Five money saving tips to help you this winter in France

Here are five ways to make your cash go further this winter, from reduced food apps like Too Good To Go to fine dining at a discounted price.

Here are five tips to save money in your everyday life
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With cost of living hitting every sector, here are five top tips for saving money in your everyday life.

1. Anti-waste food app

There are several apps that allow you to buy unused food at heavily discounted rates that would otherwise be thrown out by shops, restaurants and cafes.

They are part of a growing anti-waste (anti-gaspi) movement, with around 10 million tonnes of food discarded each year in France, according to a 2016 study by environmental agency Ademe.

Arguably the most popular of these apps is called Too Good To Go, but others include Phenix, Karma, Mummyz and OptiMiam.

The Connexion tried out Too Good To Go in Nice to see what was available.

The app was launched in 2016 and today more than 15,000 businesses in France have signed up to use it.

Registration is free and simple, requiring just an email address and password.

You then choose your location. There are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of options in Nice, and other large cities are equally well served. Small towns or villages might not have as many but the company is expanding.

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We chose a basket of fruit and veg products from a nearby organic shop at €3.99 and a basket of surprise goods from a bakery at €2.99.

Most products are given away in the evening: our shop and bakery had pick-up times between 17:30 and 19:00.

In most cases, you do not know what you will get in advance. We received a huge quantity of vegetables (some needed eating or cooking that day), five apples, an orange, goat’s cheese and even some cookies from the organic shop. The bakery gave us a slice of tarte tropézienne and of pizza and a sandwich.

Both pick-ups were straightforward. There were no hidden costs or extra sales attempts. We were generally satisfied with what we got – especially considering the price.

2. Find a cheap haircut

In need of a haircut?

You could grab a bargain by booking via the French mobile app Kiute, or through its website.

The app allows you to find and make an appointment for a haircut, massage, manicure, or other beauty treatment by taking advantage of the times in the day when business is quieter – for example, in the morning or early afternoon.

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It is possible to search for deals by entering the date and your location. Both men and women could save up to 50% on the price of these services.

Around 10,000 hairdressers, beauty salons and spas are registered with the app in more than 200 towns.

By offering discounts they would not usually offer, businesses hope to attract customers during off-peak times. Particularly attractive deals can often be found by booking at the last minute.

If your plans change, you can cancel without charge up to 24 hours before your appointment.

Another way to get a cut-price haircut is to offer your services as a model to trainee hairdressers.

Salons such as Dessange have training centres which are always on the lookout for models, as do other hairdressing academies. The downside is these are usually closed at weekends and stylists are less experienced.

3. French fine dining at reduced rates

One way to dine out on fancy food for a significantly reduced rate is to eat at a cookery school where staff are undergoing training.

France has lycées hôteliers publics and écoles de restauration all around the country.

Many offer live-situation training for their staff, including the chefs, waiters, bar staff and sommeliers. These places are called établissements d’application.

Prices vary depending on the school but you can expect to pay around €15 to €25 for a lunch menu, which usually consists of several courses.

For a dinner menu, it is more likely to be around €25 to €35. Drinks are usually not included but are sometimes sold at a discount price.

The schools sometimes do themed evenings for events such as Valentine’s Day or Easter, although they are often closed on public holidays or weekends.

The restaurant d’application Saisons in Lyon, which belongs to the Institut Paul Bocuse and is the only one of its type to have a Michelin star, offers a lunch menu at €60.

Usually, meals at restaurants under the Paul Bocuse brand cost upwards of €200. Getting a place at one of these restaurants is tricky.

Read more: The French restaurants in TripAdvisor’s Top 10 highest-rated for 2022

4. Health insurance savings

If you live in the right area, you might be able to save on top-up health insurance by taking out a policy called a mutuelle communale.

Sometimes known as a mutuelle de village, this is a commune-wide group subscription to a complementary health insurance policy.

The idea is that if a large number of people in one village or town take out a group policy, it can simplify processes and save costs.

The scheme was first introduced in 2013.

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Every resident in France is entitled to be in the French healthcare system but most also have a ‘top-up’, commonly referred to as mutuelles, to cover parts of costs that are not state-reimbursed.

Mutuelles communales are aimed at people who do not, for example, benefit from a policy via their employer, which French firms are obliged to offer.

It is estimated that around 20,000 people in France benefit from a mutuelle communale and that 2,000 communes offer one. Where they exist, there are no limits in terms of age, income or medical history.

Some councils offer a standardised policy at a set rate, while others offer a variety to suit different people – for example, students, jobseekers, professionals or retirees.

Standardised policies can be disadvantageous for certain people if they have specific needs or incomes.

However, the scheme has many advantages.

It is estimated that mutuelles communales can offer savings of up to 60% compared to regular mutuelles.

Additionally, your commune, sometimes via a partner association, can help you to set up the top-up insurance policy and guide you through any practical questions you might have.

They can also help to negotiate the best deal for you and offer advice.

To find out if your commune offers a mutuelle communale, contact your local mairie, or in larger communes the section called centre communal d’action sociale (CCAS).

5. How to save money on wine in France

One of the many benefits of living in France is the vast range of quality, reasonably priced wines available in most supermarkets, but you could save even more by cutting out the middleman.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a wine-producing region, or fancy a weekend away, you can visit vineyards where they often sell their bottles at a lower price.

You will also be able to taste the wine, so there is little risk of wasting money on a bottle you do not like.

There are, however, certain large producers in Bordeaux that sell their wine at higher prices than you will find at the caviste, so it might be best to target smaller vineyards.

A number of websites also allow you to order online, directly from producers.

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For further discounts, you can order wine en primeur – while it is still in barrels and will be delivered around two years later.

These sales are a Bordeaux tradition which usually takes place in May, for the previous year’s harvest, although other regions are gradually following the example.

You can find wines for around 30% less than when they hit the shelves.

The system is particularly attractive for collectors looking to secure a rare bottle, but anybody can participate.

This is not to be confused with a vin primeur – a wine that can be sold the same year the grapes were harvested, the most famous being Beaujolais nouveau.

There are a number of specialist websites where you can order wines en primeur, such as Millesima, Château Primeur, and Wine and Co. Do remember, though, that the prices listed do not include VAT.

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