Paris: Five “frugalicious” budget tips to live by

Drink your coffee with the locals at the bar. Photos by Theadora Brack.
Drink your coffee with the locals at the bar. Photos by Theadora Brack.

By Theadora Brack in Paris–

Being “frugalicious” whilst painting the City of Light red need not be a chore.  In fact, I often find in Paris that the very act of pinching pennies actually enhances the overall experience (said not in a Polly Anna sort of way, I assure you!).

Here are five of my favorite tricks for saving a buck, er, euro. In the words of my grandmother Helen J. Wentz, Cheapos, “It all adds up!”

1.  Stand up, stand up!

Order (“take”) your morning (or anytime) café while standing at the bar in the café. Not only will this give you an opportunity to get down and gossipy with the locals and the apron-clad wait staff, but it’s also cheaper!

Amount saved: About one euro per espresso. Bar perspective with the in-crowd?  Priceless.

2. Solid as a rock

Someone is "fidèle" to Yves Roch&eacute.

Someone is “fidèle” to Yves Rocher.

Who says money can’t buy you love? Certainly not the French. Repeat business is highly valued and often rewarded with a “carte de fidélité” (fidelity card). Restaurants, shops, and even hotels give them out to their patrons as a way of saying thanks and “come again soon.”

Looking very much like a business card, each time you make a purchase, the card gets hand-stamped or punched, soon adding up to super discounts or delicious prizes! Didn’t receive one? Just ask. It will be taken as a compliment, and a signal that you’ll be back. (Tip: Often the cards don’t have expiration dates, and can be used for years.)

Amount saved: 10% to 30% off transactions. Solid friendships and the proof of commitment? Priceless.

3.  ”Un carnet, s’il vous plait!” (A 10-pack, please!)

For the love of sanity, don’t buy your Metro tickets (good for both the bus and Metro) one or two at a time. Purchase a “carnet” (10-pack)!  With a thick stack of tickets in your hot little hand, you’ll not only save about €5 over the single-ticket price, but you’ll also be able to focus on more pressing matters like shopping, museums, and most importantly, food!

Amount saved: €5 per 10 rides. Skipping the line of ticket buyers? Priceless.

4.  Picnique with a view

Order take-out from a restaurant. ”Avez-vous des plats pour emporter?” (“Do you have take-out dishes?”) is your key phrase.

All restaurants, of course, don’t offer this option, but often they do, especially ethnic restaurants (Asian, African, Mediterranean, and so on). You’ll save 10-15% off the total bill, since there’s no service fees or value-added taxes.

Amount saved: 10-15% off total bill. Slurping Pad Thai (à la “Lady and the Tramp” style) with your beloved on the steps of Sacre Coeur with the city twinkling below? At twilight? You guessed it… Priceless.

5.  Make that beer ”un demi”

Double your pleasure, but not the bill.  Beer lovers, take heed: Often the total cost of two short 25 cl beers is less expensive than one tall 50 cl beer. Stop scratching your head and order up “un demi” straight away. “Je voudrais un demi, s’il vous plaît” are the magic words.

Amount saved: About one euro per beer. Unwinding with two demi’s of pale ale after a long day of sight seeing? Ab-so-sipping-lutely priceless!

About the author

Theadora Brack
About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.
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