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Budget Travel Guide: 13 Creative Money Saving Tactics You Didn't Know About But Should

Useful resources and ideas to help you travel the world on a tight budget

Staying in expensive hotels or flying to popular tourist spots like Paris during the peak summer months can really put a dent in your travel budget- often restricting you to travel less or worse, never at all. Fortunately for you, just because you’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t travel the world. You just need to get creative in how you travel. I’ve put together 13 innovative ways you didn’t know you could travel to save money.

13 budget travel ideas worth trying

Money Is Not Stopping You From Travelling. Usually when I hear someone say they can’t afford to travel, what they really mean is they can’t afford their IDEAL vacation or trip which usually entails staying at some fancy-ish hotel or travelling to some popular and expensive travel getaway during peak travel season. Or what they really mean is that they would rather spend their money on other things over travel.

In reality, anyone can afford to travel and anyone can afford to travel more often. You just need to be willing to do things a little differently and think outside the box a bit.

Some of the methods I mention below will no doubt be new to you or seem unconventional- nevertheless there are gaggles of people that do in fact use these methods to afford travel- myself included. Many of the friends I’ve encountered during my travels also use these methods to travel the world and many of them travel with kids in tow.

With that said, here are 13 methods you can try along with links to the corresponding resources website. Enjoy!

Volunteer Your Way Around The World.

volunteer your way around the worldVolunteering is a good way to travel to places you might not otherwise visit while also helping individuals and communities in need. Here are several examples of volunteer work you can find around the world.

1-Family Volunteering

I have always wanted to volunteer abroad and I still plan on volunteering but the cost can be prohibitive. Did you know it can cost several thousand dollars to volunteer, even for humanitarian purposes?

Although fulfilling and less expensive than a normal 2 week vacation if you amortize the cost over the entire length of your stay which can be anywhere from a week to several months, it’s still out of the price range of many people- especially if you want to go with a second person or as a family.

For instance, to volunteer to teach English in Ghana for an 4 weeks will cost you about $2,900 USD. It gets progressively less epxpensive the longer you stay. Volunteering in Ghana to teach English for 8 weeks will cost you about $4,080 USD and 12 weeks will cost you about $5,200 USD per person. Usually this fee covers food, lodging, insurance, emergency medical evacuation, maybe some language training but you will still responsible for your own visa and airline ticket.

Here is a link to the example I give above www.projects-abroad.org/prices/#volunteer-and-intern-abroad-by-country-ghana

Benefit of paying to volunteer- The benefit of volunteering for an organization like this is that they are usually more organized. They provide you with help or assistance in the procedures. And many organizations even allow your children as young as 4 years old to volunteer with you.  You’re not restricted to just teaching English, you can also volunteer to do other things such as farming, building, marketing etc. It just depends on the location, organization and project.

There are many organizations out there, you just have to find the right one.

If paying to volunteer is still too expensive or you want to find free volunteer opportunities, you still have many  options.

Check out the next section for a bunch of free volunteer opportunities.

2-Volunteer on organic farms worldwide.

Imagine picking grapes in France or olives in Italy. OHHH how cool would that be?

There is an organization called WWOOFing that helps people work as volunteers on organic farms internationally. Usually you work 4 to 6 hours per day helping on the farm and In exchange you get free room, board and food.

There are all kinds of things you can do all over the globe. Many accept families, others don’t.

NOTE: You have to pay for your own transportation to and from the farms and membership on the WWOOFing site costs about 20 to 50 dollars per country where you are searching for opportunities.

3- Stay With Locals For Either Work, Money Or Free

Need more options than just volunteering at organic farms?

No problem. There is a service called www.staydu.com and their motto says it all… “stay with locals for either work, money or free”.

  • Do you like horses? look for horse stables around the world looking for a farm hand.
  • Want to go to Germany and practice your German? You might find a hostel to work at in exchange for lodging.
  • Just want to hang out in Japan? See if a local in Japan will host you for free or in exchange to teach them English.

NOTE: You must provide your own transportation to and from the location and there is a small fee to join the site. It’s less then 25 U.S. Dollars which is a steal if you ask me.

Free Or Really Cheap Accommodations Around The World

After transportation, accommodation is probably going to be one of your biggest expenses for your trip.

It stands to reason that if you can find free or cheap accommodations or eliminate housing costs all together that you don’t need quite as much money as you thought.

Here are several options for you to consider.

4- Couchsurfing: Stay For Free With Awesome Locals

couch-surfingWant to stay completely free some place for a few days and have instant friends?

Try Couchsurfing.com! A web based service that connects travellers like you with people all around the world who are willing to let you stay in their house for FREE.

There are a couple of things you should know. The owners are letting you stay in their home with them in it so you could literally be sleeping on the couch or the floor or all crammed in one room on air mattresses.

The other thing to note is, you should not wear out your welcome. Don’t plan on staying in one place for more than a few days.

The idea sounded weird to me too. To be honest, I didn’t think it would work for us because we are a family of five but we gave it a try anyway and we loved it.

