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REVEALED: Which French cities are most expensive for students?

The French students' union Unef has published its annual report on the cost of living. While life is more expensive for most students, local policies have reduced housing and transport costs in certain cities.

REVEALED: Which French cities are most expensive for students?
Place de la Sorbonne in Paris. Photo: ERIC PIERMONT / AFP.

The cost of living will be 2.5 percent higher for students in France in 2021-2022 than in the previous year, according to Unef. That represents an additional €20.61 of expenses every month.

The figures were published in two new reports released by Unef this week. The first looks at the evolution of the cost of living for French students, and the second breaks this down according to each university city.

No prizes for guessing which city will cost you the most.

Paris on top

Unsurprisingly, Paris is the most expensive city in France for students - those studying in the capital will have to shell out on average €1,277 each month, although costs have fallen 1.54 percent over the past year.

The Paris suburbs of Nanterre (€1,171) and Créteil (€1,134) come in second and third place, and the trend continues - nine of the ten most expensive towns are in the Paris region.

The one exception is Nice, in ninth place. That is partly due to the city's high rent prices, with the average student handing over €623 per month.

The cost of living increased most in the Paris suburb of Evry (5 percent), followed by Toulon (4.58 percent) and Angers (4.03 percent).

Huge disparities

Life is much more affordable in smaller towns. Of the 47 university towns evaluated, Limoges in west-central France was the cheapest, costing €793 per month. It was closely followed by Poitiers, St Etienne and Le Mans.

READ ALSO Five crucial tips for Americans who want to study in France

Rent prices also vary wildly - in Le Mans, students pay on average €353 each month for housing, compared to €850 in the capital. The average student in France spends €551 on rent.

Public transport costs meanwhile range from €90 per year to €350 depending on where you live. You will have to fork over more than €300 In Île-de-France, Lille, Lyon and Dijon.

Impact of social measures

The reports did however highlight the positive impact of local policies aimed at helping students. These include rent control laws, which have resulted in the average rent students pay remaining more or less the same compared to last year, while in Paris rents fell by 3.95 percent.

Many cities have also introduced free or low-cost public transport for some or all students. According to Unef, transport prices fell by 6.3 percent for students eligible for a means-tested bourse (grant), and by 0.4 percent for the rest.

The difference is stark in certain towns such as Saint-Etienne, where transport costs fell almost by half from €213 to €110 per year, and Perpignan where they went from €149 to €90.

READ ALSO The French words international students in France need to know

Unef has called for rent controls to be extended to all university cities, "since this measure has already fully shown its effectiveness in the reduction of rent prices in Paris".

The students' union has also demanded an end to higher university fees for non-EU students.

Overall, Unef said the cost of living for students had increased by 10.72 percent since Emmanuel Macron became President in 2017, while students receive €39 less per year in government assistance.

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FOOD & DRINK

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With rising inflation and cost of living, many people in France are desperate to keep their grocery bill low. Here are a few tips for how to avoid paying too much for food, drink and other everyday items.

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With inflation ticking upward, we’ve seen prices rise, especially for things like fresh vegetables, meat, pasta and cooking oil. Even though inflation is affecting food prices less than energy prices, buying groceries is still a huge part of every household’s budget, and unfortunately things are set to keep getting more pricey. 

We’ve put together a list of a few ways you can save a few euro at the supermarket:

Figure out if you qualify for any government benefits

First things first, it is worth seeing whether you can qualify for any existing government assistance, like CAF. On top of this, the French government has promised to set up a food voucher of €50 per month for low-income households after the parliamentary elections in June. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to receive CAF payments in France

Compare store prices

Unfortunately, going to the closest supermarket is not always the most economical solution. If you prioritise grocery stores on the lower end of the price spectrum (and you’re willing to walk a bit further) you can save a lot of money. A helpful tool to find the cheapest store near you is the “Que Choisir” online interactive map (click here) that has listed 4,000 affordable stores in mainland France. 

Discount grocery stores, like Lidl and Aldi, are great options for saving a little extra at checkout. But if you must go to a pricier chain, like Monoprix for instance, try to buy Monoprix brand items – they’re typically a little less expensive than name brand foods.

Plan ahead to make the most out of discounts

If you go online ahead of heading to the grocery store, you can see which items will be discounted (“promotion”). If you cannot find this information online, you can always go to the store and ask for a catalogue of that week’s sales items.

Normally, this is something the cashier should have access to. With these discounts in mind, you can construct more affordable recipes. 

Franprix’s website, the ‘discounts’ page

Also, if you’re looking for cheaper recipes in general, you can always go to blogs and online recipe sites specialised in frugal shopping. If you want to try some French specific sites, you can test out “https://www.marmiton.org/” or “https://1repas1euro.com/recettes/

When it comes to discounts though, be careful about conditions involved (particularly when it comes to loyalty cards).

Sometimes these promotions promise a lot, but actually getting your money back might not be as simple as slashing a few cents at the checkout – you might need to send the coupon somewhere to get the discount, or wait for points to accumulate on your card.

That being said, you can optimise your discounts using several online sites that allow you to combine your loyalty cards (Fidme, Fidall, and Stocard). Other online coupon sites include Groupon, which allows you to make grouped purchases (therefore cheaper), and Coupon Network and Shopmium, which help you benefit from existing discounts. For cashback plans, you can look to websites such as Shopmium, iGraal, FidMarques and Quoty, which allow you to be reimbursed for a part of your expenses.

Make a list, set a budget… and stick to it

It might seem obvious, but when you go into the store, try to resist temptation. The best way to do this is to keep track (in real time) how much you are spending.

Some stores make this easier by allowing you to carry around a ‘self-scanner,’ this will help you to watch your bill go up as you shop. Another tip for this is to withdraw the exact amount of cash you expect to need for the essentials of your trip – obviously in order to do this, you’ll need to know the base prices of your essential items, so it will require a bit of planning ahead.

Buy (then freeze) soon-to-expire products

A consumer’s best friend and sure-fire way to decrease waste! Items coming up on their use-by-date tend to be discounted, so if you plan to purchase these foods and then immediately freeze them, you can significantly extend their shelf life.

Lots of supermarkets make this easier for you by dedicating entire shelves to “short shelf life” items that, according to Elodie Toustou, the head of the “Money” section of the magazine 60 Millions de consommateurs, opting for these foods will allow you to “pay three to four times less.”

Another great way to do this is to use applications like “Phénix” and “Too Good to Go.” These applications will allow you to set your geographic parameter and then click on food stores, restaurants, and bakeries in your area that are getting rid of “panniers” (sacks) of soon-to-be-expired foods. Lots of times these panniers cost only a couple euros.

The trick here is to plan ahead by arriving at the start of the allotted time (if the boulangerie on your corner is offering “Too Good To Go” bags from 11am to 2pm, try to get there as close to 11am as possible for the best items).

Re-consider markets and farmer’s stores

Contrary to popular belief, buying from farmers’ markets and grocers that sell predominantly local products actually can save you money, particularly if you are buying the seasonally relevant fruits and vegetables. Buying directly from a producer can also allow you to eliminate the margin taken by intermediaries. But be careful, this rule is not true all the time.

One way to benefit from cheaper prices at markets is to arrive as late as possible, when the merchants have started to pack up their products. This might allow you to benefit from lower prices or even free items, as they’ll be hoping to get rid of their remaining items.

Know what items are most impacted by inflation

Finally, as inflation continues to increase, try your best to monitor which foods are most impacted. If possible, it might be worth removing or limiting them from your diet – or looking for more affordable alternatives.

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