Oh, Valentine’s Day. The time of year where we buy outrageously priced Hallmark cards, spend a full student loan payment on bouquets of roses (talk about surge pricing), and fork over the rest of our “fun” money on ungodly expensive steak dinners. Can you tell I’m not a fan?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the concept as a whole. Love is great, etc., etc. What grinds my gears (shout out to Family Guy) is the fact that it has somehow turned into another holiday where people spend money that they don’t really have. And it frustrates the bejesus out of me. I mean, be honest and raise your hand if you’ve ever spent more than $100 on a gift for your significant other while you’ve been swimming in debt or broke-a%$ poor. Have your hand up? Proceed to punch yourself in the face.
Listen, folks, overspending on your boyfriend or girlfriend when you can’t even manage to scrape up enough per month to add to your emergency fund or start that retirement account is a bad move. A BAD MOVE. And yet, I hear of people doing it all the time. They complain about having less than $20 in their bank account, but come Christmas or Valentine’s Day or a birthday, they are shelling out $300 on an iPad mini to give to their significant other. Heck, I have a friend who, while in college, spent over $700 on a Christmas/birthday present for their partner in crime. Another used their student loan money to buy a gift for their s/o. Um, what?
I understand the reasoning behind wanting to provide something nice for the person who brings so much joy (hopefully) into your life. I’m the same way. However, in my eyes, money is not the way that this is shown. I wouldn’t want my boyfriend to have to eat Ramen for a month so that he could afford to buy me the new iPhone. Nor would I want him to have to potentially rack up credit card debt so that I could have a new Michael Kors watch. That’s not love to me, and it shouldn’t be to you or your boyfriend/girlfriend either. Why would you want to put such a strain on their finances?
The great thing about being young is that you actually have the excuse of being young and poor to spend less on gifts. Even if you find yourself with a great job after college (and I hope you have/do), you still have an emergency fund to save up for, debt to pay off, retirement funds to start, and a home down payment to potentially think about. Spending lavishly on gifts isn’t the best use of your money at this stage of the game, and wasting it, especially on someone who may or may not be around in your life within the next 5 years, isn’t the most intelligent money move.
So what do you do instead? Well, when my boyfriend and I started dating many moons ago, he was still in college. My birthday is exactly 2 weeks before Christmas, and because I knew he was still living that college lifestyle (aka poor AF, as we all were at 22) we decided that we would only spend money on birthday gifts (at a $100 limit) and just do something together at Christmas instead of shelling out cash for each other. Three years later, we’re still operating under that platform. Gifts are given on our birthdays and to celebrate baby Jesus, we cook a nicer-than-usual dinner at home and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Valentine’s Day is the same way – we skip the dinner reservations and stay in for the night, and very little, if any, is spent on gifts. And guess what? Neither of us feels deprived for not getting a fancy gift. Amazing how that works, huh?
In order for this arrangement to be successful in your relationship, you have to be honest with your partner – let them know that while you’d love to shower them with clothes and Xbox games, you just can’t manage it right now while you’re trying to get your finances squared away. Then, you can compromise on what to do instead – maybe it’s setting a dollar limit on gifts or doing something together that you both love but isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg, like catching a hockey game or taking a brewery tour. Or do gifts of service: offer to give massages, cook dinners, or mow their lawn. And fellas, a handwritten letter is always going to score you points (trust me on this). Just know that whatever you do, by discussing this beforehand you will avoid the guilt that’s sure to pop up if your s/o shows up with diamond earrings for you and all you’ve managed to get him is a baseball cap. Ugh, I hate that.
Alright, it’s confession time: Have any of you bought anything for your significant other that you really shouldn’t have because it left you on that Ramen diet? Or, on the flip side, how are you and your significant other staying frugal for Valentine’s Day? Would love to hear from you all!