The Excesses of February

I barely took a breath before realizing another day has arrived that expects us to spend more money.  It seems as if we just finished opening gifts on Christmas and packed away the decorations. February brings with it three days of consumer excess.

superbowl

Super Bowl Sunday

Last Sunday was the Super Bowl, it was also my daughter-in-law’s birthday.  My son picked me up to spend the day with them. He made a stop at the grocery store to pick up a cake he ordered for his wife, I opted to sit in the car and wait for him.  The store was packed.

It wasn’t long before I noticed most of the carts were loaded down with chips and cases of soda (I’m sure plenty of alcohol was sold as well, but we can’t purchase alcohol in grocery stores) not what I think of as groceries.  When I spotted a woman with an armload of frozen pizzas and I realized all this junk food was for the Super Bowl parties later that afternoon.  Local pizza restaurants reported having a two hour wait for orders once the game started even bringing in extra help.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed a good Super Bowl party every year for decades but our parties consisted of a pot of chili in the slow cooker, homemade breads, a nice french onion soup, yes, sometimes we made pizza too.  We made our own tortilla chips and baked cookies or a cake to finish the day off.

This article from 2012 reported people spent $1.02 Billion on snack foods while watching the Super Bowl. That’s a big chunk out of the food budget.

 

valentines day

 

Valentine’s Day

Only a week after breaking the food budget on the big game we now come to Valentine’s Day, where spending money is the expected way to celebrate.   The “traditional Valentine’s Day” — including “a dozen red roses, chocolates, a nice dinner for two, jewelry, and champagne” — costs an average of $512. (source)  If anyone ever spent that much on me for one day they better be quick on their feet because I will be very angry.

Like many traditions we don’t know much about the origins of Valentine’s Day

There were at least three Saint Valentine’s or Valentinus, all were martyred. One no one knows anything about, of the other two it is believed the one that inspired the holiday was a 3rd century priest who defied Emperor Claudius II who felt soldiers fought better as single men than married men and banned marriage. Valentine secretly performed marriages.  While imprisoned for his defiance, it is believed the priest wrote a letter to a girl he fell in love with and signed the letter “From Your Valentine”.

Like many Christian holidays, the date of February 14th was selected not for the birth or death of St. Valentine but to connect it to a Pagan holiday.  In this case it was the Pagan holiday of Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman God of Agriculture.

You can learn more about the origins of Valentine’s Day here.

Regardless where the origins started, I see nothing wrong with setting aside a day to express your love for those you hold dear.  What I do have a problem with is the expectations that our expressions must include a card, chocolate and flowers at a minimum.

presidents

 

President’s Day

We don’t even get a break after Valentine’s day this year. President’s day is February 15th, the day after we’ve just broke the bank to prove our love.   I’m pretty sure our first and sixteenth presidents, Washington and Lincoln, would be rolling in their graves knowing we celebrate their birthdays by going on spending sprees.

President’s day began as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday (February 22) which was moved to the third Monday in February to create more three day weekends for workers.  With Abraham Lincoln’s birthday being February 12th the two birthday’s were combined and recognized as President’s day by the 1980s.  Today, President’s day is considered to be a day to recognize and celebrate all of our presidents.

What we now call President’s day used to be a day of patriotic spirit. George Washington’s picture and story would grace the front pages of newspapers, several groups including the Boy Scouts would hold celebrations or reenactments, and special masses were held at churches.  All these things changed when marketers saw a three day weekend as a time to boost sales.

Forget parades or a day of national volunteering or any other unselfish way of remembering these two presidents who left such a mark on our country. Nope, we go shopping.  President’s day sales flyers begin arriving days ahead of time. Banks, schools  and many other businesses are closed this day. When we have free time we spend the majority of that time either watching television or shopping.

I wonder if people will get smart and wait to purchase their Valentine candy until the President’s day sales, they could save at least 50%.

Making our Own Traditions

Let’s take make this year the year we break out of the rut and start new traditions.

For Valentine’s day,

  1. Consider a nice home cooked meal with the family.
  2. If you want to give a card, make it. Use your own words, not the words found in a pre-printed  card.
  3. If you want to give flowers, consider a flowering bulb or house plant over cut flowers. Cut flowers are usually shipped in this time of year and are heavily sprayed with pesticides.

On President’s Day avoid the stores. If you and your family have the day off from work and school spend it together.

