What It Costs to Be Me
By Lea Goldman
Photo Credit: Sarah Elliot
Audrey O'Connor, 31, Brussels, Belgium
Occupation: Event planner
Annual income: $60,000 (converted from euro), plus perks, including a daily meal stipend
Average income for a woman in Belgium: $20,683
Home, sweet home: "For $900 a month, I rent a spacious one-bedroom apartment in the lively African quarter. I once had a party here that was so crowded, the floorboards started to creak!"
Bills, bills, bills: "My mobile phone costs me about $50, plus I pay about $200 a month, in total, for water, gas, electricity, and Internet access. I don't own a TV, so no cable bill. Whatever I want to see I download from the Internet."
Meal plan: "I usually pack my lunch, but now and again I'll go to an all-you-can-eat Lebanese restaurant for 25 euro ($34), which is cheap. There's a very high standard for restaurants here. We don't go to buffets to stuff ourselves."
The weekender: "Salsa dancing is huge. My friends and I dance at the clubs till 6 in the morning. I'll spend about $85, which includes the cover charge, champagne, and the 50-cent fee to use the public bathrooms."
Only in Belgium: "Most companies provide employees with food checks for about $10 per working day. You can use them in restaurants or at supermarkets. I use mine for groceries."
Shoe index: "I bought $220 sandals in Ireland. They have bright-pink-and-purple straps and a gold wedge heel. They go with everything."
The road to recovery: "Belgians are very conservative when it comes to money. Our recession was nothing like in the U.S. I never really knew what all the fuss was about."
Checks and balances: "All my savings goes toward traveling. And when I go, I do it well. I don't travel on a shoestring anymore!"