We got to meet local people (our hosts), hang out and get the skinny on things to do in the area.

It’s really easy to find places to stay. Once you signup and create a profile, you can search for places by location and by the number of people they can accommodate.

If Couch-surfing isn’t your thing, totally understandable, than check out the next thing on this list. Hostels, they aren’t free but they’re pretty darn cheap.

5- Hostels: Stay in dorm like rooms; even if you have a family

stay in hostels around the world

Hostel Dorm Room Accommodations

If you are not familiar with hostels, they are hotels with dorm like accommodations.

At one time, only single young people under 25 stayed in hostels but more and more older people including baby boomer’s and families are taking advantage of the low cost hostels.

Most of the time there is a communal kitchen where you can warm up some food and you’ll have to share a bathroom.

Expect to pay around 20 bucks per person per night. Maybe more, maybe less. It just depends where and what country you are in.

To find hostels, you can troll the Internet or you could visit a hostel portal like HostelWorld.comBooking.com and HostelBookers.com

HostelWorld alone has over,20,200 hostels & budget hotels and 200 camp-sites world wide.

6- House-Sit Your Way Around The World

Housesitting cornwall

Photo courtesy: TrustedHouseSitters.com

 

There are people with huge houses in locations you want to visit who are looking for people to watch their house  for them.

What’s the catch?

-Well, you have to buy your own tickets to and from the place.

-You don’t get paid but you get a free place to stay.

-The owners may ask you to feed their pets, water the plants or just keep an eye on things in general.

It really is a win win situation.

Anyone can do House-Sitting including families with kids.

You just need to know where to look for house-sitting gigs .

If you want to skip the learning curve on how to House-Sit your way around the world, I recommend you buy this eBook from Hecktic travels called…

 “How To Become A House-Sitter”.

I’ve read it and highly recommend it. It has literally saved me hours of research and answered every single question I could ever have about house-sitting.

It’s available in PDF format so you can read it right away on your tablet or laptop.

Use Miles & Points To Buy Airline Tickets

7-Use Miles To Buy Tickets

I won’t get into the specifics of which card to use but I will say that you could get one free ticket just signing up for one or two credit cards.

All you have to do is wait for one of those deals where they give you 50,000 miles after you spend 500 dollars or something like that. It a pretty easy way to get a free flight.

I’ve bought many tickets using miles I’ve accumulated with my cards. In fact, back in 2011 when we flew to France, I purchased 4 of our tickets using miles.

That alone saved us almost 4,000 dollars for doing nothing more than spending and buying things like I normally would. Try it and watch the points add up. Easy!

8-Borrow, Get A Loan Or Use Credit

Borrow money to travel: under certain circumstances it may be the right choiceI normally don’t advocate taking out a personal loan for a lifestyle choice like travelling however under certain circumstances, it might be appropriate.

Here are a few examples when borrowing MIGHT be appropriate.

Borrow For A Gap Year: One example of when It may be appropriate to borrow money to travel is if you want to take a few months to a year off to travel before you start college (aka take a gap year) and you come up a little short on your savings goal.  The benefit and fulfillment you get from that gap year may far outweigh the cost in the long term. Besides, you can always get a working holiday visa and work your way around the world to help offset your costs once you hit the road.

Emergency Fund: Another instance when borrowing money might be o.k. is for an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund can eliminate lots of stress and give you peace of mind while travelling in case something unforeseeable happens.

Borrow to travel so you can advance your career or future earning potential: Millions of people invest in their future by borrowing money to pay for college so why not borrow money to travel if it can potentially advance your career and or future earning potential?

Here are a few scenarios.

  • You want to write a book about Africa and you want first hand experience but need money to go their.
  • You want to become a French translator and want to spend some time in France to immerse yourself.
  • You have a research project for school.

Death or illness: Lastly, if a family member dies or is ill and you just need to see them or attend a funeral, a loan may be your only choice. I had to fly to Montreal to bury my fathers ashes in the family plot and I had to do it on credit.

Here are several ways you can go about getting a loan to travel.

Credit Cards: You could use your credit card for the bulk of your purchases but many credit cards have high interest rates which might make paying back your loan really difficult.

Personal travel loan:  Another option is to take out a personal loan for travel which usually have a lower interest rate than credit cards which makes repaying your loan a little easier. Just remember that getting a travel loan could be a little tricky to get. You need to make sure you have good credit and the ability to repay the loan before any bank will even look at lending you money.

Family: Lastly, you could hit up your family and hope they let you borrow money.

Work Your Way Around The World

teach-scuba-diving

Talon taught scuba diving in Central America

If you want to spend more than a couple of months travelling and money is an issue than you should consider working your way around the world.

Many people, including myself have used this method to afford world travel.

Not only is it a great way to fund your travels, it’s a great way to really get to know the local culture, language and make local friendships that will last a lifetime.

With that said, here are several ways you can work your way around the world.

9- Get A Working Holiday.

Many countries have a special visa called a working holiday visa which allows foreigners to work in that country for a short amount of time. 

