Three Years On, Part III: Cost of Living

Next month I begin my fourth year in Paris.  I wanted to use the milestone to share some reflections on how I have changed and ongoing tips on how to make the move yourself.  This is the third in a series of four.  You can find the first one here and the second one here.

People are always a bit shocked when I say it’s “not that expensive” to live here.  I say that because I am thinking of places like NYC, SF, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, etc. where it really is shockingly expensive to live.  Paris isn’t, and rather than just tell you my “feelings” I have put together a spreadsheet for you based on my basic expenses across the last 3 years (I have not included weekend trips/vacations because that really varies per person).

Category Year 1 (2014) Years 2-3 (2015-2016) Comments
Rent 8 m^2, 650€/mo 39 m^2, 1350€/mo both apartments furnished
Location 17eme 2eme I don’t see the point of living in the suburbs; Paris is worth paying for.
Taxe d’habitation n/a 80€/mo once you switch to a working visa you are fully responsible for this
Utilities & internet 40€/mo 80€/mo sometimes these are included
Food 100€/mo 200€/mo in Year 1 that was 90% canned, whereas now it’s 100% fresh
Cellphone 70€/mo 70€/mo I’ve never skimped on this because I make a lot of calls to the US and travel in Europe a lot. This package comes with unlimited calls to the USA and 20 gigs of data which I can use anywhere in Europe AND the USA.
Health Insurance 35€/mo 70€/mo I now participate in the French Health care system so those payments are quite a bit more than my “foreigner’s insurance” (roughly double) but it means I am fully covered.
Renter’s Insurance 20€/mo 22€/mo some landlords don’t require this, but the prefecture almost always does.
Metro 25€/mo 75€/mo In my first year I just tried to make do with the occasional ticket purchase, but it’s just too much nuisance. I don’t use the metro all the time, but the annual pass gives me access to all of Ile de France for free on the weekends
Legal and Accounting 100€/mo 100€/mo Unless you possess a very special set of skills you will need help filing your French tax return as well as dealing with specific questions on your dossier for the prefecture
Etc 100€/mo 200€/mo this is for haircuts or clothing or spending money and varies per person.   I’m a single male in my 30s with strong minimalist tendencies, so keep that in mind.
Monthly Totals 1140€/mo 2197€/mo you can see that as a visitor, it’s not a big burden if you’re willing to sacrifice (e.g. canned food), but when you’ve decided to settle in here, it’s going to cost a lot more.
Annual Totals 13680€/year 26364€/year The French government will require access to more than 13k€ per year for the long term stay visa. I’m just pointing out you won’t actually need more.

What are some expenses you didn’t plan for?  Feel free to share in the comments below.

5 thoughts on “Three Years On, Part III: Cost of Living

  1. I’m surprised by the jump in food costs. I’m currently surviving off of Picard and Marks & Spencer (I refuse to cook in my shoebox in St. Germain) but I figured once I moved to a place with a regular kitchen, my costs would go down. The markets seem to be fairly cheap.

  2. Pingback: Three Years On, Part IV: Where is home for the immigrant? | The American in Paris

  3. I see that the first year you do not pay taxe d’habitation, but only did when switching to a working visa. I just began my second year and after reporting my revenus, received a letter stating that I owe taxe d’habitation. It seems like just living here continuously means I have to pay this, even though I have a visitor visa. Does this mean that they made a mistake and I can contest it?

    • Melissa – I think it was more likely that my landlady paid my first year’s taxe d’habitation to avoid declaring my rental income. I wasn’t going to tell her I needed to pay it 🙂

      I did pay it when I was a still a visitor – after I changed apartments to one from an absentee landlord to one that was owned by a lady who does everything by the letter of the French law.

      You owe the taxe d’habitation unless you have worked out something with your landlady/landlord otherwise. I just got my love note from the Finance department today myself.

      There’s nothing to contest since it’s not a mistake to receive this tax. There’s no exemption for being a foreign national.

      • Thanks for clearing that up. It was quite the surprise… even stranger, my roommate (another American who came here at the same time I did) hasn’t received anything regarding taxes. Lucky me 🙂

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