One of the biggest marketing gimmicks known to man is Valentine’s Day. Take a minute and read NPR’s takedown on the origins of this holiday.
It’s a dark story. But one of the true monsters is over-consumerism.
The hangover from Christmas eggnog hasn’t even faded when you’ll begin seeing Valentine’s Day merchandise in the grocery store. This is beyond ridiculous, matched only by the crazy-making practice of advertising Christmas before Halloween has occurred.
People everywhere are guilt-tripped into buying cards, flowers, and/or candy for not only their main squeeze, but also for family members and co-workers. Good grief. As a minimalist, I stopped this practice for the most part years ago. Regardless of my current shunning of traditional Valentine’s Day gift-giving, I have some tips to share that have worked for my family and me.
Buy nothing. It’s the thought that counts. It sounds obvious, but just don’t succumb to buying anything for Valentine’s Day. Make a card if that makes you happy or prepare a special dinner or sweet treat for your beloveds. Who doesn’t love homemade chocolate chip cookies? My daughter doesn’t need persuading to make handmade cards. I take this opportunity to show her how expensive greeting cards are and stress the idea that “It’s the thought that counts.” She gets it. And she’s nine.
If you must buy something. If you feel compelled to buy for a number of people, buy bags of small, individually wrapped candy and some red tissue paper and make small goody packets. This is an easy, frugal way to remember friends and family on the holiday, without going broke.
Make a date. Instead of being a typical consumer of “stuff,” create a special event instead. A romantic date can be a simple walk in the park, or a nice dinner you prepare together. Make it about the event and not the material things.
Buy late. At my house, we routinely celebrate Valentine’s Day (if we celebrate it at all) a couple of days late. As soon as it’s midnight on February 14, the stores mark down all things Valentine’s to get rid of it all in time to load the shelves for Easter. Beat them at their own devilish marketing game! Celebrate a wee bit late for a fraction of the cost. If you feel compelled to buy things for your Valentine, do it on sale.
Buy late to plan for next year. If you feel compelled to buy for your loved ones for Valentine’s Day, as soon as those decorations and cards go on sale, stock up for next year. Of course, this only applies to non-perishable items. A small plastic bin (which minimalists probably have a-plenty, having purged all their stuff. I know I do!) will work perfectly to store the cards and keep them fresh and clean for a year.
Set expectations. Be proactive and start this discussion right after Christmas, since that is when stores start marketing for Valentine’s Day. Talk to your family and friends to agree on mutually appreciated alternative plans for this consumerist holiday. After all, the sentiment of the holiday is to show your love, not blow all your money on worthless knick-knacks and sweets. We don’t need chocolate when we’re still trying to lose the Thanksgiving through New Year’s weight we gained! (Or is that just me?) And why spend half a paycheck on commercially over-bred roses that don’t even smell like proper roses?
Create a good offense on school Valentines. I know those kits that kids use to write notes to all their friends are pretty inexpensive. But still. Teach your children well and early not to fall prey to consumer nonsense. Instead, teach them how to make candy or cookies to distribute on Valentine’s Day. They will earn ALL the love of their classmates! Personal homemade cards are also more meaningful and require much more thought than simply buying a box of premade cards. Invite your children to find creative ways to show their appreciation for schoolmates and teachers. (Or homeschool your kids like we do and avoid the whole problem. Ha!)
If you find my curmudgeonly attitude towards Valentine’s Day consumerism offensive, you should read a different blog. I have little to no patience for wasteful consumerism, and I believe the vast majority of folks interested in simplicity don’t either. Our ranks are probably not yet large enough to overthrow Madison Avenue, but maybe someday!
How about you? How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day frugally? Share your ideas below.