It started like scene from a romance novel. I sat across a conference table from my soon to be sweetheart…eyes sparkling, heart fluttering. A business meeting that turned personal. After several emails and texts, we began the formal courting process. I knew he traveled a lot but didn’t make much of it. Over the phone one night, in a litany of ‘first date’ questions I asked, “hey so where do you live?”…and so began my first long distance relationship.
I have learned that successful long distance relationships depend on sacrifice, patience, strong communication and…proper budgeting. Budget planning is essential to cultivating a lasting relationship across states and time zones. The less time you and your mate spend worrying about money, the more time you’ll spend simply enjoying each other. In a long distance relationship, you may spend fewer days together and more spent apart—so, every minute and every memory made counts.
Conquering the complexities of a long distance relationship might mean that your heart and your wallet are in a battle for ultimate supremacy. Here are 12 real tips to help your love and money last:
- Rack up points. Take advantage of frequent traveler programs. If you and your significant other travel on the same route often, then make sure to enroll in airline, bus and rail rewards programs. You could be well on your way to earning a free ticket. And if you’re thinking about opening a new line of credit (choose wisely) then consider one that earns you miles for every dollar you spend.
- To bus or not to bus. I was never much for bus travel, but how could I pass up a $30 fare to pay $300 for a plane ticket?! While you may sacrifice a few extra hours of time, the payoff is huge for your wallet. Take the money saved to do something extra romantic.
- Free and low-cost fun. There are tons of free and inexpensive activities and events in almost every city. New York City is a treasure trove, from museums and plays, to book readings and walking tours. Go online: type in your city and the word “free” to find endless lists of things to do. In DC, Smithsonian museums and National Zoo offer free admission. Plus, the capital’s most beautiful landmarks are romantic date spots with no cover charge. Local libraries often offer free passes to the arts and to cultural Also check with friends – they may have memberships, so swap passes and double up on free fun or discounts.
- Make your job work for you. If either of you travel for work, in the U.S. or abroad, then make it a fun getaway for you both. The hotel and at least one flight are already paid for, so there’s only one ticket left to buy! Plus, traveling together keeps the romance fun and fresh. When you arrive, pick up a city brochure and ask the hotel concierge where to find free and low-cost activities as mentioned in #3.
- Sync your phones. Many phone carriers offer share plans or free mobile-to-mobile minutes which can save you money. Here’s another tip: if you’re ever way over your monthly minutes, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. I once pleaded for amnesty when my overage fees exceeded my normal bill by more than $80. I called the phone company and the representative was extremely sympathetic to my “long distance woes.” He erased my outstanding debt and even upgraded my minutes at a discount.
- A couple that cooks together stays together. My guy and I both love to cook so we eat half our meals at home whenever we’re together. This saves money and creates more quality time. Think of food shopping as a fun pre-date ritual, and once you decide on the main course, select a bottle of wine together or pair your meal with a fruit-infused tea or lemonade, made at home.
- Plan ahead. Decide how often you want to see one another and buy your tickets at least 4 weeks in advance when the fares are cheapest. Traveling midweek is another great way to save money…Thursday to Monday will be much less expensive than traveling on weekends.
- Give up your seat. When the airline agent gets on the loudspeaker to announce an overbooked flight, run…don’t walk…to the counter and offer up your seat. A free flight or voucher will bring you one step closer to seeing your honey, so what’s a few hours of wait time!
- Get coupon crazy. Groupon, Gilt City, Living Social and other similar flash sale sites are a great way to find deals where you live and where you travel. Most restaurant deals include dining for two, so check out a new spot while saving money.
- Travel light. Leave big items at each other’s homes that way you can avoid checked baggage fees. Hair dryers, a winter coat, large ..these are all big items that can stay behind at his place or hers.
- Give each other face time. Instead of sending your mobile minutes soaring, use apps like FaceTime and Skype to talk over WiFi. What could be better than seeing your significant other in living color!
- Create a honey pot. Choose an item you indulge in whether it be daily coffee, biweekly manicures, or a monthly magazine subscription. Got one in mind? Now, instead of spending money on those items like you usually do, drop those dollars in a jar. The savings will add up quickly and put you one step closer to spending quality time with your honey.
Aleia Naylor, New York marketing executive | multi-faceted foodie, devoted to family and friends, world traveler & latte enthusiast; tsp of Jamaican sass, TBS of Oklahoman sensibility