Valentine’s Day encourages us to spend money we don’t have

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Myron with his young daughter, Jean

By Myron Jobson

 

I am romantic and have been known to watch and even enjoy the odd Rom-Com starring Julia Roberts. But despite this, I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. Not because it’s overly sentimental, or greeting card-trite, but because it places a huge expectation on couples to shell out on Valentine’s Day, which in my view is a very big mistake. Huge mistake, I must say.

It’s not that I don’t agree with showing love, affection, and all that jazz, but what I can’t get on board with is the ridiculous financial pressure that cranks up before the big day. That makes you feel guilty for not spending extravagantly during the biggest cost of living crisis we’ve seen in generations – as if you are somehow neglecting your other half.

We’ve only got over the Christmas financial hangover and now we’re being told we have to dish out large amounts for heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and bunch of roses that cost more than they have ever before? No thank you. There can be overwhelming pressure to come up with yet another grand romantic gesture. A study, by the dating app Plenty of Fish, found that 43 per cent of singles consider Valentine’s Day the highest-pressure event of the year, and 37 per cent said they feel compelled to find a date, so they won’t feel ashamed on Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine

 

Even as a kid I felt the pressure of letting my heart speak through my wallet. There was a time in my early teens when, in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, I would use my pocket money to buy doughnuts and sell them at a higher price at school during lunch breaks. I’d do this until I banked enough cash in my Valentine’s Day fund to take my then-girlfriend on a nice date. We enjoyed a typical teenage date of going to the cinema, followed by a walk around a park before inevitably ending up at a pizza joint. I know, how corny. But my point is the films, TV shows and adverts I had watched led me to believe I had to spend a pretty penny to show my affections.

The reality is while you can’t buy love, debatably, you can pay heavily for it if you are not honest about your financial position. Going into debt to show your affections isn’t sexy. But there is obvious value in couples having frank conversations about their finances to avoid money issues that could lead to arguments down the line. Yet when it comes to finances generally, many people seldom talk to a partner about money. A recent study of 10,000 savers by DIY investment platform Interactive Investor, the company I work for, found that of people in a relationship, 47 per cent admitted to discussing finances only occasionally; 36 per cent at least a few times a week; and 17 per cent rarely or never.

Interestingly, younger adults are seemingly more vocal with their partners about money matters: 44 per cent of those aged 40 and under told us they discuss finances at least once a week. If you are in a relationship, make sure you and your partner are on the same page about Valentine’s Day expectations. Buying a box of chocolate when your partner has been dropping hints about jewellery could land you in the doghouse. Clear and honest discussion on expectations and financial realities is integral to avoid disappointment.

With many people still reeling from the cost of living squeeze on budgets, perhaps the best gift you can give your significant other is to absolve them from the responsibility of getting you one. It might not seem romantic, but being open about your financial situation can foster stronger ties between you and your significant other. Also, beware of FOMO (fear of missing out). Valentine’s Day will be all over social media and that might make you feel a certain way. Why people feel the need to share personal romantic moments with their followers, many of whom could be complete strangers, is beyond me. But don’t let other people’s experiences think less of your own experiences whether or not you’re in a relationship.

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate Valentine’s Day if you choose to do so. The key is to have clear expectations. Just to be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with showering someone you love with gifts, but the day can be special without the need for grand, expensive gestures. Yes. The day can be special without the need for grand, expensive gestures.

 

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