How To Be Financially Smart In A Long Distance Relationship

Flickr / Tambako The Jaguar
Flickr / Tambako The Jaguar

In August of 2010, I sauntered into Hickey dining hall with the specific swagger a senior in college carries. In a move of epic uncoolness, I was back at school two weeks before many of my peers to be properly trained (for the third year) in the art of being a resident assistant. I strolled over to a table where my best friends sat shoveling food into their mouths before yet another training about dealing with [insert any cliche bone-headed college drama here]. While I started munching on pizza I looked up to see a cute junior walking over towards our table. He was a buddy of my friends, so I thought nothing of it when he sat down with us. Looking down at my multicolored Coach sneakers (yeah, I rock some designer footwear) he said, “I like your shoes.”*

By the end of RA training, he’d mustered up enough courage to actually ask me on a date (or rather to “hang out” as you do in college). We watched The Godfather and we’ve been watching mafia-related movies and TV series together ever since.

Peach and I were a year apart in college, meaning I graduated in May of 2011 and he had another two semesters left. This left us with two choices: 1) Break up 2) Give long distance a shot.

We’ve been in a long-distance relationship (LDR) since May 15, 2011. Why yes, that is a long time.

Peach has gone on to study for his masters degree and currently lives in Western New York, while I moved to and have stayed in New York City. We live about 45 minutes away from each other by plane, but can’t afford to fly regularly, so I’m intimately familiar with Greyhound bus routes and costs.

There are many, many reasons people give for why long distance doesn’t work, but the one I’ll focus on is, of course, the financial aspect.

Yes, long distance can be hard. One gripe I often hear from other people in long distance relationships is the expense of taking a plane, train or automobile to see the other person. My LDR secret: SPLIT THE COST!

Instead of having the, “I’ll get ya next time” mentality about your travel expenditures, cut your partner a check when he or she comes to visit or pay for everything until you’ve compensated for your half of the ticket. Peach and I do this because we don’t swap on-and-off going from one location to the other. At one point, I’d gone to see him four times before he could come visit me due to class/work schedules. It’s easy to hold resentment about your financial investment if your partner isn’t matching your contributions to keeping the relationship alive.

In a pseudo-feminist way, Peach doesn’t shoulder the burden of our “dates” when we see each other. We continue to primarily split costs of brunches, dinners, movies, mini-golf, Broadway shows or whatever else we’re up to during our time together. Yes, sometimes he insists on paying for a date and in an effort to not be completely emasculating I allow it — after profusely asking if he’s sure and if he can afford. In my defense, he’s the one paying for grad school. We also try to keep our dates cost-effective, Broadway rush tickets anyone?!

The other big secret is to openly discuss your financial situations. I don’t mean disclose your net worth or exchange pin numbers and bank account info. I mean to have an honest discussion with your partner about what you can and (more importantly) cannot afford. There should be no shaming nor should you constantly cover your partner because it will create a financial imbalance that could lead to resentment from both sides.

Like any relationship, long distance has its ups-and-downs and pros-and-cons. I am often asked, “why do you do it?” The short answer: I use the 80-20 Rule, except my application is different. If I’m happy in my relationship 80 percent of the time, why would I want to get rid of it simply because I can’t be at his apartment by hopping on the subway for a quick trip?

The long answer: I’m well-suited for this type of relationship. I’m 24. I have no interest in settling down, cohabitation, having a “ring put on it,” nor starting a family on this side of my thirties. I appreciate the independence of long-distance and my ability to make plans at a whim without having to check-in with someone’s schedule. It isn’t a reaction against those who have committed to or are interested in that lifestyle. It’s simply my personal preference.

Epilogue: After 4 years, 1 month, 2 weeks and 3 days of long distance, Peach moved to New York City. Erin (now 26) and Peach live within a 15 minute walk of each other, but still like to go-dutch during dates.

*This was particularly endearing because that is the exact line I used as a toddler when I was trying to get out of being punished for misbehaving. I learned the importance of flattery by age two. TC mark

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