Most of the jobs are going to be low level, low paying jobs that don’t require a degree or a lot of work experience.

Here are some examples of jobs you can get on a working holiday.

  • Au pair (Many people over-seas want English speaking au pairs to help their kids learn English).
  • Waitress/Waiter ( May require you to speak the language)
  • Scuba Diving instructor: This single dad taught diving in Central America to support him and his son.
  • Tour guide:
  • Bartender
  • Crew on a yacht
  • Cruise ship worker
  • Become a Travelling Webmaster and trade hostel lodging for webmaster work.

If you are interested in finding out  more about working your way around the world, start by doing a search for “working holidays” and “working holiday visas” for a specific country and don’t forget to check out that countries website to learn about visa requirements.  Here is an example on the Australian website.

10- Teach English Overseas

What better way to pay for your travels than teach something you know how to do in your sleep?

I taught English off and on while living in Japan through a program called the Jet Exchange Program and made enough money to fund my travels for several years. I worked six months on and 3 months off travelling and visiting various places around the world.

NOTE: You may need to get certified with something called the TEFL certificate which isn’t that hard to get and does not take that long to get. You may even be able to take the class online within a matter of months for less than $800.

11- Become a digital nomad: Portable Careers That Let You Freelance While Travelling

Become a digital nomad and freelance and work anywhere in the world with just your laptop.If you have some skill that you can do from anywhere in the world from your laptop than you have what is called a portable career and you can become a digital nomad.

Many digital nomads do something called Geo-arbitrage. They command western salaries but live in places where the cost of living is far below what it would cost to live in their home country.

For instance, Victoria is a British girl who decided the 9 to 5 life wasn’t for her so she moved to Bali and figured out a way to make an income online. She ended up starting a travel Blog called Pommie Travels. Now she makes a living by selling advertising on her website, freelance writing and handling the media and PR for individual clients.

Here are a few examples of freelance jobs you can do while travelling.

  • Freelance Writer or copy writer
  • Web designer
  • English Teacher ( teach English via Skype or video call).
  • Consultant: ( what skill do you have that you could use to start consulting people and businesses)
  • Transcribers: Video and medical transcriber
  • Virtual Assistant: (very popular)
  • Data Entry

Freelance Work Portals Where You Can Find Work

Become A Travel Companion

12- Become A Professional Travel Companion

I once had a neighbour who was in her late 80’s. She had money but no one to travel with and she was willing to pay for someone to accompany her on her travels. I didn’t know it at the time but what she needed was a travel companion.

Elder Travel Companion and General Travel Companion

It turns out there is a real need for travel companions for the elderly as well as disabled people, children, hearing impaired, visually-impaired or people who are just nervous about flying alone.

Just remember, you will be working and probably won’t be able to do any skydiving or climbing mount Everest but you will have some time to yourself to explore once in a while so pick and choose your jobs carefully.

To find a company that helps hook up professional travel companions with people looking for travel companions, just do a search on the Internet for professional travel companion or paid air travel escort.

Here is one such service -> 

Get Paid to travel with other people: become a travel companion

13 -Date And Travel The World: Travel Dating

If you are single, attractive, low on cash and looking to meet other travellers, try this travel dating website.

I have not tried this myself nor do I know anybody who has but found it really intriguing.

If you are curious here is the video commercial for the site and service. Let me know if you know of anyone who has tried this.

Conclusion

Although unconventional, if you really want to make travel a priority than budget travel may be your ticket. Good luck.

Find out how much it cost us to live in France for a year with 3 kids.

How Much Does It Cost To Live In France For 1 Year? (Personal Experience)

Find out how much it cost to live in France; based on our family of 5 actual expenses

I bet one of your biggest questions about taking a year or more off to live in France must be “how much does it cost to live in France?” I know because it used to be my biggest questions and it is also one of the most asked questions from my readers. Luckily for you, I tracked all of our expenses during our first year in Marseille France and created this very detailed account so that you can extrapolate what it might cost you to live in France.

De rien!

How Much Did It Cost Us To Live in France for one year?

It cost our family of five just over 3,0000 Euros per month to live in Marseille France. I have no idea if you think $3,000 Euros a month for a family of five is a lot or a little but let me ask you this.

How much did you spend on your last 2 week vacation? Your hotel room alone probably cost you at least $100 a night which will cost you a little ove $3,100 USD alone. In France, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything cheaper than that.  Then, add in the fact and the cost that if you stay in a hotel, you’ll have to eat out most nights which means that you will probably have to add in at least another 50 dollars per day for 2 people.  Then add in all the site seeing costs, transportation costs and more.

My point is this; 3,000 euros which breaks down to about $133 USD per day is actually pretty damn good.

This is what makes extended travel or living abroad so affordable. Staying in a home and living like a local vs going somewhere for 2 to 4 weeks and staying in an expensive hotel.

Let me break down 3,000 Euros which converts to about 3,900 USD per month.

