Before moving to Paris, we researched the costs of living in France and squirreled away money. That year, we became pretty adept at budgeting and sniffing out deals. My time is worthless, so I'd often walk miles for a better price. After two years living here, I can honestly say that all those bloggers who said it was so easy to relocate to France and so cheap and la-dee-da carefree should stick to writing about what they know, like being bankrolled well into adulthood by indulgent parents. I can't dwell on this too long because it makes me hate everybody, but if you want to move to Paris, your daily expenses and utilities are not going to be the same- forget cheaper- as in the US, not even if you're from NYC or San Francisco. A rundown:
Moving to Paris
1. Visas. The application fee is $125. You'll pay an additional fee for the residency card later. Since I'm married to a European, I didn't have to fly to Chicago for my visa application. Others need to account for transportation to a French consulate in the US.
2. Storage facility. If you're moving temporarily, these are $100 or more per month. Not that I had a lot to begin with, but I gave away all I could and left a couch in my mom's garage.
3. Moving services. Expect to pay around $10 per cubic foot of moving space- less (but not much less) if you're taking a lot. There are six moving companies offering services from Ohio to France quoting $2500-6000 for international moves, not including customs fees. We cut costs by moving ourselves- all our stuff fit in seven bags checked on the flight over (zero boxes). We basically brought laptops, dinnerware, silverware, and some books packed in towels and clothes. Three suitcases held just food. I didn't buy any bubble wrap.
4. Luggage. My family gave me old suitcases, and my husband already had a set, but you may need to consider the cost of purchasing luggage and check the airline for limitations and fees. For instance, United Airlines (the worst airline in the world after Air France, and I've flown Air Koryo so that's saying something) charged us $400 to transport a KitchenAid mixer. I was in first class (see below), so they could have just stuck it in my champagne bucket or something.
5. Plane tickets. We used miles, otherwise it would have cost thousands just to fly economy. We couldn't bring seven bags on coach tickets (shipping them was too expensive), so personal butler and Van Laack pajamas it was. Cleveland-Paris flights run about $1000 roundtrip; a one-way ticket is pricier.
6. Vehicle costs. Turning in my lease was $800. Shipping a car overseas costs anywhere from $750-2500, depending on the size of the vehicle and distance. Vehicles only depart from certain ports, so consider transport fees within the US- Ohio to Newark costs $900.
Cost of Living
1. Residency cards. Expect to pay 77-260€, depending on your situation. View the full list of prices here. Budget for yearly renewal fees.
2. Language lessons. A private instructor is around 30€ an hour. The Mairie provides French lessons, which I thought were free, but heard require a small fee. I am not motivated enough to find out. Courses at Alliance Française are 53-250€ a week and courses at the Sorbonne are 500-1820€ for up to 60 hours. My very educated, talented friend gave me lessons at a loss to herself, so I saved money where others may not.
3. Security deposit / agency fees. Our security deposit + agency commission totaled $2500. France caps agency fees in Paris at 12€ per square meter; elsewhere in France, they cost 8-10€. You may also be charged a move-in inspection fee of up to 3€ per square meter.
4. Rent. Our 70 square meter in the 7ème is around 2100€ a month. We pay for the view and the top floor. Buying an apartment averages 14000€ per square meter, but ours was listed at €2.3 million, so go figure. Parisians are very open to discussing rent and finances, so I've learned a lot about how much other people's rent is. For instance:
-Lamarck-Caulaincourt- 30 square meters, 1300€
-Cluny/Sorbonne- 50 square meters, 1900€, 10 square meters for 600€
-Oberkampf- 70 square meters, 2000€
-Canal Saint-Martin- 100 square meters, 2800€
-Ecole Militaire- 100 square meters, 2500€
-Alma-Marceau- 20 square meters, 900€
Then there's the Marais, where you might pay 1800€ to live in a dark, windowless closet with no bathroom. If you're willing to live in the suburbs (Neuilly, Vincennes, Montreuil, Nanterre, Puteaux, etc.), rent is more reasonable.
5. Utilities. Water and heat are included in our rent (they're stingy with heat), but we pay for electricity, which is always 100€ a month, even when the power is out for a week and I unplug the internet and refrigerator and live like a caveman. I used to think nuclear power was a cheaper energy source. It's not.
6. Taxes. The government takes taxes out of your paycheck every month, but we pay an additional 1600€ at the end of the year, for the apartment or something.
7. Cable/internet/phone. Numericable costs 60€ a month for a bundle, including wi-fi, all the German channels, and a phone with unlimited international calls. We wouldn't have a home phone, but my family doesn't Skype. Our cell phones are 19.99€ a month for 4GB data, unlimited texts and an indeterminate number of minutes.
8. Health care. This is actually way cheaper and more efficient than the US. It seems everything costs 70€- surgery, dermatologist visits, trips to the ER, housecalls, dentists, etc. etc.
9. Food/groceries/household items. I never knew potatoes could cost so much until moving here. The food is better quality and I feel healthier eating purple vegetables, but still. We generally spend 40€-80€ week on all groceries and household items, never buy booze or junk food, and almost never eat out. One friend told me it cost 30€ to buy groceries for one dinner and 15€ for lunch for her family of three.
For the sake of simplicity, furniture goes here too. We saved money by sourcing as much as possible from LeBonCoin. Anyone who says they found a great deal at the Paris flea markets is lying. Those are for Romneys and Russian oligarchs.
10. Transport. Keeping a car in Paris is expensive, so I'm not going to detail the costs of parking, storage, etc. Let's talk Navigo: For zones 1-2, the annual pass costs 700,70€, or around 67€ monthly. We don't have a car and rarely take public transportation, keeping costs in this category low.
Considering we spent less than 1000€ to move here and appliances and furniture were 3200€, that puts our total for one year in Paris around 36000€, assuming minimum costs on groceries and excluding the Navigos we'll never buy. This doesn't account for museums, ferris wheel rides, hot chocolate, ice-skating at Grand Palais, etc. At the bare minimum, living in a tiny studio will run you at least 20000€ per year, 25000€ if you want to experience a modicum of comfort.
If I sound negative, I don't mean to be. Because even though Paris has the highest cost of living outside Barsoom, and even though yesterday, within a ten minute time span, one woman pushed me down the Métro stairs, another yelled at me for smiling, an old drunk screamed when I helped a pregnant mother with children, and one of my neighbors told me go back to China, it's worth it to wake up every morning and see the Eiffel Tower and cross Pont Alexandre III when light hits the golden cherubs and everyday meet the many charming and helpful Parisians still out there. I'm Korean, by the way.