‘I ditched London for idyllic France– this is how I spend my money’

How I Spend My Money
How I Spend My Money

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My life turned upside down 12 years ago when I left my banking job in London to move to rural France.

Funded by the sale of our house, my partner and I moved with our young daughter to start new lives. But we soon split up, meaning I had to start again from scratch.

I got a job teaching English as I couldn’t find anything else, but then found that I really enjoyed it. I went on to run an English school in a nearby city.

I am now happily married to a Frenchman. We recently decided to move to the countryside, as it has always been a dream of mine. Before, I’d only ever lived in cities.

We built our house in the south of France, paying €436,000 (£372,000) for both the land and the cost of the build. But there is still so much work to do outside and around the house that I have taken on extra work to help pay for it.

Although I didn’t get help to buy the house, my mum acted as the bridging loan so we could stay in the apartment my husband already owned, allowing us to start building the house.

We paid her back when we sold his flat. I’m hoping to buy an electric car soon, but we need to build and pay for more walls first.

I work entirely from home, working for an online language school. My daughter’s dad doesn’t live far away and we co-parent as well, splitting all financial responsibility.

As well as teaching in a school during the week, I teach in a university on Saturdays, and also earn money as a freelance writer each month.

Vital Statistics

  • Age: 48

  • Pre-tax annual salary: €53,500 (£45,646) – €48,500 (£41,380) from online school teaching, €5,000 (£4,266) from university teaching, and €250-500 (£213-427) from freelance work

  • Post-tax monthly salary: €3,176 (£2,710) from my school job. I use my other income streams to support my daughter, and on building costs for the house

  • Mortgage: €1,882 (£1,606) – my husband pays the other half

  • Household bills: €250 (£213) – again my husband pays the other half

  • Subscriptions (New York Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Bloomberg): €40 (£34)

Day 1

I get the bus out of the village at 6.40am for €4 (£3.41) and then spend €10 (£8.54) on a return train ticket to get to the university I work at. I like working at the university as they pay you in one go at the end of the year, so the money I earn I put into savings. That’s my plan for the next 10 years – to pay off some of the mortgage earlier.

I buy a cheap coffee for €1.20 (£1.02) from the university coffee machine. There is a Starbucks just opposite, but I won’t spend €6 (£5.12) on a coffee as it all adds up.

We meet friends to celebrate a 50th birthday in the village and I spend €20 (£17.08) on a goats cheese salad. I don’t usually eat out at the moment, but this is a special occasion so we are making an exception.

We then go to a local vineyard and taste some wine – it’s an amazing place to live for wine, both white and red. We buy a bottle and drink it at the vineyard, which is only €11 (£9.39) and better than any bar, with the Provençal countryside and château outside.

We end up spending €150 (£127.98) on wine, my husband and I have decided to buy from local vineyards rather than the supermarket. It’s practically the same price and it is more environmentally friendly and much better quality.

In the evening, we head out to dinner and meet lots of people in our new village. We spend €40 (£34.13) per head on dinner and nibbles, which has been well worth it for the great conversations.

Total: €236.20 (£201.55)

Day 2

We decide to buy a new proper coffee machine that grinds the beans for €400 (£341.28). We’ve done the maths and think it will save us money over a year with better coffee. I’m excited about the milk warmer more than anything else.

Total: €400 (£341.28)

Day 3

In France, the government imposes rules on clothing shops, only allowing them to hold sales twice a year to prevent undercutting.

Seizing my opportunity, I decide to buy a coat but I’ll pay for it over the next three months in instalments. It’s €80 (£68.26) each month, reduced from €500 (£426.60) originally.

I feel excited. I haven’t bought a new coat for 10 years and firmly believe it is better to spend more and love it and wear it until it’s too old – which is the stage I am at with my current one.

The workmen are still here today using the drill to break up the rock outside so that we can make a flat parking area. We built our house on a hill with an amazing view, but it is hard going, and every hour of drilling costs a lot. I work at home, so I can hear not just the noise but the pain of the spent money, too.

Total: €80 (£68.26)

Day 4

As I’m working from home, I don’t pay any transport costs, and today I don’t spend anything except on heating.

I only heat one room per day to try to keep costs down. I work in my office, overlooking my swimming pool (very expensive; I love it but also worked out that we can’t recoup our costs unless we spend all our time in the pool). It is great in the summer – I’ll stop for lunch, go for a run in the forest, then a swim before going back to work.

Total: €0 (£0)

Day 5

I’m at home again working in the morning, but my daughter doesn’t have school in the afternoon so we catch the bus into a bigger local village to go and enjoy cake in a nice café. I spend €15 (£12.80) on two coffees and two slices of cake. I also buy another jigsaw for both of us to complete which is €19 (£16.21). We’ve got back into doing them again in the evenings this winter.

Total: €34 (£29.01)

Day 6

Our coffee machine arrives, as does my new coat. Working from home is made much better with amazing coffee, so I think the cost was worth it. My coat is also lovely, and I am very pleased.

Total: €0 (£0)

Day 7

I spend €30 (£25.60) on prosecco to make cocktails later, in addition to the weekly food shop in the village supermarket which costs €170 (145.04).

I plan what we will eat all week and make packed lunches for my husband to keep food costs down.

Total: €200 (£170.64)

Overall total: €950.20 (£810.94)

As told to Pieter Snepvangers.

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