9 hacks to save money when you move to France


Lucky you, moving to France! It’s a country that’s not just the ideal tourist destination - it’s also a great place to make a home. But when you make your move, it’s always important to make sure you don’t end up paying more than you have to, as moving to a new country can be a minefield of hidden costs. Here are 9 ways to ensure there’s enough left in your budget for as many croissants as you want.

Hack 1: Sell your stuff and embrace the French way - hit the flea markets.

sell your stuff and start over

Wondering how to transport your chest of drawers to your new home? Here’s a thought: don’t. Sell it via an auction site online, or just give it away to a friend. It won’t only make the move easier and cheaper - it’ll also mean that you can spend your first few days in your new homeland doing something truly French: buying stuff second hand.

You don’t have to invest in expensive antiquités if you do this: just look for markets or shops labelled brocante (bric-a-brac) to find affordable second-hand knick-knack. If you’re in Paris, head to the famous flea market (marché aux puces)Les Puces. It consists of 7 hectares of other people’s old stuff you can buy. You might also stumble across a vide grenier (something like a car boot sale), a dépôts-vente (secondhand store), or charity shops such as Emmaüs. If you need to furnish a new home, France is basically paradise - but thriftier.

Hack 2: Don’t shell out cash for stuff you can do yourself.

do it yourself

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to finding professional firms to help you move. You can hire a van, with or without a driver, you can have stuff shipped, you can even put your feet up and pay people to handle the whole process for you. And you might decide that paying out for this sort of service will save you stress.

Don’t be too quick to pass on that lift your uncle offered you in his Volvo, though. As well as saving on cash, handling the move yourself can be a great way to properly clean out all your stuff and really think about what you need to take. After all, if a professional packs up all your boxes, you lose a little bit of control. And do you really want to find yourself in your tiny Parisian flat surrounded by boxes filled with underwear that doesn’t fit you anymore and old magazine copies?

Hack 3: Consider getting a coach. No, seriously.

get a coach or bus

If you’re coming from elsewhere in Europe, you should take a look at whether you can make the big journey to France by coach. Not glamorous, no, but you might be surprised to learn that a coach trip can often be a lot cheaper than a flight. It’s also better for the environment, of course.

The other big advantage of getting a coach? Put it this way: have you ever tried getting onto a plane with two more suitcases than you’re allowed? You might find that your coach driver’s a little bit more lenient about baggage limits than airport security. It’s a great way to get that little bit extra over the border.

Do get yourself a comfy cushion, though. And make sure your phone’s fully charged as you’ll be on there a while.

Hack 4: Don’t get stuck with leftover bills from home. Adult your life by doing a little extra planning.

do extra planning

Yes, the Eurostar is super convenient and fast, but are you really going to be back in Wandsworth often enough to get value out of your gym membership? Sorry to break it to you, but the time has come to say your teary goodbyes to Karen at the welcome desk and cancel your direct debit.

The same goes for your magazine subscriptions, credit cards, and of course household bills - make sure you notify the companies at the right time. Don’t be sad - there’ll be other energy companies and other gyms, too.

Oh, and no. Karen wasn’t flirting with you.

Hack 5: Make sure you can access your money, wherever you are.

access your money wherever you are

Opening up a bank account is always a hassle when moving country and in France you might well have to wait until you’re there before you can sort it out. It’s therefore crucial to figure out how to finance the very beginning of your stay in France without relying on costly cross-border banking the whole time.

A borderless multi-currency account with Wise could be exactly what you need while you’re bridging the gap. With it, you can keep your money in up to 28 different currencies and take it out any time you want in pounds, euros, US or Australian dollars. You also get your own local account details, making it easy to send or receive money, and from early 2018 consumer debit cards will be available as well. It’s a far more efficient way to deal with your money internationally than relying on endless international payments from your home account.

Hack 6: Carry cash. But not very much.

pay in cash

It’s a cliché of the city but sadly still a live issue: watch out for pickpocketing in Paris. It makes sense not to carry around large amounts of cash, just in case. However, you should always have something on you, because cards aren’t always accepted for ‘small’ payments - which might be as high as €20.

If you’re in a major city, French ATMs should be easy to locate, but like anywhere, the farther out you get, the harder it is to find one. The French have an expression for this: c’est la vie.

Hack 7: Don’t get a TV.

don’t buy a tv

Do you really need a TV set? If you’re someone who tends to watch things online, not getting a TV can currently save you having to pay the French redevance audiovisuelle (TV tax). If you have a TV set, you have to pay this, even if it doesn’t pick up any channels or you just use it for DVDs. To get out of paying it, you’ll need to formally declare that you don’t have a TV - a pain, but worth it overall.

Hack 8: Rent an unfurnished apartment for better tenant protection.

get an unfurnished flat

Renting is common in France - around 40% of the population rent rather than own their place. It’s a good plan to rent somewhere in France before committing to buy. But you should think carefully about whether you need a place that’s meublé (furnished) or vide (unfurnished) - in France this makes a difference legally. Vide properties are yours for a minimum of three years - you have the right to give notice earlier than that, but your landlord doesn’t. For meublés properties, it’s just one year.

Of course, if you’re after something short-term, a furnished property might be the way to go. In that case, don’t discount the option of renting a holiday home rather than anything more serious - France is such a popular tourist destination that you might be surprised at the range of options available.

Hack 9: Don’t forget to think about and budget for your four-legged friend if you’re bringing your pet with you.

budget for your pet

It can get a little complicated to bring your pet to France. Make sure they have a pet passport, and if you have a cat or dog you’ll need to make sure they’re microchipped and vaccinated as well.

There are limits on the number of pets you can bring in, too. Check the details carefully if you have more than 5, and consult PetTravel.com or another specialist service. If you have more than 5 birds, you’ve got a problem, unfortunately - recent flu alerts have resulted in tight restrictions.

Very best of luck with moving to France and getting settled in. Don’t let financial matters get in the way of experiencing the wonders of French culture, though - keep an eye on what you have to spend. Bonne chance!

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