What Madame has not visualized herself sitting at an outdoor cafe on the Champs Elysées behind a fly pair of shades, looking chic as can be? Any city known for fashion, food and flirting is for Sisters, right? But what if we’ve got big dreams and a (Quelle Horreur!) small bank account? Even pricey Paris can be enjoyed on a budget. Here are some tips from one Madame to another.

Timing Is Everything: Ella Fitzgerald crooned the lyrics, “I love Paris in the springtime,” but try loving it in the off-season. Do some comparison shopping on travel sites like Black Atlas to see what kind of savings you get between November and March. For the deepest savings, go in January, flights and hotel fares drop and it’s a slow month for retailers so you can afford to shop.

Say Au Revoir To Hotels: If you can get by without daily maid service and ambiance, then look into renting a “self-catered apartment.” They tend to be real basic and you have to pick up after yourself, but it sure saves Euros. Check out sites like All-Paris Apartments. In addition to lower rates, an apartment with a kitchen helps save on meals. Pick up baguettes, cheese, chocolate and wine at a local market and have a few low-budget meals at the apartment. Speaking of….

Make Tracks to Monoprix: This is the most important word you’ll need to know. This discount department/grocery store offers everything. It’s also a great place to pick up souvenirs.

Go Underground: Don’t mess with taxis, take Le Metro, the public transportation system. It’s an efficient and frugulista way to get around town to all the sightseeing destinations.

Pack Plastic: To avoid getting ripped off on exchange rates, use your credit or debit card to make purchases or to withdraw cash at ATM machines once you get to Paris. Don’t bother with places offering to exchange your dollars for Euros.

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