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Question From a Reader: When to Pitch In For Long Distance Dating?

I got this question on my post about the cost of long distance relationships, and thought that you guys can chime in and share some suggestions with this reader:

I’m just starting to see someone from NC and I’m in FL. We’ve spoken on the phone for months and he purchased tickets for me to come up at the end of August. It was just as fantastic in person as on the phone. At this point, we feel quite connected and have been having 2-3 hours conversation each night since early Aug. Since he paid for everything, tickets, entertainment, dinners out, food, gas, etc. while I was in NC last month, should I reciprocate now. He is softly mentioning my getting the next round of tickets and since we’re so ‘young’ in this relationship, I’m wondering “when is the time I should pay?”

My take is that if she can afford it and she wants to continue the relationship, she should pay for the next trip. At the very least, pay for a portion of the next trip. If she can’t afford to pay to visit until 3 months later and the guy wants her to visit say, in 2 months, then he should offer to make up the shortfall. Now if she is on a very tight budget and really cannot afford to travel, then she should have an honest conversation with the guy about why she is unable to visit or unable to pay for the visits.

Here’s my principle for thinking about money in relationships, long distance or otherwise: treat people with respect, make sure no one is feeling taken advantage of, and don’t jeopardize your financial security.


  • Emily @ evolvingPF - She should definitely have some skin in the game! But if she can't afford to treat him to everything he treated her to, she need to tell him before he comes down. Our strategy during long-distance dating was for the person traveling to pay for the transportation (the opposite of what her boyfriend did), which I think makes a lot more sense. Then the person hosting can treat for meals and whatnot and both people end up spending some money during each visit. I think the boyfriend set a weird precedent that they should sort out now (though she should pay for his ticket this go-round as reciprocation). ReplyCancel

  • Budget & the Beach - yeah, I think she should be upfront with her concerns about finances. They might have to find another way to make their LDR work so it doesn't become to one-sided. ReplyCancel

  • Karin - If you go to see him, you pay for transportation and he pays for food. Vice-versa. (My bf and I were long-distance for 4 years) ReplyCancel

  • plantingourpennies - I'm with you, Well Heeled! When the hubs and I were dating LD (long distance, not learning disabled!) we alternated visits pretty fairly and shared costs. Generally if I bought a train ticket out to see him, he would cover a nice dinner that night and the rest of the expenses would alternate. The opposite would happen if he paid for gas and tolls to come out to see me. We didn't formally count anything, but it was always pretty clear that we were both making significant and about equal investments in spending time together. ReplyCancel

  • Kim - I think it's only fair to share the costs — perhaps proportionally, based on income/finances. My husband and I were both poor college students, but we found ways to make it work, through flight deals, rewards points, craigslist rideshares…love will find a way! :) But yes, I think it's only fair to share the costs, unless one of them is broke and the other is a millionaire or something. In which case, millionaire pays for stuff, but broke person plans activities or something. Regardless, a completely one-sided situation is no way to start a relationship. ReplyCancel

    • Caitlin - I agree with Kim on this one. My sister and her bf are doing a long distance and he pays for his visits here and her visits out to see him, mostly because she is a grad student and he is working and can afford it. Having said that, she does more of their trip planning and makes sure they are not spending too much (booking AirBnB instead of hotels, etc). ReplyCancel

  • Earning My Two Cents - I completely agree with you. There has to be an honest conversation about expectations and if she cannot afford to travel there or pay for him to come to her, then he needs to know its a money issue not a relationship issue. But, for fairness sake she should try to pay for at least part of the next trip. This is 2012 and there is no need for a man to pay for every single dinner. That's just taking advantage of someone. ReplyCancel

  • femmefrugality - I think it would depend on the financial situation of each person. If he could afford to fly her and host her, great. If she can't, and he can't afford another trip so soon, then maybe just deal with the phone for now. It sucks. I did it for a while. But if it's meant to be it'll work out. If you can both afford it, though, then I'd say every other trip is a good way to handle it. ReplyCancel

  • Matt - I think this highlights the differences between the sexes and how difficult it is these days to find a proper balance and roles you are happy with. I'm going to try not to sound like a total chauvinist pig because I really aren't, so please bear with me. Here goes:
    As a bloke, I naturally want to play a protector and provider style of role. This does not necessarily mean I feel a woman owes me anything. It makes me feel wanted, needed and useful, so I'm happy spending my money on her, just so long as I don't think she's taking the pi**.
    However, in our case, my wife sometimes feels this quite keenly as her feminist leanings make her want to be less financially dependant on me. Certainly, before giving birth she had plenty of her own money from a well paid job, as she earned more than me.
    So here's the nub. Are you 2 single people, or are you a partnership?
    In a proper partnership it doesn't matter who earns the money, because it's "our" money not "mine". And it's like that because the non-working, non paying party pulls their weight in other ways that mean the working/paying party doesn't feel hard done by.
    The important thing is the relationship not the money. As long as she makes him feel loved I'm sure he won't mind splashing the cash. ReplyCancel

  • CherryBlack - I agree with Femmefrugality. Whatever works for each of you. My husband I were in a long distance relationship for SEVEN years (yeah, I know). My husband made more than me and basically it came down to who could afford what. Quite often I paid for my own ticket – sometimes he did. But you kind of get into a groove and you know when the trips will be and can budget accordingly.

    If your finances aren't the same as his – speak up and then work it out. If they are and you can afford then you should definitely be paying your way. ReplyCancel

  • Jordann - I agree with you. The contributions of each partner should be equal, unless she doesn't have the resources to do so, in which case she needs to have an open and honest discussion about financial limitations. Congrats to the reader on the new relationship! ReplyCancel

  • expert insurance - I would say both should have to converse on this mater practically. You should ask her about the problem as well as she should be frank with you. If she has any financial problem then you should understand her. I think there should not be any place of money in relation. we just need trust in relation. ReplyCancel

  • Malcolm@moneymouse - I agree people, Honestly and Transparency. she should be honest with her financial concerns. ReplyCancel

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  • Joyce - I have spent the last three years in a very serious committed long distance relationship. Now that we are finished with our educations, we are planning on moving to the same town in a few months. For us, visiting every 6-9 weeks is extremely important. When we do visit we buy food from the grocery store to cook together all week long. We also try and attend as many free events as possible since he is in Chicago. Ultimately, the visiting guest who bought the air/train fare is usually treated financially by the host. It costs approximately $200 each for the week long visit which may actually be cheaper than living in the same city and going on weekly/bi-weekly dates. Hopefully the phrase "two live cheaper than one" will apply to us when we finally share lives under the same roof. ReplyCancel

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