Saturday, March 30, 2013

Training for Paris

One of the most common questions I get asked is, "How can you afford to go to Paris so often?"

My first couple of trips to Paris were largely financed by small inheritances.  Subsequent trips were planned in the off-season or around airline seat sales.  And since the beginning of our marriage, Chris and I made Paris a priority, primarily with the decision to remain renters rather than achieve someone else's dream of home ownership. Other than that, we have made few adjustments and live as most any other 30-ish-40-ish DINK (double-income-no-kids) married couple.

All of the above was before our last Paris trip.  It was September, let's say over bière blanches at a café on Boulevard Saint Germain, that we realized in order to achieve our Paris dream, it would have to become more than a vacation.  No more talking about it. 

In the middle of May, I will leave Victoria and spend nearly seven weeks alone in Paris.  I will write, I will meet ex-pats who are already living our dream, I will see the good and bad of living in Paris, I will look for future opportunities and I will count the days until Chris joins me in July.

It is a monumental, glorious, life-changing total of nine weeks in Paris in the fullness of spring and the stirrings of summer.  It is the Paris that most people dream about.  And it is expensive.

Mais, comment?  How?  In January, post Boxing Day sales, I put myself on a strict, Paris training plan designed to cut the excess and unnecessary from my life and my budget. 

How is it possible to dream of living anywhere else?
  • I froze my gold Starbucks Gold Card and dug out the Bodum we got as a wedding gift.  Not only has this saved me money but I have learned I don't like Starbucks coffee.  Their coffee does, as my Mom says, taste a bit like licking an ashtray.  Le yuck. 

  • Before I meet friends for dinner, I eat something at home, like half a loaf of bread.  This means I can order an appetizer or a  salad and stay away from expensive entrees.  I also always drive my car so I can only have one drink.

  • I gave up buying make-up at Sephora and I am now devoted to Rimmel and Maybelline. 

  • I take my lunch to work every day.  I have literally eaten hundreds of crackers since January. 

  • I stopped shopping for pleasure.  Every potential purchase is measured against something in Paris... wine, baguette, groceries at Monoprix for a week, a new Longchamp bag, a month long Vélib pass, a EuroStar ticket, a chocolate éclair at Stohrer, or an afternoon spent writing in Rodin's garden. I have limited my shopping to the clearance racks at Banana Republic, Club Monaco and JCrew.  And I will only buy it if I can wear it in Paris.  My white t-shirt and black, ballet flat collection is enviable.   
Groceries from Monoprix

  • No more foreign cheeses.  Au revoir brie and Gouda and bonjour Canadian aged white cheddar.

  • I buy necessities in multiples when they are on sale.  2 for 1 twelve packs of Royale toilet paper, Perrier in cases and toothbrushes in multi-packs. 

  • A $10 bottle of wine is the new $15 bottle of wine.  And it's not from France anymore. 

  • I visit the library every Friday after work to get a stack of books.  Usually books about Paris. 

  • I, and this is the most shameful of my training secrets, buy some of our groceries (Cheerios, Kashi granola bars, sugar, coffee, Haribo, vitamins, rice, etc.) at Wal-Mart.  I seriously hate myself but by May the savings will almost equal a one-way plane ticket.  As punishment, I drive to the locally owned, hipster-hippy filled vegetable stand where I fight my way through conversations about organic kale and gluten free bread to buy .99 per lb red and yellow peppers. 

  • I "borrow" the latest fashion and gossip magazines from Chris' hair salon.

I know there are more.  Little adjustments and little cheats I have made to move closer to Paris.  These are just the small, material things that will give us freedom to enjoy Paris.

Truthfully, the hardest part is emotional.  It's a delicate balance, a struggle, to remain engaged in my life here.  I have to remind myself to see the beauty, to appreciate the comforts and to be grateful for what is is before me and around me. 

Beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia
But I always forget and I am always thinking and dreaming about Paris.  The city has our hearts. 

The city of our dreams



Licette NJ How said...

Only you can write like this - from the heart and soul...bless you.

Cassie Piasecki said...

Isn't it amazing that after a few weeks of this, it doesn't seem so bad? I've been in college savings mode for about a year and when I even find something that I like (shoes, dresses, bikinis), I am paralyzed and can't buy!
Good job, Erin! It is all worth it!!!

Erin said...

Thank you for reading! I am sending you lots of bisous xx

SO true! It doesn't seem so bad and as long as I have Chris, Countess, my running shoes and the dream of Paris, it is ALL worth it. And I really love the discipline. It's very me :-)

Bobbi said...

Totally digging your concept here. I stopped spending on unnecessary stuff and that allowed me to LIVE in France for over 2 years. You're on the right track...

Erin said...

Hi Bobbi,
Thank you for your comment. I am finding lots of inspiration in reading your blog!

Suzy said...

These are great little unique ways to save. I switched makeup too and seem to save a great deal of cash now. Can't wait to hear about your adventures of "living" in Paris.

Freya Renders said...

Great tips and very exciting. Paris is such a beautiful city must be great to live there longer term.