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SCHOOLS

Back to school in France: how much will it cost, and how can you save money?

With children in France set to go back to school on September 2nd, parents are beginning the annual rush to stock up on essential school supplies. New figures reveal how much most families will have to shell out.

Back to school in France: how much will it cost, and how can you save money?
You could save money by exchanging your child's old schoolbag. Photo: Philippe LOPEZ / AFP.

Family group Familles de France has estimated the price of back-to-school supplies this year for a child in 6ème – the first year of collège (secondary school) – at €199.64. 

The association totalled up the cost of 45 items children are instructed to have ready for September. The average family will need to spend €48 on sports materials, €51.01 on notebooks and folders, and €100.63 on stationery, schoolbags and other supplies.

The government has also released an example list of the supplies schoolchildren are likely to need. Back in 2019, we took a detailed look at the list, and most of the items remain the same year on year.

READ ALSO Back-to-school Covid-19 health rules in France from September 2021

The Confédération syndicale des familles (CSF) consumers’ association released its own study on Tuesday, and estimated the cost for a student in 6ème at €383.93, although this includes additional costs such as photos and insurance.

For a child in the final two years of primary school, the CSF’s calculations came to €239,17, while a student in seconde générale (the first year of lycée / high school) will have to pay €425.47.

How to save money

One of the best things you can do to save money on supplies is to shop around. In their report, the CSF compared prices between different shops and websites.

Many associations de parents d’élèves (parents’ associations) also offer the possibility of making a commande groupée (grouped order), so parents can come together and buy in bulk to make the most of discounts. They may offer packs de rentrée as a result of these large orders.

READ ALSO These are the 29 stationery items your child will need for school in France

There are also several platforms which allow you to purchase second-hand supplies, such as Geev or Leboncoin. The former is dedicated to donations so you might be able to find stationery or other items for free, or alternatively give what you are no longer using to another family.

Another option is to trade in your old equipment. For example, Bureau Vallée offer to take your old cartable (schoolbag) in exchange for credit worth up to €8. Top Office has a similar offer, worth up to €10 if you spend €50 in store, and Monoprix, Leclerc and Cora supermarkets will also buy your old schoolbags.

Of course, you might not need to buy everything on the list. “More and more parents are inciting their children to reuse their supplies from one year to the next,” according to the CSF report.

Help from the government

Purchasing school supplies can be a heavy financial burden, particularly if you have multiple children. That’s why the government helps around 3 million families with the allocation de rentrée scolaire (back to school allowance).

This year, families received the payment on August 17th, and amounts range from €370 to €404 depending on the age of the child. However, this is a means-based grant, and is only allocated to low-income families.

In 2020, the government gave eligible families an additional €100 to help them cope with the financial strain caused by the Covid crisis, but this year the rates are back to normal.

“What justifies a return to normal today when masks are still obligatory in schools, and more and more families find themselves in difficulty as the economic crisis continues,” the CSF wrote.

Year-round costs

Of course, costs related to schooling don’t end with la rentrée. According to the CSF, the average family spends €1,358.50 over the course of the year, including costs such as school meals and transportation. This year, that includes €150 on masks.

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FOOD & DRINK

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With rising inflation and cost of living, many people in France are desperate to keep their grocery bill low. Here are a few tips for how to avoid paying too much for food, drink and other everyday items.

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With inflation ticking upward, we’ve seen prices rise, especially for things like fresh vegetables, meat, pasta and cooking oil. Even though inflation is affecting food prices less than energy prices, buying groceries is still a huge part of every household’s budget, and unfortunately things are set to keep getting more pricey. 

We’ve put together a list of a few ways you can save a few euro at the supermarket:

Figure out if you qualify for any government benefits

First things first, it is worth seeing whether you can qualify for any existing government assistance, like CAF. On top of this, the French government has promised to set up a food voucher of €50 per month for low-income households after the parliamentary elections in June. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to receive CAF payments in France

Compare store prices

Unfortunately, going to the closest supermarket is not always the most economical solution. If you prioritise grocery stores on the lower end of the price spectrum (and you’re willing to walk a bit further) you can save a lot of money. A helpful tool to find the cheapest store near you is the “Que Choisir” online interactive map (click here) that has listed 4,000 affordable stores in mainland France. 

