Living in Paris on an Entry Level Salary

When I moved to Paris as a student, I was broke with a capital B. I clearly was not the only student making this move with little to no income based on the rampant amount of “how to live on a student budget in Paris” articles sweeping the net. Surprisingly though, once you move from student status to young professional status, there are few articles on how to make the most of your money in the city of lights. Is it because everyone is scoring high paying entry level jobs? Or the majority of young professionals in Paris work in Mergers and Acquisitions? This isn’t London, so I have my doubts.

I always had this impression when I was studying in the US, that one of the best things about graduating and getting a full time job, was having more “fun money.” After paying all the necessities and putting a little into my savings, I wouldn’t have to decide any longer whether grabbing a drink with friends or making that much needed trip to get my hair cut, was the priority this month. I mentally linked a full time job to a lifestyle of… I dunno, dining out twice a week without eating straight pasta for the following two weeks?

I currently work for a multinational company in Paris and I have a great salary and benefits by Parisian standards. I’m really in no place to whine. Yet, I definitely don’t have the “fun money” I always thought I would have. I must admit that I sometimes do the absolute unthinkable, the big fat no-no that makes all expats cringe. I catch myself comparing my life in Paris to those of my friends back home. I know, I know, slap on the wrist. This is a really bad idea, but sometimes I just can’t stop myself.  We all have great jobs, similar education experiences and live in big, expensive cities. I would generally assume that we would have a similar spending power. Think again. That’s  just not how it works in Paris.

As a young professional in Paris on a local contract, you will absolutely have other benefits you could never have in the US. Let’s not forget global health care and a minimum of 5 weeks’ vacation time for starters. But you won’t be jaunting off to get your nails done twice a month without cutting out a round of cocktails with friends or going negative in your bank account. It’s just not possible in most entry and mid-level jobs in Paris. There are of course exceptions, but if you are rowing along in the same average boat as me, don’t panic. There is hope. You will not be forced to spend your entire 20’s surrounded by raging Erasmus students, unless of course student spots are your thing. In which case, no judgement, but you won’t be there because you can’t afford to go anywhere else.

Check out my list below of my top spots to go that don’t break the bank by Paris standards and tend to cater to a crowd that’s taken their first steps in the professional world. I don’t pretend to know all the great finds in Paris, so don’t hesitate to comment so I can add to the list!

RESTAURANTS
Bouillon | Typical French food at amazing prices. They sell both soft and alcoholic drinks by the pitcher at ridiculously reasonable prices in a trendy atmosphere | 22 Boulevard de Clichy, 75009.

Le Ruisseau | Affordable burgers in an adorable resto. They even deliver if you prefer the deco of your own home | 65 rue du Ruisseau, 75018

Chez Justine | woodfire cooked plates, known for amazing brunches | 96 rue Oberkampf, 75011

Pizzeria Popolare | Italian pizza restaurant where all the walls are decorated in alcohol bottles. It’s magical and their delish pizza’s start at 4€ |111 Rue Réaumur, 75002 

Leandres | Trendy Colombian coffee shop overflowing with empanadas and freshly baked treats every day. Some of their combo menu’s are under 10€ | 78 rue de Maubeuge, 75009

La Donia | Tacos. Cheap. Need I say more? | 82, rue jean-pierre Timbaud, 75011 

DRINKS/COCKTAILS
Demain c’est loin | With a name like “tomorrow is far away,” expectations are high. Affordable drinks and casual, fun atmosphere | 9 rue Julien Lacroix, 75020 

Le Cafe des Antiquaries | laid back, casual bar with 6€ cocktails and enough space that dancing becomes an option later in the night | 15 Rue de la Grange Batelière, 75009

Comestibles  | relaxed wine bar with an large selection of cheap tapas. Don’t miss the truffle croque monsieur |  4 rue du Mont-Cenis, 75018

La Laverie | This is a cafe/resto during the day that turns great bar at night | 70 rue de menilmontant, 75019

Café Cheri | Potentially borders on “hole in the wall” status, but it’s always packed with a great crowd especially in the summer | 44 Boulevard de la Villette, 75019 

BEAUTY
Brune | Who told you that a great haircut in Paris is at least 90€? For 38€, you get a wash, cut, and curl. The women are all really friendly, competent and no appointment needed. Just show up! | 65 Rue des Dames, 75017

La French Nail Bar | I haven’t found a cheaper place to get my nails done. Not only do they do gel with fun designs, but they are cheaper than any chain place| 18 rue Rollin, 75005 

Body Minute | You will get mixed reviews about this place because it’s a chain, so customer experience varies on where you go. But we all agree that you can’t get waxed for any cheaper in Paris and you’ll see a good mix of older and younger women |

4 thoughts on “Living in Paris on an Entry Level Salary

  1. Bookmarked! Thanks for the recommendations! We found a great one with friends, Bourgogne Sud 14 rue du Clichy. Good traditional French food at a reasonable price. It’s a good one if you have friends visiting.

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  2. How did you make the transition from being a student to staying in France to have a job? And what was life like as a student more?

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    1. When you’re a student in France, you always have to do internships and the great thing about France is they are paid! Wohooo. So I had to do a couple of internships for my masters which eventually led to getting a full time job and my visa sponsored by the company.

      My life as a student was mainly different because my priority was partying 🙂 and I had a lot less money. So i was really careful about not eating out too often, not buying too many new clothes and saving to be social on the weekends. You can absolutely do Paris on a budget, but you have to pay attention so I would say that I was just more conscious about how I was spending money as a student compared to now. I’m not saying i’m throwing down 10o euro bills at the clubs now, but I don’t gasp when a cocktail is 20 euros which was totally different as a student. The great thing about being a student though, is there are tons of bars catered to low student budgets and you have lots of “student nights out.” It’s a blast being a student here!

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