The Life of Luxury on a Budget in Paris

“Paris is so expensive!” So everyone exclaims when I tell them about how I spent a month living here. But it really doesn’t need to be if you’re smart about where you want to spend your money (hint: not at a touristy cafe on the Champs-Elysees). Here’s how I did Paris on a budget for a month!

My budget for visiting Paris

Ok, let’s get into the hard numbers. For my time in France in 2018, I aimed to spend $100 a day or less. That was my total daily budget, including accommodation, any buses, metro tickets, trains, or car rentals, and all my food and entertainment expenses too.

How I stuck to this budget

Budgeting anywhere requires two main things: a plan and then the follow-through. So let’s divide it up: here’s how I plan.

  • I based this number on my total savings for this trip, which I had been planning for over a year.
  • I use an app called Tripcoin to track my daily expenses and look at how I’m doing towards my overall goal (for the day, for the month, and for the country overall).
  • It’s a rolling average, so if I go over one day that’s ok! I just make sure I enter my spending every day, so I’m aware. Then I just cut back a little the next day and I’m back on track.
My budget apartment in Belleville.

So, that’s the easy part of budgeting. How do I manage to actually stick to that number? After all, travel is exciting and it’s easy to say YOLO and throw caution to the wind (and also then hate yourself for saying YOLO). But sticking to a budget in Paris is very doable, with a few simple tips.

Clouds over the lake in the Bois de Boulogne park in Paris
These views in the Bois de Boulogne are free!
  • Find free things to do, especially in an expensive city like Paris. There’s free museums everywhere here! Walking is free and one of the best ways to get to know the city. And all the beautiful parks are free to explore too.
  • Find the bargains too: get the €5 standing room tickets at the Opera Bastille, grab a sandwich and a tiny bottle of wine and have a picnic in a park, eat lunch out instead of dinner and skip the wine to find some great savings.
  • Stay in an apartment outside the touristy center of the city. It’s so much less expensive, and then you can go to the markets (a very cool Paris experience!) and cook true French food in your own home. Those savings are huge, and you get more of a feel for the real local life outside of the fancy arrondissements.
  • Have the world’s tiniest backpack so you cannot buy any souvenirs, any clothes, basically anything at all. 35 liters or bust!! Literally, it will bust if I add anything.

I do have the advantage of being a naturally frugal person. I’ve always been a saver who loves bargains, so while living like this has been a bit of an adjustment it’s not terribly difficult for me. Plus I spent a year after college as an Americorps *VISTA volunteer making $9,800 a year: if I could do that (and still save $50 a month), this budget is a cakewalk.

A little luxury on a budget too

I do, of course, love luxury. And Paris is a city that does indulgence incredibly well. So when I feel the need for a little taste of that decadent Parisian life, I’ll plan my day around whatever I’m craving.

There’s nothing quite as nice as strolling a free park and a free museum after breakfast at home, feeling very virtuous and frugal.

And then taking yourself to the Bar Hemingway at the Ritz for a single €30 cocktail that is perfect heaven in a history-filled bar with a bunch of chic fashion workers in town for Fashion Week. Also they give you a rose if you’re a lady, and unlimited and perfect potato chips which the kindly barman will refill immediately as soon as you polish them off.

Souvenirs from the Ritz in Paris

And then you can take the rose and also your coaster home if you’re not above that (I am clearly not above that).

My budget here in Paris may have been limited. But my free time and my possibilities and my horizon were wide open. And that, you cannot put a price on.

More Paris travel posts

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