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money matters

The euro and you

The currency in France is the euro.   At this moment, the exchange rate is 1 euro equals $1.46 (it was 1E to $1.43 when I started writing this).  In other words,  every dollar is worth .68 euro and falling fast.**  okay, as of 5/18/10 it’s 1Euro = $1.23For the first time, Goldman Sachs may be responsible for something that benefits me.  Which doesn’t change my opinion of them in the least.

Your best bet is to buy as many euros as possible the minute you get here because your dollars are shrinking every moment you let pass.     Beware of hidden fees, which means try to avoid making the exchange with an American bank.

Here’s a converter.


Here’s how the denominations break down:

  • 5 euro bill — grey, smaller than the other bills,  worth approximately $7.30 (worth $6.17 on 5/18/10)
  • 10 euro bill — burgundy, bigger than a 5E but smaller than the other bills, worth approximately $14.60 ($12.33 on 5/18/10)
  • 20 euro bill — blue, full size, worth approximately $29.20 ($24.67 on 5/18/10)
  • 50 euro bill —  a flesh-peach color, worth approximately $73.00 ($61.67 on 5/18/10)
  • 100 euro bill — green, worth approximately $146.00 ($123.33 on 5/18/10)
  • 200 euro bill — yellow, worth approximately $292.00 ($246.67 on 5/18/10)
  • 500 euro bill — purple, worth approximately $730.00 ($616.69 on 5/18/10)

The colors can save you a fortune if you need glasses and have problems reading numbers.


This may be one of the rare instances where the right credit card can be helpful, since some of them don’t charge conversion fees and the exchange rate is frozen at the rate when you purchased the item.    The only catch is you have to pay the bill immediately (within an hour of purchase) or the interest rates and penalty fees will negate any savings you may have gained.

Precious metals


The coins are a little more complicated.   There are 2E coins which are gold in the center and silver around the edge and a little bigger, thicker and heavier than a quarter.    The 1E coin is a little smaller, but also heavier than the other coins with a silver center and gold edge.   The 50 centime is larger than the 2E piece, but lighter and all gold.   The 10 and 20 centime pieces are smaller and practically identical.   Then there are the three copper coins, the lowly 1, 2 and five centimes.

If you still have problems differentiating the coins or your brain just simply goes blank at the time of payment, you can always do what I do:   hold out a handful of change to the cashier and let him or her pick out the correct amount.   So far, that’s worked really well and nobody has taken advantage of my stupidity.

Change you can believe in

One thing I love about having the 1E and 2E coins is that a pile of change at the bottom of my purse can yield a dinner’s worth of change, whereas the same weight in US coins will get you a snack if you’re lucky.

what a pocketful of Euro change buys you

what a pocketful of Euro change buys you

what a pocketful of Euro change buys you

what a pocketful of US change buys you

Conversion tips: The best thing you can do for yourself is when you do your mental calculations, instead of figuring that each euro equals 1.46, round it up to 1E = $2 (which is closer to what it ends up being when you add on all the fees).   Don’t get fancy with halves and percentages, it’ll just screw you up.   I thought I got this great deal on olives until I got home and realized I just bought a 10.00 bag of olives (they were delicious, by the way).

A dire warning: some of the merchants still have cash registers that ring up the balance in francs, which were frozen at 6.75FF per Euro when they were discontinued.   This can give the unsuspecting a coronary.   Imagine my horror when my $25/17E budget spree at the grocery store rings up to a grand total of 111.502.   I must have gone white, because the cashier quickly explained “les francs, les francs.”    They no longer use francs in france, so I’ve got to assume the only reason the price is displayed in francs on their cash registers and receipts is to scare the bejesus out of people like me.

*One month later:   the exchange rate is now 1 euro=1.49.33 dollars. Arrrrrrrrgh!

**Two months later (5/17/10):   the exchange rate is now 1 euro =$1.23!!!!    Greece’s loss is my gain.  I’m rich!!!!!   Macarons for everyone!    But it’s a little scary how unstable currency is.   And don’t get me started on Goldman Sachs.

Read the 2011 financial update

Spring 2012–The Euro is falling, the Euro is falling!!!

6 Responses

  1. The registers that still show the conversion in franc is a hold over from the euro transition. Sellers were required to show the price in euros and franc in the time leading up to and following the conversion. Many sellers, for reasons of familiarity and expediency, have not removed the conversion in franc. It helps those who grew up thinking in francs.

  2. Aren’t you happy about all this Greece brouhaha?! Now the dollar is up up up! =)
    Of course that had to happen after the sales are over!

    • I have to admit to feeling a pang of joy at seeing how the Greece mess has affected the exchange rate. But I won’t really be happy until the whole European economy has been brought to its knees.

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