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Valentine’s Day: Splurge on Gifts or Save Your Cash?

Christine DiGangi

Expectations are high this Valentine’s Day. Americans who expect to receive gifts think the givers will spend about $210 on them, according to Chase Blueprint’s recent Valentine’s Day survey. People in relationships think they’ll get about $240 in gifts.

Does that sound like more than you were planning to drop on someone special? You’re not alone. Men say they’ll spend an average of $98 on Valentine’s Day gifts this year, while women are budgeting an average of $71.

Your thoughts may be focused on pleasing your significant other come Feb. 14, but there’s something else to consider: Your budget. If you’re not in a relationship, you don’t have as much to worry about, but the average American still plans to spend $84 on gifts this Valentine’s Day.

How Important Are Gifts?

Not everyone is shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts, and fewer are planning to shop this year than last, according to a survey from the coupon website RetailMeNot. Of the more than 1,000 adults polled, 18% are planning to spend nothing, up from 6% in 2013. And here’s some relief for those of you who’d rather not partake in a gift exchange: 25% of people in relationships don’t anticipate that their significant other will spend money on them (last year it was 10%).

Rather than take your chances of disappointing or surprising your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, you should probably talk to that person about expectations. If you two aren’t into gifts, make that clear, and save yourself some money. On the other hand, if presents are desired, there’s no reason they have to be extravagant. Theoretically, you should know each other pretty well and be able to come up with ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day that are good for your relationship and your wallet.

Romance Without Financial Regret

Any gift-giving occasion comes with the temptation to splurge for the supposed perfect present. Chocolates or flowers may be stereotypical choices, but that doesn’t mean they’re not appreciated. More than half (57%) of people in relationships would rather go out than stay in on Valentine’s Day, according to RetailMeNot, but you can choose a nice restaurant and still spend a reasonable amount of money, if you plan it well. Daily deals sites are full of offers for couples right now, so try browsing for a great meal or activity you can both enjoy at a discount.

Despite those high spending averages reported in the Chase survey, more than half of people in relationships — 74% of women and 52% of men — plan to spend less than $50 on their significant other this Valentine’s Day, according to RetailMeNot.

No matter where you fall in the spectrum of spending, there’s one gesture that’s unlikely to impress your sweetheart: Going into debt for a Valentine’s Day gift. If that so-called perfect present isn’t in the budget, it’s probably not worth it. You may end up paying much more than you planned to, depending on the card’s interest rate, and if the purchase adds a lot to your debt load, you may hurt your credit utilization rate and your credit.

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