Visiting and living in Paris on a budget: Tips and tricks on how to save money.
Living in Paris can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to trying to save money. But thankfully, there’s a plethora of things that can help you save every centime possible. Here’s a few tips and tricks that have helped me when my wallet was a little bare.
Paris on a Budget
Free water (still or sparkling) from the Wallace fountains or provided by the city.
Through out the city of Paris, there are numerous places that provide free water to the public. The first, and most popular, is those green fountains called the Wallace Fountains. These green vestiges are dotted throughout the city and have been around for 150 years. They were a gift from Sir Richard Wallace, an Englishman living in Paris at the end of the 19th century. You can read more about their history here.
Today, there are 107 fountains sprinkled throughout the city. They offer clean and safe drinking water that is regulated by the company, Eau de Paris. Here is the list of all the fountains through out the city. Do not hesitate to walk up to one of these fountains and fill up your water bottle(s). They’re great especially in the summer, when it’s hot or when you’re walking around the city, exploring. Instead of hopping into the nearest Monoprix to buy bottled water, you can easily refill your water bottle!
Eau de Paris, the company responsible for providing free and safe drinking water to the city also has their own water fountains throughout the city. They offer still and sparkling water! And both are not bad at all! These are not as beautiful as the iconic Wallace Fountains, but they provide the same service. They have created a map and collected all the data from all free water fountains around the city. Check here to see which ones are currently in use and which may be unavailable or under construction. They also have an application (available only on Apple) where you can see on a map the fountain(s) nearest your location.
Getting around town: Walk, Bike, Metro, Bus, Train?
What’s the best way to see the city? Get from point A to point B? Depending on your business, depends the best mode of transportation.
Paris is an extremely walkable city. And it’s becoming more and more pedestrian friendly (although still be careful when crossing the street). Not only will you be getting the exercise, you’ll also have a gorgeous view of the city. There are so many things I spot when I’m walking to and from places. Street art is one of my favorite things to try and spot while walking. If you’re visiting and worried about not being able to have GPS, Google Maps can be downloaded offline and used without eating into your phone bill.
Getting around on two wheels:
Another excellent way to get around the city, is through the Velib’ bike service. There are several different options (check all options here) when it comes to purchasing tickets. The first thing to know about these bikes is that there are the classic and the electric versions. Both have different prices. Day passes (24 hours) start at 5€/pass, where the first 30 minutes are free on the classic pass and it’s 1€ for every 30 minutes after that. A single trip ticket (either on classic or electric) is 3€ for the first 45 minutes, then it’s charged after that. For those living in Paris, there are also subscription services that start out from 3,10€/month.
Getting around on four wheels:
There’s also the infamous public transportation system known as the métro, RER, bus, tram, and trains. These are either regulated by the RATP or the SNCF. The RATP is what controls the metro, RER and bus systems within the city. Tickets usually start out at 1,90€ a trip and all the information can be found here in terms of ticket options and prices. From the Paris Visite travel pass, which is ideal for those visiting for up to 5 days, to the weekly or monthly Navigo passes, there is an option for everyone. Make sure you understand the fine print on the tickets and do not throw them out until you are finished with your trajet. You never know when you’ll pass through a control check point!
Getting your culture fix...for free (when applicable).
Did you know that there are over 100 museums within the city of Paris? That’s a lot of art.
Did you also know that on the first Sunday of the month you can get into some of them for free?
Did you also know that if you are 26 years or younger and you live in the EU, you can get into museums for free?
Really wish I would have known all of that when I was a student here back in the day! If you are planning on visiting Paris when there are free days to the museum, I cannot stress enough, BOOK EARLY ONLINE! Especially for the larger museums, they will fill up fast. You can check out all the different options of museums that are either free all the time to those free only on Sundays here.
Looking for something a little different? Try the theater!
Did you know that you can get a 5€ last minute ticket at the Petit Bureau on Rue de Richelieu at la Comédie Française in the 1st? Now, it’s limited viewing and only available one hour before start time. But worth checking out! Also, from the same ticket window, if you are 28 years or younger, on Mondays, you can get 1 free ticket. Do need to show proof of age.
If you’re looking for something with more variety, check out BilletReduc to find discounted tickets to a variety of shows around town (and France too)!
More escargot for your Euros: saving money on food.
There are numerous different ways to save money when it comes to food and eating around Paris. If you’re going out, always be on the look out for le menu. This is a fixed price menu that includes several choices of either appetizer + entrée, entrée + dessert or appetizer + entrée + dessert. Most people, French included, end up going this route. This is usually found during lunch time Monday through Friday, but depending on the restaurant, depends on if they offer one for dinner or during the weekend. Be sure to always check the website of the restaurant of your choice to see what is indicated.
Also, check out a bouillon (find a list of some good ones here). Bouillons are traditionally cheap fares. Originally the first restaurant of the working class, they offer typical plates at an affordable price. Because of their rising popularity, I recommend going before the dinner (or lunch) rush and getting in. In my experience, there is no reservation list and there is always a long line. But you can’t go wrong with a 2€ glass of wine. Average dinner (2 glasses of wine, appetizer, dinner, dessert) is around 20€ and you leave stuffed and happy.
When it comes to grocery shopping, there are a lot of options around the city. Looking for the best quality for the best price? Check out your local market. You can find a list of all the markets around Paris here on the city’s website. I went to my market every Sunday morning and would be able to buy everything for the week that I needed. The nice thing was that my vegetables were fresh and seasonal and I got to know the vendors on a first name basis. It made my shopping experience more meaningful and interesting.
On a super tight budget, but looking for something that will change from the typical ramen noodles? There are apps that help restaurants and food establishments fight against food waster and offer their product at a reduced (and even sometimes free) fee.
Here are 3 apps that work well within Paris and may be worth checking out (links to app).
You may need to check back several times to see if there are items available; it’s usually a first come first serve basis and you need to be available for the time slots (if offered) to pick up your item(s).
Having threads that don't cost an arm and a leg
One thing you may notice when shopping for clothes is that they can be a bit on the pricey side. If you’re like me, you’re looking for quality over quantity especially if you are going to be spending a pretty penny.
When I moved to Paris in 2020, I took only 2 suitcases with me and had a very limited wardrobe. It was weird having to sell the majority of my belongings before I moved. But it was exciting to know that I was starting a new chapter, almost from scratch. I knew that when I moved I would need to eventually start to build back up my wardrobe (and personal belongings). And I knew Paris was teeming with stores and shops that fit my style perfectly! There are so many places to check out within Paris and the surrounding suburbs, it’s hard to choose which to share.
I’ve made a map of all my favorite places to shop second-hand/vintage for clothes. One you need to look up for all your needs is your local Emmaus store. If you’re from the states, think the equivalent to the Salvation Army or GoodWill. You can find clothes, books, vinyls, shoes, utensils, even furniture at certain stores.
Here’s the map of my favorite clothing stores in Paris.
Stocking your apartment:
If you’re looking more for that unique find, piece, item for your lodging, you’ll want to head to the nearest brocante (flea market). There ‘s usually one (or many) every weekend especially during warmer weather. Rain or shine, they’ll be there. Here’s some websites to check out for your browsing pleasures:
These are always fun and you’ll never know what you may find! I recommend taking some cash as vendors may most likely to cut you a deal if you pay in cash as opposed to card. It’s also always good to know where the nearest ATM is, just in case if you need to withdraw more money.
I also recommend going either near the end of the weekend or the end of the day, depending on what you’re available for. The end of the weekend , on the last day, vendors will most likely be willing to cut a good deal on items because they don’t want to pack it all up.