  1. Talk about what it means to be a citizen of the United States or seek out reenactments or other patriotic events in your area.
  2. Make this a day of relaxation. In the spirit of having the day off, don’t spend it doing chores.
  3. Instead of cooking a dinner, have a picnic. If it’s too cold (it is here) spread a blanket on the floor and have a simple “picnic” meal.

If you start planning and practicing this month you’ll be ready next month to create new traditions long before St. Patrick’s Day and Easter come along.

Have you created unique no cost traditions for these holidays?

 

I’d love to hear your suggestions won’t you  leave a comment and share you ideas?

 

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22 comments

  1. well, the best one so far (see I am cheap to please)…
    is the Mother’s Day one, in which every yr we go to see the baby geese, toss them a little bird food/bread crusts etc.. Started when my son was a toddler, and continued all these yrs.

    Now I am thinking it /something similar would be great for Valentines Day too.

    I did pick up a few treats for Valentines, but got all on super discount, and then bonus shopping points to boot, so latterly spent pennies on the dollar for these treats. They’ll be divided up in valentines gift bags which are re used from yr to yr.

    and, I am thinking a weiner roast down at the park to check out the beavers and critters might be something nice to start doing each Valentines. we’ll see how that goes.

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    • I do love your Mother’s Day tradition! You’ve got some good ideas. Won’t it be cold on Valentine’s Day being mid February for an outdoor meal? I guess you are more tolerant of the cold than I am. 🙂

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  2. Gosh… do people really do all of that? As a football geek, I personally hate Super Bowl parties. It’s like all the people who know nothing about football come out of the woodwork – not that I have a problem with anyone wanting to watch football, but I think most people don’t really care about the game itself – it’s just an excuse to eat pizza and drink beer. But especially when it’s my team playing, there’s NO WAY I’m gonna miss a play because somebody wants to chit chat about the weather – so I watched the game from my yoga mat alternating between focused balancing poses and lifting weights just to try to handle all of the stress! I do try to prepare food ahead of time when there’s a big game, but it’s not because or any sort of festive thing… it’s because I don’t want to have to miss part of the game to go make something to eat! C’mon people, get your priorities straight!!! 🙂

    And Valentine’s Day… um… no. I don’t think I’ve celebrated that one since grade school. It just seems so contrived to me. And Presidents’ Day… really? I didn’t realize this had become a shopping holiday – I don’t think I’d even be conscious of it if not for the fact that there’s no mail or garbage service. Perhaps I’m simply living in an alternate universe?

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    • They sure do. I have to admit that while my boys were young I cooked up the food the day before so I could enjoy the game without having to leave to fix a meal. We usually had a houseful of friends to watch the game with us so having enough food to keep all happy meant I saw the whole game.

      Are you saying you watched the game by yourself? CatMan didn’t join you? Our football parties were with real fans so all were there to watch the game not chit chat. Of course the grand children are a bit young to understand so I do have to divide my attention between them and the game now. If the Steelers were playing I might have elected to stay home this year as a one year old wouldn’t understand why grandma preferred his TV to him. 🙂

      Nothing special for Valentine’s Day with CatMan? I do mail out cards to the grandchildren now because they don’t live near me but other than that I don’t care for the holiday. And President’s day, yep every store has their Presidents Day sales. The only one I saw this year was for Rite Aid, the biggest sales were on laundry detergent and candy. I’ll pass. But yes, from furniture stores to dollar stores all have special sales for Presidents Day.

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      • Yup… CatMan and I don’t watch the games together – it’s a long story. But we do call each other before and after to hash through it all. I honestly think it would make me a little crazy to watch the games with him because he likes to switch channels during the commercials, and I would go totally nuts worrying that I might miss something. Plus, if it’s not going well, he tends to wander off and do something else leaving the game on in the background. Me, I’m a “suffer through it ’til the bitter end” sort of a girl.

        And we don’t do Valentine’s Day either. We’re not really into symbolic stuff like that, and honestly, I’d much rather receive the occasional gift or gesture from him “just because” than to make him feel obligated to do something just because the calendar says so.

        Anyhow, I can totally understand how you wouldn’t want the grandkids to feel slighted if you were more interested in the game than in them. A lot of my friends were posting things on Facebook that said something like “the poor dogs don’t understand why I’m jumping and yelling!” And I’ve gotta admit, the cats do tend to make themselves pretty scarce when the game’s on! 🙂

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        • You two are a stitch. 🙂 I can’t stand having the channels switched during commercials either. What if they don’t switch back in time and I miss a play?!

