Don’t go in the red this Valentine’s Day
As Valentine’s Day approaches, the allure to overspend is high. The thrill of planning an expensive getaway or shopping for just-right gifts that make our loved ones’ faces light up can bring us joy. But do you want to take on debt that takes months or years to pay off?
Yes, it’s tempting to think that spending a lot on gifts, meals, or celebration matters. In fact, U.S. consumers proved this true by spending an estimated $23.9 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2022.1
You can avoid debt by rethinking how you approach showing your love to the special someone in your life. Instead of indulgent spending, focus on the true meaning of giving. Ask yourself, what would be a thoughtful expression of love to this person? Are they always hoping for more undivided attention and time with you? Could you read a book or see a movie that they love and then make to time to talk about it? Remember, more spending doesn’t make it more special.
And don’t forget to give grace–and gifts–to yourself this season. After all, the true spirit of Valentine’s Day is all about love and happiness, and you deserve those qualities in your life.
Here are five smart ways to enjoy the season of love and avoid debt you don’t need.
#1: Don’t compare yourself to others
We all admire those pictures of romantics getaways or expensive gifts some people share on social media. It’s easy to tell ourselves that we need to replicate those symbols of love. And it’s also easy to feel “less than” if we think our own Valentine’s Day experiences don’t measure up.
Scale back your social media visits around Valentine’s Day. You’ll see less of those carefully crafted images people create for themselves online. Give yourself a breather and look for other ways to express love. That way, you’ll fret less about keeping up with others and can focus more on self-care and genuine relationships.
Gift Hack: Don’t just take a break from social media. You can also consider giving up your phone or an entire day to spend a distraction-free day with your sweetheart.
#2: Start low-cost or free traditions
Opening expensive presents can offer a short-term burst of excitement. But ask yourself: How many of those gifts will you or your loved ones truly value or use a few years from now?
Think about the memories you truly treasure and aim to create more of those this Valentine’s Day season. Simple things like having popcorn and watching a romantic movie can bring your family closer together and cost next-to-nothing. Or choose a day each February to make a favorite meal for your special someone. There are dozens of Valentine’s Day traditions you can adopt that won’t dent your budget.
Gift Hack: Create a tradition of taking the road less traveled by visiting a beach, park or favorite hiking trail that will likely be less crowded during February.
#3: Cultivate gratitude
The consumerist mindset surrounding Valentine’s Day can cause all of us to want new things and experiences. But the season of love can also be a time for us to reflect on the good that is already in our lives. And practicing gratitude has a proven link to greater happiness.
When we recognize the positive parts of our lives, we see that that good often comes from sources outside ourselves. That recognition can help us feel connected to a larger whole, such as our community, nature, or a higher power. We can realize that life has meaning and feel optimistic about the future.
If someone has touched your life, skip the high-priced Valentine’s Day gift and write a sincere thank you note instead.2
Gift Hack: Create a gratitude scavenger hunt, leaving small notes of thanks around the most frequently visited spots for your loved one to find. Bonus: you can get the kids involved on this one too and start cultivating their gratitude practice early!
#4: Focus on acts of service and charitable giving
Winter can be a time of hardship or financial strain for many people, as they contended with higher heating costs and bills from the holiday season. By making thoughtful donations and volunteering, you can lighten the burden for others–and keep your spending in check.
Look for charitable organizations that need a helping hand around Valentine’s Day. You can consider donating goods to fulfill wish lists for those in need, packaging meals, or making deliveries. Dedicating time to service can be immensely rewarding and help you feel grateful for the good in your life.
Gift Hack: Consider showing your gratitude by paying it forward. Consider making a charitable donation to a favorite charity in the name of your special someone. Even a small amount can go a long way in the lives of others.
#5: Give to yourself, not just everyone else
Let’s face it: Society’s expectations about Valentine’s Day can leave you feeling stressed out or unhappy. Rethinking how you approach Valentine’s Day helps but don’t be afraid to give to yourself too. Instead of splurging on a big-ticket item, consider ways to put your money to smarter use.
Be sure to add a financial gift for yourself to your budget this Valentine’s Day. What can you choose? Start by examining your financial priorities. You may pay down debt, add to your emergency fund, make an extra retirement contribution, consider or reevaluate life insurance or other solutions that can provide financial confidence. You can also look at the months ahead and plan to cover any upcoming major purchases. Steps like these can help you build financial stability and wealth, leading to a happier life.
Gift Hack: Purchase a gift card for yourself to one of your favorite haunts so the next time you feel the urge to splurge you will already have budgeted for it!
Avoid debt and create joy this Valentine’s Day
Today, more than 2/3 of Americans aren’t confident that they can live within their means, and one in six Americans feel dissatisfied with their lives. For many, the expectations of spending for Valentine’s Day can exacerbate these struggles. But you can choose a different way. 3
Make this Valentine’s Day unforgettable by focusing on what matters most: relationships, memories, kindness, and financial and emotional well-being.
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