center; 52 meters squared with two balconies and storage space in basement. Most apartments in this area are much more expensive (700-800€) which we couldn’t really afford so we chose the cheapest one possible.

Electricity & Gas: 65€ total / my half: 32.50€

– We have a gas stove & oven, but luckily regular radiators instead of those expensive electric ones (so heat is included in our rent.) Our hot water heater only heats at night during off-peak hours.

Water: 20€ total / my half: 10€

– washing machine but no dishwasher; hot water heater only holds 100 liters which is just enough for two showers and doing the dishes

Internet, phone, & TV: 30€ total / my half: 15€

– ADSL internet + land-line with free calling to US & Canada and free calls to land-lines in many, many other countries + basic “cable” channels

Groceries: 250€ total / my half: 125€

– Even shopping at Aldi and Lidl! We are trying to reduce this obviously.

Gas/Tolls: 150€ total / my half: 75€

– We only use the car once or twice a week – to get groceries or visit David’s parents. Our car is an automatic that takes the most expensive gas though.

Car Insurance: 30€ total / my half: 15€

Renter’s Insurance: 10€ total / my half: 5€

*Cell phone: 15€

– I just buy prepaid cards and very rarely need to use my cell phone thanks to the internet.

*Mutuelle: 30€

– This means my prescriptions and contacts are “free” and I get another 30% of consultation fees reimbursed. Government-run healthcare that almost everyone has (la sécu) generally reimburses the first 70%.

When I used to commute to work (100 km round-trip 4 days a week), I paid about 250€ per month for gas and tolls. David walks to work and I work at home now, so we have no public transportation costs. For reference, a monthly bus pass in our city costs 30€ while a monthly passe Navigo in Paris is between 55€ and 123€ (depending on which zones you need). However, it is now law in France that your employer must pay 50% of your public transportation costs for your commute to and from work.

  • Total Monthly Bills:  600€ (*cell phone and mutuelle are the only bills that I do not share with David)

Yearly Taxes

Residency Card Renewal: 110€ Unless you have the 10 year carte de résident, you must renew the yearly carte de séjour for a price of 110€.

Income tax: 611€ for my part.  Since I am PACSed, my income tax is lower than for a single person plus I received a credit of 194€ for the prime pour l’emploi. The amount of income tax I paid was 5% of my imposable income (about 15% of my gross income minus a 10% deduction). In France, la sécurité sociale which includes health insurance, unemployment & retirement benefits is automatically taken out of your paycheck, but income tax is NOT. I calculated that 18% of my gross income was deducted for la sécu. I have no other source of income in France because I am not eligible for CAF, or rent assistance for low-income individuals or families, that most language assistants and lecturers receive. To be on the safe side, most people say you should save almost one month’s salary to pay for income tax.

Taxe d’habitation: 368€ for my half out of 736€ total. This is a renter’s tax that you must pay on the place where you are living on January 1st, even if you move out on January 2nd. (If you own your house or apartment, you pay la taxe foncière.)  The amount of la taxe d’habitation depends on the city where you live, the size of your apartment, your income, etc. so it can be hard to know how much you will have to pay until you receive the bill in October or November. In general it should be around one month’s rent. Added to this taxe is the TV tax (or Contribution à l’audiovisuel public as it is now called) which is 121€. Every household that owns a TV must pay it. Two ways of ensuring you do not have to pay this tax is by living in university residences managed by CROUS or renting a furnished room (not apartment) in a person’s home. Sometimes you can get this tax decreased if you have a low income by explaining your situation to the tax center (a dégrèvement).

  • Total Yearly Taxes:  1,089€

At the very least, I need more than 8,300€ to survive in France each year and the above figures do not include any extra expenses such as clothes, books, entertainment, birthday & Christmas presents, etc. We never go to the movies and rarely eat at restaurants – and when we do, we use David’s tickets-restaurant. In addition, every two years we have to pay 80€ for the vehicle inspection (contrôle technique) and every year our car has needed about 600€ worth of repairs (it’s a 1986 Renault Super 5 automatic with a manual choke.) And another expense that was free in the US is a checking account. I pay 33€ a year for my account, debit card and checks.

Cost of Living in France

Personally I don’t feel that life is that much more expensive in France compared to the US. Internet/phone/TV is definitely cheaper here and cell phones can also be cheaper if you rarely make calls since receiving calls is free in France. However, clothes, books and especially electronics are definitely more expensive than what I’m used to. Movies and restaurants are comparable to larger cities in the US, but expensive compared to the area where I come from. Groceries, gas, and tolls are more expensive than what I used to pay in Michigan – though gas in general is much cheaper in the US and Michigan only has freeways. It’s harder to compare income tax since I’ve always received a refund in the US and never paid much attention to how much was taken out of my paychecks. And a renter’s tax just doesn’t exist where I lived.

