How to manage your finances abroad with us in Paris
How can I avoid international fees when transferring money to France? Most people will get their student loan paid into their UK Student Account, but transferring directly to a French bank account or spending money directly from your UK accounts will probably incur international fees or exchanges at unfavourable exchange rates. For this reason, most students opt to use services such as TransferWise or Revolut. These allow you to transfer money at a preferable rate or for free, depending on which service you use. I have found Revolut extremely useful this year and could not recommend it more highly. Avoiding international fees will save a lot of money in the long run.
What extra costs are to be expected? In France it could be a good idea to invest in health or other types of insurance depending on your situation and urgent need. The EHIC system will not be valid if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, so now more than ever insurance is necessary for ULIP students. French healthcare is not like the NHS, so you will have to pay for trips to the doctor or hospital and later apply for medical reimbursement by posting scanned copies of all your prescriptions and medical bills to Assurance Maladies in Paris.
What is CAF? CAF stands for Caisse des Allocations Familiales, which essentially is a French housing benefit. Most apartments in Paris that are within a student budget will be eligible for CAF, but you must check with your landlord to confirm this. The amount of money you are entitled to depends on your housing and financial situation, but on average you can receive over a hundre europs per month from the French government to help pay your rent. If you are not sure how much you will be entitled, you can try Caf's simulation, where you can put in your details and they can estimate the money they can provide you.
The application process is notoriously bureaucratic and time-consuming but the sooner you apply, the better. To apply you will need to complete an online application form, get your landlord to fill an 'attestation de loyer' and send some supporting documents such as a student certificate (provided by ULIP Student Services) and a translated birth certificate. If you are still having troubles with CAF it is worth booking an appointment in person, they tend to fast track your application if you do this, otherwise contact Student Services in person or via email.
Travel Expenses The public transport system in Paris may be hot, stuffy and crowded, but overall it is a great system. When you first arrive in Paris it is a good idea to either buy a carnet of 10 t+ tickets for 14 euros, which allows you one journey per ticket using the Metro and the RER or the bus or tram networks within zone 1, equally you can purchase day tickets for around 7 euros. After that, you can purchase a monthly or weekly Navigo pass from an information desk, which is 75.20€ or 22.80€ respectively, plus an initial 5€ charge for the card. This allows for unlimited travel within all zones 1-5.
You can also use Vélib or other bike sharing systems or a personal bike, or just walk. In order to use the Vélibs, you must pay a security deposit of around 150€ and pay a monthly subscription if you are a regular cyclist, or simply get a day pass if you fancy a change of scenery. Paris has plenty to discover when you aren’t underground and central Paris is surprisingly small. Uber is also available for getting home from a night out, and it is recommended to have it installed just in case (especially during freshers week!)
How to save money? Although Paris has a reputation for being an expensive city, there are still bargains to be had. While not everyone has a Lidl nearby (count yourself lucky if you do!), over time you will find the cheapest places to do your weekly shop or to go out for a drink. Keep an eye out for where the second and third years at ULIP or other French students go, they’re probably just as thrifty as you! Shop around as well, you might find that the Asian supermarket around the corner sells noodles cheaper than your usual Monoprix, and small shops like this often have new things to try too. Also, you can save money by checking the Nube Room in the basement before going out and buying books as there are more often than not the spare copies you need for your classes. When it comes to having a good time without going into your overdraft, I would reccommend downloading the app, Mr Good Beer on your phone. When in need, it shows you on the map where the cheapest pint is nearest to your location, yes 3€ pints can still be found here, in Paris, if you're lucky. Should I get a part-time job? Getting a part-time job can be a great way to improve your French and get some extra income. However, it is important that this doesn’t interfere with your studies. Lots of students choose to get a babysitting or English tutoring job, but there are other options such as working in bars, cafés or shops. Babysitting and tutoring jobs are often offered on the noticeboard by the vending machines in the basement and agencies such as Be My Nounou can put you in contact with French families seeking babysitters.