A Week In Brussels, Belgium, On A $47,600 Salary

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Today: a project manager working in government who makes $47,600 per year and spends some of her money this week on mac and cheese.
Occupation: Project Manager
Industry: Government
Age: 29
Location: Brussels, Belgium
Salary: $47,600
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $2,400
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $550 (My parents helped me with a large down payment for the apartment as an advancement on my inheritance.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (Higher education is heavily subsidized by the government, but we have very high taxes on labor in return, though...)
Health Insurance: $172 per year out of pocket, and the rest is automatically deducted from my pretax income.
Retirement Savings: $95 (In the current system, government officials are guaranteed a nice pension when you retire, so this is just a little extra on the side. The downside is that you have to work until they say you can quit in order to get it. We have some of the highest taxation on labor in the world because of this.)
Public Transportation: $0 (My employer covers this.)
Utilities: $220 (This includes cleaning, electricity, maintenance of the common areas in my building, central heating, and water.)
Electricity: $50
Internet, Cable & Phone: $65
Labor Union: $20
Netflix: $13 (My dad and brother also use my account.)
Spotify: $0 (My dad pays for the family account.)
Savings: I allocate ~$500 per month to travel. All extra money (bonuses, tax refunds, birthday money, etc.) gets tossed into savings and investment accounts.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — I get up later than usual, as I have an external meeting for the entire day that starts a little later than my usual office hours. I soft boil two eggs for breakfast while I do my morning skincare routine (face wash, toner, essence, snail serum, emulsion, SPF, and BB cream) and get dressed.
8:30 a.m. — I commute from my town to Brussels, where I work. I chose not to move to Brussels, as the housing is more expensive there and most of my friends and family are still in my hometown. Belgium is small enough that my commute to Brussels is doable, though. Added bonus: My employer pays for my public transportation in full!
9:30 a.m. — A friend I studied abroad with invited me her birthday party in Norway. I contact our other friend, who is also invited, to ask about plans. We decide we both want to go, and look into booking flights. There is a bit of hemming and hawing about which one to take, and I decide on one that is a little bit more expensive but has better hours. I book my flight while I wait for the meeting to start. $143.52
11:45 a.m. — Meeting is unexpectedly over by 11:45. I left my laptop at home, though, so now I'm a little bit lost about what to do, as I anticipated being at work until 5 p.m. and then meeting up with a friend for drinks and dinner afterwards. I text her to inform her about the situation, and luckily she's free to meet me for lunch instead! I get a coffee from Starbucks ($4.50) and sit in the sun scrolling through emails while I wait for her to show up. $4.50
1:30 p.m. — We have lunch at an Argentinian place, as I'm craving a good steak. She orders empanadas with a salad and we both have a glass of red wine. I give her a gift I bought for her on my last trip, so she insists on paying for my drink.
6 p.m. — I take the train back home after lunch and fire up the laptop to do some work. By 6, I get hungry, so I fix myself leftover broccoli soup with tortellini for dinner. After dinner it's couch time with the cat. I finish the book I was reading and go to bed soon after, but not before finishing my evening skincare routine (double cleanse, BHA, AHA, toner, essence, serum, sleeping mask).
Daily Total: $148.02

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I get up, happy that it's Friday, and make breakfast (scrambled eggs over toast with yogurt and strawberries), do my skincare routine, and settle in for a day of working from home.
12 p.m. — I realize I didn't get food for lunch, so I skip out to go to the Aldi next door to my place. I check my meal plan to see if there are other things I need and make a list. I buy eggs, orange juice, apples, peaches, more strawberries, smoked salmon, garlic, and a premade mac and cheese. I eat the mac and cheese for lunch, with a peach and an apple for dessert. $25.54
7:30 p.m. — I finish my tasks for the day around 5, browse the internet for interesting articles on the blogs I follow, and start making sesame noodles as a quick dinner before heading out. I'm meeting a group of friends from university for drinks in a different part of town, so I hop on the tram to get there. We all pay a round while we catch up on each others' lives. $9.12
Daily Total: $34.66

Day Three

10 a.m. — I wake up but decide to remain in bed to read a bit. I love lazing around on weekend mornings! I finally get up at 1 p.m. and slap on my skincare. I still have bacon pieces that need to be eaten soonish and I decide to make spaghetti carbonara for breakfast. In my book, it's perfect breakfast food, seeing as it consists of egg, bacon, parmesan, and carbs. I happily tuck in while thinking about my to-do list.
3 p.m. — I clean my apartment before leaving for my evening plans. I put on a cheery playlist on Spotify to listen to while I vacuum and scrub everything. The cat is not impressed, but he is probably just mad about the brushing he received prior to the cleaning (I consider brushing him as pre-emptive vacuuming).
7 p.m. — I have a picnic with a couple of friends next to the lake near my house. One friend brings meatballs and pesto pasta, one brings dips and other finger food, and the rest of us bring several bottles of wine and water. I bring a bottle I received as a present, and I'm pleasantly surprised to discover that it is rather nice. We hang out at our picnic spot for a couple of hours and decide to check out a party to end the evening. The party isn't that great, so we leave soon after. I manage to do an abbreviated version of my nighttime routine and am asleep by 12:30 a.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

