You don’t have to spend a lot on flowers, chocolates, or a fancy dinner out to show you care, says blogger Shannon McNay. Read on for her recommendations on how to celebrate Valentine’s Day with meaning.
So many people love to hate Valentine’s Day. They claim it to be a cheesy Hallmark holiday that retailers use to exploit us out of our money. Then there’s the pressure. If you’re in a relationship, you might hate it because of the high stakes it places on how you celebrate. If you’re single, it just makes you feel unworthy for not having someone to celebrate with. To top it all off, the red hearts seem to come out no sooner than the Christmas decorations come down, giving just about anyone Valentine’s Day fatigue.
All of these things may be true. But I’m not even going to pretend to hate Valentine’s Day. I love Valentine’s Day: always have, always will. Why? Because I’m a sap, it’s true.
When single, I loved to spend the day with my best girlfriends. When in a relationship, I loved to have an excuse to go on a nicer date than usual. Now that I’m married, I just like to tease my husband about how important the gift is, even though he really knows he should just buy chocolate (which isn’t all that different from a normal day in our lives). So yeah, I’m on the Valentine’s Day train.
With all that said, I completely understand why the fatigue sets in. There is too much pressure around dropping tons of money on flowers and a gift. And restaurants jack their prices up way too high for food that’s the same as every other day, but thrown into a prix-fixe menu. And retailers…wait, no, I’m not going to complain about being able to buy heart-shaped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
So, how can you find the joy in a holiday that’s certainly not going anywhere and definitely not going to be any more fun if you boycott it? The key is to embrace what really matters: celebrating the great relationships in your life, romantic and otherwise.
How to Make Valentine’s Day Special
I think the biggest problem around most holidays, but Valentine’s Day especially, is the expectations. Since it’s been predetermined that this day is supposed to be more special than most, we end up feeling extremely disappointed if things don’t pan out. But what if we reframed the whole experience?
If you focus on meaning instead of materialism, then the expectations change. Instead of dreaming of an expensive gift or driving yourself crazy trying to celebrate the perfect way, you could simplify and focus on the meaning. What makes the relationship you’re celebrating special?
On the surface, my husband and I would appear to have incredibly boring Valentine’s Day plans. We almost always go to our favorite coffee shop, Ost Cafe in New York City, to celebrate. Not too exciting, right?
Until you follow the story behind it. My husband and I met at Ost Cafe, we got engaged there, and the owner even performed our wedding ceremony. And it’s still our favorite place to go to spend time together. What better place could we possibly choose to celebrate our relationship?
It doesn’t have to be that exact, either. For a few years, my husband and I lived in California and couldn’t easily get back to our coffee shop in New York. So instead we’d spend the holiday exploring new coffee shops or going to our favorite one there. The point is, we focused on the thing we love most, the thing that brought us together.
If you’re in a relationship, think about where you and your significant other met or fell in love, or a place you had an especially great time together. Now forego the big gifts and expensive dinners and plan to spend time there. It’s a great way to bring you back to what united you in the first place. It’s a natural reminder of what makes you great together. And it’s the perfect way to take a break from our fast-paced lives to enjoy a simple and connected moment.
The same goes for your other relationships. Maybe you want to celebrate with your best friend, or your mom or dad, or some other special relationship in your life. Think about a moment in time when you and that person became especially close—can you go back to that place? Or you could focus on what you love doing together. The city I grew up in is known for its ice cream, so my girlfriends and I would often get ice cream, watch movies, and basically act like kids again when we needed a break from the normal 20-something social scene.
It Really Can Be Simple
Whether you’re in a relationship or single, you can have a wonderful Valentine’s Day if you strip away the materialism and expectations that often come with it. Identify something you and the person you’re celebrating with enjoy, something that you two share specifically, and find a way to enjoy that together.
Remember, Valentine’s Day is about love, not money—and love comes in all forms. Or, to quote one of my favorite romantic comedies, “love actually is all around.”
Shannon McNay is personal finance writer who loves to talk about the emotional side of personal finance. Her work has been published in Business Insider, DailyWorth, Huffington Post, Lifehacker, ReadyForZero, Yahoo! Finance, and more. You can follow her on Twitter.