Planning your budget
So, let’s discuss the sore topic! You just arrived in France, and you must feel like doing all kinds of things and discover everything your new home has to offer. But for that, you’re going to have to stay organized!
Here’s a little overview of the expenses you’ll have to take into account in your budget, so that month ends don’t hit too hard.
It’s estimated that the average student budget in France amounts to €685 a month, but this cipher can easily climb to €1000 following the city.
What are my budget’s components?
Take into consideration:
the rent: between €150 and €800/month depending on the city and the type of accommodation
meals: between €200 and €300/month depending on your taste-buds’ standards
public transportation: between €100 and €350/year, depending on the city
telephone & internet fees: from €20 to €30/month, depending on your data-gluttony
Hygiene and care: €50 to €100/month, depending on your coquetry
affiliation to health insurance: it covers most of your medical expenses and costs €217/year.
If you’re not staying more than 4 months in France, you can’t be affiliated to student social security. You can subscribe to a travel insurance in case you get sick during this time interval.
You can negotiate an overdraft protection based on your income for more flexibility and to avoid having your account freezed. Be careful though, being overdrawn incurs costs.
Be prepared for an expensive bill on the first month following your arrival. You’ll have to pay for quite a lot of things: tuition fees, subscription to social security, rent deposit for your landlord, home insurance…
Average rent per city
The rent budget varies following the city. Rent is the most expensive in Paris, with an average of €806. Lyon, 2nd university city in France, is in third position behind Evry with an average rent of €511. The other most expensive cities are Nice: €570, Aix-En-Provence: €532, Bordeaux and Marseille: €482. On the other hand, the cheapest rent is found in Angers: €357.
In Paris, the price range for a student accommodation is fluctuating following the arrondissements: rent can go from €400 to €1100.
Rent per type of accommodation
In a flatshare, flatmates pay €421 on average for a 3 rooms apartment with 2 bedrooms.
In CROUS residences, rooms cost between €150 and €250 a month.
In private residences, rent is roughly equal to that of a studio: ranging from €500 to €950. But you pay for a convenient location and additional services! The rent includes fees such as water, electricity, internet, furnishings, and you may in some cases have free access to laundry, parking, gym...
Private residences aren’t government-regulated, so you can’t benefit from the APL. But you can still ask for the ALS.
For a homestay, the rent is around €400 in Paris and €250 to €350 in smaller towns.
Zoom on transportation
You’re probably going to use public transportation on a daily basis to go to class, so remember planning that fee in your budget!
Transport pass is the most expensive in Paris (€342) and Rennes (€321) and the least expensive in Grenoble (€150), Toulouse (€100) and Limoges (€90).
These are annual prices.
Eating: cooking VS university canteen
You, broke student, skipping meals, eating bland pasta 6 days a week and taking refuge in McDonald’s on feast days... we’re watching you! And we get that. It’s true food is expensive, and treating yourself to a nice dinner in a restaurant can dig a pit in your savings in no time. And cooking in a 9m2 apartment with a single cooking plate isn’t always what you feel like after a long day of class.
There are ways of taking care of your budget and digestive system at the same time, though. No need to pretend like you’re Gordon Ramsay. You can eat nice fresh meals with just as little as a pan, a pot, a strainer and basic ingredients. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables with a bit of meat, pasta or rice actually turns out cheaper than a Pasta Box or KFC. And the chief’s trick: you can freeze your meals or keep them in Tupperwares for a several-day supply!
Try the CROUS canteens too: they offer a full, balanced meal for €3,25 only. That’s the price of a pack of Kit Kat Balls… isn’t it worth it? And besides, we’ve heard it’s actually good. They have a variety of options, so you may very well go there just for a quick breakfast or snack.
Tips on managing your budget
Housing allowance ASAP!
Apply for housing allowance as soon as possible, it’ll alleviate your rent of one or two hundred euros. Nothing to sneeze at!
International mobile plans: prefer online apps
If your home country’s in Europe, plans like Red by SFR are non-committal and offer subscriptions ranging from €5-€20 to call in Europe. Starting from €10, you can get unlimited SMS and calls, and 4G.
But if you’re not from Europe, mobile plans to make international calls start from €40/month. To phone abroad, it’s best to go for a local plan with unlimited Data. It will be far less expensive, and you can use Data to call abroad via WhatsApp or Viber for instance.
You’re probably longing to discover french culture, but you must think going to the museum or to the movies costs a pretty penny. Think again! In France, most museums and monuments are free to visit for people under 26 years old. And if they’re not completely free, you’ll at least get a special rate. Same goes for theaters: there’s almost always discounts or membership plans for young people. If you’re a cinephile at heart, your Pass Navigo for transportation brings your movie ticket to €7 and practically all movie theaters offer membership plans too. In Gaumont Pathé movie theaters, you have unlimited access to movies for €20/month.
Find out about these plans in the establishments you’re interested in, you’ll probably find what you came for!
We’ll never tell you enough times! Without necessarily becoming an accounting freak, you could keep track of what you’re spending. Check your accounts from time to time to readjust your expenses when necessary.
Rest assured: over time, you’ll discover good deals and get to know yourself financially speaking, your expenses will stabilize and the road of monetary wisdom will open itself to you.
This advice isn’t for everyone, but if you’re somewhat organized, you can take a notebook and draw columns with the date, purpose, amount spent, and amount that’s left after each expense. It can help keep an eye on your spendings, and assess which unnecessary expenses you could have lived without. And it can also help you remember of that big amount you’re going to be debited of but didn’t yet appear on your bank statement.
Apps like Bankin can help you keep records.
It’s difficult making plans with a student budget. So if you’re planning on going on a long week end to London or on ski holidays, you might want to save a bit of money each month to that end.
If you want to buy something, write it down on a list. Once the list is completed, you can choose out of the list instead of rushing and regretting it later on. If you like to party, choose your events so you don’t end up going out 5 nights a week. You don’t have to cut all expenses, you can compromise: instead of having drinks in a bar, organize a little apéro at home, it’ll be more affordable for everyone.
Find a job
If month ends are still hard on you despite our sound advice, you can still find a part-time job. And that’ll give you a chance to socialize with locals! You can give language classes to french people or work in a place visited by people who speak your language. If you speak good english, you can get hired in tourist areas’ cafes and restaurants. Be thoughtful when choosing the type of job you apply for: you’ll still need some time on your hands for your studies.
Your student visa allows you to work up to 964 hours a year, that is about 20 hours a week.