If you have an ex — which most of us do — you’ve probably received the “You’re better off without them” speech from a friend.
“You’re too smart/attractive/cool for that person,” said friend will tell you. You always hated their style/dog/way they chew anyway. And, now that you’ve broken up, they’ll say, you look better, feel better, and have more time to exercise/score that promotion at work! But, what if the breakup left you better off in other ways?
Say, richer? Or without a significant other who was secretly dipping into your checking account? That’s just what happened to the following five people. There are many financial red flags in a relationship, and their cautionary tales can help you avoid falling into a relationship you’re — at least fiscally speaking — better off without.
“My ex was secretly dipping into my bank account”
Audrey, 38, New York, NY
“When my ex and I rented our first apartment together, it wound up being way too expensive. We were in our 20s, and our eyes were too big for our budget. At the time, our rent was $2,000 a month, and was in direct violation of the 50/20/30 rule because my portion of the rent represented about half of my take-home pay. For my ex, who was only sporadically employed, it was a lot more.
My ex grew up wealthy and didn’t worry about money, but rarely held a job and wouldn’t ask his parents for help. I wound up covering for us a lot of the time. Basically “our budget” became me paying for things, and him contributing when he could.
One day, I checked my bank balance and realized there was several hundred dollars missing. Weird, I thought. We didn’t have joint accounts, but I called my ex and said, “I can’t figure out where this money went.” He said he didn’t know anything, so I called the bank, and they told me that the money had been withdrawn that morning, from the ATM on our corner. I checked and my card was right where I’d left in my wallet. And, I hadn’t gone anywhere that day.
When they told me the time of the withdrawal, a cold chill came over me. I realized my ex must have taken my card out of my wallet while I was in the shower and withdrawn the money thinking I wouldn’t notice. Meanwhile, I wasn’t aware that he even knew my pin.
I moved out shortly thereafter, and it made me wonder for months after if he had ever “skimmed” money out of my account before, and I just hadn’t noticed.
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Caleb, 26, Boston, MA
I was living in Boston while the girl I dated for more than two years lived in California, and I can tell you: Long distance relationships are expensive! I’m not saying I was the only person shelling out in the relationship, but my ex had a corporate card and money from her parents, which paid for airfare and cabs. She never had to worry about savings or debt. I, on the other hand, do.
In the time we were together, I spent nearly $4,000 a year on airfares, not to mention the money I spent when she came to visit. Because our time together seemed so precious, I’d spend up to 40% more money on cabs and dinners. It actually started to create anxiety for me whenever she booked a ticket. It also sapped $350-$500 a month from my budget.
Then there was the less obvious cost: Our phone bills. We spent probably 10-15 hours per week talking that first year. In retrospect, I could have been using that time to pursue side jobs or work on projects that interested me, and made a bigger dent in my student loan payments. As it stands, we broke up, and I still have about $8,000 left to pay.
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Kelly, 29, Ottawa, Ontario
My boyfriend and I were together three years — but I was living in Canada, and he was in New York City. I couldn’t get a visa or work permit, so I would visit him on and off.
At one point, I stayed with him about three months, during which I couldn’t work or earn any money. I had to rely on his income for everything, and even though he was making a decent salary as a graphic designer, it just didn’t go very far in a city like New York. Not to mention that he really wasn’t great with money.
I remember we went to the Diesel store to buy him $700 jeans “because he liked them” and “needed new jeans,” though meanwhile we were getting notices from Con Ed that they were going to turn off the power! At one point he used our last $40 to get his nose pierced instead of using the money for groceries.
I was raised to save money and “do without” so I’d have enough money to get an education and be able to support myself. Now, without the distraction and expense of a boyfriend in New York, I’ve graduated from a master’s program in landscape architecture and am on my way to becoming fully licensed.
Chase, 27, Chicago
When I broke up with my girlfriend of two years, I did it because I’d been feeling like I put too much into the relationship without getting much in return. Then, about a week later, I realized what that feeling was really about — money.
When we were together, going out to dinner was a big thing, and a decent dinner in Chicago for two people is about $100-$150. Plus, my ex-girlfriend was a big drinker, so I was footing some serious bar tabs. For the whole night, between drinks, dinner, a gift, and flowers, I would spend $300-$500. That added up over time, especially since we went out multiple times a week. She also wasn’t good at paying me back for things I spotted her for, like dry cleaning or shoe repair.
It’s not that being single has allowed me to save a ton of money — it’s just that not having a girlfriend lets me use my money in other ways I’d like to, such as throwing parties for friends, buying clothes, and donating to charity. To be honest, dating several women at once like I am now might be more financially devastating than being with my ex, but since then, I’ve had a series of salary increases that make it more manageable.
Aaron, 38, New York
My ex considered herself to be really responsible with her money, but had about $10,000 of credit card debt. She would complain about that debt all the time without ever really doing anything about it. I actually had more credit card debt than she did, but I made a point of paying it off over two and a half years.
She and I were planning to move in together, and she didn’t seem to prioritize saving money we would need to build a life together and start a family — even though it was incredibly important to me. It made me anxious about how we would combine our finances and what we would teach our children about money.
About six months into the relationship, I loaned her $1,200 to get her computer fixed, and through similar loans over the course of our relationship, she ended up owing me over $2,000. (This is aside from the pressure I felt to finance the fancy restaurants and weekend getaways she loved but couldn’t afford.) I never saw that money again — when we broke up, I told her not to bother paying me back. I’m single now, and my finances are healthier not only because I’m able to make budget-conscious decisions on where to eat for dinner or what to do on the weekend without feeling the pressure to overspend for the sake of our relationship, but also because I no longer feel that anxiety about how I’ll finance my future with someone who isn’t on the same financial page.
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