Nevertheless, even if bills and taxes are similar and we receive great benefits in France with regards to unemployment and health insurance, the main difference I see with the US are the incomes. It is very frustrating to know that I earned roughly the same amount working full-time in France that I earned working part-time in the US. A lot of people working full-time only earn minimum wage in France, which is 12,600€ net per year. When I was an English assistant, I earned 5,460€ and only had a 7 month contract. When I was an English lecturer at the university, I earned 14,640€ per year before income tax and the job was considered full-time (I wasn’t even allowed to get a 2nd job if I wanted to) and required a Master’s degree. Most fonctionnaires (civil servants) start out between 14,500€ and 19,000€ per year. They may have their job for life, but the incomes do not increase much even after years and years of experience. French people who make American-like incomes work in Switzerland and Luxembourg, where they average 48-72k per year. French people working the same jobs in France tend to average 18-30k.

That being said, France does a good job of taking care of people who are extremely poor. People who earn minimum wage tend to receive a large prime pour l’emploi and monthly benefits from CAF. Even unemployed people get special discounts on public transportation, library subscriptions, museum admission, etc. Young people (under 25) also get a LOT of nice discounts and families with children receive very generous benefits from the state. Once you’re over 25 and earn just above minimum wage however, you get nothing. Being PACSed or married definitely helps with regards to income tax, though it also tends to make you ineligible for CAF. In a nutshell, there’s not a whole lot you can do in France to earn more money, but you can decrease your bills by living with a roommate and/or getting PACSed.  If I were single and living in the same apartment, I’d probably end up paying 900-1,000€ in monthly bills (depending on how much I used the car) with a higher rate of income tax plus the full amount of the taxe d’habitation. So my advice to everyone is get PACSed!

  • Actually, weren’t they saying that next year they’re going to abolish the pacsed/married income tax reduction? It was on the news a month or so ago as one of Sarko’s projects for next year. And anyways, you don’t always pay less as a pacsed person – I actually paid 50€ more this year than I would’ve had I filed as a single person since my income was high and the other person’s very low. And my friend Kendra had the same thing happen to her last year.

    I think the real solution is to bust out a whole bunch of kids – from three kids on, the CAF payments skyrocket. 😉

    • David just explained that for the first year you are PACSed, you will no longer be able to do taxes together for the months that you were PACSed (like how we had to do 2 single returns, then one as a PACSed couple in the same fiscal year.) You will be treated as single for that entire year and need to do separate taxes. It’s only from the first fiscal year that you were PACSed for the entire time that you can do taxes together; however, this won’t apply to married couples. Nothing will change for them.

      I wonder if the lower taxes for couples only apply when you have similar incomes or one person earns a lot and the other nothing. All the couples here that I know earn the same salary or one person works and the other stays at home with the kids, so their taxes have always been less. I know that in the US if one person earns a lot and the other has a lower income, it’s actually worse to be married then because taxes will be higher. Maybe it’s the same in France?

      CAF is definitely the way to make money in France. Too bad you have to have so many darn kids! I wish they would give money to those of us who don’t want to over-populate the planet…

  • I love this kind of post, maily because I am slightly obsessed with the low salary/high cost of living situation here. I thought I would share my expenses because I don’t think yours are realistic for the average person moving to France 🙂

    Rent: 1175€ – I live in Paris 16th in a 38 sqm studio.
    Electricity/Gas: 40€ – I think this is low because we don’t pay for heating (we have underfloor heating included in the rent) and we travel a lot so aren’t always here.
    Water: 0€ – Water is included in the rent and there is unlimited hot water.
    Internet/phone/TV: 100€ – High because we have Canal+ and Canal+ Le Bouquet for movies. I don’t watch TV but Ferbent does. Otherwise I’d get rid of the TV.
    Groceries: 500€ – This is high because we eat a lot! We don’t smoke or drink alcohol but buy organic, shop at Monop and other expensive places around here.
    Metro: 20€ – 1 or 2 carnets a month is enough for us.
    Cell phone: 100€ – We each have an iphone with unlimited calls, internet etc.
    Mutuelle: 0€ – Save money by not getting sick 🙂
    Income tax: Better to not discuss this in public!
    Taxe d’habitation: 1125€ per year.
    Home contents insurance: 150€ per year
    Total: 2000€+ per month (1000€ each per month)

    • I should have prefaced my post with we are extremely cheap (due to being poor) so we chose the cheapest apartment possible. Most rents around here are closer to 700-800€ per month, though most studios are within the 350-450€ range since this is a university town.

