Guys, did you spend at least $190 on Valentine's Day last year? Ladies, did you spend at least $96? If not, you are below-average Valentine's Day spenders. At least that is what the National Retail Federation reported.
At close to $300 it's a good thing Valentine's Day comes only once a year; if a couple spent that much every day, it would add up to more than $100,000 a year. A part of you may say your spouse is worth it. But splurging on your spouse is only a good thing if you don't end up "broke ever after."
Does spending big money on your Valentine send the message he or she is important, or does it send the message you are shortsighted?
If you're insecure enough in your relationship to think only a big purchase can communicate your love, then you are missing out on a richer relationship where a couple shares a love money can't buy. Of course, you may want to spend a lot of money because that's what everyone else does. That's the message you'll get from the Valentine's Day ads you see, but following the crowd isn't a good idea if it leads to the poor house.
Consider these suggestions to warm up to your Valentine without burning a hole in your wallet.
1. Study money together
It doesn't sound romantic, but reading a book on managing money as a couple or taking a class on the subject can get you to work together. Wouldn't it be great if you agreed on financial goals? That's a recipe for a closer relationship. Without these skills, it is too easy to get into money arguments that, unfortunately, are often a root cause of marriage breakups. Dave Ramsey's books and classes are probably the most well-known, but if he is not your style, you can find other experts with common-sense advice on managing money as a couple.
2. Do a monthly budget together
Every month, figure out how much money you will bring in, and distribute each dollar to all of your planned monthly expenses until you get to zero. For most people this won't be hard. There is always more we could spend money on than money we have available. Planning together upfront, helps you be united on your spending plans and not spend more than you make. While you are at it, make sure you budget some money for Valentine's Day. It may not be $300, but if you set aside something that will not put you in the hole by end of the month, then, by all means, Happy Valentine's Day!
3. Give each other cash envelopes
One reason many households overspend each month is that when you spend using plastic, it is just too easy to dip into savings or add debt to a credit card balance. For categories such as food, entertainment and clothing, switch to using a cash envelope system each payday. People find it harder to spend cash and find it impossible to overspend an empty envelope. While you're at it, give each other a mad-money envelope that can be spent on anything your spouse wants. How much mad-money you use depends on what you figured out when doing your monthly budget.
4. Time and talents, not treasure
Sharing your time and your talents communicates your love much more than lightening your wallet does. Pinterest and other online sites can give you a wealth of ideas for low-cost to no-cost Valentine's gifts that can be uniquely you. Try your hand at writing some poetry. You can make an origami flower. Give your mate some service coupons for a back rub they'd like or a chore around the house they dislike. Learn a skill together that you are both interested in by watching a YouTube video. The ideas are nearly limitless since Googling "Free Valentines Ideas" will give you over 30 million results.
5. Plan for your future now
It's less popular than Valentine's Day, but another activity that a lot of people engage in during February is preparing their taxes, especially if they plan on getting a tax refund. While it can be tempting to spend your tax refund on whatever is at the top of your wish list, you need to make retirement savings a priority. The sooner you start, the more you will have waiting for you at retirement. Consider funding an IRA with part of your tax refund. That's how you pay for "happily ever after."
This Valentine's Day you really can spend less but love more.