Moving to Paris? Frugal Expat’s Packing List


If you can’t tell from this entire site, I am a very frugal person. I keep my phones, clothing and shoes way longer than necessary. I rarely buy concert tickets, only clothing shop when necessary and prefer to walk instead of taking cabs. The biggest things in my budget are always travel and food (I’m a sucker for a restaurant).

When I decided to quit my job and move to Paris, I knew I would have to live on an even tighter budget – a grad student budget! I perused the ‘net and found several packing lists to help me pack for my move. Many of the lists (and people I know) said “oh don’t worry about buying this or that – you can get it there!” Little did I know that once I got here, some of the things I didn’t bring are WAY more expensive in Paris.

So let me help you – here are a few things you should definitely toss in your bag if you’re frugal and moving to Paris!

Bed linens

In America, buying bed linens are not a big deal at all. You can go to Bed Bath & Beyond or Wal-mart and pick up a queen bed set (fitted sheet, flat sheet and pillowcases) for about $20 USD. In Paris? Not so much. Of course you can buy sheets here – but everything is sold separately. No big deal? Oh, it’s a very big deal. Buying a fitted sheet from Monoprix will run you about 20 Euro. Let’s say you want a flat sheet as well? A cool 37 euros. FOR ONE SHEET. Also, none of this includes pillowcases. So how much would one set of linens run you in Paris?

Fitted sheet (drap housse) = approx. 20 euros

Flat sheet (drap plat) = approx. 37 euros

Pillowcases (taie d’oreiller) = approx. 8 euros EACH

Total = 73 euros

Bed sizes are different in France, but if you know you will have a double bed (as many people do), American queen sized sheets will fit. If you will have a twin bed, I’d suggest buying twin XL or even double sheets so you know for certain that they’ll fit.

I hope you don’t get cold, because a duvet and duvet cover will also run you a pretty penny. There are cheaper prices at Ikea, Tati and Hema, but you will still pay way more than 20 USD to set your bed up. And to think I took my sheets OUT of my suitcase! 🙁



Yep, the towels are just like the bed linens – expensive for no reason! My frugality is the reason why I now have itty-bitty towels that don’t really dry much (or cover much). A regular size bath towel will run you 20 euros in France. The smaller ones I got? Those will run you about 10 euros. But trust me, it’s not worth the early morning after-shower struggle.


If you’re attending school in France, you may want to pick up a few notebooks before flying out. Notebooks in France often have grid pages, not single ruled pages like in America. Grid notebooks are sold for about 2,50 euros each. If you’re like me and the grid pages make it too difficult to read, you could pay 8 euros at Monoprix or a place like it, just for single ruled notebooks. Hema (one of my favorite stores in Paris – I swear they’re not paying me!) sells single ruled notebooks for about 3 euros, so if you didn’t bring any and want some – make your way there!

Hema store

Aluminum foil

I am personally not a huge user of aluminum foil and prefer Ziploc bags. But if you need foil (whether for hair dying or cooking) – bring some from home! Aluminum foil costs and arm and a leg here – not at all comparable to our $5 USD.

I know what you might be thinking. “Amazon is everywhere! I’ll just order these things on Amazon!”

Oh my friend.

If you order on, sure the prices are cheaper! But the shipping – OH THE SHIPPING. Don’t do that to yourself. If you order on, which is the Amazon website for France, the shipping will be cheap! But those linens? They’ll be the same prices I listed above.

Here’s a bonus to this list, even though it’s not a “thing”. Don’t get a pedicure in Paris. The price is exorbitant and you’ll be salty while getting your toes painted like I was. Although, if you’re not from NYC, the price may be normal to you. I’m used to NYC $30-$35 for a mani-pedi and that price won’t even get you ONE of those here.

ColorForever Nail Bar - most expensive pedicure I've ever had!
ColorForever Nail Bar – most expensive pedicure I’ve ever had!

But it’s not all doom and gloom friends! There are several things that are way CHEAPER here than other places! They just don’t tend to be things you can pack 🙁

Such as:

Bread (baguettes can be had for 1 euro – and they’re huge!)

Medicine (Although you have to head to the pharmacy for your needs, most ailments can be treated with meds that are cheaper than in the US)

Cheese: So much cheese in France – GOOD CHEESE. 1 euro cheese here will have you saying “Kraft who?”

Wine: In NYC, frugal people love the Trader Joe’s 2 buck chuck. In France, you don’t have to sacrifice taste for cost (sorry TJs, not a fan). Good wine can be had for 3 euros or less.

Bottled Water: Tap water is potable here, but if you run to the grocery store, you can get bottled water for approximately 33 cents.

Do you live in France? Any suggestions on where to get the cheap goods or are there any other expensive items I forgot? Let me know in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “Moving to Paris? Frugal Expat’s Packing List

  1. I won’t skimp on towels. I like them to be soft, so I guess I’d just pay the price. And it sounds like I could making a killing selling regular notebooks to American students. Great tips!

    1. My tiny towels are soft – just very small!

      And yes, you could make a KILLING. especially if you market to first semester students who don’t know where to get them for cheap!

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