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Valentine’s Day is only a few days away and if you haven’t bought anything for your significant other you may want to read this before you do. Canadians will spend on average $144 million on chocolate and confectionery on the day of love.

On top of that more than $20 million will be spent flowers, mostly by men. The pressure to buy a cute pink and red card for your sweetie is everywhere, as soon as the Christmas decorations come down the hearts and cupids go up, reminding consumers there's still more you need to spend to show your love.

The problem with Valentine's Day

I’m not against showing love in fact I’m a big supporter of Valentine’s Day. There's value in taking a day to appreciate the one we love, I don’t care if it's prescribed by Hallmark. And, I reject all those that criticize that we should show our love every day not just on February 14th.

I live in the real world, it's not all red roses and cinnamon hearts 356 days a year. What bugs me is that the Valentine's Day push comes only a few weeks after most people have only just received their Christmas credit card bills. The pressure that consumers face to spend their hard earned money is unnecessarily less than six weeks after the most expensive time of year.

How we prove our love

According to the Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada, Men spend $158 and women spend $75 on gifts for Valentine’s Day. Here's what we spend on average on each of these popular Valentine items.

“Buying your valentine a gift is a lovely gesture as long as you can afford it,” says Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada, Inc. “But if it’s bought on a credit card and you can’t afford to pay the bill, the cost plus interest will last longer than the sentiment.”

However, in a survey by Small Business Canada, 85% of respondents said they would rather receive a homemade gift for Valentine’s Day than something store-bought.

  • Candy: $22.63
  • Flowers: $36.78
  • Jewellery: $151.53
  • Greeting cards: $15.52
  • Evening out: $71.76
  • Clothing: $83.56
  • Gift card: $88.59

Instead, give a gift from the heart

If your carrying debt and want to find an economical way to celebrate your love, here are some easy ideas. Worldwide Valentine's Day is a $15.7 billion business to retailers. Keep this in mind when you’re out shopping for your sweetie. The economics of love are obvious but that doesn’t mean you need to participate in them. And under no circumstance go into debt to say, “I love you.” Here are a few ideas:

  • Family Valentine's Day Meal Deal: Plan a dinner for the family to make together and decorate the table with all things valentine – paper hearts, heart-shaped place cards, chocolate kisses, and red and white candles.
  • Plan ahead: Spend time on the weekend to prep your meal and have it ready to heat when you get home from work.
  • Plan a money-free experience:  Life often gets in the way of spending quality time together. Schedule a few hours to be a tourist in your own city, explore a new neighbourhood, or weather permitting, go ice skating, bike riding or cross country skiing.
  • Create your own Valentine's Day card: Why spend money on a Valentine’s Day card when you can easily make it yourself? There are so many websites to help even the most artistically challenged individuals. Your card will be kept in a memory box for years to come.
Rubina Ahmed-Haq

Rubina Ahmed-Haq is a financial journalist and personal finance expert with more than 15 years of experience. Her career spans three continents with appearances on TV, radio, print and online. She is the Finance Editor for HOMES Publishing. You can also read her columns in CondoLife and Active Life. Rubina runs the website www.AlwaysSaveMoney.ca. She has also contributed on personal finance matters at The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, National Post, CTV Newschannel, Mississauga Life Magazine, Masalamomma.ca, OurKidsMedia, CAA Magazine, South Asian Focus TV, ANOKHI Magazine, Bridal Fantasy Magazine, Canadian Running Magazine, FRESH JUICE magazine and NEWSTALK 1010.

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