  • It cost us $133 per day for our entire family of five to live in France for one year. 
  • That’s $27 USD per day per person to live in France.
  • $795 USD per month per person to live in France

Now before you go off making plans to move to France, you need to understand how I came to my calculations, what our expenses included and what they did not include.

How I came to my calculations (important please read)

  1. One year time period:

    My calculations are based on the fact that we lived in France temporarily for a year.  Cost of living will look much different if you plan on living in France longer.  i.e. you might have a mortgage, a car, extra taxes to pay and other things that a temporary resident will not have to pay.

  2. Exchange Rate:

    I used an exchange rate of 0,77. At the time of this writing, 1 USD buys 0,76 centime. Put another way 1 Euros will cost you $1.30.

    1 CAD buys 0,78 centime. I split the difference and used .77 centime.

    *updated September 2016:   The dollar is much stronger. 1 dollar now gets you 0.89 centimes. Put another way, 1 Euro will now cost you $1.10 USD. This just means that the USD costs I list in this article will work in your benefit because they will be slightly less than I stated here NOT MORE!

    cost-to-live-in-France exchange rate .77

  3. Averages:

    Prices fluctuate. Some months our expenses were higher than others so for simplicity, I used our 1 year average. First I totalled our expense for the year and divided by person, then per day to arrive at the $27 a day per person average cost and converted each calculation to USD / CAD.
    cost-of-living-france for a family of five per person

  4. Expenses NOT Included:

    My calculation does NOT included airline tickets or extended trips. For instance, we took a cruise but I did not include that cost in my numbers. We bought 2 tablets for reading, 2 bikes and some other things which I did not include in my calculation. I did this so you could get a baseline or a bare minimum of fixed costs or essential expenses needed to live in France. That way all you have to do is add in your own extra expenses and creature comforts to arrive at what it might cost  you.

High Level Look At How Much It cost To Live In France For One Year.

cost-of-living-france for a family of five per person pie chart

The above chart shows a break out of all our expenses by major category. Notice that Rent and Food were our biggest expenses. This is important to know because there is a lot of wiggle room with those two pieces of the pie. We chose to live in more expensive areas and we choose to eat really really well. 🙂

Now that that’s out of the way, let us get down to the dirty details. I’ve included a detailed break out of our expenses in Euros and Dollars for each of the major categories along with a small explanation. Ready?

CATEGORY: How much does it cost to live in France for one year: Detailed look at the cost of living in France for our family.

Below is a detailed description of the major categories of our expenses. Have fun.

HOUSING: (1,100 to 1,300 Euros  =$1,429 to $1,688 / Month)

how much does it cost to rent a house in France

By far one of our biggest expenses was housing.  We paid 1,300 Euros per month for a fully furnished, 100 sq meter house which accounted for 42% of our annual and monthly budget . This year we will pay less rent because we moved out of the big city to a smaller town 1 hour from Marseille and 2 hours from Nice and Cannes.

I HIGHLY ADVISE YOU NOT TO RENT AN UNFURNISHED HOME (if you are planning to stay in France for a year or less.)

Our house was fully furnished and walk-in ready. Now, you’re probably thinking, we could have rented a home for less than 1,300 euros a month if we had not rented a fully furnished home.

You’re right we could have but trust me when I say “you really don’t want to rent an unfurnished place for a year”.

Unfurnished does not mean the same thing in France as it does in the US and Canada.

Most rental properties in France DO NOT come equipped with a fridge, washer, dryer or dishwasher.  This may not shock you but what if a rental did not come with the following?

  • No lights (i.e. you provide your own ceiling lights)
  • No kitchen cabinets. Yes, you heard me right. No kitchen cabinets. I saw it with my own eyes and I still can’t believe it.
  • No stove
  • No oven

Think about it, just furnishing your place with those few things alone could cost you a few thousand dollars not to mention the time, stress and effort it will take you to buy those things then have it installed and do all this in another language.

What Does Fully Furnished Mean:

Fully furnished usually means it has everything you need the minute you walk in the door.

  • A working fridge
  • towels
  • forks
  • dishes
  • beds
  • linens
  • A working kitchen with stove and oven.

Granted, you need to buy some things to make the home more cozy. For instance, I bought a few pans, a chef knife, a pressure cooker and 2 comforters.

Be realistic

Unless you can afford a higher end fully furnished apartment, the condition of your apartment might be a little worn down or have certain things which you would have wished came with the apartment. Our house in Marseille was extremely worn down and we even had to buy an extra bed because it did no have enough for all five of us.

(On the flip side, our new landlords in France pay for anything we need for our house so it just depends). 

Another thing that will effect price of your flat is the location, for example.

Living in a big city will cost more than living in the country side. It is cheaper to rent a home further inland away from the water.

I’ve seen places as big as ours rent for 500 euros but they are in very rural places that usually require you to have a car. We opted for cities and towns with public transportation so we did not have to buy a car.

