Frugal Entertainment in France

by Kelly · 7 comments

in Notes On Culture

Going out to restaurants, the movies, clubs… paying for baby sitters, parking, tips. Being frugal and having fun can be a challenge. There is such a thing as frugal entertainment, however, really there is!

What you chose to spend on entertainment is also largely a function of how you chose to entertain. This depends on your family situation, where you live and your personal preferences. I much prefer having dinner with friends, to going out to a club. As most of our friends also have small children, our get-togethers often take place at somebody’s house.

This is one of the most often cited frugal entertainment tips: eat with friends at your house or theirs. It’s a great idea; you bring salad and dessert, they do the rest. Two weeks later you switch. Another popular suggestion is to have a picnic. Potluck picnics are even more frugal and informal as everyone brings a dish and anyway the whole point of a picnic is to be outside frolicking in the grass, not eating.

The French have a very different way of entertaining from Americans, much more formal and proscribed. Dinners, especially, can last for many, many hours and are spent eating a variety of foods which are not the least bit frugal!

The French do have two great times for entertaining however, which are both very frugal and both of which I would like to share with you.

The first is to meet somebody pour le café or at coffee time. While for you and I this might not mean a set time of day, for the French it means right after lunch. Often times you will be invited to somebody’s house pour le café instead of for a meal. This is entertainment at its most frugal as you might only serve tea, coffee, soft beverages and perhaps a cake or some cookies. The whole point is not to eat, however, as you will have just finished lunch, but to spend time together.

Another popular time for entertaining in France is for the goûter or snack time. This is at about 4pm and dates to prendre le goûter (have a snack) are most often made by parents of young children. Again, this is frugal entertainment at its best.

I am personally a huge fan of potluck gatherings. These are anything but normal in France, but my French friends and family are now accustomed to my strange ways and they go along with me. I usually try to throw at least one big party per year, this year’s was for my husband’s birthday. I don’t spend a lot of money on food or drink and the decoration budget is usually next to nil. After all, the point of entertaining is to spend time with those you love, not to spend money!

Feel up to a group writing project? How do you like to entertain frugally? Does your family, neighborhood, culture or group of friends have any special frugal entertainment traditions? What about the traditional ‘big’ days for entertainment: birthdays, anniverseries, Super Bowl Sunday? What’s your best frugal entertainment tip? Write a blog post (if you link back to this post, we’ll automatically link back to you to follow in the conversation), or leave a comment.


1 Lucie August 8, 2008

Hmm I will have to ponder this for my own blog post…

But I love the idea of the coffee/snack dates the French have embraced. Practical, and it is so nice to just sit and visit with a friend.

I also have to laugh at the image of you introducing all your french friends to the potluck concept…

Lucie’s last blog post..Mom Seeking Mom Advice: Simple Birthday Gifts for a Little Boy

2 Frugal Trenches August 8, 2008

Am currently reading A Year In Provence and this post really reminds me of this wonderful book!

Frugal Trenches’s last blog post..Giving!

3 Kim Ayscue August 9, 2008

When you asked about what is the best tip for frugal entertaining, I immediately thought of a weekend I spent at FSU with my son at his frat house. These frat guys bring frugal entertaining to a whole new level. Let's see–peeing off the 2nd and 3rd floor balconies prevents carpet wear with trips to bathroom. Icing down beer in bathtub and sink instead of purchasing cooler. "Furniture" is a generic term that can be applied to a beer-pong table/dining tale, empty keg/door stopper, futon/hookah bar. Good news is I won at beer pong. Go figure…luv the post, as usual…Namaste..Kim

Kim Ayscue's last blog post..The little changes…

4 Bobbi D August 9, 2008

My friends & I get together at least once a month at each others house. This month it is my house and we will just do appetizers and then we will pile around the TV and watch a movie or paint on small canvases and socialize. Maybe both. One good (& fugal) thing about painting is you can always resue your canvas. Especially if you materpiece isn’t so much a masterpiece the first time around. 😉

5 Kelly August 9, 2008


All I can say is ‘Yuck’!

6 Kelly August 9, 2008

Painting is a fantastic idea for a frugal activity. I often get together with my friends for craft days.

7 Alex August 10, 2008

I love this post! French entertaining customs are so interesting; I always enjoy learning about foreign ways of life. This particular topic I never would have thought to research, but it is definitely something I would like to mimic.

Alex's last blog post..Yard Sale

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