Today is a bit of a pensive post, and that’s the sort of mood I’m in at the moment. It’s not a typical upbeat canter through a brocante so if you’re looking for that, I apologise – but today I’m going to talk about how I feel five months into living here.

Firstly, I feel very lucky to live here in France. I have realised an ambition that I held for most of my life. That’s a really great feeling – but a less great feeling is that around not having any money.

Secondly, let me be clear, I am not truly poor. I recognise that I am very privileged, I own my own home here. I have no mortgage. I have a small amount of savings in the bank. I have no debts. I work. Believe me when I say that I wasn’t always in this fortunate position.

And I would have none of those things without more than a decade of riding the ridiculous rollercoaster that was working for my old corporate employer, being sent to offices all around the UK – wherever they deemed fit – and adapting to the ever-changing landscape of the roles they put me into. And I work now, as a self-employed person, as a micro-entrepreneur. The very nature of this work is that the income is up and down.

But right now, here in France, on this grey Thursday afternoon as my partner unloads our new lawnmower from the car, I feel poor. And by poor I mean, I worry about money. I worry about it all the time, it’s probably been the most important thing in the world to me. Not because I am greedy, or need it to feel important. Quite the opposite.

Spending considerable periods of my life without enough money have created within me a sort of radar for financial struggle. It has moulded me into a person who is financially anxious. As a therapist I know how to work with anxiety, I know the tools I’ve learned as a professional and an individual to use to keep myself in a good place and to communicate honestly and openly about financial issues with my partner.

But there is still the low omnipresent hum of watching the pennies (or more accurately now, centimes). I imagine that will be there for all of my life. It’s not debilitating, it’s not sadenning, it doesn’t impact how I feel about myself (too often anyway). But it is there, and it is learned. It is a learned response to escaping poverty. Of never, ever wanting to go back there. It’s the drive for much of what I do and the way that I behave (in the wider scheme of things, i.e. it contributes to me being a driven person, solution and goal focused) and it is something that I notice doesn’t exist in other people.

If you’ve ever been poor, I mean really poor. Not just unable to book a nice holiday, but using a credit card to buy food poor, I sympathise. I’ve been there. It changes you as a person – I think it can’t help but change you. It’s the whole reason that I created Frugal France in the first place because I knew that once we moved here that money would be tight. I knew I was volunteering to be less fiscally comfortable than I had been in the UK.

So I suppose the point of this post is not to bemoan that decision but to acknowledge it. That for all of the lovely pictures that I and my peers post about our lovely lives here, the images of blossom on trees and lambs in fields, that isn’t and never could be the full story. That for many of us, money is a big thing to consider, and that living here in France is not cheap. Especially when many of us have downsized our belongings and arrive needing to buy tools, renovation materials or new cars.

So I’d love to know what your tips are for living really frugally – do let me know in the comments.

I know that my Instagram feed is often full of the usual things that one might expect to be doing when living in France, but today I’m thinking of my own personal top five:

1 Eating bread and bread-based foods (seriously, carbs are life)
2 Speaking French (yes, bread even comes before this, I am addicted)
3 Drinking lovely wine for like, a euro
4 Eating all the flipping cheese in my department
5 French architecture

In my old UK-resident-francophile-from-afar life these were truly the ways that I thought that life in France would be. That I’d be wandering through flower-lined streets of typically French houses with gorgeous shutters and lavender EVERYWHERE. And I am. It’s a joy.

But I would also add five realities about living in France for the uninitiated:

1 Winter is COLD. The days may be sunny, even warm, but if there aren’t any clouds you best have some wood for a fire that night.
2 Admin is a full-time job, particularly in these interesting times of Brexit. Have lots of printer ink.
3 Food isn’t cheap. Eating fresh and seasonally will be the most frugal way to go. Or grow vegetables, as I am planning to do.
4 Housing is cheap, but purchasing a home here is different, bien sûr! In my opinion its more organised and formal, but you’ll pay for that.
5 It would be really easy to live here and almost not speak a word of French, but for me, that would negate any reason to live here whatsoever.

I often get asked things like “how much does it cost to run a two-bed house in France?” or “Can you help me to decide if this house is right for me?”. Both questions that tap into both my frugal self, and opinionated self. But I have to take a step back from that and remind those people that living here, in whatever way you choose to live, is a deeply personal experience.

Things still cost money here. Sometimes a lot, sometimes less. It depends enormously upon our living habits and how we make ourselves happy. For me, I am (clearly) pretty happy as long as there is bread, wine and cheese. I also need some nature and see wildlife, a garden to grow things and the opportunity to speak to French people. And while I LOVE our French home and everything that we are doing to renovate it, it is not the most important thing to me. Spending time with my partnet, lovely people in the village, making friends, learning a new culture and integrating as much as I possibly can are my priorities. If that means the kitchen isn’t painted until next year I can live with that.

I suppose what I’m saying is, if you want to move to France, I would examine what it is that you value. If you need to be in a place where you have all the amenities available to you at all times, then rural France is not for you. If you can’t cope with the idea that shops close for lunch, or that you have very little power when it comes to bureaucracy (cue gallic shrug) then this isn’t the place. BUT if you are willing to learn, integrate and try, can be okay with accepting that things won’t always be quick, or perfect, or cheap (!) then it might well be!

As always, if anyone wants to ask questions you are so welcome, I love interacting with my followers – but it’s just that the big questions can only be answered by you. And that’s how it should be.

Bon courage.

L x