By Alison Stanton
Valentine’s Day is the most expensive holiday after Christmas, the National Retail Federation reports. Love birds across the country will spend a collective—are you ready?—$18.6 billion on gifts for their special someones. That averages out to about $130 per person.
For high school and college students on a tight budget, spending $130 on their sweetie is simply not possible. Although there are no hard-and-fast rules to how much you should spend, the following tips can help you decide when you should splurge and when you should cut back.
Take an Honest Look at Your Relationship
So how’s it going? If you two argue more than you get along or are spending less time together, this might not be the time to present some huge and spendy gift. Have an honest talk with your boyfriend or girlfriend and discuss how you’ll celebrate it, if at all. Maybe in the interest of saving money, you’ll just treat it like a regular day. You could also decide to exchange nice cards and maybe a small fun gift like his favorite candy bar or her favorite blended coffee drink.
Think About How Long You’ve Been Together
If you’ve been dating for a few short weeks, treat Valentine’s Day a bit more casually than if you have been going out for a few years. Again, an open and honest approach is the way to go with someone you haven’t known that long—simply say you aren’t sure how to deal with a day that expects you both to act like crazed lovey-doveys.
On the other hand, if you have been together a while and are in love, it’s appropriate to spend a bit more on Valentine’s Day. You don’t need to take out a loan or rack up a huge credit card bill, however. Ask some of your closest friends who are in similar relationships what they expect to spend and see if it correlates with your budget and gift ideas. If your girlfriend of two years has been dropping hints about how much she would love to receive flowers at work, you could certainly splurge a little on that. For example, FTD sells a variety of beautiful Valentine’s Day arrangements that are in the $40-$50 range. Other gift suggestions for couples who are in solid and loving relationships include dinner out at a favorite restaurant and then watching a movie together all snuggled up on the couch, a nice wallet or purse that your sweetie has had his or her eye on, or a pair of designer sunglasses.
Decide Where and When to Celebrate
Between classes, jobs and other responsibilities, it might be challenging to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14. If you do decide to celebrate with your sweetie, figure out ahead of time when and where you’ll get together. Above all, try not to feel like you have to spend a certain amount just to get through the day—just be honest with yourself, your sweetheart and your wallet, and the day will go a lot smoother.
Alison Stanton has been a freelance writer for the past 14 years. Based in the Phoenix, Arizona area, Alison enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, but especially loves meeting interesting people and telling their stories.