10 a.m. — I get up relatively early for a Sunday, as I made plans with my friend in Berlin to do Skype yoga at 11, which basically entails a Skype call with video while we both put on the same yoga video on YouTube. It's hilarious, and we come to the conclusion that we have to do this again. Free fun workout without the hassle of actually going to a gym? Score!
12:30 p.m. — I take a shower, put the apartment back in order, and make myself a nice lunch of smoked salmon with fancy crackers and a homemade yogurt dill sauce.
2 p.m. — Two friends come over with their baby, and we hang out a bit on my balcony. They give me a bottle of prosecco as a host gift, but both decline a glass, as they still need to drive a bit. Instead, we drink orange juice, sparkling water, and coffee while catching up.
4:30 p.m. — Friends are gone, and I grab my list for a supermarket run. I buy ingredients for a spinach goat cheese quiche, plus spaghetti, bacon, and cleaning supplies. $27.64
7 p.m. — My dad is in town, so I cook him dinner. I make the quiche with a side salad of tomatoes and we have a chat while we eat. Then I do my skincare routine and paint my nails in a soft pink color. I've spent several hundreds of euros on my collection of nail-related stuff over the years, but it still comes out a lot cheaper than having them done professionally on a regular basis.
Daily Total: $27.64

Day Five

6:35 a.m. — It's Monday morning. I roll out of bed after snoozing through three alarms to start the day with my skincare routine. I eat leftovers from yesterday's lunch for breakfast. I grab my bag and run out the door to start my commute to my office in Brussels.
12:30 p.m. — During summer, everything is paced a little bit slower, for which I am grateful, as it gives me the opportunity to catch up with tasks I've been putting off. I spend the morning catching up on emails on legal issues in my field. Now it's lunchtime! I brought two pieces of quiche (leftovers from yesterday's dinner) and fruit. I eat with my colleagues who also pack their lunches, and we have a nice chat.
5 p.m. — After more emails and a short meeting with the budget department, I pack up my stuff and take the train home. An Italian friend invited me over for lasagna, so I offer to bring the wine. I usually stock up on wine when there's a promotion or if I discover a kind that I really like, so all I have to do is pick a bottle from my existing collection. I don't have to be at her place until 8 p.m., so I play a little with my cat and watch an episode of Hello, My Twenties!, a Korean TV show I recently discovered on Netflix.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — I get up, do my morning skincare routine, get dressed, and make a smoothie to drink on the train for breakfast. Since I ate at my friend's house last night (the lasagna and homemade tiramisu were amazing), I don't have leftovers for lunch, so I grab a smoked salmon wrap at the supermarket in the train station. $4.50
12 p.m. — I eat the wrap and fruit I brought from home. Afterwards, I go outside to have a walk, and run into two colleagues from the unit I worked at before my current position. We chat for a while before heading back inside. When I check my phone for messages, I see one from a friend who wants to postpone the plans we made for this week. I pretend to be a little miffed, but I am secretly relieved, as this is turning out to be a busy week and I could use some couch time. I also already exceeded my restaurant and bar budget for this month, so postponing means not making that situation worse as well.
4:30 p.m. — I had to the doctor for a round of tests in the afternoon, which are over sooner than I thought. It's not worth going back to the office when I finish, as it will be time to go home by the time I get there. I take an earlier train home. My dad cooks dinner for me tonight — fish in a tomato sauce with mashed potatoes.
8 p.m. — I am meeting an old friend for drinks. We have a couple of beers, have a giggle over my disastrous dating life, talk about our respective travel plans for the next couple of months, and discuss what to do with excess money. I advise her to get rid of her bank account that charges her monthly fees and to start investing instead of just leaving her money in a savings account. I take the tram home around 11:30 and I'm in bed by midnight after doing my evening skincare routine. $10
Daily Total: $14.50

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I didn't sleep well, and I'm struggling to open my eyes. I decide to give myself an additional half hour to snooze a little. After that, I manage to get up and get ready for the day. I make a smoothie and pack the leftovers from yesterday's dinner for lunch.
11 a.m. — We get a short training from one of our colleagues from the budget department. He asks me to stay a little longer afterwards to discuss a problem that needs fixing. I go back to my own department and have lunch with my colleagues. Another colleague, who is on holiday at the moment, is leaving soon for another job, and we all agree to chip in $10 for the gift and to take her to lunch next week. I wire the money to my colleague who will collect everything and get the gift. $10
4 p.m. — I decide to go home early, still a little tired. My niece is taking sailing classes at one of the sailing clubs near to my house and they are organizing a BBQ tonight. I get home and take a nap to re-energize.
8 p.m. — I head over to the BBQ. My dad paid for the salad bar for our group (himself, me, my brother and his family, and two family friends) and also got some meat. I buy a round of drinks ($10). After dinner, I head over to one of the other sailing clubs, as there are a couple of friends hanging out there. I have another two beers ($5) and head home around 11:30. $15
Daily Total: $25
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