The Cost of a Long Distance Relationship (And How to Afford It)

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but what about when there’s money involved? How to consider (and afford) the real costs of a long distance relationship

In 2014, my boyfriend spent 6 months working in Europe.

Meanwhile, I was living in New York City, broke and borderline unemployed.

Was he supposed to pick up the tab to fly me out for a visit? Was I supposed to settle for a skype-only relationship while he was away?

No and no I concluded.

So after he left in January, I got to work – figuring out how to I was going to afford the cost of my now long distance relationship…

 

How I Paid For My Long Distance Relationship

 

  • Step one, I HUSTLED

I had been trying to improve my earnings prospects well before the boyfriends departure, but suddenly not having 5-10 hours a week dedicated to ‘Netflix and chilling’ meant that all those at home date nights were now free for more hustle.

 

  • Second, I stepped up my money savvy

I was already frugal when the bf left town, but having a savings goal I actually cared about and wanted to achieve (more than tacos, lattes, yoga classes and anything else that might have previously posed a threat to my $$$) super charged my efforts

To avoid moments of weakness, I printed out a picture of Amsterdam and a picture of the boyfriend and put them both in my wallet wrapped around my cash and credit cards so I’d have to confront the potential trade off of not being able to visit any time I was tempted to spend on a non-necessity.

 

  • Third, I started travel hacking

I knew all about flying for free with miles. My mom had racked up so many from her years of business trips that all of my childhood vacations were financed by miles. So I figured it was time to rack up some miles for myself.

I started researching sign up offers for credit cards to find which would reward me with enough miles to fly roundtrip to Europe. (Note: I did not have any credit card debt at the time, nor did I have a history of credit card debt. If you have either, forget travel hacking, it’s not worth it. BUT if you always pay your credit card on time and in full, do yourself a favor and start getting rewarded for it!)

 

  • Finally, I decided to man up and actually talk to my boyfriend about it

That’s right, I came right out and addressed the reality of our now long distance relationship, and the associated costs.

We agreed that he shouldn’t foot the full bill for me to visit, but that we would share some of the expense because he didn’t have any breaks in his schedule to come visit me at home.

 

By the end of March, just a few months after his initial departure, I was on my way to Europe. And a few months after that, he returned home, our long distance relationship over, but our long-term relationship still in tact.

 

amsterdam long distance relationship

 

We know absence makes the heart grow fonder. But what about when there’s money involved?

 

Between my work and the jobs of my past partners, I’ve probably spent a third of my adult life in some form of long-distance relationship. Anyone who has ever done the same knows that it’s hard hard work.

But what people don’t talk about is how hard it is on your wallet. Being in a long distance relationship can be draining – emotionally and financially!

 

The Costs & Considerations of a Long Distance Relationship

 

  • The visits can get pricey

Heads up: you will want to visit your love ALL THE DAMN TIME. Depending on where you both live, this might mean a car drive or plane trip – both of which cost money.

Most couples that live in the same country agree that 6-8 weeks is about the longest they want to go without seeing each other. If your sweetie is international, you may be looking at 3-6 month periods of loneliness.

Visits can also get very expensive when you factor in the restaurants and activities you might be planning to do together once you arrive.

Getting to see your loved once every month or six months also means that each time you visit, you are in an emotional place, which makes it dangerously easy to over-spend on ‘special’ moments.

 

  • It’s tough to keep things ‘fair’

This is the part where so many long distance relationships fumble. Too often, the financial burden of being apart falls onto one person in the relationship.

Or, even if both people are trying to pitch in, neither of them are talking about finances, and that creates resentment.

Make sure to talk openly and often about who is paying for what. It doesn’t have to be split 50/50. Maybe one person does all the flying and the other does all the paying.

Maybe you open up a joint checking account and each put 10% of your paycheck into it.

Whatever you decide – TALK ABOUT IT!

 

  • Consider the ‘hidden costs’

Expenses like taxi fares to the airport, a pet sitter to watch your dog when you’re out of town, and the PTO needed to keep taking Fridays off…it all adds up!

Remember the old phrase, Time is money? Apart from the physical cash you will have to spend, you’ll also want to consider the time investment a long distance relationship requires.

Time on the phone, time spent missing out on weekends with your friends, time away from your apartment, time away from your gym routine and time that could be spent focusing on your career.

 

So What Does a Long Distance Relationship Actually Cost?

 

Let’s do a quick calculation of what a real long distance relationship could look like in terms of what you can expect to spend over the course a year.

