How One Woman Makes Her Super-Long-Distance Relationship Work, Financially

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My best friend Maggie is a magical, elusive being. When she’s not by my side in CT being batshit crazy (and occasionally waiting tables at one of many local restaurants she’s worked at), she’s traveling abroad. In the past two years she’s gone to England, Ireland, and, most recently, multiple times to Peru.

Why? Well, my little Mags is in love. The kind of love that makes you travel thousands of miles on a college-student budget multiple times in one year. On a trip to Peru during the summer of 2015, she fell in love with a wonderful man and, against all odds, has maintained a blissful long-distance relationship with him since that day.

Aside from the fact that long-distance relationships are, in my experience, super goddamn hard, I can’t help but wonder how my friend maintains it financially – especially as a full-time student dealing with debt, and a minimum wage serving job. I recently asked her to let me pick her brain on how she balances her financial life with her love life in her situation. Here’s what she had to say about her long-distance love, and how she keeps financially afloat while traveling back and forth.

Since meeting your boy last summer, how many times have you traveled to Peru? How many times has he traveled here?

This upcoming trip (at the end of July) will be my third time going there to visit him. He’s come here once, so far. He will be back in December for a month or two.

Is it hard to decide who has to be the one to travel?

Not really. He’s in a difficult six-year program at his school in Peru, and this year was just too tough for him to travel a lot during, so I went to see him more times than he was able to come here. Besides, I love traveling as much as I possibly can because lest we forget, life is too short to hang out in Fairfield County on the reg.

Do you base your decisions on who should be the one who flies out to visit on things like school and time, or is money a part of the discussion? If one of you guys had more money than the other, would it be their turn to do the traveling?

School in Peru is significantly cheaper than school in the states, and it is also fairly uncommon for students to work, so it is hard to compare the money situation. My money is all made by myself, waitressing, but he’s pretty much funded by inheritance and family. So we don’t really compare our financial situations or base our decision off of that. If I can get time off from work, school and save up the money, I’ll go there – if he has time off of school, he comes here. We try to find a solid amount of time to spend together. Luckily, both of our families are very supportive and are welcoming to the both of us.

You’re traveling there for the third time in less than a year – Does your boyfriend help you financially since you’re doing so much traveling for your relationship?

Sort of – we take care of each other financially when we are visiting each other. Besides my flight, I don’t have to pay for much there, so I can handle it myself. Additionally, the Peruvian Sol is such a blessing because I can spend less than $100 USD in one week and come home with a solid chunk of change. (Hello everything bagels aplenty when I touch ground in the city.)

How much is a flight there, generally?

It depends on my anxiety level and how excited I am to get there. The first two times, it cost under $600, but had a lot of annoying layovers. This upcoming one cost me $900. I was trying to be ~savvy~ and booked it four months in advance with two different airlines, but I didn’t realize I was buying it at a peak time. I was nervous the price would go up and bought them, and now the prices went down a lot. But at least I have no shitty layovers in Venezuela. (The land in which their TSA employ their noses to ferociously sniff the hell out of my lipstick upon arrival.) I don’t have any complaints though. He and I would probably spend that amount of money anyway going on dates anyway over the course of four months.

Well, that’s a lot. How have you afforded that three times in one year on the pay of a server? Do you have anything you do in particular to save that money?

I’m a boring 21-year-old right now; I don’t go to bars pretty much at all, which saves me money and also regretful sipping calories. That also means I don’t need to send out a request for an Uber, because drinking and driving isn’t cool. I also don’t really go out to eat almost at all anymore – I cook everything myself. I also limit my driving to save gas money, besides going to work and back.

I also keep all of my designated travel money in cash, in *Mason Jar * (Scandalous, I know) and leave it at home so I’m not tempted to spend it. I know that is a controversial practice, but I get really swipe-happy when I have my money in a checking account, so leaving cash at home and limiting myself helps me save. I also love watching my travel fund physically grow before my eyes. It reminds me that I have a huge goal – seeing my boyfriend – and prevents me from spending unnecessarily.

How do you anticipate being financially savvy when you’re away?

He and I will be spending a month and a week together this time around. As I said before, the Peruvian Sol is much kinder on the wallet than the Dollar is. His mother is a wonderful woman, and is incredibly hospitable — she goes above and beyond, and takes care of all of the meals, unless he and I are going out for dinner, or an evening sip. Transportation is cheap; there are micros (buses) on every street and they cost one sol per ride (30 cents).

I also don’t get caught up in the tourist game anymore. The first time I visited Lima, I was a little tourist-happy and purchased so many items, I surpassed the luggage weight limit on the way home. Now that I will be visiting Lima for the third time, and this is becoming a regular part of my life, I won’t be as tempted to load up on souvenirs. Instead, I’ll stop in at a grocery store and get my friends and family some chocolate or another popular Peruvian treat.

He is pretty financially savvy as well, and helps rein in my impulsive spending tendencies. We also booked a trip to Machu Picchu, and found a four-star hostel in the heart of Cusco for $120 between the both of us for five nights. Our flights cost a whopping $14 reach.

Other than that, many of our days and nights are spent exploring the streets by foot in Lima, and some nights will be spent in other districts exploring the nightlife and local bands with friends. All of these adventures are still a million times less expensive than they would cost home in the States.

You can’t put a price on love, but it totally helps that my guy and I have an incredible time just sitting beside one another making each other laugh, no matter where we are or what we are doing. That costs nothing at all. So, I guess you could say that I’m pretty lucky.

Mary is the summer Media Fellow at The Financial Diet. Send her your summer intern stories (your lessons, failures, triumphs and good advice) at mary@thefinancialdiet.com

Image via Pixabay

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