Whether France is more or less expensive than the UK is a frequent matter for debate. In the France Property Guides Cost of Living Index we check a list of over 60 everyday prices in France, the UK and 10 other countries to get an accurate reading. It covers prices for groceries, leisure and household expenses, and each year we update it to cover new products and ways of shopping, as well as the usual household staples.  

It’s true that the first purchase of Dulux, cod, toothpaste or a large family pack of washing powder is enough to give even the most enthusiastic newcomer to France pause for thought. Whilst the reality of the cost of living in France may be an unwelcome surprise there are ways to stay on budget – it just takes careful planning.

An opportunity for economising

Overall our survey found that prices in France were around 11% cheaper than the UK. Moreover, a move to a new country can offer the opportunity to try new and ore economical products. In the UK you may have bought certain products simply out of habit or just what was considered the reasonable value option. A cheaper brand of paint may do the job just as well whilst a white fish that you’ve not previously heard of that’s cheaper could be just as delicious if not become your favourite! You moved to France partially for the spirit of adventure so live a little. If you don’t find alternatives you prefer you can always revert to your favourites if you’re prepared to pay the money but you may just be surprised.

Prices are only one element of the cost of living in France. To accurately budget for your move,  read The Currency Guide to Emigration, free to download.

Be aware that directly comparing the cost of living in France with products of the UK is often not a direct comparison. An example of this is car insurance, which as standard normally includes breakdown cover here. Or prescription charges, which in France relate directly to the cost of the medication and are reimbursed to people with residence by a combination of government and private health care insurance.

What do local people do?

The trick to managing the cost of living in France seems to be organisation and planning. Don’t just buy what you want, when you need it, from one supermarket. You quickly learn to shop around, study promotional advertising when it arrives, keep your eyes peeled for promos, buy in bulk, and decide which brands are “must haves” and which you can live without.

Brand and supermarket loyalty should play second fiddle to what is on offer at any particular time. That’s especially true with promos of toiletries/cleaning products and DIY materials, notoriously more expensive than in the UK. Keeping an eye on the fluctuating market prices of products like oil (common for heating systems) allows you to buy when prices are low rather being held to ransom by the market price when you *have* to.

Markets can offer better value pricing, particularly towards the end of the day for meat, fish, fruit and veg.

When it comes to fresh fruit and veg, French people living in rural areas buy little from supermarkets during summer months, choosing to grow their own. They freeze, pre-cook and store for the winter months as well as gifting to family and friends. Markets can offer better value pricing, particularly towards the end of the day for meat, fish, fruit and veg. And the top tip for buying all fresh food is only ever to buy in season products whatever the time of year as these will provide best value for money.

Despite the seemingly high costs of some items in France, other things are noticeably cheaper – in particular wine, going out and vets bills.  So if you enjoy socialising, a good tipple or have pets, you at least win on these!

Tjhe France Cost of Living Survey

In the market in Provence (BTWImages / Shutterstock.com)

In the shops

In the (super)market

UK Prices £ France in € France in £ More or less expensive in France
Large, wholemeal sliced loaf of bread (800g) £1.10 1.80 £1.59 + 44%
Pack of butter (250g) £1.50 1.95 £1.72 + 15%
Milk (I litre) £0.80 1.00 £0.88 + 10%
6 eggs, large free range £1 1.75 £1.54 + 54%
Iceberg lettuce £0.70 0.99 £0.87 + 25%
Teabags (per 100) £2.50 3.00 £2.65 + 6%
Fresh pineapple (whole) £1 1.00 £0.88  – 12%
Fresh tomatoes (1 kilo) £2.50 1.50 £1.32  – 47%
Fresh chicken for roasting (regular, each) £3.40 7.00 £6.18 + 82%
Fresh chicken for roasting (free-range/organic/corn-fed) £7.50 11.00 £9.71 + 29%
Haägen Dazs vanilla ice cream (500ml) £4.20 5.00 £4.41 + 5%
Fresh white fish, cod type  (1 kilo) £13.50 20.75 £18.31 + 36%
Jar of mayonnaise (600g) £2.50 2.75 £2.43  – 3%
Heinz cream of tomato soup (400g) £0.95 1.00 £0.88  – 7%
Coca-cola zero (2 litre) £1.95 2.20 £1.94 0%
Bottle of whisky (blended) 70cl £15 15.00 £13.24  – 12%
Dark chocolate bar (Green & Black type, 90/100g) £2 2.00 £1.77  – 12%
Complete dog food, dry (5 kilo) £10 11.00 £9.71  – 3%
Laundry detergent (40 washes) £4.50 10.75 £9.49 + 111%
Kitchen roll, 4-pack 2.2 2.75 £2.43 + 10%

*Based on GBP/EUR rate of 1.133, the average for the year of 2019
**UK food cost compared to Tesco 07/10/2019

Travel

The UK may have a reputation for high train fares, but much of that is because UK train operators often give the return fare “free”. For the French train fare we chose Chalais to Bordeaux. Car tax in France works differently to the UK, as you pay when you purchase a new car. France saw twice as many electric car registrations as the UK in 2018, with up to €8,500 worth of green bonuses available compared to £3,500 in the UK.