      It does seem like the only major difference in our expenses is rent though. That’s exactly why I will never live in Paris. 🙂 Even in Annecy, an apartment with that high of rent would have 3 bedrooms. How do people survive in Paris?? Especially smicards? I’m so glad David didn’t try to join impôts instead of répression des fraudes. He would have earned 400€ less per month and have to work in Paris. So not worth it!

      • Nadine

        About rent, it isn’t just Paris, it’s the whole area around it. We lived a ways north of Cergy-Pontoise,about an hour north of actual Paris, and we still paid 650E for a 37m2 F1 where we had electric heaters (extremely expensive, the month our daughter was born we racked up 500E that way!!), no balcony, the usual 100l balon for hot water etc. We searched for almost a year before finding a bigger, yet reasonably affordable place for a family of 3. By comparison, we live very central in the most expensive city in all of Germany, Munich, and our rent per m2 is about 2/3 of small-town life in an F1 outside of Paris. France was mind-numbingly expensive for us!!

      • I wonder if the salaries are really as low as you think. I’ve been looking at apartments lately and 2 or 3 bed aparts (80-100 sqm) in the more popular parts of Paris are around 2000-2500 euros per month. Obviously there are people who can afford this as they get snapped up pretty quickly.

        So maybe it’s just that we hang out with poor people and the middle classes are actually earning decent money like elsewhere in the world 🙂

        • I must only know poor people. lol Our friends here earn 1500-2000 a month maximum, and my belle-sœur only earned 1500 when she lived in Paris. When I tell people that I would earn 3500 a month with my Master’s degree in the US, they think I’m crazy. They think only engineers and government officials can earn “that much.” The last INSEE stats that I looked up said that only 10% of people in France earn more than 3000 net a month and 50% earn less than 1500 net a month.

          Though I guess if you have two people earning 2000 a month and receiving CAF benefits for their kids, you could bring in more than 5000 a month together. I’m seriously starting to think the only reason people have so many damn kids is for the money…

        • I must only know poor people. lol Our friends here earn 1500-2000 a month maximum, and my belle-sœur only earned 1500 when she lived in Paris. When I tell people that I would earn 3500 a month with my Master’s degree in the US, they think I’m crazy. They think only engineers and government officials can earn “that much.” The last INSEE stats that I looked up said that only 10% of people in France earn more than 3000 net a month and 50% earn less than 1500 net a month.

          Though I guess if you have two people earning 2000 a month and receiving CAF benefits for their kids, you could bring in more than 5000 a month together. I’m seriously starting to think the only reason people have so many damn kids is for the money…

          • Rajan

            hello… i am planning to study my M.S degree in france… is it worth or some other country is best?

  • Super sympa cet article. J’espere que vous posterez de nouveaux articles prochainement

  • Laura

    Don’t forget there’s also the yearly “taxe” for the carte de séjour, which recently went up in price.

  • MilkJam

    It seems odd to put some things as joint (rent money per month for both of you) but then to split some things, makes the total seem a bit off. I would think that you should put your half of rent plus your half of everything if you are going to do it that way.

    I’ll see if I have time to put one up for Normandy – obviously some things are different since we own instead of rent but we just pay the bank instead of the landlord! lol 🙂

    • I put up the totals and my half of each expense to make it easier. I guess I was trying to show the total price for single people who have to pay everything. Thanks for pointing that out!

    • huuuuh


  • MilkJam

    It seems odd to put some things as joint (rent money per month for both of you) but then to split some things, makes the total seem a bit off. I would think that you should put your half of rent plus your half of everything if you are going to do it that way.

