Updated: Jun 02, 2023

Are Your Long-Distance Relationship Costs a Budget Buster?

Are long-distance relationship costs really more expensive than same-city dating? I put my own love life to the test.
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No matter which way you spin it, being in a long-distance relationship sucks. It's like being single, but without any of the fun perks. As a gal stuck in the middle of a long-distance relationship, I get a lot of interesting comments but one of that comes to mind is: "Isn't that expensive?"

I always find it unusual that people try to pin a financial figure to my relationship, or any relationship at that matter, but it does make sense. Long-distance relationships aren't cheap. So, I began to get curious: Is a long-distance relationship really that much more expensive than if a couple resides in the same city? Yes, the flights back and forth add up, but what about how much you save on food and drinks? I decided to do a mini-experiment and go back through my credit card statements to check.

Based on my credit card statements, memory, and calendar book, I calculated a solid approximation of how much I spent when my boyfriend and I were together and when we were apart. My boyfriend and I try to see each other once a month, although it doesn't always work out that way. I condensed my findings to one month in order to have a closer comparison.

Costs when we were in the same city -- January

This was the first month my boyfriend and I were officially together. Although he footed the bill more often than I did (perks of being a struggling writer) I still spent quite a bit on our blossoming relationship.

Because I don't like to fuss with credit cards when I am on a date, I usually bring cash with me. For the month of January I withdrew a total of: $122.75

We also saw two movies in January, one night he paid the next night I paid: $24

I was staying in the suburbs of Chicago, and he lives in the city so I burned through gas like crazy. I'll round up because sometimes I would take the train in: $60.55 

While we together I dragged him to a show: $30

We went out for drinks a couple of times a week and I tried to pay half the time: $142

I had a charge on my card for Pho: $31.62 

I got coffee for us before work one day: $8.05 

Parking meeter charges: $8

Random 7-11 charge: $24.24

Total: $451.21

Costs when we were apart -- May

These calculations aren't very precise because, during February and March, I was in the middle of moving to Los Angeles so I didn't spend any money on our relationship during that time. Aside from a $20 gift certificate, I sent to my boyfriend, but I am not going to count that. He flew out to visit me, but since I am not counting his half the bill, I am going to focus on the next time I flew out to Chicago to visit him, which was May. I was only there for five days and this is how much I spent:

I found a completely affordable flight months in advance for only: $275

As usual, I withdrew cash for the trip: $102.50

I bought some water and gum at the airport: $4.69

I bought us some coffee: $8.21

Total: $390.40

Outcome: It's cheaper to be apart

Obviously, every relationship functions differently and on different budgets. Considering my boyfriend and I see one another once a month, at most, our one big buy -- aka plane tickets -- are still less than spending a little here and there every week, especially if you stretch out over visits.

However, couples who have been dating for a while will probably opt for Netflix over movie theaters, and home-cooked meals over restaurants. In fact, my boyfriend and I have also become more conscientious of our budgets as he gears up for a move out to Los Angeles.

In the meantime, we still have to battle the wretched long-distance relationship. For couples who are struggling with the decision on whether to do the whole long-distance thing, or go your separate ways -- finances don't have to be a make it or break it point.

Overcoming obstacles of long-distance relationship costs

Obviously, when it comes to long-distance, communication is one of the biggest obstacles to face. But thanks to technology (GChat, texting, Skype), that obstacle is severely minimized. Another big obstacle is financial differences. For example, as a freelancer, my schedule is set at the beginning of the week whereas my significant other (S.O) has his schedule planned out upon signing the contract. He knows his vacation days each month, how much he makes each month and where he has to show up every day -- what an unusual luxury for our generation.

Then there's me, I take jobs when I can find them, I work gigs here and there and have no loyalty to any particular business (aside from MyBankTracker because I've been with these guys since I was a wee little writer).

Obviously, my boyfriend's schedule allows for more flexibility when it comes to traveling but that doesn't mean that I can't still make sure things are equal when we see each other. The way it works for us is, if your S.O. buys plane tickets then you pay for the weekend.

Start saving

Yes, it can be stressful when you're already on a tight budget, but there are so many options when it comes to making smarter financial decisions. Although my boyfriend and I haven't made the one year mark yet, we've already discussed opening a separate account for travel expenses. We both plan to set aside 5 percent of our paychecks for traveling expenditures.

So, when you receive your next paycheck and you've paid off your bills and loans, try doing the same. Even if you don't have a special someone to visit, treat yo' self and go on an exciting adventure. It's good for the soul.

Another thing that helps is setting aside some spending money when you have weekends together. I, personally, have picked up a part-time job for some extra spending money. This way you don't feel guilty when you spend extra money on concerts and drinks.

After a few flights back and forth, my boyfriend and I finally decided to cook meals at home. This helps a lot with expenses. Even if you decide to have a couple drinks at home before going out to meet friends you're already saving nearly 30 bucks each.

Other things that have made it more bearable, cost-wise

Frequent Flier Programs: This one should seem obvious, but for some reason, I never looked into these types of programs because I thought it was too much hassle to set up. My pure laziness caused me to miss out on many opportunities to score points for future flights. If you have not signed up for these programs, they are very easy to sign up for, you can belong to multiple airlines and you can retroactively add flights. You can also choose a credit card that offers miles.

Know the best time to buy: Much like groceries and cars, there is an optimal time to buy plane tickets. Make sure you are keeping up with not only the cheapest days to fly but also the best times to buy.

What are some of the best ways you save when traveling to see your long-distance partner? Leave your comments below!