  • Marseille City: 1,300 Euros
    • 3 Large Bedrooms in 100 Sq Meter (1,100 sq ft) Flat in the center of the city close to metros, shops, amenities, trains etc.
  • La Garde City: 1,100 Euros
    • 4 bedroom 100 sq Meter flat in a rural setting. No metro, but access to good bus system and train which goes all over Europe. Some shopping. 5 minutes from Toulon by Train.

We  found our furnished flat on www.sabbaticalhomes.com .

Utilities-(100 Euros / Month) $130

How much do utilities cost in France

If you find a rental you may have to take care of the utilities and put the bill in your name. We did that for our flat in Marseille but our new landlords in Toulon kept the bill in their name and we pay the landlord for our utilities.

Be prepared, setting up your utilities is a whole other beast. I set up our account on the phone but if you do not speak French, you are going to run into some issues. Instead, you could try wakling into an EDF office  (that’s the utilities company) and hope someone speaks English, or hire an interpreter or get help from your landlord or neighbours.

Side note, to open up a utilities account you HAVE TO HAVE A FRENCH BANK ACCOUNT.. It’s true. I tried to get around this but couldn’t.

  • Electricity & Gas (EDF) ( 60 Euros / month)
  • Telephone & Internet (40 Euros / month)
  • Water (included in rent but yours may not be included)

FOOD : (885 Euros month) $1,117 or ( 177 Euros /person per month) $ 229

how much does food for a family of five cost in france?

Food was our second biggest expense after our rent. It accounted for 28% of our total expenses. Let us be clear on one thing. We are a family of foodies. Meaning, we don’t eat McDonalds, we don’t eat Hamburger Helper or hot dogs. We like to eat the good stuff. We buy a lot of fresh produce and cook in most nights. We also like our wine and spirits. I don’t say that to brag but to qualify our food bill to you. Our food bill fluctuated month to month but for the most part we averaged 885 euros a month for  a year. This amount included 2 kids eating school lunch everyday, booze, all our meat and produce and a few days eating out. VICES: One of the many surprises about France is that Alcohol (especially wine) is very cheap, with a good bottle costing only a few euros. Sure you can buy expensive bottles but you don’t have to. Cigarettes are extremely expensive (5 or 6 euros a pack) and rising all the time. Time for you to quit anyways.

Food: 550 – 650 Euros / month 110 – 130 Euros / person
Beer, wine, spirits 40 Euros / month 20 Euros / person
Eating out 100 – 150 Euros / month 20- 30 euros / person
School lunch for kids 120 Euros / month 2 kids 60 Euros / kid (ony 2 kids ate at school)

Medical & Doctor ( 450 Euros / month) $585

How much does medical and health cost in France?

Medical and health was our third biggest expense. It accounted for about 15% of our total expenses. We could have cut that bill in half if we chose to insure ourselves through a French company instead of using a US insurance company. One of our concerns was losing our continual coverage in the US. There are certain benefits to keeping continual coverage which I won’t go into. Contact an insurance carrier to find out for yourself. This year, we may chose to buy medical insurance from an insurance company in France but we need to understand the ramifications first. This means I have some research to do. So far, we have not made any claims on our insurance because of our deductible. In fact, we pay for doctor visits out of our pocket here in France. Each visit costs us a whopping 23 euros. That’s it. Another thing to note is that medicine and prescriptions are a fraction of what it cost in the US.

  • Medical Insurance: 400 dollars / month paid to US company
  • 6 Doctor visits in France: 140 Euros
  • Medicine, aspirin etc.: 5 Euros

Clothing: (50 Euros / month) $65 or (10 Euros / person) $13

How much does it cost to buy shoes and clothes in France?  

Clothing can be pricey but if you shop at discount stores and buy during the discount season ( After Christmas and then summer), you can get some really good deals of up to 75 percent off. My kids are growing like weeds, so we have to buy clothes every few months. Our biggest expense for clothing were shoes, some jackets and sweaters. My son Andre went from a shoe size of 9 to a shoe size of almost 12 within 2 years. And we walk so much that they wear out the soles within a few months too.

Transportation: ( 50 Euros / month) or ( 14 Euros / person) $65

How much does transportation cost in france

We don’t have a car so to get around we have to take the metro, bus, tram or train. Last year my sons took the metro to school. Each of their monthly metro passes cost around 30 euros. Catherine was under 6 so she was Free. A one way metro ticket was about 1 Euro 45 and so were bus tickets.

  • Metro Passes in Marseille (60 Euros)
  • Bus tickets, train tickets, metro tickets for everyone else. (40 Euros)

Miscellaneous Kid Expenses ( 40 Euros / month per kid)  or ( 160 euros / year per kid) $180

How much do after school sports cost for kids in france?

After School Sports and Activities

If you have kids, you’re going to probably want them to do activities, chat with other kids, play and have friends. We enrolled our three kids in afters school sports. Kieran plays soccer 2 or 3 times a week which is called ‘FOOT’ or FOOTBALL. Not to be confused with American football. Andre plays Judo twice a week (Yellow belt) and Catherine is a budding ballerina. Each activity cost 160 euros for the entire year. That’s a deal compared to what I’m used to paying in the states.