Travel

UK Prices £ France in € France in £ More/less expensive in France
1 litre petrol (unleaded) £1.30 1.47 £1.30  + 0.20%
Car hire, small car, 1 week £124 140 £123.57  – 0.35%
Return train fare, London to Brighton equivalent (about one hour) £26 31.4 £27.71  + 6%
Car tax, electric/hybrid, 1 year £140 0 £0.00   – 100%

To encourage us to buy electric cars, like this one in Paris, you can get discounts up to €8,500 (Vereshchagin Dmitry / Shutterstock.com)

In the home

The real shocker here is paint. Of course there are cheaper alternatives available, but not for an equivalent quality. Your decorator might be able to get a better deal on trade paint, so perhaps it’s time to forget the DIY and put your feet up while someone else does the hard work?

The Amazon Alexa Dot only arived in France last summer and can usually be found for a bit less that the list price, probably €40. It/she does understand French, but is more comfortable in English! (These machines getbmore and more lifelike…). Home broadband is noticeably cheaper – our writer pays for a package with TV for €37 that used to cost £90 with Virgin in the UK!

In the home

UK prices in £ France in € France in £ More/less expensive in France
Paying a domestic cleaner – per hour £12.50 15 £13.24 + 6%
White Dulux emulsion, or equivalent (2.5 litre) £14 39.9 £35.22 + 152%
Ikea “Billy” bookcase (80x28x202 cm) £35 40 £35.30 + 1%
Samsung TV, 55” £549 569 £502.21  – 9 %
Alexa echo dot £35 60 £52.96 + 51%
Electricity (per kilowatt hour) £0.13 0.14 £0.12  – 5%
Home broadband, no data limit (per month) £23 9.99 8.82  – 62%

You will need to protect your home and property, esopecially if you’re renting it out. Get a free, no-obligation quote from our property insurance partner today.

Leisure

At last, we’ve found some serious savings in France. And what do you know, they are of course involving the good things in life!  The biggest saving is on wine. Hardly surprising perhaps, when we pay over £2.50 per bottle in duty and VAT compared to France where you pay the equivalent of… drumroll… 3 pence. You pay a lot more at McDonalds but you’ll get very little sympathy from us! Books in France can be pricey in a bookshop, but most buyers can find a promotion that brings the price down.

Leisure

UK Prices £ France in € France in £ More/less expensive in France
Cappuccino in local café £2.80 2.5 £2.21  – 21%
Bottle of Coke Zero from local shop (500ml) £1.50 1.3 £1.15  – 24%
Pain au chocolat in café £1.90 2 £1.77  – 7%
Big Mac/quarter pounder cheeseburger £3.09 4.59 £4.05 + 31%
Bottle of house wine in local mid-range restaurant £17.95 8 £7.06  – 61%
Draft beer in bar (500ml) £2.20 2.75 £2.43 + 10%
3 course meal in mid-range restaurant (ex drinks) £27 20 £17.65  – 35%
Tip for meal (above) £3 2 £1.77  – 41%
Cinema ticket (one) £11 9.8 £8.65  – 21%
Spotify Premium subscription, per month £10 10 £8.82  – 12%
Amazon Prime, per month £8 6 £5.29  – 34%
Daily Newspaper (equivalent to The Times) £1.80 2 £1.77  – 2%
Women’s Running shoes, mid-range, Nike £105 100 £88.26  – 16%
Paperback fiction book £9 10 £8.83  – 2%
SuperMario Kart for Nintendo Switch £43 50 £44.09 + 3%

No wonder she looks smug, the coffee, croissant and newspaper are all cheaper!

Healthcare

The French are known for the quality of their healthcare, and part of that is down to protecting their pharmacy businesses. Hence the larger price for simple drugs. For prescription charges, you are charged the cost of the medicine, which varies by product. However, you can get a rebate of a certain percentage if you have health cover, so it should cost you nothing. The price of around €3.50 is fopr tbose who are non-resident.

Healthcare

UK Prices £ France in € France in £ More/less expensive in France
Dentist – basic check up, no other work £22.70 28 £24.71 + 9%
16 paracetamol tablets (generic) £0.68 2.18 £1.92 + 183%
Prescription charge (working person) £9.00 3.5 £3.09  – 66%

Children

UK Prices £ France in € France in £ More/less expensive in France
Nappies, medium-sized, Pampers-type (each) £0.10 0.15 £0.13 + 32%
Calpol (or equivalent), age 6 plus £3.50 2.4 £2.12 -39%
Children’s swim at local pool £3 1 £0.88 -70%

 

If you need a little extra finance for your perfect French property and lifestyle, read our new guide, How to Pay for a French Property.

A few more

UK Prices £ France in € France in £ More/less expensive in France
Women’s jeans – mid- range, Zara-type £26.00 29.95 £26.43 1.67%
Hotel: mid-range, midweek night for  2 £72.00 121 £106.80 48.33%
Basic bank account, no overdraft. £6.00 7 £6.18 2.97%
Men’s haircut, old-fashioned type barber £12.00 15 £13.24 10.33%
Buying a House in France Guide.

The France Buying Guide walks you step-by-step through each stage of the property buying process in France. Additionally, there are also practical recommendations from our experts who have been through the process themselves. The guide will help you to:


  Understand Brexit
  Find your property
  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

Download your free guide to buying in France

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