    I’ll see if I have time to put one up for Normandy – obviously some things are different since we own instead of rent but we just pay the bank instead of the landlord! lol 🙂

  • Gwan

    Yeah, by the looks of it I totally need to get PACSed, but would have to work on the small issue of having been single for the past 5 1/2 years first… 🙁

    Anyway, to chime in with a small-city, single-person perspective, my expenses in Tours are:
    460 (my share of rent + expenses inc. water, heat, electricity, neufbox – phone & wifi, sharing a flat with 1 person)
    17 (half of my bus pass, once I get reimbursed for the other half)
    11 (insurance – rental, civil liability, breakage/loss/theft for possessions)
    33 (gym)
    c. 20 (cellphone, pay as you go, don’t use it all that much)

    = 541 fixed expenses (I’m also a bit confused about your accounting – other than the mutuelle and cell you were listing the shared expenses? Like 550 rent between both of you? Because if so, wow, kind of shocked by the glaring differences in cost of living, since I pay nearly as much for just me as for both of you together & I didn’t include food, don’t have a car and don’t have a mutuelle! My rent is definitely far from the cheapest you can find in Tours, but I don’t live in a palace or anything…)

    plus food obviously. I don’t pay nearly as much attention to how much I spend as I should. Normally buy my lunch everyday, c. 3.50 = 17.50 for the week and then I’m terrible for going to the supermarket every couple of days and walking out with a whole bunch of unnecessary things. I need to work on budgeting and being better-organised there. I’m guessing 200.

    Taxes – haven’t been here/settled long enough to know exactly. I won’t have to pay for last year as an assistant, but I guess probably will next year. We are going to start mensuel-izing the taxe d’hab for my current flat for the coming year. Soon I will also have to start paying back student loans, which will be 1500 per year, so I suppose I will have to set aside around 3000 for loans plus tax, joy joy joy.

    Well, if this exercise has succeeded in anything other than making me depressed, it’s made me think I should definitely put more effort into making my lunches and doing a weekly or maybe twice-weekly grocery shop!

    • I put the totals and my half of the expenses to make it easier to see how much I really pay. Sorry it was confusing! So for rent, heat, water, electricity, & Freebox the total is 665€ so my half is 332.50€. Then adding in food, car/gas/tolls, renter’s insurance, cell phone and mutuelle brings me up to 600€ a month.

      I’ve actually been keeping a list of how much we spend on groceries and keeping all the receipts because it seems like we waste so much money! I used to spend $85 a month on food when I lived alone in the US, and now we’re spending at least 250€ (probably more like 300€ though…) together. That doesn’t seem right.

      • Gwan

        No need to apologise, I just wasn’t 100% clear on whether they were joint or separate totals. I think groceries are definitely more expensive here than at home, but I mean most things are, with the exception of (random list off the top of my head) non-accident medical visits (NZ has a weird system), wine & other alcohol, cheese, a standard restaurant meal, contents insurance, flowers, some electronics and books.
        Basically most consumer goods cost about the same in euros that they would in dollars (an NZ dollar is usually worth roughly 50 centimes) and yet my salary (post-secu but pre-tax) works out pretty much the same as my net salary in my last job in NZ, so my purchasing power has dropped by about 50%, or let’s say 40% to be conservative. And NZ is notorious for being a low-wage economy… But at least here I have great working conditions, hours, holidays etc…

        • Gwan

          Oh and public transport here is waaaaay better

        • Yeah it feels like whenever something costs $20 in the US, it will cost 20€ in France, but with the exchange rate of 1€ = $1.40, I’m always hesitant to buy anything. Except some things are just more expensive like groceries, electronics, even haircuts (45€ here, $28 at home, which is why I never get my hair cut!) but it seems like rent (not in Paris) and utilities are about the same that I paid in the US, only a tiny bit more. My main problem is that incomes here seem to be half what I’m used to, plus the exchange rate is crap, so I feel so incredibly poor.

          Considering that we have poor public transportation outside of NY and other major cities and pretty much the worst health system out of all industrialized countries, not to mention ridiculous tuition at universities, I am thankful for how inexpensive those things are here.

        • Meat is more expensive and its better to go to an outdoor market for fruits and vegies.

      • sheila meadows

        How on earth did you live on $85 a month on food in the USA? I am a great cook and spend a lot more than that. Considering moving to France but after reading how expensive it is, am thinking?? My friend in France owns her home and no car, cooks a lot, doesn’t go out to restaurants, etc., and live on $400 a month.

        • Aldi!

          • sheila meadows

            Even with Aldi which we have, there is no way to eat HEALTHY on $85 a month. Absolutely, impossible. A good grain bread is about $3.00.

          • Your Aldi is expensive!!! A loaf of bread at my Aldi (at least when I lived in the US in 2004-6) was only 49 cents, and I had a breadmaker so I usually made my own bread anyway. Prices have most likely increased since then, but I used to live in an economically depressed area with a lower cost of living than in larger cities.

          • sheila meadows

            You are going back almost TEN YEARS and things are much different now. Even making your own bread, impossible to live on $85 a month unless you eat junk food.