Allowance and pocket money for the kids

Our two teenage sons like to go to movies and hang out with friends and buy little things so I opted to give them an allowance of 40 Euros each.

  • Allowance for kids80 Euros / month
  • School Sports40 Euros / month total for all three kids.

Taxes & Visas:  365 Euros for one year. (but you could pay more) $78 per month

How much taxes and visas cost to live in France?

TAX

If you rent a place for a year than you may have to pay a “Taxe d’Habitation” This tax is to  cover things like street cleaning,  upkeep, garbage removal and other things in your area. This tax is usually paid by the occupiers of a property and you are liable to pay this tax unless you come to some agreement with the landlord. We made an agreement with both our landlords to have them cover this tax which in some cases can be a few hundred euros EACH MONTH. Get it in writing though.

VISA

If you stay in France longer than 3 months than you have to have a special visa called the Long stay visa. Once you arrive in France, to complete your visa process you have to pay another 360 euros per adult. They then paste the visa in your passport and you are free to stay in the country for the entire year. Every year after that, you have to renew the visa but it drops to only 110 euros per adult.  We did not have to pay anything for the kids.

  • Taxe d’habitation: 0 Euros
  • Visas: 365 Euros for first year. Every year after it will be 110 euros.

Extras, Incidentals and Miscellaneous ( 70 Euros / month) $92

How much do misc things cost in france

We had other expenses but many of them were expenses that you probably won’t incur. We bought a new laptop for one of our sons. We bought two tablets, a couple of bikes and some miscellaneous things. I have not included them in any of my cost calculations.

How much do misc things cost in france?

You need to budget for a miscellaneous category. I’m not sure what will go in your budget but here is what went into ours.

  • Haircuts (12 Euros)
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access US sites normally blocked to outsiders.: (7 Euros)
  • Sim Card for phone: (2 Euros) ( we don’t have a plan. We have a prepaid card.
  • Entertainment, site seeing: (50 Euros)

How We Saved 10,000 Dollars on Pre-school in France!!!

How much does pre-school cost in france?

If you have a child between the ages of 3 and 6, you’ll be delectably surprised to learn that pre-school is Free in France. This came as a huge surprise to us. I fully expected to pay anywhere from 900 to 1,00 dollars a month for pre-school since this is how much preschool can cost in the US and some parts of Canada. We estimate that we saved a total of 10K / year in pre-school cost alone. But that’s not all. The best part is that Catherine loves her school and loves having playmates and friends. I volunteer as much as I can at her school and they do countless outings every year. The photo above is on a class trip to the Zoo in Aix-En-Provence. It was amazing and it’s a way for me to meet other parents and people.

Final Thoughts on Cost of Living

Average monthly cost for our family of five to live in france for one year

Life Style: We do not live or spend extravagantly. Having said that, we do like our creature comforts. You need to use your common sense and extrapolate costs based on your situation.

Obviously, cost of living for one year in France is going to depend on your lifestyle and your unique situation.

Other things you may not be able to avoid or skimp on are things like taxes and visas while other things like food, your rent and you site-seeing budget are variable.

You could cut your expenses dramatically if you choose to live further inland or in the countryside but then that would mean you have the added expense of buying a car and lose the amenities of being in a bigger town or city.

So what do you think? Does it cost more or less than you thought to live in France for a family the size of ours?

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How we ended up living in France with our three kids

How We Ended Up Living In France with Our 3 Children

How we ended up living in France with our three kids

The path you take when you finally decide to move to France will be unique to you and your circumstances. Our decision to move was set in motion by the great recession and unemployment followed by a series of circumstances. Here is a brief look at the events leading up to the final decision that made our move to France possible.

Move to France: We never thought we would or could until…

Although living in France has always been a dream of ours, we never actually believed it was something we could achieve any time soon. Our lives, our mindset and the golden handcuffs of our jobs kept us chained to our perpetual lives. Lives that were good by most people’s standards maybe even great. But for two people like Blake and I who had itchy travel feet, life seemed a little mundane. Each day melted into the next and each day looked like the previous day.

We worked, played, ate, slept and took the kids to school. Rinse and repeat with the yearly 2 week to 4 weeks off for vacations.

We lost our jobs-The Catalyst!

laid_off gave us the balls and courage to take the next stepIn 2007 my husband and I both lost our jobs during the Great recession– the worst to hit since the great depression of 1929.

We didn’t know it at the time but everything changed that day and
getting laid off would be the catalyst that set us in motion towards moving to France. It would just take a while to get there.

Between 2008 and 2010, we bounced between unemployment and working at a couple of company’s which laid us off as well- something that was not all that uncommon in Silicon Valley. Only now, it was harder to find a new job and some of our friends couldn’t find work at all or took on whatever job they could find.

Being unemployed does something to you. Yes it scares you financially but it can also force you into a situation to do things you would never do if you had a full time job or do things you never knew you were capable of doing. At least, that is how it was for us.

