The Cost of a Long-Distance Relationship
by Nicole Weaver
I’ve been in a long-distance relationship for more than two years now. When we resided in the same state, it was easy to see each other because I had a car, and only needed $20 for gas to make a trip to visit my boyfriend. Now, with me in New York and him in Pennsylvania, seeing him means I’d have to pay $47 for a round-trip bus ticket. Sure, this isn’t a huge difference, but when you’re working off a limited budget, it can get overwhelming.
In January, the last thing I wanted to think about was how I was going to come up with $47 when I was also about to pay rent and thinking about how much money I was going to have leftover to spend on lunch until my next paycheck.
I felt like kind of a jerk complaining about this on the phone to my boyfriend (we take turns visiting each other). I’m frugal and I hate spending from my savings. But he reminded me how much he missed me and how important it was for us to see each other since it happens only once a month, so I withdrew one hundred dollars out of my savings to pay for the bus ticket.
There was a threat of snow on the weekend I was planning to visit him. We have to plan our visits weeks in advance since my boyfriend works on the weekends. The morning I was supposed to leave we’d almost given up, but after he noticed the roads were clear in his area he quickly told me to get on the next bus. Even though I was given less than an hour notice, it all worked out. I had a great time, but all the stress about money that month has made me think about the cost of my long-distance relationship.
Hopefully, it won’t always be like this much longer: My boyfriend is looking to find a job in New York and move here. But until then we are spending the following amounts approximately each month:
• Bus ticket round trip ticket between New York City and Wescosville, Pennyslvania: $47 + $10 gas to drive to and from the bus station
• The inevitable movie date: $30 in New York, or $20 in Pennsylvania
• Metro card: +$30
• Cost of meals: +$100 in New York, or ~$50 in PA
• Presents: $25-$40
• Loss of total work hours: 48
I don’t have a kitchen at Webster, where I’m staying, so we have to eat out when he visits. But when I’m visiting him we tend to eat a home-cooked meal and spend much less.
Back in January, I called my mom in tears, stressing out over making the decision of either not seeing my boyfriend, or taking money out of my savings account for a bus ticket. She gave me the idea to start taking $20 out of each freelance check to set aside for our planned visits. It kind of hurts me to think about taking money out of checks that I originally planned to put into savings to move into a real apartment, but I’m hoping that this will help. Seeing him is really the only time I can catch a break from working since I tend to do all of my freelance work over the weekend.
Technically another cost of my relationship is all of the work hours I lose in order to spend time with my boyfriend. Sometimes we account for this since he is a writer too. We have “work dates” where we just sit next to each other and write articles that are due the following week. But of course we are never as productive like we would be if we were alone; there’s always the pressure to stop working so we can spend real time together.
Even though it’s tough we accept the situation and most importantly, find it worth it! My boyfriend tends to be the one of the few familiar faces from home that I get to see once a month since I moved. It is scheduled time for me to relax and be happy, and most of all we are still madly in love with each other.
As a frugal person who is officially in the real world on her own for the first time, sometimes it’s just hard to not feel guilty for spending money to be happy rather than save it for my future. But what I’m starting to learn is whatever financial or emotional investments I’m putting into my relationship, I am getting more than enough rewards back that I shouldn’t be stressing about it. No, the rewards don’t fit neatly in a spreadsheet for it to numerically make sense, but that’s the way it should be!