Discount grocery stores, like Lidl and Aldi, are great options for saving a little extra at checkout. But if you must go to a pricier chain, like Monoprix for instance, try to buy Monoprix brand items – they’re typically a little less expensive than name brand foods.

Plan ahead to make the most out of discounts

If you go online ahead of heading to the grocery store, you can see which items will be discounted (“promotion”). If you cannot find this information online, you can always go to the store and ask for a catalogue of that week’s sales items.

Normally, this is something the cashier should have access to. With these discounts in mind, you can construct more affordable recipes. 

Franprix’s website, the ‘discounts’ page

Also, if you’re looking for cheaper recipes in general, you can always go to blogs and online recipe sites specialised in frugal shopping. If you want to try some French specific sites, you can test out “https://www.marmiton.org/” or “https://1repas1euro.com/recettes/

When it comes to discounts though, be careful about conditions involved (particularly when it comes to loyalty cards).

Sometimes these promotions promise a lot, but actually getting your money back might not be as simple as slashing a few cents at the checkout – you might need to send the coupon somewhere to get the discount, or wait for points to accumulate on your card.

That being said, you can optimise your discounts using several online sites that allow you to combine your loyalty cards (Fidme, Fidall, and Stocard). Other online coupon sites include Groupon, which allows you to make grouped purchases (therefore cheaper), and Coupon Network and Shopmium, which help you benefit from existing discounts. For cashback plans, you can look to websites such as Shopmium, iGraal, FidMarques and Quoty, which allow you to be reimbursed for a part of your expenses.

Make a list, set a budget… and stick to it

It might seem obvious, but when you go into the store, try to resist temptation. The best way to do this is to keep track (in real time) how much you are spending.

Some stores make this easier by allowing you to carry around a ‘self-scanner,’ this will help you to watch your bill go up as you shop. Another tip for this is to withdraw the exact amount of cash you expect to need for the essentials of your trip – obviously in order to do this, you’ll need to know the base prices of your essential items, so it will require a bit of planning ahead.

Buy (then freeze) soon-to-expire products

A consumer’s best friend and sure-fire way to decrease waste! Items coming up on their use-by-date tend to be discounted, so if you plan to purchase these foods and then immediately freeze them, you can significantly extend their shelf life.

Lots of supermarkets make this easier for you by dedicating entire shelves to “short shelf life” items that, according to Elodie Toustou, the head of the “Money” section of the magazine 60 Millions de consommateurs, opting for these foods will allow you to “pay three to four times less.”

Another great way to do this is to use applications like “Phénix” and “Too Good to Go.” These applications will allow you to set your geographic parameter and then click on food stores, restaurants, and bakeries in your area that are getting rid of “panniers” (sacks) of soon-to-be-expired foods. Lots of times these panniers cost only a couple euros.

The trick here is to plan ahead by arriving at the start of the allotted time (if the boulangerie on your corner is offering “Too Good To Go” bags from 11am to 2pm, try to get there as close to 11am as possible for the best items).

Re-consider markets and farmer’s stores

Contrary to popular belief, buying from farmers’ markets and grocers that sell predominantly local products actually can save you money, particularly if you are buying the seasonally relevant fruits and vegetables. Buying directly from a producer can also allow you to eliminate the margin taken by intermediaries. But be careful, this rule is not true all the time.

One way to benefit from cheaper prices at markets is to arrive as late as possible, when the merchants have started to pack up their products. This might allow you to benefit from lower prices or even free items, as they’ll be hoping to get rid of their remaining items.

Know what items are most impacted by inflation

Finally, as inflation continues to increase, try your best to monitor which foods are most impacted. If possible, it might be worth removing or limiting them from your diet – or looking for more affordable alternatives.

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