Unemployed 

“We started to worry”. It’s not cheap living in the San Francisco bay area and the life we created required 2 high paying jobs to maintain that lifestyle. We knew we had to do something. Rather than stick around and deplete our savings, we decided this was our chance to make our exit, cut our losses and get a fresh start on the east coast. Something we always wanted to do to be closer to our families. The east coast also was appealing because the cost of living was much lower than the San Francisco Bay area. We thought in the least, our money would last longer in a less expensive area.

We left our home and our friends behind in California

In 2010, we had had enough and left California for good but by that time we had not planned on moving to France YET!

Instead we planned on bouncing between my family in Montreal and Blake’s sister in Maryland while we looked for work around the Boston area. Once we found work, we would rent a house and settle down.

Strategically speaking, Boston was in the perfect location. Not only was it in New England near the water, but it was also directly located between my family in Montreal and Blake’s family in the states. It seemed like the perfect place for two ex silicon valley workers like us to look for jobs, settle down and start new lives.

Or so we thought!

We changed our mind-set: lived like vagabonds outside of social norms and it changed us

For a year we carried on this way, living somewhat unconventionally as a semi nomadic family of five. We carried only what we needed with a few extra things for each of our three kids: small toys for Catherine, a skateboard, guitar, etc. We shuttled between our two homes family homes in Montreal and Maryland every few months in a big green Toyota Tundra Pick up truck.  The rest of our things or what was left of them were in a storage unit somewhere in Massachusetts. 

We were breaking the mould big time and It felt strange. Even though we were doing what we thought was right, I felt a little guilty living the way we were thanks to a North American upbringing where it’s implied that there are certain lifestyle conventions that we should all try to achieve. (Some people call it the American Dream). If you break from that mould then you are doing it wrong or hurting your children and family.  At least that’s the sense I got.

To make matters worse, it we were spinning our wheels looking for jobs that didn’t pan out, didn’t exist or didn’t pay enough.  Both Blake and I became disheartened, stressed out and in some ways a little desperate.

Something strange or interesting happens, depending on how you look at it, when you are backed into a corner , hit rock bottom or run out of choices.

We decided to do move to France or at least try

Our situation made us get creative and we started looking at options outside of our comfort zone. That’s when we entertained the idea of moving to France for a year. Both Blake and I had lived abroad before meeting one another however neither of us had any experience living abroad as a married couple let alone with three children in tow.

We had discussed it before however there were always road blocks. We had jobs, a house, lives and friends. But now, all those barriers were gone. Our stuff was conveniently in storage. We could go anytime now so why not? Money! That’s why. 

We worried about money and how we could afford it

We had already overcome the idea of living unconventionally but like any normal family, we had concerns about money and how to pay for our trip.  After brainstorming, we came up with some possible scenarios.   We knew that if we could somehow manage the money part than we would be one step closer to making our move to France a reality.

  1. Use what we have: Make our current rental income and savings go as far as possible.
  2. Freelance: Earn money by leveraging our skills and strengths by freelancing or consulting. This would give us the ability to earn money anywhere we land. 
  3. Find jobs in France. (almost impossible, we tried this and it never panned out because we are not EU citizens).
  4. Upgrade our skills: Believe it or not this blog is a way for me to keep my skills updated should I ever decide to return to the workforce. I write, I promote, I troubleshoot, I create all my own graphics. I do it all. You can hire me to help you if you like.

Obviously we overcame all our obstacles because as I write this we are living in France.

What’s my point in sharing this with you?

We all have our own set of circumstances, road blocks or whatever it is that is stopping us from making our dreams come true.  Sometimes it takes an unfortunate event to make us break from the mould.

Why wait? 

If you really want to do something don’t let your fears stop you. Don’t let other people tell you how you are supposed to live. If you think it is a good idea or the right thing to do than do it. It may take you a while but eventually you will get there and you will not regret it because anything worth doing takes work which makes the victories of your success so much sweeter.

So there you have it. What issues are you struggling with? What’s stopping you? 

15 ways you can afford a sabbatical year abroad

15 Creative Ways You Can Save Money Now So You Can Live Abroad Later! 1 Year Sabbatical Or Gap Year

15 ways you can afford a career break or spend a sabbatical year abroad to live in France.

My husband and I always dreamed of living in France but we didn’t have a job or company willing to sponsor our move and we didn’t think we could afford to do it on our own either. We were wrong. With some clever planning, a dash of courage and a pound of persistence, you can make that seemingly impossible dream of a career break or sabbatical year to live abroad a reality.Here are 15 clever, creative and simple ways you can save now for that year abroad later.

Here are 15 ways to make your 1 year sabbatical year dream a reality

Not only do you not need to be rich to take a 1 year sabbatical, you can use a one year career break or sabbatical from life to do something enriching including learning a new skill to advance your career for when you return.

1- Ask your employer if you can take a year off  (ask him for a sabbatical year).

