Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I’ve been thinking about love and money lately. Growing up, I watched a lot of Disney movies and romantic comedies. So, my ideas of dating and love were heavily influenced by Hollywood. I hate to admit it, but I was a hopeless romantic. I longed for my one true love to sweep me off my feet and we’d live happily ever after. Just like in the movies.
And when Valentine’s Day would roll around, I desperately wanted a valentine who would buy me a bouquet of roses, a box of chocolates, and a diamond necklace, just like in the commercials. Because that’s what you do when you’re in love, right?
Valentine’s Day: Celebration or Obligation?
Perhaps I’m being a little too cynical, but the tradition of Valentine’s Day seems like it has become more of an obligation than a celebration of love nowadays. There’s social pressure on both men and women to experience an amazingly romantic night. Otherwise, there might be something wrong with you and/or your relationship. Note: Everyone has different expectations and interpretations for Valentine’s Day and I’m making wide-sweeping generalizations about the holiday.
My boyfriend and I recently had a discussion about Valentine’s Day. He talked about the dread and frustration he has felt in the past for this holiday. As a man, he felt pressure to plan the perfect night: dinner at a fancy restaurant and a thoughtful (and usually expensive) gift. And then, he would worry that his efforts weren’t enough and that he’d disappoint his date or significant other. Because the restaurant wasn’t good enough or the present wasn’t exactly what she wanted.
As a woman, I’ve felt pressure to find a date or partner who would treat me well. In today’s materialistic society, the word “well” is often interpreted as being treated to meals at upscale restaurants or being surprised with grand, romantic gestures. And because some women openly talk about and share their dating experiences with each other, an implicit competition amongst them may develop. For example, if a woman doesn’t experience a similar level of grandiosity or romance on Valentine’s Day as her girlfriends, she might think her boyfriend isn’t treating her well enough and start to doubt her relationship. Or worse, she might think that something is wrong with her.
Companies use Valentine’s Day to sell us stuff
I believe both men and women have been conditioned to think that material goods and grand gestures are the best way to give and receive love. Consequently, this makes us easy targets for companies, especially on Valentine’s Day. Just think of all of the commercials you see on television. For example, those jewelry commercials are basically telling men that they need to buy expensive jewelry to show that they love their partners.
Valentine’s Day and the expectations that come with it can also bring out insecurities in both men and women, whether they’re in a relationship or single. With social media making it so easy to compare ourselves to other people, we have even more opportunities to feel jealous or unconfident. And companies prey on these insecurities to sell us more stuff.
I value things that don’t cost money
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more secure in myself and I better understand what truly matters to me. I’ve learned that quality time and meaningful conversations are most important to me. As a result, I don’t care that much about receiving gifts or being swept off my feet with a romantic gesture. (Of course, I do admit, it is nice going out to a fancy restaurant or getting a present.)
I am most satisfied when my partner and I are fully engaged with each other. So, I prefer doing activities where we can openly talk with each other with few distractions. For this reason, my boyfriend and I try to avoid going to crowded restaurants or bars. This usually means we don’t go to cool, trendy places or go out at all, which helps us save money.
Our favorite activity is taking walks together around San Francisco. We’ll walk to a different neighborhood and talk about anything and everything on our minds along the way. We usually share what we’re worried or anxious about or what we’re happy and excited about that day. It’s a great way for us to connect emotionally and spend quality time together. On top of all of that, it’s completely free!
How I’m saving my money Valentine’s Day this year
To be honest, I actually forgot Valentine’s Day was coming up this year. It was only until my boyfriend asked me what I wanted to do for it that I remembered the holiday. Since I value quality time so much, I suggested we have a quiet night in at his apartment. We plan on making a nice steak dinner for ourselves and just enjoying each other’s company. So instead of paying at least $100 for a fancy dinner for two, we’ll probably pay a quarter of that and have just as good of a time.
Perhaps it’s because I feel more secure in both myself and my relationship that I don’t feel the need for us to do anything more special than that. Plus, I’d rather save the money that we’d spend on Valentine’s Day for a shared experience that is more meaningful to the both of us, such as traveling to a different country or investing in ourselves by attending a self-development seminar.
What are your thoughts about Valentine’s Day? How are you celebrating it? Do you prefer saving or spending money on Valentine’s Day?