When budgets are tight, getting creative can turn a stressful time into an enjoyable, thoughtful, bonding experience. In this Verywell Mind article, Mindpath Health’s Kiana Shelton, LCSW, explains that it’s less about the money and truly the thought that counts.

Relieve Stress and Bond More by Spending Less on Valentine’s Day_Kiana Shelton, LCSW_mindpath Health

About 52% of Americans say they plan on celebrating Valentine’s Day this year. For many, commemorating this day of love and romance comes at a significant financial cost. In 2022, more than $4 billion dollars was spent on a romantic evening out, with candy and flowers also being popular gifts.

Spending to celebrate Valentine’s Day is expected to reach 26 billion dollars this year. That figure is up 2 billion dollars from last year.

Expectations can run high on February 14, as people tend to see expensive gifts as a symbol that their love is true. Those expectations can lead to pressure to spend more. And with inflation hikes of over 6% in the last 12 months, spending may be the last thing some people want to do.

Instead of allowing that stress to negatively impact your mental health, you might consider getting creative this Valentine’s Day. Plus, it’s like the Beatles said: “Cause I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love”.

A less expensive, more personal, gift will certainly help your wallet. But it will also help create a more intimate bond between you and your partner. We take a look at the impact financial stress can have on relationships and share ideas for more cost-effective but no less romantic Valentine’s Day gift ideas.

Financial stress, mental health, and relationships

Research shows that there is a link between dealing with financial stress and mental health issues. In fact, 46% of people who are struggling with debt also have mental health challenges. Of those who have mental health issues, almost 90% say stress about finances makes things worse. Depression, anxiety, inability to sleep, and fatigue can all be a result of financial stress.

Stress not only impacts you; it takes its toll on your relationship.

“Financial problems are the third leading cause of stress in relationships. Financial stress generally creates overall dissatisfaction as we become increasingly more sensitive to the cost of things (needs or wants) and the awareness of how we are not able to meet those needs. This fear-based thinking for many feels like the only reality at the moment and can prevent them from seeing alternative solutions,” notes Kiana Shelton, LCSW, at Mindpath Health.

Open communication about finances, realistic expectations, and creating a budget that you can stick to are great ways to combat financial stress in a relationship. Those actions can be implemented on a regular basis, and particularly when it comes to Valentine’s Day.

Creative ways to say Happy Valentine’s Day

Going for a hike or a picnic in a park filled with gorgeous nature views are two great ways to celebrate a day of romance. A handmade card or a poem that you take the time and effort to write can even do more for your relationship than dropping a lot of cash at a local restaurant.

“Centering the heart over a dollar doesn’t mean cheesy or cheap. Presentation is everything! The smallest gesture coupled with an already subscribed music app, a free handwritten letter, an hour of quality time, and year-round respect for one another will always prove more valuable than any price tag,” Charde’ Hollins, LCSW, adds.

Sharing a unique experience, like a game night marathon or gazing at the stars at night, can create special memories. If you want a gift to remember the occasion, try a thrift store challenge, where you both have a certain amount of time to find a gift under ten dollars. You can come up with something wacky and fun!

The key to an enjoyable Valentine’s Day is to express what’s in your heart, without stressing your mind—or your wallet.

“Much of the stress around gift-giving is created by the internal expectation we think another is holding. Often the person you are worried about gifting is also worried about the gift for you. Having a real conversation can allow you to remove this inner critic and find comfort in knowing you are showing up for your partner in the way they would like,” Shelton concludes.

Read the full Verywell Mind article with sources. Want to learn more about your mental health? Visit our Patient Resources for articles, tips, and education from Mindpath Health’s expert clinicians.

Kiana Shelton, LCSW

Katy, TX

Kiana has over 12 years of experience working with adults. Using person-centered and trauma-informed modalities, Kiana helps patients navigate major life transitions, including birth, adoption, grief, and loss. In addition, she also provides gender-affirming mental health care to those who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Following Maya Angelou’s quote: “Still I rise,” Kiana uses this as a reminder ... Read Full Bio »

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