Dear Penny: My Boyfriend Can’t Afford My Lavish Lifestyle. Should I Dump Him?

Dear Penny,

I am debating my relationship because of materialistic things: My boyfriend is not drop-dead handsome, and he is not financially lavish.

However, he is very determined and has started a good healthy lifestyle, exercises regularly and eats healthily since I’ve asked him to take care of himself. He is very generous when I am with him and will always take care of the bills. He first ensures that I am satisfied before he spends on himself.

But he can’t enjoy life lavishly by traveling a few times a year or living in a bigger apartment. He explained those to me from day one before COVID-19, and it seemed that I accepted it. But now I feel that his long working hours don’t suit my lifestyle, given what he earns.

I am finding it hard that we can’t travel in the summer. However, he isn’t stopping me from traveling and encourages me to go. But I don’t feel like going without him, and I hate the feeling that I am deprived because he can’t enjoy what I can enjoy.

I need to decide: Is he the right one in my life, or am I making a mistake? He is in his early 40s and is just a year older than me.


Dear F.,

If you dump this guy for not being strikingly rich or GQ material, you’ll do both of yourselves a favor. You’ll free your boyfriend to find someone who appreciates the good qualities you describe, like the fact that he’s hard-working and generous. And you’ll be able to seek out someone who meets your standards, which may be impossibly high.

But I don’t want to automatically dismiss your concerns because I’m not sure they’re materialistic. Sometimes, two people have clashing priorities. How you spend your money reflects those priorities. It’s not materialistic to end a relationship because your priorities are a complete mismatch.

I’ll admit I cringed a bit at your description of your boyfriend’s appearance and inability to “enjoy life lavishly.” But I don’t think it’s wrong that you want to travel with your boyfriend.

It isn’t surprising that this problem is surfacing now. A couple of years ago, when we were smack in the middle of COVID-19 lockdowns, human companionship was what so many people craved. So it makes sense that you accepted your boyfriend’s lifestyle back then. Now that restrictions have eased, a lot of us are itching to go back out and explore the world.

Context matters so much here. Specifically, I wonder just how lavish these vacations you’re planning are. Most people don’t have the time or money to travel first-class for multiple weeks on end several times a year. That’s great if you can afford to do so, but it’s going to be hard to find someone who can keep up. On the other hand, if your boyfriend works 90-hour weeks yet still won’t budget the time and money for a vacation, I can’t fault you for being disappointed.

I’m curious about whether this is a money issue or a problem with your attitudes about money. It’s a money problem if you want to travel together but can’t foot the bill for two people. But if you can’t stand the idea of footing part of the bill for a man you’re dating, then it’s a money attitude problem. One thing that strikes me is the fact that he takes care of the bills (presumably when you go out), even though it sounds like you’re better off financially. If you split things equally at home, would your boyfriend be able to travel more?

Make sure you’ve communicated to your boyfriend just how important traveling is to you. For example, if you frequently go to restaurants or concerts, maybe you could compromise by scaling back on those expenses so you’ll both have more money for travel.

Obviously, I’m not going to tell you whether this is the right man for you based on a 200-word letter. But before you decide what to do, make sure you’re clear with yourself about what you’re looking for.

No one person can check every single box. If you find someone you’re compatible with, the odds that your budgets will be identical are slim. So consider the likelihood of actually finding someone who meets your criteria.

It doesn’t sound like your boyfriend’s lifestyle or finances are going to change any time soon. It’s OK if you decide to end this relationship because your priorities are out of sync. But it’s not OK to weigh your boyfriend down with expectations you know he’ll never be able to afford.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].