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 three 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 this varies based on where you are in the city
Utilities & internet 40€/mo 80€/mo sometimes these are included in your rental
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.

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10 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.

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  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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