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Managing your budget

The euro (€)

The single currency in use in most European countries is the euro (€). Currency exchange offices (bureaux de change) are open in all big airports and in Chambéry, Annecy and Grenoble. You can also withdraw euros from any cash dispensing machines (ATMs) throughout France.

Means of payment

  • A Bank Card: very commonly used in France. The main cards in use are Mastercard, Visa and American Express.

  • A Cheque Book ('chéquier'): less and less used but can be asked for deposits for example.

  • RIB ('Relevé d'Identité Bancaire'): this document, given by the bank, allows its owner to communicate safely its bank details for direct debit authorizations, or to receive a salary by transfer payment. It's the French equivalent of the IBAN.


The cost of living

Expenditure to anticipate for when you arrive
  • Accommodation guarantee deposit : equivalent of one month's rent excluding bills (non furnished accommodations), up to 2 month's rent excluding bills in some residencies and/or furnished accommodations.
  • The first month's rent.
  • Accommodation insurance: the cost depends on the type of lodging. You should reckon on between 20 and 80 € per year.
  • The OFII fiscal stamp to regularize your stay in France: 60 € for students.
  • Various other expenses (university study supplies, "Contribution Vie Étudiante et de Campus" (if you are eligible), estate agency fees, odds and ends for your accommodation, opening a bank account, etc.)

Principal monthly expenses

  • Accommodation:
    • In a private residence: 450 to 600 € per month 
    • University residence (CROUS) : 200 to 500 € per month
    • A 20m2 apartment in town: average price is 400 to 500 € per month 
    • Electricity and gas bills: around 50 € per month
    • Water: around 15 € per month
  • Telecommunication: Acquisition of a mobile telephone with SIM card and internet subscription: between 5 and 30 € per month
  • Transport:
    • Local transport (tram and bus) pass: 15 or 56,70 € per month depending on your age (Grenoble)
    • Bicycle rental: 15 or 25 € per month depending on your age (Grenoble)
Everyday expenses
  • A midday meal in a restaurant: 10-14 €
  • A 'baguette' : 1 €
  • A meal in a university restaurant: 3,25 €
  • A coffee in a bar or cafe:1,50€
  • A beer: 2,80 €
  • A cinema ticket: 6 to 11 €

Opening a bank account

You will need to open a bank account soon after your arrival in order to facilitate the daily management of your budget: depositing money received from your grant or other income and dealing with your purchases. Opening a bank account in France is obligatory to get reimbursed by the Health Insurance ('Sécurité sociale'), and for students who wish to benefit from APL (Aide Personnalisée au Logement) from the CAF (Caisse d'Allocations Familiales) for example.

To open an account, you need:
  • To choose a bank (why not choose a branch near your place of residence)
  • Make an appointment 
  • Take with you:
    • an identity document (identity card or passport), 
    • your residence permit (except for European students), 
    • a proof of residence (electricity bill, rental payment receipt, accommodation certificate, dated in the previous three months, etc.), 
    • your student card if special offers are applicable

Once you have opened an account, you can obtain 'RIB': Relevé d'Identité Bancaire.
These are certificates which give all your banking identity details and these can be used, without risk of error, for regular payments (by standing order - prelevement) or receiving payments (by bank transfer - virement) (grants or other income for example).

Opening an account is generally free. Certain services may well have to be paid for:
  • The provision of a Bank Card
  • lnsurance on the means of payment
  • Money transfers
  • Authorization of an overdraft (permitting temporary payment greater than money in account)
  • Online consultation of your account
In case of loss or theft of your means of payment, you must declare this immediately (this is called 'faire opposition') and your bank will give you a telephone number to call to do this as a matter of urgency.

Worth knowing

Contact your local bank to check if they have any partnership with a French bank. This might spare yourself additional fees to transfer money for example.

Taxes in France

  • Housing tax ('taxe d'habitation')
This tax is a local tax related to your accommodation on January 1st of the tax year. The amount varies according to your type of accommodation, its location, and your situation.
You do not need to file any tax return. You will receive a tax notice during the last term of the year, either by post, or online on your tax account if you have one.

You have to pay this tax, even if you are moving during the year.
This tax also includes the broadcast licence fee (« contribution à l’audiovisuel public »), which you need to pay if you have a television set (139€ in 2018).
Please note that students living in CROUS residences do not have to pay the housing tax.

  • Income tax ('impôt sur le revenu')
As of January 1st, 2019, the income tax in France will be deducted at source: it will be directly withdrawn from your salary, and will show on your payslip.
Your employer will apply the tax rate that the French tax authorities will have indicated.

If you have recently arrived in France, and/or if the French tax authorities do not know you yet, a ‘neutral tax rate’ will be applied (in accordance with the tax grid, article 204 H of the French General tax code).
Under certain conditions, you can personalize or have your tax rate adapted to your situation. For all questions related to your tax rate, your contact is your local tax office (“Centre des finances publiques”).
If the French tax authorities know you, and if you already know your tax rate, you can carry out a simulation on the French tax website to find out about the amount that will be withdrawn from your salary.

Annual income tax return

Even if the income tax is deducted at source, you will still need to complete an income tax return every year, in April/May.
This will enable the tax authorities to regularise your situation (in case you paid too much tax, or not enough) and to recalculate your tax rate according to your situation. Your new tax rate will be transferred to your employer in September.
If it is your first income tax return, you will need to get a tax return form (form 2042), and send it by post to your local tax office.
If you already completed a tax return the year before, a pre-filled tax return form will be sent to your address, and you will be able to complete the tax return online, on the French tax website (impots.gouv.fr).
Please note that if you are a grant-holder, you should contact the grant awarding authorities to find out whether you have to report it or not.

To help you with your income tax return (2018 tax campaign) :
Practical information sheet « The French income tax return »

For more information, contact your local tax office (« Centre des finances publiques »).
-To find its contact details : www.impots.gouv.fr/portail/contacts, click on ‘Particulier’, ‘Votre dossier fiscal’, ‘Le calcul de vos impôts’, ‘Votre impôt sur le revenu’. Enter your address in the section ‘Chercher le service compétent pour votre question’.
-Dedicated telephone line on the payment of withholding tax (« le prélèvement à la source »), in French only: 0811 368 368


Updated on December 6, 2018

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