Valentine’s Day: Spoken vs Unspoken Expectations

Valentines day is around the corner and for those of us that celebrate the holiday we start wondering what to get our significant others. It would be so much easier if we knew what our significant other wanted or expected as a gift.

Many of us either already have a plan for our significant other or you’re just reading this and realizing that is the end of January and you don’t have a clue what to do. Don’t panic, according to the National Retail Federation, Americans procrastinate their Valentine’s Day shopping more than any other holiday, with 60% of sales coming in a 3 day span (Feb 12-14).

So if you know what you are going to do, you have some time to shop. If not, you may still be in a panic over what to do for your significant other. For those of you that are just dating or newly in a relationship, figuring out what to get each other doesn’t always get easier with time.

More than half of the U.S. population celebrates Valentine’s Day, which happens to be one of the largest holidays for spending in the U.S. at around $15.7 billion. In 2011, it is estimated that the average person spent $116.21 on gifts, meals, and entertainment for Valentine’s Day. Of that, Men tend to spend double what women spend on Valentine’s day: $158.71 compared to $75.79 (1). Adults 25-34 will spend an average of $189.97, about three times the $60.22 adults 65 and older will spend.

What do they spend that money on, you ask?

  • 52.1% buy cards, the most popular Valentine’s Day gift (1) and it is estimated that 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged worldwide (2).
  • People will spend $1.7 billion on flowers this Valentine’s Day — 73% are bought by men, 27% by women (1). Oddly, 15% of U.S. women send themselves flowers on Valentine’s Day (3,4).
  • Even odder is the statistic that more than nine million pet owners are expected to buy gifts for their pets on Valentine’s Day with the average person spending $5.04 on them.

During research on this subject, I also found this scary fact for men to be aware of: 53% of women in America would dump their boyfriends if they did not get them anything for Valentine’s Day (3). Even if your significant other tells you “You don’t need to get me anything,” don’t think you are safe. Gentlemen, listen up…you need to get them something. So this brings us back to the issue of what to do in the way of gifts for Valentine’s Day and I was reminded of this JC Penny ad from 2009.

Wouldn’t it be great if we knew what that perfect gift was for our significant other so that we didn’t end up in the doghouse? For as long as humans existed, it is probably safe to predict that men have always wondered what women want and women…well they probably are right when they say they know what men want.

In relationships, discussing expectations between you and your spouse/significant other is important and will cover many aspects of your relationship from the early days of dating, to wedding plans, child raising, retirement, life goals and beyond. This isn’t a one time conversation that you can have, but will take place many times throughout your relationship.

So what does your significant other expect in the way of gifts? Do you know? If not, have you asked? That would be the best place to start. Responses range from a straight answer to, “nothing”, to (my personal favorite) “you should already know.” If they are asking, they don’t know. Help them out. Give them a “bone.” A national jewelry chain has an email form that you can send to your sweetheart giving them a gift suggestion.

My wife and I discussed Valentine’s Day gifts and agreed that we would not get flowers for each other. For us, a bouquet of flowers are not a gift that lasts and especially when a dozen roses, that normally cost $40 anytime of the year, doubles around Valentine’s Day. At the minimum we get at least a card, if not something else.

When it comes to gift giving, think outside of the box (or shopping bag). Give gifts that match the person. Do not waste money on stuffed animals and flowers if they will not be enjoyed. Valentine’s Day, is not a time for one-size-fits-all gifts. Knowing a partner’s real desires will express the meaning of the day, and could eliminate irrelevant and expensive purchases.

One suggestion would be to go the homemade route. Write a poem, create your own card, a homemade gift, or prepare a home cooked meal. Whatever it is you have the benefit of the gift being completely personalized to suit their taste.

If our current trend of a warm winter continues, head outside. Use the magic of the night to fuel some energy for ice skating, or build a bonfire and eat s’mores. Or create a winter picnic with blankets and hot cocoa. Then head inside, defrost and snuggle up
with a blanket for a movie night.

Give helpfully. Brainstorm a list of things a partner normally handles, but dislikes such as the laundry, dishes, walking the dog or shoveling snow. Make coupons that he/she can redeem to enlist help with the activity. Don’t forget to add some romantic and relaxing activity vouchers as well. HOWEVER, a word of warning…make sure you will honor the coupons!

Whatever gift path you take: give it some thought, make it personal, make it financially realistic, and keep in mind that all that truly matters is it came from the heart. Communicate your expectations with your significant other, whether it be about gifts or other matter, and be prepared to actively listen to their expectations as well. That way you can avoid going to (or returning to) the doghouse.

(1) 2011 U.S. National Retail Federation survey
(2) Hallmark
(3) CT News
(4) Wisebread

1 thought on “Valentine’s Day: Spoken vs Unspoken Expectations

  1. I like that little email idea. Very cute! I’m a pretty frugal gal, so I too think flowers are silly, even on normal days, because they just die eventually. It’s kinda like a sad omen, almost. And because I’m frugal I get annoyed when prices for things skyrocket for silly “made up” holidays, like this one. However, I have felt unappreciated in the past by lovers who didn’t do anything on that day. I prefer homemade “gifts” or expressions of love. Cooking me dinner, making a silly card or collage of pictures. I also think it’s fun for a couple to pick out a day that will be their own Valentine’s day…when the prices are normal…and pretend like it’s that day. That’s even more meaningful. You can be sure to get a reservation at that fancy restaurant, if nothing else. 🙂

Comments are closed.