What It Costs to Be Me: U.S. Edition

June 22, 2011
Marie Claire
Lea Goldman


Joanna Wozniak, 26
Chicago, Illinois
Occupation: Dancer for the Joffrey Ballet
Annual income: $39,000
Average income in Chicago: $43,727
Home, sweet home: "I rent a one-bedroom apartment for $700 a month in a cute, family-oriented part of town called Ukrainian Village. It's a distance from the Joffrey — I have to take a bus and then a train to get to work. I spend $80 a month for an unlimited public transportation pass."
Bills, bills, bills: "I've been dancing since I was 5 and became a professional dancer at 17. My parents are Polish immigrants who brought me up with a penny-pinching sensibility, so I am very aware of my finances. My utilities are about $50 a month, plus another $140 for cable and cell phone. I'm also working toward my bachelor's degree, which currently costs me $2,500 a year. Thankfully, my company picks up my pointe shoes. They cost $50 a pair, and I go through three or four pairs a week."
Meal plan: "For breakfast, I'll have oatmeal or yogurt with homemade granola. I prefer to keep lunch light — maybe a sandwich or soup — since I'll spend the rest of the day dancing. On weekends, I make one or two big dishes and eat them for leftovers on the other nights. I spend about $50 on groceries every week."
The weekender: "I perform four or five shows over the weekend, so I'm usually pretty busy. I'll also catch up on school, sleep, and laundry. I am a bit of a foodie, and Chicago has a great restaurant scene, so I'll try one with my friends or go out for beers. It's rarely more than $50 for the night — we keep costs down by hoofing it everywhere."
Only in Chicago: "This is the perfect city to be in during the summer. There are a ton of free outdoor concerts and movies at the Pritzker Pavilion. There's also free mambo, salsa, and swing dancing in Grant Park. Unfortunately, being a ballerina can be intimidating to people — nobody wants to dance with me!"
My big splurge: "I'm always looking for good travel deals. I just charged $1,000 to my credit card for a 16-day trip to Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. It'll be on a shoestring budget, but I'm excited for the adventure."
The shoe index: "I bought a really good pair of $120 sneakers for a 20-mile charity walk I was doing. Shoes are very important in my profession. We have to be so careful not to hurt our feet."
The view from the ground: "I earn extra cash by teaching ballet to kids for $40 an hour. But when times get tough, that's usually the first thing parents cut. And ballet is not a sport that has a huge fan base and merchandising deals. Many dance schools and ballet companies have closed. This is not a very stable profession in times like these."

Read more: Money Confessions from Real Women - What Real Women Make and Spend - Marie Claire