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Live in France for About Half the Cost of the US

Meme for the cost of living in France report 2023

Some of you may know that my career in real estate started with International Living when I opened their Paris office in 2001 right about this time of year…oh my…that’s 22 years ago! Their readers wanted help purchasing property in France and because I didn’t know much about it at the time, I hired someone who did. That was the beginning of this adventurous journey undertaken out of necessity, but which has been very rewarding on many levels.

Splashpage for International Living's website

Not long ago, Tuula published an article about the Cost of Living in France 2023: Example Table of Monthly Expenses Included which is worth a read. In today’s Nouvellettre®, I’d like to offer up some of her good information…with my own additional comments.

Cost of Living in France 2023: Example Table of Monthly Expenses Included
By Tuula Rampont

Spreadsheet for a monthly budget of living in France

Tuula: “The country is much more affordable than many North Americans could ever imagine.”

How right she is. The only thing I can think of that is more expensive in France than in the U.S. is gasoline…and maybe dry cleaning! Outside of a few things, everything is a bargain, and when it comes to food, is not only less expensive, but is a much higher quality, too.

Tuula: “Housing prices vary greatly throughout France and some very interesting deals are to be made in areas that combine attractive climates, established expat communities, and a wealth of social and cultural activities for active retirees.”

She’s right in the article that “Paris and the French Riviera are the highest priced housing markets in France,” but these are the two areas of the country where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. She recommends other areas of the country if you’re looking for a bargain, but while you’re adding up costs, keep in mind that living in the countryside, where it’s cheaper, means owning and operating a car which just shot your budget over the top. On top of that, if you want to travel outside of France from more remote and cheaper housing areas, then just getting to and from an international airport may cost you more than you had in mind—in both time and money. My advice is to spend money where it makes the most sense, and spending a bit more on housing is likely well worth it.

Meme contrasting the difference in the cost of housing in France and the US

Tuula: “A couple can expect to pay, on average, $600 per month on groceries, depending on specific needs and tastes, and where you choose to do your shopping.”

I can’t even comment on this, since every person’s grocery budget varies depending on how often they dine out and what kinds of foods satisfy their palates. There is no doubt, however, that fresh produce in France is not only a lot less expensive than in the U.S., but is a whole lot better quality—one doesn’t need to go to a specialty store like Whole Foods and break the bank to get “whole quality.” Wine is where you’ll see the biggest difference, as even a €5 bottle of French table wine can be every bit as good as a $25 Californian.

I’m a diner-out person, and literally eat almost all my meals in a restaurant because I gave up cooking once my daughter went to college and I was left home alone. Tuula is right, you don’t need to dine in Michelin-star restaurants to have great meals. “Au contraire.” Good French bistrots can be gourmet experiences at a very reasonable price. In 1996, I wrote the first online restaurant guide to Paris titled The Leeds Good-Value Guide to Paris Restaurants. The first few years of living in the City of Light, I explored the mama-papa bistrots and found 100 in the 20 districts of Paris that filled the guide book—where one could dine out at a serious bargain.

That’s how I learned how to make dining out a regular affair without breaking the bank. During the Covid-19 confinement when I had no choice but to cook and dine in every meal, I did the math and discovered that I hadn’t saved much money, but had spent an awful lot of time cooking and cleaning up. Besides, dining out is a social experience and part of the fun of living in France. This is where I advise that you don’t skimp, unless you really have to.

Tuula: “Many expats who move to France prefer to leave their cars at home, which is an excellent idea in larger cities—and in many smaller towns. Relying on public transportation—buses, trains, and trams—in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg, Nice, Aix-en-Provence, and a host of other cities, is a great way to save money.”

Yep. The cost of owning and operating a car in Europe is €616 per month, which varies by as much as €344 per month between countries. The analysis by LeasePlan was based on the first three years of operational costs and an annual mileage of 20,000 kilometers. That’s about €7,400 a year you could spend instead on trips to other parts of France and Europe! Or spend a bit of that on the increased housing costs of living in major cities like Paris or Nice, where you will never need a car!

Also, don’t forget the freedom of not needing a car! When you’re in retirement age, perhaps driving isn’t as much fun, and maybe even a lot more dangerous. Plus the hassle of maintaining it may not be what you had in mind for a more relaxed lifestyle. Dump the car, head to the cities, and enjoy all they have to offer!

Tuula: “You’ll find utility costs low as comparted to the U.S.. France has one of the lowest electricity rates in Europe, 26% less than the average.”

Not only are the rates low, but Europe uses a lot less energy because they have been conservative from the beginning. Appliances are designed to be ecological, economical and use less energy. Lighting is programmed to be on only when it’s needed, you might have already noticed. And it might shock you to know that you can get high-speed internet, plus VOIP phone service and satelllite TV with hundreds of channels for as little as €34.99 a month! Just check out Free.fr if you don’t believe me!

Tuula: “The only thing you’ll need to enter the French healthcare system as an expat is a Long Stay Visa. You can enroll after three months of living in the country, and France must be your primary residence for six months of the year.”

The French healthcare system will pay up to 70% of your healthcare costs and I find the costs to be about one-tenth of what they are in the U.S.. When an ambulance took my cousin from the Hôpital Pasteur in Nice to where she was staying in town after having broken her leg and been operated on, they apologized for having to charge for the ride. The cost? A whopping €68! When was the last time you saw an ambulance bill for that price in the U.S.?

The care is better, too, because the system is not based on profit. Tthe healthier you are the more money the government saves. I have nothing but good stories to tell, not only from personal experience, but stories from friends and clients, that sing the praises of the French healthcare system. That alone is a big reason to be in France!

Tuula: “Miscellaneous fees: homeowner’s insurance and maintenance fees.”

Homeowner’s insurance is particularly low when living in a multi-family condominium because the building is insured by the homeowner association. Your cost is just for your personal effects—about €250 to €350 a year. Homeowner association fees average (according to OSCAR, the Observatoire national des charges de copropriété de l’ARC) about €50 per square meter per year. I used to own a co-op in the West Village in New York and the annual dues were $540 per square meter!…Again, 10 times that of France!

Property taxes weren’t mentioned in the article, but I find that taxes in France on property are again, about one-tenth of what they are in the U.S. My taxes on my Paris apartment were €941 for 2023. If this same property were in California, the tax would have been about $12,500!!!

Tuula: “While retirees might be attracted to the high standard of living and excellent infrastructure, the real draw remains the access to affordable, quality healthcare and a cost of living that is well-below current standards in the United States.”

No joke! Tuula is right on. Thanks to International Living for confirming what we continually preach. Retirees can live in France for half of the cost of the U.S., and greatly enhance and enrich their lives, all at the same time!

What’s stopping you?

One consultation with me will put you on the right road in the right direction. Visit our website to book a consultation now!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds highlighting her red-framed glassesAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. Our one-hour webinar on “How to Retire in France” this past Saturday with the Federation of Alliances Françaises USA went swimmingly well—we had hundreds of viewers and some really wonderful questions. If you missed it, no sweat, as the AFU.S.A makes it available on their site, as do we (!) for your viewing and sharing with others. Click on either link to watch!

Adrian Leeds and Annabel Simms at Apres-Midi in ParisP.P.S. Be sure to read the report and watch the video recording of our Après-Midi yesterday with Annabel Simms at Le Progrès in Paris. Next month/next year, we hope to be back at Le Café de la Mairie where we can seat twice as many attendees!

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