          • And this blog post is five years old… It was not impossible for me to live on $85 a month back then and still be healthy. Plenty of people were able to do it. It may not be possible now depending on the area you live in, but that doesn’t change that it was possible for me ten years ago.

          • sheila meadows

            You are actually talking apples vs oranges. I am moving to a lovely place outside of Lyon and found a wonderful 1br apartment, very large for approximately $300 a month, unfurnished and in a good location. Going to try it for three years to see if I want to move there permanently from Florida, USA

          • That’s why it’s so difficult to judge how much everything will cost – because everything depends on where you live within the country and where you shop and what you’re willing to spend extra or less money on. I was surprised at how expensive everything was in France because I was so used to lower prices in the US, but I also heard from other American expats in France who thought prices there were lower than in the US (mostly because they had lived in San Francisco or New York). Then I moved to Australia and was truly blown away by prices – I regularly spent $400 a month on food! (And I’m still only about 95 pounds so I don’t need to eat a lot.)

            Are you moving to France for work or to retire?

          • sheila meadows

            I am moving to retire as I miss Europe and by moving to France I can easily go to the UK where I am originally from. Going to stay for three years and see what happens. I have a home here in Florida but miss Europe very much.

          • Good luck with your retirement! Not needing a visa will make it much easier. I’m sure you’ll like Lyon; it’s a lovely place.

          • sheila meadows

            Thank you so very much. I am really looking forward to the move and renting for three years will make it easier to make a decision on staying in Europe or remaining in Florida where there are too many memories that I just have to make a break.

          • sheila meadows

            On the other hand, who wants to live in a depressed area and with the crime rate in those areas, that is most certainly NOT A WAY TO LIVE!

          • It’s not a question of wanting to live in an economically depressed area – some of us have no choice because we grew up in poverty and have little access to education to get ahead. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship and move away but most people are not as lucky as I was.

  • Being PACSed or married only makes a difference to your income tax if one of you doesn’t work (or possibly earns very little), and the only reason this happens is that you can pool your tax-free allowances. So, for example, I have a married friend who earns the same amount as me but who has a husband who doesn’t work, so they have two tax allowances for the same amount of money and therefore pay less than I do as a single person. If her husband started to work, however, they would essentially pay higher-rate tax on all of his income.

    I find it odd that the system still encourages stay-at-home wives/husbands in this way, even for people who don’t have children, but I guess it only doesn’t apply to very many people because you have to either have one person with a very high income or be prepared to live on a lot less than you otherwise would.

    • At least for the US, the reason behind it is that the tax codes were written before WWII when women very rarely worked anyway so there was always one person working and one person staying at home. It definitely needs to be updated!

  • Cynthia

    Just a note : if you’re an owner, you pay la taxe fonciere AND la taxe d’habitation.

    • Double taxation, anyone?

      • MilkJam

        Not really double taxation, one is property tax and the other is occupency tax.

        Double taxation is when the US taxes its foreign residents and then takes away their right to vote! (happens in some states if you no longer have an instate address…)

        • sheila meadows

          Is the occupancy tax the same as in the UK or is it more expensive? How do they assess the value?

  • Amber

    Jennie, this is a really great, informative post. Obviously I don’t have the same use for it as somebody who is thinking of coming here, but I often get asked the same question and will gladly refer people to this post when they ask me!

    As somebody else already pointed out, as homeowners we pay both the taxe fonciere and the taxe d’habitation. Since we bought in July, we paid the pro-rated amount for July to December, which was something like 300€ — our combined taxe d’hab and tax fonc should be around 1200€/year, max.

    To give an idea of what a mortgage is like, we reimburse 905€/month for 18 years. Our loan was for 159k€, and I paid roughly 10% in down payment, but it is possible to buy with no down payment at all, as a lot of my friends have done. However, they pay nearly 1200€/month in loan payments. Even having 5% is better than having 0%. Our house is 110m2 in an suburb of Lille that is in the midst of development (i.e. 20 years from now it’ll be awesome.. and we won’t be here anymore, of course) to give you an idea. When we rented we paid 597€/month for a three bedroom, 95m2 apartment in a safe but not “popular” per se burb of Lille. Like you, I consider myself to be an extreme penny pincher, and i’m willing to not take the “best” apartment or the “best” house if it means we can have more money to live on every month.

