How much does it cost to move to, or live in, France

Financial matters here is not 'how to open a bank account' or 'what is a euro'. The first is covered in 'practical matters' the second you should already know since you have bought a property...

Rather, the issue is, how much money have you got and how much do you need, and is the former as big or bigger than the latter! Be warned, this is one of the two sections (along with 'language') where I am a bit brutally honest! Note: in fact, too honest, so I have added alternatives at Finances (2)

Day to day prices and cost of living in France are more or less the same as in the UK. Few items escape VAT (TVA in France) and duty, and petrol and cigarettes for example are expensive in France as they are elsewhere. Alcohol is cheaper, and possibly clothes can be bought slightly cheaper, but food and other bills are broadly similar.

If you are a pensioner, this will not be a major issue to you - you will continue to be paid your pension, probably in pounds or dollars, you will convert it to euros, and spend it. As long as the exchange rates don't fluctuate too much all will be well.

The problem is greater for younger people and families who arrive in France with insufficient funds. During our few years here we have seen this happen several times. It is not sufficient to buy a house, you will need to find the money to live on. Read the following, and if any of them apply to you please think carefully before uprooting your family and moving to France:

  • It is very difficult for an expat to find regular work in France, especially in rural France.
  • It is not easy to make a living from gites and bed and breakfasts, and it is expensive to establish
  • It is illegal to work for cash in the building trade (or any other trade).
  • You will not feed a family by doing occasional fruit picking and odd-jobs

So you need to have either a paid job already lined up; or funds to start and operate gites etc properly; or be willing to try and register as a tradesperson (usually in the building trade) and find work that way. Note that French residents would rarely if ever employ an expat tradesman, so you will need to live somewhere with a significant expat community if this is to be your source of income. Alternatively, you just need to have lots of money.

Second thing you need is ambition and enthusiasm. It is difficult to be self-employed in a foreign land and make a business succeed, and only a certain type of person is motivated in that way. Be sure you are that kind of person, and you will have a much greater chance for success. Actually living in France when you have to support yourself and maybe also a family, is nothing like being on holiday, and confusing the two is a frequent cause of failure.

For all that, I am a firm believer that you can succeed if you work at it, in France or anywhere else, so if you are an enthusiastic, self-motivated type of person I am sure you will be able to make a go of it.

So how much do you really need? Tricky question. If you have somewhere to live, AND a realistic plan to earn an income (and the funds to implement it), AND 100,000 euros in the bank I think you should be OK. More money in the bank would be good. If you miss one of those vital ingredients, you perhaps need to consider how you are going to fund the adventure in the long-term.

If you have a pension...well done, I'm envious!


Related sections: An introduction: Living in France
Financial considerations: Finances of moving to France
Moving on a limited budget / how little money can you move with: Relocating on a budget
Language considerations: problems with learning the language: Language problems for expats
Meeting people and becoming established: living in a French community
Schools and education: expat children in French schools