For most of us students, saving money on living expenses is a priority with rent making up the largest portion of our budgets. Here are a couple of specific tips to help decrease costs on rent that are exclusive to France:
Stay in a Crous residence
In France, the Crous (centre régional des oeuvres universitaires et scolaires) is a network of student residences spread out across the country’s mid-to-larger cities and is organized according to region. Each region (though not all) typically has several Crous residences per city and works with local universities to provide affordable living spaces for students, typically single-rooms and studios. In Reims, the city I spent my first year of studies in France, there are around seven Crous residences with three of them working with my university.
Working with my university, I was able to secure housing before my arrival in France, greatly reducing the stress I would have had if I were to arrive and immediately need to find housing. Speaking of, the process of searching for an apartment is long and stressful–emphasis on long and stressful! While I can’t speak of it from personal experience, let’s just say that I have had a lot of calls with friends voicing their frustrations. To attest, British comedian Paul Taylor vents about part of this process on his segment, “What the F*ck France: l’Administration” whom I truly agree with on a number of points (dealing with French administration for anything is a disaster and is universally hated, French or not-French). For the Crous, to be fair, the process of getting a room is not the simplest, but I guarantee it is among the easier ones and the plus of being able to arrive in France without needing to search for an apartment is a huge upside.
The best aspects about the Crous are its relative affordability—of course—and opportunities to socialize. In my case, I would pay 245€ a month for a 9m2 room featuring a small private bathroom, single bed, plenty of cabinet space, a mini-closet and fridge, and an integrated desk wrapping around a corner of the room. The rent also included high-speed internet along with utilities. On top of being fairly affordable, many other students live the Crous, too, making it a great place to socialize outside of campus. Usually the kitchens are the place to be since they are communal and nearly everyone cooks in them (except those with studios). Socializing in the Crous can also greatly improve one’s French skills since the vast majority of students are from France or other francophone countries, but many of which speak a host of other languages as well. In my personal experience, on top of French, I would hear Arabic, Berber, and Turkish on a normal basis in the Crous.
Apply for the CAF
A second option for saving money on rent, specific to France, is to apply for the CAF (caisse d’allocations familiales). Delivered as a partial reimbursement at the end of one’s rental contract, it can greatly reduce the cost of rent. What I love about the CAF is that it can be applied to virtually all living situations, giving a lot of wiggle room in case one prefers to live in an apartment rather than a student residence such as the Crous (don’t worry, it works for the Crous, too!). Eligibility for the CAF depends on visa type (for American citizens it’s necessary to have a Type-D long-stay visa) or citizenship (E.U. citizens, no need to worry) and can be applied for online. The CAF takes into account family income and related information, though if you have never lived in France it’s possible to leave many of the spaces on the application blank.
To receive the reimbursement (aide de logement), it is important to supply all of the requested documents and to complete the OFII procedure regardless of citizenship (unless you are French).
For me, I would receive nearly 100€ per month which reduced my monthly rent to 145€ after being applied. Big savings! Because of the CAF, I was able to increase my spending budget for my first year of studies in France, allowing me to travel more often.
Staying in the Crous and/or applying for the CAF are some great ways to start saving on rent here in France. Hope this information helps!
Brian Olinger, ex Campus France e-ambassador