With the economic fate of our country uncertain, it seems like the perfect time to redirect our energy to celebrating love, companionship and romance. But the product placement orgy that is Valentine’s Day doesn’t really lend itself toward saving money.
According to a 2009 report done in conjunction with the National Retail Foundation, Americans plan on spending $14.7 billion dollars this Valentine’s Day. That same report revealed that the average woman will spend $85 and the average man will outspend her almost 2 to 1 on candy, jewelry and a night on the town amounting to $156.
While some supporters of chivalry will be pleased, I am a little concerned. While the plight of college students isn’t exactly dominating recession coverage, that doesn’t mean that students will be unaffected by our country’s fiscal changes.
Many here at the University, myself included, are in the process of saving money to compensate for our meager to nonexistent internship income and the time gap between our graduation dates and first full-time paychecks. Then there is the matter of opportunity cost. If some of us were not wasting our shrinking discretionary income on chocolates, expensive gifts and cards, we might have a little extra for Spring Break, summer travel or our favorite charity or non-profit organization.
Valentine’s Day can’t take all the credit for what Eva Illouz cited in Consuming the Romantic Utopia, a book that documents the history of romance and capitalism in the U.S. as the “romanticization of commodities.” This phenomenon is about how building and maintaining our romantic relationships is centered on spending money and how advertising and mass media has reinforced this concept.
Dinners. Movies. Coffees. Think about it: When was the last time you went on a date that did not involve anyone spending money? Perhaps I would need to spend an entire column covering gender stereotypes, relationships and money, but it’s worth noting that mixing money and relationships can sometimes become a minefield of problematic expectations. To consider heterosexuals, we all have that shady female friend who only dates men who can foot the bill every time they interact. On the flip side, everyone has that equally shady male friend who equates each dollar he spends on a woman with a sexual act he hopes to receive that same evening.
Considering all this, I think it’s time for us to accept once and for all that you don’t need money to be romantic. And I have some ideas on a few free ways you can spend Valentine’s Day that will only cost you a little effort, creativity, openness and the desire to show someone you care.
Cards. Last year, 57 percent of people bought cards for Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation. Instead of buying a card, climb fully into the 21st century and e-mail one. Websites such as someecards.com provide really funny, witty e-cards for Valentine’s Day. I almost fell off my chair at card titles like “Don’t forget that blow jobs are like flowers for men” and “I hate Valentine’s Day unless you would like to be my date.” The websites also allow you to create your own cards — for free.
Events. One of the benefits of being on a college campus are the many free and low-cost events that are going on all Saturday long, as well as leading up to Valentine’s Day. Meeting the needs of singles, couples and people of all different colors and cultures, the online events calendar provided by the University and arborweb.com has many free events featured, like movie viewings and concerts.
Gifts. If you insist on buying something, put it toward a good cause. Websites like organicstyle.com sell organic roses and allow you to donate five percent of the purchase price to your favorite charity. You can also buy fair trade chocolates through the site. Non-profits also need love, too. You can give a gift donation to organizations that are working overtime in the wake of the recession such as Feeding America, a non-profit that feeds 25 million low-income adults, children and seniors annually.
Don’t be afraid to give yourself on Valentine’s Day — literally. Wake up next to your partner naked, tied in a bow. Then proceed to take full advantage of the fact that Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday. Spend a good amount of the day in: talking, blowing through your DVD collection, cuddling and cooking your own food. Just don’t forget to pick up some free condoms from UHS this Friday. And, in the words of someecards.com “have a fiscally but not sexually conservative Valentine’s Day.”
Rose Afriyie is the Daily’s sex and relationships columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.