With a little thought and some careful planning, you can stretch your budget and make sure you don’t waste a single penny. Here are 9 ways to save money in your French home and have more to spend on enjoying life in France
1. Currency exchange costs
Whether your income is in pounds or euros, any outgoings and expenses on your French property will be in euros so it makes absolute sense to start your financial review by looking at how you exchange your money and how you look after it. Banks charge a fee for transfers whereas specialist currency companies don’t, and if you are transferring a larger amount, perhaps for a property purchase or as part of a renovation project, it’s a good idea to contact different currency exchange houses and see who will offer you the best rate.
2. Telephone bills
Shop around when it comes to your phone and utility providers. The online arms of the big phone companies such as ‘Red’ by SFR tend to offer much better packages and I have recently reduced our family mobile bill from nearly €100 per month to just €42. For those with holiday homes in France, Orange now has an option which allows you to suspend your service when you leave and reactivate it when you return; again, this may well work out cheaper than paying for a phone and internet service when you are not there.
3. Food shopping
Check the supermarket special offers and bulk buy if it is worthwhile. It’s often worth buying the huge packs of meat and dividing them up for the freezer. I use the Stocard app to keep all my loyalty cards on my smartphone – it also notifies me of special offers and keeps track of my points. You could also think about joining a box scheme where you buy direct from the producer as these are often a way to eat much better quality food at lower prices. You could also think about growing your own. Even a few tomato and courgette plants will keep you supplied with masses of fresh ingredients over the summer months. Buying gluts of seasonal fruit and veg at the local market and preserving it is another great way to save money. Your French neighbours will probably be more than happy to swap you something from their vegetable patch for a few jars of homemade chutney.
4. Utility bills
Changing your electricity and/or gas supplier is now simple thanks to price comparison sites such as www.hellowatt.fr. It takes just a couple of minutes to input your details (have your existing bills to hand so that you can see what you are currently paying) and you may find that you can reduce your bills by up to 10%. If you have heures creuses (cheaper hours) on your electricity tariff, run appliances such as washing machine and dishwasher during these hours. Do as the French do – ditch the tumble dryer and string a washing line up in the attic or an outbuilding for days when you can’t hang laundry outside.
While you are comparing costs, it’s a good idea to review all your insurance policies whether home, car, travel or medical. You can almost always save money by switching and again, there are numerous comparison sites but I recommend using an independent broker.
Keep an eye on consumption and if you appear to be using a large amount of water, do check for leaks, as this is an easy way to waste a significant amount of money. Deal with dripping taps and if you are replacing taps, toilets, showers and so on, opt for models which offer low water consumption. Most people aren’t in the position to install a full rainwater harvesting system but there are numerous ways to economise. Water butts are cheap and if correctly positioned, will collect and store a huge amount of water. Many local councils provide these for free or at a nominal charge and it’s well worth seeing what your local area is offering. In the last couple of years we have had a free timber compost bin, a water butt and the offer of two chickens per household – all free of charge!
7. Heating your home
Keeping warm is probably the biggest area of expenditure for most homeowners and it’s also where you can make substantial savings. Many homes are still heated with oil which can be expensive to run. Replacing the system may be costly but could prove a wise long-term investment, especially if you opt for an environmentally friendly method which will attract a tax rebate. If you can’t do this or don’t want to, then using a site such as www.fioulmoinscher.fr will at least get you the best possible price in your local area. You could also think about joining in a group purchase which will make the overall cost even lower; you can sign up online and there is just a simple form to complete. And don’t forget to turn your thermostat down a couple of degrees and pop a jumper on! If you have an open fire, you should consider installing a woodburner. Again, tax credits are available and you will soon recoup your investment in terms of more cost effective heat output.
7. Tax credits and grants
If you apply for grants (aides), check sites regularly and make sure you apply by the closing dates. You can find links to all the various forms of financial assistance available here and an overview of all the financial help available for environmentally friendly renovation here
8. Improve insulation
And once your home is toasty and warm, you need to keep all that lovely heat in so insulate, insulate, insulate. Anything other than a very recent new-build is almost certain to benefit from adding extra insulation to bring it up to current norms. Loft and under-eaves insulation can reduce heat loss by a significant 20% and if you are renovating, insulating floors will make a big difference. Walls are also important and external insulation is an ideal add-on option for older properties. Changing single-glazed windows and doors for double or even triple glazing will make a massive difference and if you can’t afford to do that at the moment, secondary glazing for the coldest months, heavy curtains and strategically placed draught excluders will all reduce heat loss.
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