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Overspending isn’t Romantic: A Guide to Valentine’s Day

Why is it called the Season of Love?

  • Over 62% of people celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving gifts and flowers to their significant other.
  • In many parts of the world, Valentine's Day has become an important cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love.

Love is in the air as friends, lovers, and families exchange gifts to show love, affection, and admiration towards each other! Valentine’s Day is a well-known festival held annually on the 14th of February. 

Purple and white flowers on white paper
Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash.

The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day

With the popularity of Valentine’s Day over the years, the history of Valentine’s Day can be somewhat dark and surprising! This romance festival started with a priest named Valentine, who served in the military during the third century in Rome. At that time, Emperor Claudius II decided to ban marriage for young men, specifically soldiers. Realising the injustice of the decree, Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. However, when Claudius was aware of Valentine’s actions, Emperor Claudius II ordered the execution of Saint Valentine. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been executed for attempting to help Christians in escaping Roman prisons, where they were frequently beaten and tortured. When Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in love with the jailor’s daughter, who visited him during his confinement. It is alleged that before Saint Valentine’s execution, he wrote her the first Valentine’s Day love letter signed “From your Valentine,” a phrase still in use today!

Despite the tragic ending to the legend of Valentine’s Day, the story depicts the figure of Saint Valentine as a heroic and romantic figure, now becoming one of the most popular saints. As a result, to commemorate the death anniversary of Saint Valentine, the Valentine’s Day festival is celebrated annually in Mid February.

In addition to this well-known legend about Saint Valentine, some people also believe that Lupercalia, a pagan Roman festival on the 15th of February, was the origin of Valentine's Day. Lupercalia was a fertility festival held in honour of the Roman founders of Romulus and Remus and the Roman god of agriculture named Faunus. On this day, a goat and a dog would be sacrificed by Roman priests as symbols of fertility and purification. Later that day, all of the city’s young women would place their names in a big urn in which the city’s bachelors would pick a name out and become paired for the year with their chosen woman, which often ended in marriage. 

White ceramic sculpture of a topless person
Photo by Gigi on Unsplash.

Did you Know?

Cupid, often known as the unofficial mascot of Valentine’s Day, is often portrayed on Valentine’s Day cards as a naked cherub launching arrows of love at unsuspecting lovers. Cupid is a reflection of the Greek god of love, Eros. In Greek Mythology, Eros was a handsome god who played with the emotions of gods and men by using golden arrows to incite love.  In one story from ancient Greek mythology, Cupid (Eros) shot a golden arrow at Apollo, who fell madly in love with the nymph Daphne, but then launched a leaden arrow at Daphne so he would repulse her. For years, he was increasingly portrayed as a playful, mischievous child, which is why Cupid is now displayed as a cherubic chubby child.

Valentine’s day and its Impact on Retail

Valentine's Day has become the fifth-largest consumer spending event as couples express their love through physical gifts, cards, and chocolate. Ever since the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were made and sold in the US in the 1840s, people started to load up on chocolates, roses, jewellery and more for their significant other as expressions of love in this romance festival each year. 

People queuing beside Louis Vitton store
Photo by  Melanie Pongratz on Unsplash.

According to customer surveys conducted by The National Retail Federation (NRF), it is predicted that the total spending for Valentine’s day expenses in 2023 will be $25.9B. With this popularity, retailers have learned to make the most of this romantic holiday by stocking up on cards, chocolates, and teddy bears. What once was an innocent holiday representing love and appreciation has sadly become a capitalist venture aimed at consumerism. Not only has this affected how people perceive Valentine’s Day, but this also affects unnecessary consumer spending. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that this year’s 2023 Valentine’s Day average household spending will be over $190. 

Advertisements from brands surrounding Valentine’s Day have developed a social construct where consumers spend impulsively to show their love out of obligation and guilt. The more one spends on the holiday for their loved one, the more they care, which drives excessive spending!

Valentine’s Day has often been called a “Hallmark Holiday” as people believe that the holiday now exists primarily for commercial purposes rather than to commemorate a traditionally significant event! 

Better Ways to Spend your Valentine’s Day (On a Budget)!

Expressing your love and appreciation to your loved ones should not have to cost you money! While there's nothing wrong with showering someone you care about with chocolates, cards, and presents, you can still celebrate this romantic occasion on a budget! It is the thought that matters most.

1. Set a budget

Start by setting a budget to avoid overspending! Plan on the gifts and activities you plan to do with your partner, and stay on track with your finances! Be realistic about what you can and cannot afford. Take into account any available Valentine’s Day discount offers and promotions and use them to your advantage. As special as Valentine’s Day can be, it’s best done without facing money anxiety from overspending afterwards!

2. Celebrate at home

Couples often rush to secure a reservation at a fine dining restaurant for an evening out on Valentine’s Day. Rather than facing the headache of securing a reservation and spending a large amount of money, you can always consider celebrating at home by having a cosy night in! Have a fun and intimate experience and cook a romantic dinner together or, even better, a Valentine’s day Potluck!

Aside from a typical romantic dinner, think outside the box for other unique and budget-friendly ways to celebrate. Consider a movie and game night, or a picnic in the park and a night drive to stargaze! Focus on spending quality time together and show your affection in unique and intimate ways.

Bouquet of white rose picnic 
Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash.

3. Get creative!

Although sticking with traditional gifts like flowers, chocolates, and jewellery is a safe option, you can always consider making homemade gifts. Valentine's Day is about showing your love to people, and what better way to show how much you care than by putting in the extra effort to create handmade gifts? Consider making a photo album or a scrapbook and filling it with your favourite memories. You can also make charms, a jar of letters, or even paper flowers and some cookies. 

Photos on white wooden table
Photo by Rirri on Unsplash.

Valentine’s Day and expressing your love to someone should not be about how much you spend. It’s about how much thought you put into your efforts. Fill the romantic day with personal and intimate memories through unique activities you both enjoy! 

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