From designers like Louis Vuitton to expensive restaurants to regal castles, images you associate with France don’t exactly scream cheap. Am I right?
Friends and family often ask me about the cost of living in France and how expensive things are here. Is France expensive? Overall, I’d say yes. Most things cost more here than they do in the United States — and I’m saying that about life in the country, not Paris. Luckily right now, the Euro isn’t super strong, so things aren’t as bad as they could be for us Americans. I’m taking advantage of this and stashing money under my mattress. Don’t tell anyone.
What is the cost of living like in France and what is cheap in France?
Cost of living in France
Note: For my calculations below, I’ve used 1 €=US$1.30.
- Gas: (These France gas prices are based on a local station’s prices which have recently gone down.) You think you’ve got problems in the U.S.? Here gas prices are ridiculous.
- Regular: $7.38/gallon and Diesel: $6.64/gallon. Thank goodness cars are small and generally get good gas mileage.
- Tolls: Thinking of taking a road trip? Bring a ton of cash. A simple round trip on the autoroute to Paris from where we live is $78, and that’s not including gas! You can do some fun calculations here.
- Cars: How expensive is France for cars? They’re not cheap. Even “regular” cars cost more than the same model in the U.S. Note that the VAT (tax) is built into the French price, so the sticker price is the actual price. It’s hard to compare apples to apples, though, because the engines are different. Oh, and bargaining at the dealer? Doesn’t really work that well.
- Clothes: If you want good quality clothes that don’t cost a ton, you’re out of luck in most cases. Promo codes? Nope. Big sales? Not really. Les Soldes, France’s big sales, only run twice a year and are mandated by law. It’s like Black Friday, except they run for a month. Aside from January and July, good luck finding a deal on clothes! French people are used to paying full price. So have I bought any clothes in France? Nope! I’m not even joking. Tom stocks up in the U.S. Total shopaholic.
- Some grocery items: Things like Cereal, taco kits, ice cream and shampoo all cost double what I’d pay in the U.S. The prices are more like Manhattan grocery store prices. Or more.
- Starbucks: Luckily for my wallet, the closest Starbucks is in Paris. Expect to pay 50% more than NYC prices for the same thing. Worth it for me? Yes, because I miss my chai latties like crazy and I don’t get to Paris very often.
- Takeout: McDonald’s, Domino’s, Chinese place, etc. Tom and I each got a noodle dish and dumplings from a local Chinese restaurant and paid $40. For takeout. Yikes!
- Makeup: Even French cosmetics cost more than the same product in the U.S. A product that might cost $26 in the U.S. costs $36 here, or more depending on what it is. I avoid Sephora at all costs. Too tempting.
- Electronics: Everything from a washing machine to an iPad to even a phone charger cost more.
- Other things like pet supplies, shoes and lottery tickets (EuroMillions is $2.60 per line!) all cost more as well.
Depressed yet? Don’t be! Here are the things that balance out the high cost of living in France.
Things that are cheaper in France
- Wine and cheese: Sure, you can find a vintage bottle and pay through the nose, but generally speaking, great bottles of wine can be found at the grocery store for $5-7. I love trying local wines from nearby vineyards and I don’t think I’ve paid more than $10 yet. And for a wedge of Brie? $2.50 or so will get you something decent. Wine and cheese top my list of things that are cheaper in France.
- Healthcare: I always smile when it’s time to pay the doctor in France. A general practitioner will run you about $30 and a specialist slightly more. Great, right? That’s not all. You get 70% reimbursed by the French Social Security system. Yes, you read that right. It’s a majorly different system than the U.S., and I’m not going to get into the politics of it, but basically, everyone has the right to affordable healthcare here regardless of employer and employment status. And kids under 6? Free. Checkups, vaccines, surgery. All covered. Medicines? A cream the dermatologist prescribed me in the U.S. was over $200 but the exactly same thing here was $9. Brand name. Same. Exact. Thing. And you get 70% back and more if you have supplemental coverage!
- Veterinarian bills: Just like going to the doctor, going to the vet with Dagny is always pleasant. Our vet is really sweet and doesn’t nickel and dime us for every little thing. She cut Dagny’s nails, checked her knees, cleaned her ears, expressed her anal glands and more all for the consult fee of $35. Heartworm meds? Like $10/month. Spay surgery? Half of what it was in New Jersey.
- Designer stuff like Louis Vuitton (depending on exchange rate): The Speedy 25 bag on the U.S. site is $765 and the same bag on the French site is $631 with the exchange rate how it is now. Almost worth that trip to Paris, right? I said almost.
