By Kristen Garafano
Things seem to fall into place once you’ve graduated and landed your first full-time job. You’re finally able to build up a savings account and you can breathe a sigh of relief from the time-consuming nature of job hunting, but maybe someone important in your life isn’t quite on the same track as you. Maybe your significant other still has a semester or two left in school before they join you in the real world and they’re doing an unpaid internship or focusing solely on their schoolwork. Or perhaps certain circumstances leave them with no choice but to work part-time or take a minimum wage job.
Talking about money is always uncomfortable and when you’re the one with cash you want to spend on fancier dinner dates, travel, and entertainment, it can become a sore spot in your relationship. That said, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Here are some ways to do those fun couple-y things without breaking the bank.
Split the cost. Whether you’re picking up takeout for lunch or dining at your favorite Italian restaurant for your anniversary, offer to pay half of the bill. Sure, it’s nice to be treated once in a while (and to treat), but it’s also much more fair to go halvsies. And with apps like Venmo, sending money straight to your S.O.’s bank account has never been easier.
Find inexpensive fun. Even better than splitting the bill? Not having to pay one at all. My boyfriend and I love to hike together, and the best part about this is that it’s free. Find a cheaper hobby that the two of you have in common and do that together — whether it’s running, photography or movie nights at home. And instead of waiting an hour for brunch every Saturday, cook together at home or invite friends over for a potluck-style soiree. You can save the more expensive stuff like boozy brunching for special occasions.
Be independent. The desire to travel is so real, and your early 20s are the perfect time to do so before even bigger adult responsibilities come into the picture. But plane tickets and hotels can quickly empty a person’s bank account. Maybe you’ve been able to save up the money and vacation time, but traveling isn’t in the cards for your partner right now. Why not round up a few of your friends and plan a trip? Or, if you’re up for it, venture out alone. If you have a strong relationship, being independent shouldn’t be an issue — in fact, being apart for some time may even strengthen your bond. Plus, once your significant other has more saved up, you can always go back to a place you’ve traveled and be their “tour guide” since you’ve already scoped out the cool spots.
Think about how they feel. Getting a paycheck and then watching the majority of it disappear from your account after spending it on monthly bills is actually the worst. If it’s tough for people working full-time, it’s even more stressful for someone with those responsibilities that’s working less hours. Put yourself in your significant other’s shoes (maybe you’ve been there before), and be open with each other about your feelings. Let them know about that expensive music festival you want to experience with them and give each other reminders to save up for it. Vocalize your wants and needs and find out what’s really worth saving for and what can be put on hold for a later date.
Realize this probably won’t be the case forever. As long as your S.O. has long-term goals, like getting their degree and a full-time job, the amount of money each of you makes isn’t the priority right now. Being able to talk about money concerns and making fair decisions about spending are key skills in any successful relationship. And as long as you feel comfortable with what you’ve decided as a couple, that’s what really matters. As the phrase goes: Money doesn’t buy happiness.
Kristen Garafano is an editor and blogger from New Jersey who has interned at Seventeen and written for Elite Daily. In her spare time, she loves to hike, do yoga, and hang out with her two cats. Check out her blog Kristence for more career, beauty, and lifestyle articles and follow her on Instagram.