    Our monthly bills are roughly the same as yours, except we spend more in food. I am a faithful shopper at Lidl, but since i’ve been pregnant it’s been harder and harder to tolerate grocery store so i’ve been buying on Chronodrive. There’s no extra charge for a pick-up grocery service, but there’s less choice so you end up spending more. I’d say that for two people (one preggo) we spend about 300€/month in food, including my lunches that I buy in the company canteen 3-4 days a week, and we go out to eat once or twice a month (usually on Groupons though!). J’s lunch consumption doesn’t count because he’s got a food allowance with his job.

    Your car insurance is cheap! I’ve got a 2006 Peugeot 1007, diesel, and we’ll be paying 87€/month for insurance, so about 100€/month with our house insurance included. With my 2000 Smart, it was 57€/month. I’ve had a lot of scrapes and bumps that weren’t my fault, but regardless, your insurance goes up really, really quick. However, I drive more than 50km/day, 5 days a week, and I never pay more than 100€/month in gas. I’ve had the car for a month now, and we’ve spent 86€ total in diesel. It makes a huge difference to get a car that is both fuel efficient and diesel. My Smart, which was regular unleaded, cost me between 100€-120€/month in gas. For repairs though, in the last year i’d spent more than 1200€ — it’s a good idea to get a brand that can be serviced anywhere, because Smart could only be serviced at Mercedes. My Peugeot can go to any old garage.
    Luckily I don’t pay for toll roads because if I have to drive that far it’s reimbursed by my company, and J has the beep thing for tolls so his company pays them directly, otherwise we’d be paying hundreds per month in tolls — he manages 23 departments and is always in the car!

    On the “kids” note, you are so right that families with kids have more advantages, but it doesn’t start with one kid. Almost nothing changes with one kid. With two kids, you’ve got a few more benefits (but not much).. it’s really from 3 + that the benefits kick in (and let me add that it is NOT worth it if you are only in it for the money! Pregnancy has not been fun and i’m not sure i’ll ever do this to myself again.).
    If you made under 44K€ in 2008, you qualify for la prime à la naissance (i.e. “baby bonus”) from the CAF, and if you qualify for that prime, then the gov’t will pay the “frais patronal” for a nounou, meaning a nounou will only be about 3€/hr. If you are in this range you also qualify for a monthly stipend that is means tested. In 2008 we didn’t actually have to pay any taxes cause we got married and J was a student for the first 8 months (and i was a teaching assistant.. woo.), so we qualify for everything, but it’s not much. I think we’ll get something like 180€/month to help with the baby. The nounou will cost around 300€/month and i’m leaving another 100€/month for baby expenses (diapers, wipes, creams, etc) so in the big picture, it doesn’t help to have one kid. The Octo-mom had the “right” idea! I’ll say it’s a heck of a lot less expensive than in the states though, so i’m not complaining! However, if we’d waited till 2012 to have our first baby, we would qualify for absolutely nothing, so we unintentionally picked the “right” year as far as getting some benefits goes.

    In 2009, we paid 3700€ in income tax, 707€ in taxe d’hab, and 291€ in pro-rated tax fonciere..I think we pay 8 or 9% in income tax. We’ve calculated that in 2010 we’ll pay nearly 500€/month (over 10 months) in taxes, and hope that we get a refund in the end rather than a bill. In 2009 we were penalized because I made more money than J. This year, J is making a considerably larger amount of money than me (he was unemployed 4 months in 2009; i’m on maternity leave and have reduced my hours for 2010) so we’ll be penalized for him, but I’m hoping it’ll actually balance out to be about the same thing. I’d say that at the moment he makes a third more or twice as much as I do.

    Oh and 600€ a month for J’s student loans from his grande ecole, and 100€/month for my car payment. Both will be done in one year!

    So my monthly bills when added up kind of make me sick to my stomach — we need 3000€/month to live comfortably..not to say that that’s exactly how much our bills are, but that it’s pretty darn close (i’d say we’ll spend 2800€/month with taxes and nounou included).

    Anyway I hope that can help to add some perspective. I’m not sure whether we’d be better off in the US or not – I wouldn’t make as much money there and J would probably have it about the same but with less benefits.

    • Thanks for this Amber! Wow, only 600€ a month for a 3 bedroom apartment. That is so cheap!

      Put together, I think David & I need 2000€ a month for the bare minimum (he has more expenses, like student loans), which is a lot considering how little we brought in last year. Even after he pays off the loans (Oct. 2011 I think), our biggest expense is still rent and food. If I actually needed to drive here, I’d consider getting a diesel but I don’t see the point right now. Luckily David can walk to work and get tickets-restaurant for lunches, so that helps a tiny bit.

