Despite the French cost of living being slightly higher – in my opinion – than the UK, there remain many bargains to be had, even here in the rural Limousin countryside.
Finding the places which could offer us good prices for the things which we were used to finding for less has been part of the work of our first year in France. Learning not to “just nip down” to our local Briconautes for screws or a piece of pipe when its a 30km round trip and when you get there the thing has a 50% chance of being in stock, and a 50% chance of costing twice what you’d anticipated was a lesson to learn early on.
As I’ve mentioned before on the blog and in my French Property News articles – one of the keys to saving money on “things” is planning. Knowing in advance that you will need something is the key to identifying it at a better price somewhere along the line before you become desperate for it.
Sometimes this works out well and is seasonal, in October’s French Property News I wrote about winter money-saving – but that work really starts at the end of the last winter. Think of it like buying your Christmas presents in the January sales – you know you’ll need something later on so why wait until a deadline forces you to pay more for a thing than you would like?
This rule is harder to apply to the things we don’t need (like wood for fuel) but want (like pretty old french plates for… eating my bread and cheese from?!). And in my experience, these temptations come up more often than a cheap piece of fencing or bargain paint. Just such an occasion caught me unawares on Friday when after my husband met with a new stockist for his artisan jewellery in the Charente, we popped into Emmaus87 on our way home.
If you haven’t been to an Emmaus before, they are a chain of charity shops and warehouses across France and also other countries (I distinctly remember one on Bedminster Parade in Bristol which was an absolute tardis) – you can check out their cause and find your nearest branch in France here. Our closest branch is a large warehouse just outside of Limoges in 87 where you can find an enormous collection of furniture, clothing, electronics, ceramics, tools and collectables at excellent prices.
Ignoring my own rules about being prepared, we turned up sans measurements for the new kitchen island which we are going to build, and so despite there being some very well matched work surfaces in stock, we couldn’t commit to buying the wrong thing. Instead I focused my efforts on some inexpensive homewares (I have been planning to recover some cushions for AGES and now have wayyy more material than I need, it’s nearly time to get the sewing machine out I think….) and G managed to find his perfect toaster from Moulinex (toast is as important to him as I am) so it was a cheap and cheerful afternoon of rummaging.
I’d love to hear about your own Emmaus adventures and your biggest savings. Ours was a sofa bed in excellent condition which we managed to catch on a weekend where all sofas were discounted by 50% – we ended up paying 30€ for it, and are still, some months later, rather smug. If you’ve outdone that (and I’m sure plenty have) do let me know in the comments!