Insurance can get expensive in the US if your footing the bill yourself. It might be a long shot but it’s worth asking your HR department if you can take leave of absence. If they agree, a lot of the stress of returning back home will be removed because you have your job waiting for you after your one year sabbatical. While you’re in HR’s office, see what your options are for health insurance abroad. Thy may have an option for you that will cover you while you are living abroad.

2- Can you do your current job part time and or remotely?

Technically, if you are working remotely, you are not really on a  sabbatical year. But if working remotely is your only option than take it. You can always work remotely from some beach.

Or first year living abroad in France, I did not work but now I do and I am fine with that. I actually like working remotely because I make my own hours and get to work in my pyjamas.

3- Cut back on your expenses and save

Before we ever started packing or applied for visas, our family of five cut thousands of dollars from our annual expenses by simply cutting  the fat out of our lives. We ate out less, we got rid of cable T.V., shopped at thrift stores and didn’t buy anything unless we absolutely needed it.

Yes it was hard especially if you are used to eating sushi once a week buying new shoes every month but if you really want to make that 1 year sabbatical a reality, than you need to do it especially if money is tight. It’s hard at first, but once you start seeing how much money you are saving it turns into a game and gets easier and easier.

4- Sell Your Unwanted Stuff

It’s amazing how much crap you can accumulate over the course of a lifetime especially if you have kids.

Instead of trashing it, try selling your unwanted stuff to fund your 1 year sabbatical abroad? My advice is to first do a big garage sale for the smaller less expensive things. Then sell your more valuable items one by one on eBay.com or craigslist. Don’t forget to announce your garage sale either. If you’re in Canada, try Kijiji.

5- Volunteer Abroad/ Trade For Lodging and Food

If you would rather volunteer or or work in exchange for lodging and food while abroad, there are volunteer programs over the world. You should know that most of these places you find online will charge you money to match you up with a volunteer program. And they arn’t cheap. I have seen some programs charge a few thousand dollars for less than 6 months.

Don’t be discouraged because there are some volunteer programs where you don’t have to pay but they are hard to find. Let me know if you find one.

6- Home Exchange

If you live in a highly desirable place like San Francisco, New York or another popular destination then you could try exchanging your house with someone who lives  abroad in an equally desirable location.   Check craigslist and do a search on Google using keywords house swap or house exchange. Here’s one that looked pretty good, it’s called Home exchange

7- Rent Your Home To Offset Costs.

Consider renting your home or subletting your apartment. Renting our your place is a good way to offset your costs while also ensuring you have a place to stay when you get back from your sabbatical. If you rent your home fully furnished, you can rent it for even more. Look at places like www.sabbaticalhomes.com.

8- Go Somewhere Where The Cost Of Living Is Lower

Going to Thailand for your one year sabbatical. If you are from the US or Canada, the cost of living will be much less and your money will last much longer than if you live someplace like Paris for a year. Popular cheap destinations are South East Asia  South America and Mexico.

9- Start your own consulting business

If you have some skill that you can do over the phone or video or over email than consider starting a consulting business that you run completely online.

I know lots of people who travel full time with kids for years on end because they work as consultants, web designers, copywriters etc. All jobs that can be done from anywhere in the world.

10- Teach English or Music over Skype

This falls under number 9 but I thought it was a good idea to call this one out because so many people just don’t know what business to do remotely.

If you speak English or play an instrument for example, you already have a skill that you can teach others. All you need is a computer, internet and skype and a simple 2 page website to start.

11- Become a virtual assistant and do administrative jobs remotely for various companies and people

The web is full of entrepreneurs and businesses looking for other people to do small odd jobs, administrative tasks or higher level duties like Data entry, freelance writing, designing logos etc. go and check out Elance or freelancer.com. They have thousands of jobs posted by people and companies looking your help. Some people make a living this way.

12- Sell your photography

If you have an eye for photography, and you love taking pictures you can sell your photos on stock photography sites like Istockphoto. People go there and pay you the rights to use your photo. There’s a lot of competition and it doesn’t pay much but if you love doing it then not get paid for your hobby.

13- Live simply while on sabbatical

Maybe you won’t be able to live it up in a posh area of Paris but there are lots of affordable places or things you can do on a sabbatical.

Some ideas are to buy a used RV and drive across the continent visiting famous landmarks. There are whole families doing this so why not you? If you have your heart set on France, consider living in a very rural area where you can rent a home for less than 500 euros a month.

14- Use your savings, retirement fund or sell stocks

Do this at your own discretion.  When and if you return back to your homeland, can you start over? You’ll have to do a lot of soul searching for this one I suspect.

15-Sell Your Home

I know several families who have sold their house to fund their travels. Only you can know whether or not this is the right option for you to take.  Were you planning to sell anyways?  Is the market up?

Conclusion

There are so many more ways you can pay and afford to take a sabbatical to travel. You will need to pick and choose the ones that best suit your situation, your comfort level and your goals.  Just remember, there will always be an excuse why you CAN’T take a sabbatical. The truth of the matter is, many of your obstacles are mainly fears. If you really want to make this happen than make it a priority and do it

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