      I suppose I should be thankful for the good healthcare and unemployment benefits (I’m not even thinking about retirement since we’re all screwed for that!), but I rarely need to see a doctor and don’t take any medication so sometimes I feel like it’s a waste of money. Better to be safe than sorry, I guess…

      I would definitely be better off in the US, income-wise, though I’m not sure I’d like the lack of government help. Of course, I could always try Canada instead. 🙂

      To compare, my monthly bills in the US were also about $600 a month, but of course there is no taxe d’habitation or residency card fee (obviously) AND I usually received a couple hundred as a refund for income tax every year. Plus there’s no vehicle inspection, tolls in Michigan, or checking account fees, etc. Even car repairs were rarer because my car was newer, and of course gas is cheaper. So with a much higher income (and I only worked part-time because I was always a full-time student in the US) and fewer bills to pay, I had a lot more money leftover at the end of the month.

      University and healthcare are much more expensive for most people, but for 6 years of college, I only paid $8000 thanks to scholarships and I was still on my parent’s insurance until I left, so the few prescriptions I needed weren’t that expensive – though I believe I paid about $130 a year for contacts. (They would cost 130€ in France too, but they’re included in the 360€ a year I pay for the mutuelle.)

      • winterlover

        hi, I was wondering what exactly is tickets-restaurant?

        • They’re vouchers from your employer for a certain amount that can be used at restaurants. They’re basically to help pay for lunch.

      • winterlover

        I am actually a last year chemistry student of a bachelors degree, and I m just doing research before I have to go out into the real world and I want to start my world in France, preferably Paris! this article really helped me realize there is more a lot to learn to survive in the real world that I wouldn’t have known otherwise!!! love it!!!

  • Chez Loulou

    This is such valuable information for people considering making the move to France. I’ve written two similar posts and would like to add a link to this one if you don’t mind.

  • Sampada

    hi Jennie, thanks a lot for this post…
    m planning to apply for assistant programme ths year and have started saving my salary…
    but when i will convert my indian rupees into euro, i will be left wd almost nothing!!bt anyway, keep on posting!!

  • Sam4s

    Hello Jennie,

    I would like to take admission in International Space University, away from the admission fees i need to arrange accommodation, transportation and everything. As you spend lot of time in France, can you suggest any concession for students or another way to minimize the monthly expenditure. Kindly mail me on “” 

  • Viky

    may i know the salary for Cisco Certified Network associate with 2 years of experience

  • Ampettitt

    Wow, interesting post. How about the cost of living for a single parent? I would appreciate any input. Thank You!

  • My husband makes less than he made in the states. He is a Professor (he did research only in the states), but we are doing so much better here. However, I am handicapped and so are both of my young children so we are well taken care of. My kids have Autism and we all have Elhers Danlos Syndrome, we know that we have hyper flexiblity but we dont know if we just have EDS III or Classic EDS that involves the skin. We found some missing genetic links that point to not only autism but to EDS I or II, classic type. My geneticist has even offered to look at my adult daughter’s DNA who live in the US as comparison. Just need to find somewhere in the US that will extract the DNA and send it to her. I also have an auto immune disease. I also get disability from the states so I get no money here but my kids do and we get full medical insurance. Gas is insane, that I agree with but they have awesome public transportation here which my husband uses every day as he works about 30 minutes away. He also gets lots of exercise from walking to the tram and to the train. He also walks to get our bread every other day. We also have NO!!! credit cards and are not in debt. When we lived in the US we were in debt up to our eyeballs. We are getting ready to buy a house but live in a nice rental house. I have a washer and a dryer (crazy….I have a dryer whoo hooo) my dishwasher is those things at the ends of our arms. I have aides that come two to three times a week. My kids get free transportation to the specialized school and to therapy. I am far happier here especially as far as medical is concerned. Of course there are some jerk docs and good docs just like the US but most are good and know their stuff here. They had no idea what was wrong with me in the US and I now not only have permanent nerve damage but my back is deformed and Im only 45 (Ive been sick since I was 28 but worked through it until I got so bad I could not move and I now can only walk about 11 feet with assistance and I have a wheel chair and am waiting to my electric wheel chair as my shoulders now dislocate if I try to push myself due to my EDS). I go back to my aqua PT soon, we had to take a break and may have to again when they operate on me. We are all much happier here! In the US my kids would be in a loud public school and therapy would have to come out of pocket. We did get awesome early intervention in the US which we would have not gotten here so Im thankful we lived in the US when my babies were born. We did try public school and my kids regressed so we can only imagine what would happen to them in the US. They are very sensitive. I also will get a service dog that I only have to pay a couple hundred euro for two weeks of training with my dog….training me. In the US service dogs are an out of pocket expense that costs at the very least 10 thousand….that is the cheapest I could find and its for blind people and you basically have to train your own dog and they help you. Dogs for Autistic kids here are very difficult to get and about 30 thousand in the US. Here its a wait, there its, lots of begging for money and charity drives or taking out a second loan on your house that you probably already have done for therapy. They told me that my kids would benefit from my dog but to wait until my dog bonds with me. Anyway, sorry to write a book. I would not move back to the US unless someone wants to give me a few million dollars! LOL

