8 Ways to Save on Living Costs in France This Winter
Whether you live in France or own a French second home, it’s been impossible to ignore the rising cost of living over the past year. As we head into the winter months, concerns about rising fuel prices, energy costs, and supermarket prices are even greater, and households around France are feeling the pinch. Here are a few tips that might help reduce your monthly spending in France this winter.
1. Reduce energy consumption at home
The government has recently rolled out its “sobriété enégetique” energy-saving plan for winter, and it’s full of recommendations for households to reduce their energy consumption. Not only will you be doing your bit for France’s environmental and energy conservation goals, but you’ll be reducing your monthly energy bills, too – win-win!
Among the recommendations are keeping household heating to a maximum of 19°C (or 17°C in the bedroom) and wearing warmer clothing indoors, closing shutters at sundown (and opening them during the day to allow natural heat in), turning off unused lights and appliances (especially those that go on standby), running household appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers on eco mode (and only when you have a full load), taking showers instead of baths, and turning off the wifi if you are away from home.
2. Choose an energy provider with regulated tariffs
Energy prices have been soaring around Europe in recent months, but French residents have benefitted from price caps on gas and electricity prices that have prevented rises of more than 4% since last year. These caps will remain in place until the end of the year and into 2023 – although they will rise to 15% from January.
However, it’s important to understand that these caps only apply to France’s state-run providers, EDF and Engie, and they do not apply if you use another energy provider (unless your contract is based on the regulated tariffs). For this reason, many households are choosing to switch back – if you want to do the same, all you have to do is contact EDF or Engie, and they will take care of the change.
Read our guide to Electricity in Your French Property: Energy Providers, Tariffs, and Fittings
3. Keep an eye on fuel prices
Fuel prices have also been rising around Europe, but government subsidies in France have kept prices among the lowest in Europe. Listed petrol and diesel prices currently include a 30-cent-per-litre rebate provided by the government, while TotalEnergies service stations also provide a further 20-cent-per-litre discount. To find the lowest fuel prices in your area, you can also use this handy online map at quechoisir.org.
Don’t forget that the current 30-cent-per-litre reduction only lasts through October. In November, it will be reduced to 10-cent-per-litre, and by the end of the year, it is set to be removed entirely. So, make sure you fill your car up before October 31st!
4. Make the most of government aid and grants
Some 5.8 million low-income households across France will benefit from a €100-€200 ‘chèque energie’ this winter, which you can use to pay your electricity, gas, and oil bill. If you earn the national minimum wage or SMIC, you are likely to be eligible, and you can sign up online here.
Other benefits and food vouchers may also be available to low-income families – you should also contact your local CAF to find out if you are eligible.
If you’re looking to replace your property’s central heating system for a more environmentally friendly option or improve insulation or ventilation systems at your property, you may also be able to benefit from a government grant, helping to reduce the long-term energy consumption of your property. Read more about the grants here.
5. Reduce your supermarket spending
Food prices are also on the rise, so choose your supermarket wisely. Lidl and Aldi tend to be the most affordable options for grocery shopping, followed by E.Leclerc and Intermarché, while Monoprix, Casino, and Auchan rank among the pricier options. Que Choisir has a useful tool for finding your area’s cheapest supermarket here.
Purchasing the supermarket’s own-brand products is a good way to keep costs low, as is looking out for weekly and monthly promotions – check out the weekly brochures that come through your door or browse the supermarket websites to find out about upcoming deals. It’s worth signing up for a supermarket loyalty card, and you can also search for discount coupons on websites like Coupon Network and Shopmium.
Another tip for cash-strapped shoppers is to make the most of the self-scanners available in most major supermarkets. These allow you to keep an eye on the bill as you shop, ensuring that you don’t go over budget. Finally, it’s always worth checking the discounted section for items going out of date – there are often bargains to be had, especially freezable products such as meat and fish. Swinging by the local food market close to closing can sometimes yield a few bargains too.
6. Shop and sell ‘à l’occasion’
While we’re on the subject of smarter shopping, don’t forget that there are lots of great ways to reuse, recycle, and reduce that are not only good for the environment but good for your bank balance too! Get into the habit of browsing local car boot sales or vide greniers for second-hand clothes, toys, and household items; shop for second-hand clothes online at Vinted.fr, or search for items on LeBonCoin or Facebook Marketplace.
Not only are these great ways to save money, but they can also be great ways to make money by selling unused items, too! Read our guide to Buying Second-Hand Goods in France: A L’Occasion
7. Save on travel costs
High petrol prices have encouraged many locals to start using public transport more. For long-distance and inter-city transport, leave the car behind and take the train instead – OuiGo trains start from as little as €10, and if you travel frequently, investing in an SNCF railcard will save you 30% off fares. Discounted railcards are available for children, young people, and over-60s, too. Read our guide to Long-Distance Train Travel in France: TGV, SNCF, OuiGo.
Find out about local travel discounts, too. Some cities, including Nantes and Nancy, offer free public transport on weekends, while others, including Montpellier and Lyon, provide free travel passes for some residents. Free or low-cost bike-sharing schemes are often available too, and if you are looking at investing in your own bike, the government is now offering grants for electric bike purchases.
8. Bag a bargain
Small savings quickly add up, so keep a lookout for special offers and promotions on shopping and activities on websites like Groupon. Another app worth downloading is Kiute which allows you to snag last-minute appointments for haircuts, pedicures, and other beauty treatments at lower prices. Or, search BilletReduc for reduced-price concert and event tickets.
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