My boyfriend thinks I'm a cheapskate, but I feel like our relationship is too expensive for me. My boyfriend works full time and is out of school and my practicum is coming up so I'm going to be without a paycheck for a little while. If I live very modestly, I can barely scrape by with my car payment, insurance, student loans, and credit card payments. My boyfriend is not very happy about the living modestly. He wanted to go on a vacation over reading week, and was upset when I told him I couldn't afford to go with him. He wanted me to take out a loan so I could go with him, which I told him I was not going to do, but he still gives me a hard time about it occasionally. He often suggests going out to eat, and then gets upset when I remind him that I am on a very fixed income for the time being. I try to tell him that I'm not being cheap, I literally can't afford it, but I don't think he understands. When I talked to him about how much the credit card debt stresses me out, he told me I shouldn't be so worried because it's not really that much debt anyway. We live together in a house he owns but I pay half the mortgage and utilities, and for about three quarters of the groceries because I feel bad. I try to be generous in small ways I often buy him books for no reason (he loves to read) and I go all out for Christmas, birthdays and Valentines Day, and whenever he asks me to pick something up for him while I'm out, I always do it, even though he doesn't return the favor. I love him and he has talked about wanting to get married, but I just don't know. I try really, really hard not to complain about being stressed about money, because this makes him angry. He still sees me as a cheapskate, and I don't know what to do. I've never been accused of being cheap by anybody else. Am I being ridiculous?
Let me make this very clear, you are not being ridiculous. From what you have told me it sounds like the only person who is acting at all ridiculous is your boyfriend. Money is always a hot issue with couples but there is usually some level of understanding on either side. Your relationship seems to be the exception however. The unapologetic nature of your boyfriend that you described concerns me and I fear that you are being taken advantage of. Your boyfriend knows that he is dating a student who can not work full time, so do not feel bad that you don't earn as much as he does.
The first thing I want to emphasize to you is that your earnings and savings, no matter how small, are your own. Man or woman, dating or single, that is still your money. You are the one who went to work to earn that money, so you should be the one who decides what to do with it. You should not feel guilty because you made the responsible decision that you do not want to go into debt over a vacation and I am proud of you for standing your ground. It is not cheap to prefer to eat at home, especially when in financial duress, and there is nothing wrong with frugality. You are being a practical and disciplined student which is admirable. Do not let anyone tell you different.
A relationship is a partnership, and within that partnership responsibilities are supposed to be shared evenly. I usually recommend that couples living together split all costs 50/50 unless one person in the relationship contributes significantly less through no fault of their own. You are in school because you want to better your future, not because you want an excuse to make less money than the person you are committed to. No one has the right to force you to tiptoe around them solely because you are at different points in your life. You are not responsible for covering more expenses than your boyfriend who works full time and can afford to take a vacation whenever he wants. From what you have told me, it shows that you are a compassionate and generous person, who is in love with a man who possesses neither quality.
You and your boyfriend need to have a serious conversation about finances. Tell him that you need him to be more understanding about your financial situation because its not fair that he guilt trips you while you are in school. Since he is done school now, try to encourage him to empathize with you. Remind him that he has not always had a full time career, and life before that was less financially secure. Tell him that you need to spend the next few years being frugal for your survival, and that if he wants to go out for dinner on a regular basis or head to the airport, he's going alone or he'll have to foot the bill. You simply can not afford his lifestyle.
If this conversation is met with hostility stand your ground. You owe this to yourself. If he persists then I think you need to seriously reevaluate your relationship. Consider living separately, so that you can take some time to really think about the situation, and maybe even save some money in the process. Perhaps the separation will make him realize how significant your financial contribution was. He may even start making frugal choices since he will be forced to pay the entirety of the bills.
Be strong and let us know how things go!