    • Also I forgot to mention that our family dog got loose and the police brought her back home. Try getting the Police to do that in the US. Also I forgot to point out that my husband is French. He has an American green card. I am American and my kids are dual American/French. I just got my 10 year visa.

    • Tsambika

      Hi I know your post is a year old but if you are reading. May I suggest to you to read TLIG.ORG, you can type in google search and keep reading. Your life will be changed forever!!!

  • yumma

    how much does it cost overall a year though urgggh! need to hand in homework on it =P

  • M N Ghous

    Waooo what a correct calcolation

  • erdem

    hello jenny how are you me and my brother thinking to move to france my uncle is living in chateaudun and he has hes own house can you just tell me how much money do we need to live there how much will we spend everymonth

  • Hannah

    Thank you so much for this! I was wondering, you mentioned not being allowed to get a second job. This worries me since I will need to cover all expenses… is this normal for one job to demand your full commitment despite not being full time??

    Thank you!


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  • sheila meadows

    What is your view on retiring to France from Florida?

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  • Viviana Bernal


    Is a 120,000 euro a year salary a good number to live in Annecy? (2 people). Is hard to tell given the fact that we have no good idea on taxes and other expenses. I understand Annevy is very expensive compared to other small French towns, but I’m hoping you can give me a good idea on expenses given the fact that you actually live in Annecy.

    Thanks you!

    • Um, yes. That is an amazing salary for France. Half of all French families live on 20,000 euros or less per year, so you will do just fine. I haven’t lived in Annecy since 2008, but I only made 14,000 euros a year and I was able to get by. Annecy is getting more and more expensive because of its close proximity to Switzerland where the cost of living is much higher, and many people live in Annecy and commute to Geneva for work where salaries are 3 to 4 times higher. However, prices aren’t completely out of control like in Paris.

      Have fun in Annecy! Eat at Le Freti in the old town for some amazing Alpine cheese dishes, like raclette and tartiflette. 🙂

      • Viviana Bernal


        Thank you so much for your prompt reply! I don’t mean to keep bugging you but we are just trying to research as much as possible before making a decision on the move. A good friend of mine did mention that Annecy was rather expensive due to its proximity to Geneva; but how crazy is it really?
        At the biggining it will probably be just my fiance working. I am an Architect but due to Annecy’s small size, I think finding work will be rather difficult, that and the language. We will definitely devote most of our energy in learning it so that should be something that can be taken care of within a year or so. I have seen very few flats for rent on long term basis, due to the fact that most flat owners are seeing vacation/shirt term rentals as a more profitable avenue…prices I have seen range between 500-1800 euros (I believe monthly). What worries us the most are taxes. We live in NYC right now and taxes are crazy! Almost 50% of our income is gone every month…so a move would only really make sense if the cost of living and taxes are reduced.

        Any info or advise you can give us will be greatly appreciate it!

        Thanks again!

        • Taxes in France are high, especially for people with high incomes so you might end up paying more there – especially with an income of 120k euros a year, since that pretty much puts you in the top 1-5%. Some tiny studio apartments went for 500 a month in Annecy 8 years ago, so I can only imagine they are more expensive now. There is also a lack of housing which increases prices even more. Short-term rentals are becoming much more common which also jacks up the prices (thanks a lot, Airbnb!) The standard rental lease in France is for 3 years (though of course you can break it any time as long as you give three months’ notice), but you do have to have a co-signer, which can be difficult for foreigners to find. Will your fiance’s work be able to help find housing?

          Cost of living should be less than in NY, but taxes will probably be higher, so you might still end up with less money each month. I wouldn’t count on being able to find a job in Annecy without speaking French fluently or having a degree earned from a French university. You’d have to go to Grenoble, Geneva, or Lyon to find a good job.

  • azeez

    i do not speak french, can l work in france

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