To live decently

The headline in one of our local newspapers was “How much do you need to live decently?” My first question was “What exactly does that mean?” not only because it was a new word for me—décemment—but also because it would seem fairly subjective as far as what could be considered as a reasonable standard of living. Sure enough, a definition was there in the next paragraph, “households have the capacity to participate effectively in social life without the risk of experiencing significant deprivation”. Spoken like a true economist which is not surprising since the study’s author, Pierre Concialdi, does indeed have that title at the l’Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES), just outside of Paris. So, I had to read further.

Dinner with friends

Seeing the methodology used by the IRES made it easier to understand how they achieved their goal of setting a monthly amount that an individual or a family must spend to be an active participant in life in France. First there were the basic living expenses that I had seen in a report from CSA Research that are about 1,059 € per household. Then we have the additional expenses that Mr. Concialdi calls, “the essentials of life in society, such as invitations to friends, cultural outings or vacations.” While noting that these are not vital, he says that they contribute to being fully integrated into the community. In total, then, an individual would need a monthly income of 1,630 € while a household of 2 adults and 2 children would require 3,744 €.

Sailing on the Dordogne River

When we’re in contact with blog readers who are serious about making a move to France, they are understandably concerned about the budget. You can see what we spend each month on the tab above labeled “Budget” where you will also find what a few other expats spend as well. Two important factors that contribute to our being able to live “decently” are that we own our home so there’s no mortgage to pay and we don’t own a car so our transportation costs are minimal. A new pair of shoes and an annual city bus pass at 15 € are quite affordable.

At the market

On the subject of budgets, I’d read that about 60% of the food consumed in France is purchased from supermarkets. While we shop there for coffee and cleaning supplies, at least 90% of what we eat at home comes from the Saturday market where we can still find some fruits and vegetables for 1 € per kilo that would equate to about 50 cents per pound in the US. By chance, then, we keep our expenses in check while we’re being “integrated into the community” as the trade organization l’Institut de Lliaisons des Entreprises de Consommation seems to agree that “France’s food markets are a cultural experience in their own right – AND they are often cheaper than supermarkets.” Good shopping and bon appétit!

Photo notes: The featured photo across the top is from a vacation in Rochefort-en-Terre and in the first paragraph is Josephine Baker’s Château des Milandes.

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