Thursday, October 15, 2009

France on $70 a Day – The Bottom Line

The title of this series of articles is “France on $70 a Day,” and you're probably wondering if we succeeded in keeping our budget to this amount for each of us. The short answer is Yes! More or less. Let me explain.

When we began planning this trip, the dollar was $1.30 to the euro. We did most of our financial planning last January and February, and calculated and re-calculated our budget during those months. I knew, then, without doubt, that we could manage the trip on $70 US a day per person.

Unfortunately, by the time we left eight months later, it took $1.50 to equal one euro, a 15% increase. In other words, through no fault of our budgeting, the trip was more costly than anticipated before we even set foot on French soil. The $70 per day budget had increased 15% to $80.50 per day per person before we left home!

I probably should have changed the title of the series to France on $80 a day, but, optimist that I am, I kept expecting the euro to drop. Even on the plane, I was hoping for a miracle. Still, although the daily cost was more than we anticipated, I don't feel as though I misled anyone about the low-budget cost of the trip. Even $80 a day is still a tremendous bargain.

So, did we bring it in for $80 a day? Almost. We got very close. Before I give you the details, I must issue a disclaimer.

There were good reasons why I majored in English rather than math. Despite my best efforts at conviviality, numbers and I do not get along. But I have learned to accommodate this failing with certain coping mechanisms. For example, I gave up balancing a checkbook years ago and now devote my time to hoping for the best each month. (So far, this has worked well. The credit union and I are on very good terms.)

In France, I kept a little spiral notebook in my purse so I could record every day's expenditures. These figures were then transferred to a larger notebook each evening in hopes that this bookkeeping system would make end-of-the-trip analysis easy. It didn't. I spent several frustrating evenings adding up all the columns and getting a slightly different figure each time. After throwing the notebook on the floor and declaring I would never touch a calculator again, David, a business major, came to my rescue. He suggested an approach to calculating our expenses that made good sense and, more importantly, was easy.

I totaled the ATM deductions I'd made in France, adding the 1% international transaction fees and the 75 cent usage fees, for a total of $1733 US. Next, David suggested I subtract the euros I had left over, convert them to US dollars and subtract that from the total. The result is $1373. This figure represents every expenditure made while in France.

In going through my notebook, though, I did not think it right to include my personal costs in that tally. I bought gifts, souvenirs for myself, wine, the special cream for my leg rash, and indulged in ice cream a few too many times. It seemed appropriate to deduct those costs from the total because they vary so much from person to person. You might spend a lot more or considerably less than I did for those items. So, I subtracted $150 from $1377 for a total of $1227.

Next, of course, David told me I needed to add the pre-paid items for those reservations and deposits we'd made before leaving the States. They were
$152 for my train tickets, $150 for my half of the car rental, $104 for my share of the deposit on the Magenta Paris apartment, and half the $28 cost of the Ibis Hotel at the airport for a total of $434.

That makes the total amount I spent (David's figures are almost identical though we varied in what we spent on personal items.) in France to $1661. That figure includes my share of the cost for accommodations in Paris, the Dordogne and the airport; transportation costs for the Metro, taxi, train, boat, car, gasoline and toll roads; all grocery, bakery, and restaurant costs; and museum pass, museum or cave admissions,and tour fees.

We feel that this trip was one of the best either one of us has ever taken. We ate well (more about that later), saw every museum or site we had the time and energy to see, and stayed in some of the loveliest accommodations available. And we did it all for $83 per person a day! Yes, we did exceed the $80 we had budgeted (Remember the euro had increased before we left, so that proposed $70 a day morphed into $80 through no fault of our own.), but not by much. Here's how David and I feel about the amount we spent.

Yeah, we did it!

Practicalities -

Our, the Magenta, cost 660 euros for ten nights.

Our gite country house in the Dordogne Valley cost 290 euros plus a 22 euro booking fee for seven nights.

David insists you will want to know these things, so here are some additional figures, all in US dollars. We budgeted $234 for grocery costs (This includes items from bakeries and markets as well as food from more traditional grocery stores.) but spent a little less--$230.55. We used $147.20 of gasoline to drive 1,097 kilometers, and we spent $21.75 on toll roads.

1 comment:

  1. Hey I really like your posts! I'm traveling to France in May and I hope to learn from reading your work. You're an inspiration!