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How to Keep a Long Distance Relationship Affordable

Joanne Poh

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No, you’re not in a long-distance relationship if your significant other lives in Pasir Ris while you’re somewhere in Woodlands. Yes, we know taking public transport to your SO’s place for dinner takes longer than flying to KL. But hey, at least it’s cheap.

But if one of you needs a passport to see the other, you’re in the rather unhappy, hopefully temporary, and potentially expensive situation popularly known as an LDR. Perhaps one of you decided to study abroad, or has been sent on an overseas work stint. Here are some of the expenses you can expect to incur, and some tips on keeping them low.

 

Visits

The most obvious problem of being in an LDR is not having an actual physical partner anymore. At times it can feel like you’re in a relationship with your computer and the Skype application. If you want to have a fighting chance of keeping the relationship alive, you ‘ll need to schedule regular visits.

Depending on your budget, how much each of you can travel and how far away you are, you might decide to schedule visits each week, each month or perhaps every few months. You’ll need to work out the details of who visits whom and how often. If your partner lives in KL you can easily see each other every weekend, but things get tricky if one of you is on another continent.

No matter what your arrangement is, don’t go on a crazy spending spree whenever you’re together. Your visits might be few and far between, but if you spend thousands of dollars on every visit they’re going to become a financial burden, and that’s going to take the fire out of the relationship.

Instead of going out to expensive restaurants, prepare your own romantic dinners at home. See the free sights in the city instead of going to paid attractions like Universal Studios. Honestly, it’s not going to make that big of a difference, especially since your main objective of the trip is to see each other.

If you’re employed in a full-time job, you’ll have to use your annual leave to travel. But flying during peak periods can get very expensive, especially if you’re just seeing each other over the weekend. If possible, volunteer to work on weekends and public holidays in exchange for days off-in-lieu so you can travel during off-peak periods.

 

Communication

Gone are the days when people had to spend money on international calling cards to stay in touch across oceans. These days, there’s so much free or inexpensive technology that enables you to do anything from chatting on the phone to videoconferencing. And with Skype, as well as WhatsApp and WeChat’s free voicecall functions, newly unveiled this year, you can now chat on the phone for free with a wifi connection. Here are the essentials:

  • Skype: Free video calls from a computer or mobile phone. You can also make cheap international calls by adding Skype credit.
  • WhatsApp: The mobile instant messaging app now enables you to make free voice calls.
  • WeChat: Another mobile instant messaging app that provides free voice calls and file sharing.
  • LINE: Mobile app offering free calls and messages.

 

Gifts

It’s your significant other’s birthday and you’re not going to be able to meet that month. Or maybe it’s been a hectic few weeks and you want to remind your partner that you do, indeed, exist. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to courier diamonds or exaggeratedly large bouquets of roses to our partners.

When sending little gifts through the mail, always remember that a box, no matter how small, costs way more to post than an envelope. Always try to send things that can be posted in a flat envelope that does not need to be padded. The flatter the better! A pair of inexpensive ear studs, a cute watch, photographs and a namecard holder can all survive in an envelope.

An alternative to sending flat gifts is to buy gifts from an online retailer and have them mailed directly to your recipient. If your partner is in the US, that gives you a great excuse to buy him or her stuff on Amazon.

Have you ever had an LDR and lived to tell the tale? Tell us how you did it in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.