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How to celebrate valentine’s day during inflation

There’s no right or wrong way to do Valentine’s Day

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“Valentine’s Day during inflation can be a daunting situation for some couples,” says relationship expert Jessica Alderson. “But it doesn’t have to be.”

Alderson is the co-founder of SoSyncd, a dating app that matches people based on one of 16 personality types. I’m an INTJ who is partnered with an INTP, which means the two of us are going to approach Valentine’s Day the way we always do — with a few well-chosen words and the gift of each other’s company.

Other personality types may want different types of celebrations — and many of those celebrations are likely to be more expensive than you were anticipating. Whether you’re making dinner reservations, shopping for jewelry or simply hoping to pick up a bouquet of red roses at the grocery store, you’re probably going to pay more for Valentine’s Day this year than you did last year.

This isn’t just because prices have gone up, of course. It’s also because wages haven’t. “Many people have experienced decreased spending power in the past few years due to inflation and stagnant wages,” explains Alderson, “so it’s only natural to be mindful of how much you spend celebrating.”

Alderson is an INFP, which means that her perspective is a bit more emotionally oriented than mine — but the two of us agree that there’s no reason to spend money you can’t afford on a holiday as flexible and adaptable as Valentine’s Day.

Here’s what you need to know.

In this article:

There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate Valentine’s Day

One of the biggest mistakes I made, early in my relationship, was assuming that Valentine’s Day had to be a certain way for a reason. People wouldn’t give each other heart-shaped boxes of chocolates if there wasn’t some kind of emotional payoff, right?

As it turns out, the payoff isn’t in the chocolates. It isn’t in the roses, either — especially if you’re not a personality type that’s oriented towards gifts.

When my partner brought home a bouquet of grocery-store roses on Valentine’s Day, as an INTP-style experiment to see if roses did in fact make the day feel special, we learned very quickly that roses didn’t really matter to us. What mattered was that we had set aside an entire evening to spend together. The payoff, for us, came from giving each other our time.

“There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate Valentine’s Day,” says Alderson. “It all comes down to the specific dynamics of each couple and what makes each individual feel loved.”

This goes double with the increase in prices due to the rate of inflation, since everything is nearly twice as expensive — but it also goes both ways.

If your partner loves giving and receiving gifts, one of the best things you can do for your relationship is ensure that gifts are part of your Valentine’s Day celebration. Same goes for dinner reservations, especially if the only way you and your partner can spend uninterrupted quality time with each other is by hiring a babysitter and leaving the house for date night.

“Don’t let inflation keep you from doing what’s important,” Alderson advises. I agree — with the caveat that you also shouldn’t let February 14 push you towards doing something that’s unimportant, especially if it costs more than you were expecting.

You can celebrate Valentine’s Day without spending any money

It goes without saying that there are many inexpensive ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day — but it’s traditional to list them out, so here are some of Alderson’s best tips for couples on a budget.

“Consider sending a handmade card, writing a letter of appreciation, taking a walk through nature, volunteering together, preparing a romantic meal, or watching a movie together at home. All of these activities are free or cheap and can be just as meaningful as a lavish gift.”

If you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day not only with your partner or spouse, but also with your whole family, consider using the day as an opportunity to teach your children about making and receiving thoughtful, low-cost presents. Remember that Valentine’s Day can also be about acts of service, whether your partner agrees to finally clean out the basement or whether you and your kids bake a batch of cookies to take to Grandma and Grandpa.

There are many ways to share your time and energy with the people you love — and the people who love you most won’t want you to spend more than you can afford.

You don’t need to make up for past Valentine’s Day celebrations

For some couples, the past few years might have yielded less-than-optimal Valentine’s Day celebrations. Celebrating Valentine’s Day during COVID, for example, often meant eating takeout in your pajamas — which could be great for couples who fall on the introverted side of the personality spectrum, but might have been less fun for the extroverts.

What does that mean for this year’s celebration? It really depends on what you and your partner want and need. “The fact that we’ve had years of truncated celebrations doesn’t have to be a reason to go all out this year,” says Alderson, “but you can choose to see it as a sign that it’s time to splurge if that’s what you both want.”

If you do decide to splurge, do the math first — and see if you and your partner can give yourself not only the Valentine’s Day of your dreams, but also a balanced budget. Don’t let your Valentine’s Day celebration keep you from paying off your debt, saving an emergency fund or keeping your 2023 financial resolutions.

Instead, follow Alderson’s advice and spend more on Valentine’s Day by spending less on other days. “Take the money you would normally spend elsewhere and put it towards something special that both partners will enjoy.”

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do Valentine’s Day — and no rule that says you have to make up for any previous disappointments. For many couples, allowing the past to be the past also allows them to move forward. This also frees you to make Valentine’s Day 2023 exactly what you want it to be — with or without chocolates, roses or reservations.

Just make sure you do something, even if it’s as simple as taking five minutes to tell the person you love why you love them. “Prioritizing this special day can help keep the spark alive and remind couples why they fell in love in the first place,” says Alderson — and as an INTJ who values prioritization above nearly everything else, I agree.

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate,, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

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