Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and it’s hard to not get caught up in the flood of red and pink hearts and Cupid’s arrows in flight. When my husband and I first started dating, I had all sorts of ideas about what would await me on Feb. 14—an exotic trip, fancy dinner and myself dripping in brand-new diamonds. But reality sunk in as I realized that neither of us had the funds or free time to search out such extravagant gifts. Here are a few ways I learned to manage my expectations for Valentine’s Day as our relationship matured.
The film industry is saturated with sweeping gestures—blaring a boombox outside a bedroom window, public serenades from football stadium bleachers, scaling a fire escape to declare undying love—all of which look beautiful on the big screen but aren’t something you’d encounter in everyday life. Looking to chick flicks for clues about what your significant other might surprise you with this Valentine’s Day will likely leave you disappointed. Instead, try focusing on the little things he or she does day-to-day to show their love.
Classic Valentine’s Day gifts like diamond jewelry, rose bouquets and couture perfume can add up quickly—and while they’re nice to look at, don’t always convey the importance of your relationship as well as less expensive gifts can. In lieu of something fancy, suggest that you each create a homemade gift, such as a photo album of your favorite pictures together or a personalized coupon book.
A few years ago, my husband (then-boyfriend) and I celebrated the occasion by recreating our first date at home—he made a simplified version of the dinner we ate at an Italian bistro and rented a DVD of the movie we saw in the theater. You may also want to consider combining efforts to splurge on an experience you can share, such as a couples cooking class or day trip to a nearby park.
Last year, we scrapped gifts altogether and each used the hour we would have spent shopping to write a list of things we love about the other person. This was so much fun—and gave me a chance to really think back on the wonderful memories we’ve shared through the years. Then, we read our lists aloud during a cozy dinner at home. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect present—and it didn’t cost us a penny.
Sometimes, less truly is more. By shifting the focus from what your loved one will bring you this Valentine’s Day to what they bring to your life every day, you may find this to be your happiest couples holiday yet. And if he does go big for some diamond earrings, make sure those beauties are insured.
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