And what’s the same? Going to the movies, books, internet and TV service, hotels, rent prices and eating out are all roughly the same. Of course there’s a wide range there, but in general, prices are comparable to what you’d find in the U.S.
So when you look at everything, is it expensive to live in France? It actually seems to equal out in the end, especially when you factor in healthcare costs. The exception here would be if you’re a tourist. Everything is more expensive in Paris!
Did anything on my lists surprise you about the cost of living in France?
I nannied for three summers in France so this list made me laugh- so true about the doctor, wine and cheese! I stock up on makeup and bring all electronics so I don’t have to buy any once I get there… didn’t know about the tolls!
Yup, the prices are definitely eye-opening. I find something new every day and say oh noooooo, it’s sooo expensive but then going to the doctor will make me smile.
They say “bon jour” regardless of the time of day.
“Bonjour” is litterally “Good day”. Nothing weird there.
Totally agree about the clothes. That’s why I left Paris for Miami a week ago with one bag, and came back today with two. What’s happened? Just a trip to an outlet mall…
McDonald’s, however, seemed pretty much the same. But in the US, I don’t have to queue a long time to get a whopper… In Paris, there is only ONE Burger King, which opened in late 2013, and people are still rushing into it.
I had been looking for a list like this when I moved to France 4 months ago. So far I’ve done virtually no shopping for clothes or makeup here. The U.S. is so much better for that. Healthcare does make it worth it, though!
Hello sorry but where didn t you find your prices because a lipstick from Chanel Armani Dior are 22 euros after the l Oréal bourgeois are only 10euros i was in the USA in July I bought 6 chicken breast in the shop not even butcher no free range normal ones for 15 dollars I m sorry that expensive compare to France
Terry Winkler says
I’m an older american who owns a home in Uzes and live in France for half the year.
Your article on prices is geared to a younger american consumer who quite frankly is not taking full advantage of how to live in France, like the French.
Of course fast food is expensive here, but why would you even think about eating it.
Why would you even think about going to a Starbucks in France.
Buying a car here is silly, as i rent vehicles for long periods. However, small efficient vehicles, which are most common, are way cheaper here in France to buy, despite VAT.
Who eats takeout in France?
Food at the supermarkets and local markets are less than half the price in the US, and what is most important, wine and cheese much lower.
Eating out in France is about 1/4 the price of eating out in US.
Clothing can be more money in France, especially shoes. However, if you shop in local markets, you will find prices very low and very stylish.
Gas and tolls are shockingly expensive, but the French don’t feel entitled to take road trips all the time like in the US. Besides, the highways make it a pleasure to drive. Better to take TGV in off hours.
We bought new appliances after we arrived, and bought a stove, stovetop, dishwasher, clothes washer, refrigerator, all smaller appliances. The total cost was the same as buying one large oversized refrigerator in the US.
What is shockingly more expensive is to be a homeowner here and have to go to a Mr Bricolage. However, to buy and maintain a home in France, especially where I live is totally out of the question for 99% of americans,. It has less to do with the prices as it does with our weak american currency. Most americans think they are rich, but when you travel to developed countries in Europe who have a high standard of living, high wages, and a strong currency, it will be expensive.
In summary, you have to live and buy like the french, and live will be simpler and certainly more economical than the US.
Mr le Marquis du Galipot says
Eating out in France is about 1/4 the price of eating out in US.
The choice is also much greater with fully complete Menus of 3 – 4 courses and more.
Bread (very fresh baguettes) is normally not ‘rationed’ to one roll or so, but the basket will simply be replenished when getting low – no questions!
Wine in Restaurants (even smaller ones, similar to Diners) is not only available, but is relatively cheap
The portions are reasonable and not calculated to ‘force’ a Doggy Bag for the next day – or indeed for the Doggy.
In the USA, I found that if you stayed with Diners, you got about the same prices as most daily Restaurants in France, but without the Wine, and if you went to ‘Specialised Restaurants’ (like Italian/Chinese etc) then you paid more than in France.
For Tourists, don’t forget the French groups like ‘LES ROUTIERS’ – started to cater for long distance transport drivers, these have nothing to do with ‘Transport Cafes’ – They are very cheap, inclusive of wine, friendly , have free and extensive parking, showers, and local specialities are always present on the Menu….The best things in the World for eating food of a high quality.
A tip – Sometimes it’s better to eat in the ‘ROUTIERS’ at MIDDAY, since the evening meal is just a ‘warmed-up’ version of midday – not always, but sometimes.