Sarah lives in San Diego, CA while Pete lives in Philadelphia, PA. That’s 2700 miles apart.

  • Airplane tickets (once a month) = $400 round trip for an economy seat
  • Food while on trip (because it is a 6-hour flight) = $30
  • Ride to and from airport = $70
  • Pet Sitter = $50

Total = $550 per visit, NOT including the costs of going out.

 

That’s $6,600 a year. Not pocket change by any means!
While the amount of money certainly can be worth it, it might be more than you want to spend on the cute guy at the bar you’re just getting to know.

Either way, doing the math gives you the opportunity to think through whether a long-distance relationship is really something you want, and can afford.

 

How to AFFORD a Long Distance Relationship

 

If you do decide to go ahead and maintain a long distance relationship regardless of the costs, keep these things in mind to help you save some money….

    • Sign up with airlines so you can get travel rewards. (And consider travel hacking, using credit card reward offers to bank free miles, if you’re a responsible credit card user. I recently cashed in on sign up offers for Southwest and the Chase Sapphire Preferred cards). 
    • Fly in and out on off days and hours when possible.  Check alternate airports too. They often offer cheaper rates and sometimes serve local airlines that are much more cost effective than larger carriers.
    • Check multiple search engines when booking travel. Two of my favorites are Hitlist and Skiplagged.  With Hitlist, you build your list of dream-destinations, (in this case, home city of your SO),  and get notifications when those destinations go on sale. Skiplagged specializes in ultra-low cost flights by finding airfare loopholes like hidden city ticketing, (when it’s cheaper to book a flight with a connection in your destination city, than it is to book a flight directly to that that city).
    • Research driving alternatives. If you’re only a drive away from your long distance love, consider other ways to save on transit costs. Is it more cost effective to use public transit?  Can you sign up for a service like Hit the Road, that lets you transport someone else’s car to a new city for them while you get paid for it? Get creative!
    • Skip out on the entertainment and eating out during visits and have date nights at home. (If you do decide to go out, keep is budget-friendly by using groupon to get discounts on dinner and activities).
    • Consider if it’s more cost-effective to meet each other half-way. It might not be, but it’s always worth a look.
    • Talk about how you can equitably share the costs of your long distance relationship. Let go of any assumptions of who you think should or will pay for what, and ask. When it’s all out in the open, feelings of resentment don’t have room to fester and build an emotional divide on top of your already challenging physical divide.

 

If you’re in love with someone who is hundreds or thousands of miles away, money probably isn’t top of mind. You’re counting down the hours until you’re next Skype session and thinking about how much longer you can stand to be apart. But taking an honest look at the finances (especially if this is a newer relationship) always helps put things into perspective, and can provide the motivation you need to get proactive about saving up for your next visit (if he really is the one). 

 

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? How did you handle and share the costs?

 

6 responses to “The Cost of a Long Distance Relationship (And How to Afford It)

  1. I feel like you’re me! I dated a guy that lived in the Netherlands. Getting a local guide around Amsterdam was awesome (and he even took a picture of me in the very same spot as you!). Our relationship was different, though, because he lived over there and flew to the US often for business. I would pay to go visit him, and he would cover expenses while out as he was on his company’s dime. That was a fun time…… but I’m looking closer to home this time around for the next guy. Much easier that way!

    1. hah, nice to have an excuse to fly out to Amsterdam, but that could certainly get expensive. My bfs were always on tour, so visiting them would get super tricky because they’d be moving every couple of days to a new city and I couldn’t always take transit with them. So on this particular trip for example, I flew into Hamburg, then had to get myself to Groningen and then Amsterdam.

      Thank goodness for video chats though. I remember when it was all just IM in between visits;)

  2. While I’m grateful I’ve never had to experience long-distance, I’m so glad you were able to work it out! Plus, who doesn’t love travel hacking?

  3. Long distance relation is good and bad at the same time, but I must to admit I learnt a lot from these kind of relation…however you’ve done a perfect description of situation:D

  4. I need your advice on ldr finances. Me and my ldr boyfriend lives in two separate states. We both have been together for almost a year and met online. I’ve seen him twice in our relationship. One week the first time at my city and two weeks the second time at his city. He graduates in two years, while I have 4 more years left. We’re both college students that are tight on money. He can’t afford to see me often and I can’t because I’m not working and choosing to study full time. I live with my mom and he lives with roommates. I was thinking of working but my mom won’t let me and I want to avoid problems with her. He works part time but has a lot of bills to pay and his parents don’t give him much money for food but pays his tuition. How do I make this financial situation better? I would very much appreciate your advice.

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