Valentine’s Day is the official holiday to celebrate love. But because it’s almost exclusively a commercial holiday, it is also about spending money. This combination often leads to bad money decisions, because it encourages emotional spending, out of love, obligation and even guilt. Before you get caught up, listen up: Love is not a legitimate excuse for irresponsible spending. So choose to avoid these unloving financial behaviors for Valentine’s Day:
Do not spend more than you can afford on a gift. Being overly generous when money is tight does nothing good for the giver or the receiver. More important, don’t get caught up in trying to impress your friends and relatives. Honesty, including financially honesty, is key to any healthy relationship. So, don’t pretend to have money you don’t have by playing the big spender.
Do not use love as a justification for emotional spending. Love is not about making financial decisions with your heart, instead of your head. Even though emotional spending can give a temporary high, it can also lead to guilt, buyer’s remorse, and even resentment between partners. Many a relationship has been destroyed by this cycle.
Do not blackmail your sweetheart into spending on financially irresponsible Valentine’s Day gifts in order to “prove” their love, or worse, to impress your friends and family.
Giving and receiving as an expression of love is not about price tags, but about meaning. The most meaningful gift does not have to cost an arm and a leg. And an expensive gift without meaning will be soon forgotten, on top of being a waste of money. To be financially responsible without coming off as cheap or insensitive, take my advice:
First, and this is specifically for the guys, repeat after me: No waiting to the last minute! Desperation or impulse spending nearly always results in spending more money than intended, or getting a less than ideal gift—or worse, both. People can tell when you didn’t put thought into their gift, no matter how much you spend at the last minute. The key to getting the best products and services for the lowest prices is planning your purchases and shopping for them in advance. This also gives you more options, including shopping online, with enough time to order items for arrival before Valentine’s Day without incurring hefty shipping charges.
Budget for Valentine’s Day as you would for Christmas and all gift-giving occasions. If you can, take the time to get buy-in and manage the expectations of your Valentine. Openly discuss what you can and can’t afford in advance, and set mutually agreed upon spending limits that fit into your respective budgets.
Use your imagination. Instead of a big expensive gift, think of a thoughtful, affordable gift, along with romantic ways to make the day special by investing your time and attention, instead of more money, which often is really an expensive cop-out to avoid investing genuine emotion and true meaning into Valentine’s Day.
Focus on four areas: things you can personally do for your sweetheart, things you can do together, things you can make, and places you can go. For examples, gift your partner with a spa day, with you personally giving the mani-pedi, massage, shampoo and several hours of your undivided attention. Or, if you are artistically inclined, compose a song or dedicate a hand-made book of poetry or an original painting to your Valentine. Or how about enrolling in a class together, such as ballroom dancing, which could enhance your sense of teamwork and ensure you are in each others arms at least once a week. Of course, this kind of stuff will take thought, planning, preparation and time (see “No waiting to the last minute!,” above) to pull off.
The bottom line: Spending irresponsibly is no way to say “I love you,” even on Valentine’s Day. No one who really loves you would want you to do it. With advance planning and communication, you can have Valentine’s Day romance without blowing your finances.