You can be a clutch gift-giver this Valentine’s Day without spending a small fortune.
A great gift giver sees the world through the receiver’s eyes and thinks deeply about what that gift will mean to them and the bond it will strengthen. In other words, a meaningful, lasting gift is sentimental and pulls from an experience or symbolize a turning point in your relationship.
Early in our marriage, my wife suggested that we write letters to our future selves on Valentine’s Day. We wrote about why we were happy and speculated about the future. Years later, we would open the letters, flashing us back into our past to reflect on what made us most happy at that time. That was a memorable Valentine’s Day together and it didn’t cost us a penny.
Meanwhile, in 2021, Americans spent $21.8 billion on Valentine’s Day, and those aged 35-44 spent, on average, $264. How was most of the money spent? More than half of shoppers purchased candy, while 37% purchased flowers.
Roses are the Valentine’s Day flower of choice. The Society of American Florists estimates that more than 250 million roses are produced on Valentine’s Day. Candy and roses are far from sentimental; they’re cliche.
Here are three ideas to be clutch on Valentine’s Day and spend less.
1. Choose an experience, not a possession: Experiences create more joy than material things and foster stronger social relationships. So what does this mean for Valentine’s Day? Skip the bracelet and go zip-lining. Choose a spa day together instead of buying her an overpriced sweater. Make a memory, capture the moment with a camera, and hang your memory on a wall to remember forever.
2. Dinner and a home cleaning: Dinner and a movie are cliche, and so is dinner at a restaurant where you should wear a tie that is likely packed for the holiday. Spend $50 on casual dining while your home is being deep cleaned.
Ashley Whillans, a Harvard Business School professor and author of “Time Smart: Tools for Reclaiming Your Time and Living a Happier Life,” shared on the Modern Husbands podcast that she ran an experiment to see what would make couples happier, a free $200 meal or a free $50 meal and a $150 cleaning service for their home while out to eat. The lesson? An evening of casual dining and bring your spouse home to a deep-cleaned house.
3. Buy time, not stuff: Often there is no better gift for a busy spouse than the gift of time. Women disproportionately tackle the tasks of managing the home. Pinpoint what she hates most and commit to doing it moving forward, not just for Valentine’s Day.
One final note. Research shows that the gifts received at unexpected times create more joy. Take the time now to mark a secret and surprise day for gifts in your summer calendar.
Sharing gifts and managing special occasions shouldn’t be the only time you think deeply about how to make the most of your money and time with your partner. Read How to Manage Money in a Marriage for evidence-based ideas to manage living life with your partner.
Brian Page is the founder of Modern Husbands, which provides men with advice about money, marriage and family matters.
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