Remember that stuffed teddy bear with the pink heart-shaped belly you snagged at the CVS on your way home last Feb. 14? By now it’s probably one of countless contributions to the $9.5 billion trash heap of last year’s unwanted Valentine’s Day gifts which also included tools, gym memberships, kitchen appliances and mixtapes, according to a WalletHub survey.
This year it could be even worse: Americans are poised to spend a heart-stopping $27.4 billion for Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). That $196.31 per person. If you’re going to be spending anywhere near that much money, wouldn’t you rather mark the occasion with something more substantive than a landfill-destined tchotchke?
You can do better
To be clear, this isn’t an article about how to buy non-crappy gifts for a significant other. (Here’s that article.) This article is about how to buy a less crappy gift than you did last year. Don’t worry, in keeping with the “Valentine’s Day gifts that suck” theme, the following ideas are still completely bereft of romance and have zero sex appeal. The difference is that eventually — maybe in a day, or perhaps several months from now — your beloved will realize exactly how thoughtful your gift really was.
A fairy-tale vacation… in retirement
How romantic would it be if your betrothed started funding a retirement savings account in your name? Or, put another way: Which would you rather have, a $357.96 crappy gift (the average amount spent by men on gifts for their wives) or $17,000 in 20 years (which is exactly what that $357 would be worth if it was invested annually and earned the stock market’s average rate of return)?
No heart-shaped whatever can compete with the magic of compound interest. Pair it with the tax-advantaged savings offered by an Individual Retirement Account, and you have a gift that only gets better with age. (Like fine wine!)
Here’s a rundown of six main types of IRAs, depending on how and when you want your tax break, and eligibility. If you’re half of a one-income married couple, take special note of the spousal IRA which allows you to contribute as much as the working spouse (but is in your name, and is therefore your money). The maximum you can save in a spousal IRA in 2019 and 2020 is $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re 50 or older).
More: 4 Must-Have Money Strategies for Single-Income Couples
A dozen months of safekeeping
Nothing says “I’ve got your back, bae,” more than the gift of property protection. If you two lovebirds don’t own your home sweet home, renter’s insurance is a must. And it’s cheap.
Note that your landlord’s policy covers only covers structural damage, as long as it’s not through your own negligence. But if your new pleather sectional and vintage record collection gets trashed or stolen by nightmare guests, renter’s insurance will help cover your losses.
Insurance.com puts the national average price for a renter’s insurance policy that covers $40,000 in personal property, $100,000 in liability protection and a $1,000 deductible at $197 a year (roughly $17 a month). What’ll it be? Romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for two (at an average $101 per couple, according to WalletHub) or dinner at a cute dive restaurant and insurance coverage for all your stuff?
More: Renting Is Still Cheaper Than Buying, But Is It the Best Decision for Long-Term?
An umbrella to protect your kingdom
The V-day card for this one practically writes itself: “Because the life we’ve built together is worth millions to me…”
If you’ve been together a long time, you’ve probably accumulated a number of valuable assets — homes, cars, investments, savings. Your quality of life needs protection, too. The gift of an umbrella insurance policy is peace-of-mind if you were sued for all you’re worth. You can get $1 million extra coverage with an umbrella policy for between $150 to $300 a year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
More: Insurance Checkups for Auto and Homeowners
A healthy heart for Fido
NRF found that 27% of us will buy Valentine’s gifts for our pets, spending an average of $12.21. I certainly plan on contributing to the $1.7 billion consumers are spending on fur babies this Valentine’s Day.
However, in keeping with the theme of this article, a more impactful gift than a new hedgehog squeaky toy (my pup’s favorite) is the gift of good health.
Your investment in preventative care is the key to Fido and Fifi’s to longevity — and lower vet bills for you. A heartworm preventative treatment (which runs about $5 to $15 per month) is a lot less than the $400 to $1,000 the American Animal Hospital Association says it costs to treat a heartworm-positive pet.
A treat to celebrate your solo status
Being unpartnered isn’t a deterrent to the 14% of women and 12% of men who aren’t formally celebrating Valentine’s Day, but still plan to mark the holiday by buying something for themselves.
Go for it. Except instead of stuffing your face with Godiva chocolates (dark chocolate-filled with caramel, please), stuff your 401(k) or 403(b) with a little extra cash. Upping your contribution by just 1% can have a meaningful impact on your savings. Plus, you can smugly tell everyone that by amassing a fortune on your own, you can now choose dates based solely on looks.
BLOOOM: 401ks are complicated. Blooom isnt. Link blooom to your retirement account for smart, simple optimization.
More on Money and Relationships:
- How to Talk About Money In a Relationship
- How Couples Can Split Their Money and Bills to Be Fair
- The Best Valentine’s Day Date Ideas on a $25 – $150 Budget
- 3 Affordable Ways to Invest In Your Relationship With Yourself
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