          I have always wished I could get my family to have that mentality on gifts. I spot things through the year and would love to give the gift then, just because I was thinking of them, instead of storing the item until birthday or Christmas.

          My son’s are the ones that jump up and yell at games, I do my yelling from a seated position, but all the kids are pretty much used to it and will try and copy us by yelling at the television too. 🙂

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  3. I love a holiday to celebrate love! My grandsons love to get something in the mail just for them so I sent them cards, 2/$1 at the Dollar Tree. Each of my daughters and my mom also get cards because they really like them. They display them and it makes them feel loved. Well, so far that is $3, nowhere near the $512 average!
    This is the first year in many years I have had a significant other to share the day with and I’m not sure yet how we will do Valentimes Day. I have written him something and since he is a writer, I think he will probably do the same. And we will probably cook something a little special for dinner. None of that costs anything extra.
    I have a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the table in Valentine colors (the grocery store was handing carnations out to ladies yesterday and I added some pink azaleas from the bush beside the house). Other decorations are some vintage Valentines we found in my grandma’s attic, now on the fireplace mantle.
    So grand total here: $3.

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    • I didn’t buy cards for many years. The way I looked at it cards were a waste of money that was better put towards the gift. Then I had grandchildren who lived a distance from me and I wanted a way to let them know I was thinking about them, so I started to send them cards. I send out one a month to the two who I don’t see often. This month it was a Valentine’s card. I did purchase a little gift for $1 for each of them…a deck of playing cards. 🙂 When they were last here we played card games often. They love how I shuffle the deck of cards and tried to master it. When they left they asked if I would buy them their own deck of cards. So cards it was. 🙂

      I knew you were frugal and your decorations and how you and your beloved are sharing written words shows you can be frugal and not miss out on anything.

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  4. I don’t think I celebrate February. None of those holidays stir me in the least. For awhile, many years ago, I got something little for the grandchildren of my last husband. Now, for the most part I go through the month like any other. I don’t need to waste money on Valentines.

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    • I can see why you wouldn’t celebrate any of these days. I only celebrate for the little ones, but they know I love them so sending them something isn’t really necessary. I did get the children a card and a small gift spending $1 on each.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Like Marlene, I don’t celebrate any of these. Never did. Even when I was younger. I always married men that were not the least sentimental, which is ok with me. I hate the thought of spending that much money on one day’s worth of showing me you care. Hell, do the dishes and vacuum and I’m a happy camper. LOL

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    • You know most of the men I was with weren’t sentimental either. I did date one man who looked for any opportunity to give me a gift, which made me uncomfortable, but he also wrote me poetry which I absolutely adored. His was humorous poetry and his goal was to see just how hard he could make me laugh. Those were the days. Today, yes, do the household chores and I’ll be thrilled.

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  6. While my style of celebrating is less-is-more, I can’t fault anyone for going all out. As long as it’s their money and not mine, and they’re not dipping into money they need for living or saving, it’s theirs to do what they want with it. Meaning if they have a little extra money around and if they want to spend it on pizza and chips, I don’t have anything to say about that. Sort of the “To each their own.” idea.

    As far as Valentine’s Day, unless they’re buying jewelry or going out to eat in an expensive place like New York City, I don’t know how you one can spend over $500. But then again, you’re not talking to a big spender here on most things. We’re actually going away this weekend to a state park. It just happens to fall on Valentine’s Day. It’s actually an anniversary, Valentine’s Day, get away from it all trip. We feel like we need a change of scenery from the constant stress that seems to be around.

    And as far as President’s Day sales go, I don’t frequent them either. But I think there are certain things that are put on sale this time of year that people wait on. Something like linens, so if they need new sheets, they wait until then to buy them. That’s what I’ve heard, but I’m not a big shopper either.

    I love the ideas of looking into the history of things and handmade things. Whether they spend or not, I think that would be a great way for all to celebrate.

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    • The gifts I see given on Valentine’s day are usually those that end up in the trash a week later, such as cut flowers. Most people toss cards out so even that goes in the trash or becomes clutter when the receiver can’t bring their self to toss any card ever out. My point here was that we are bombarded with constant holidays that are no co-opted by consumerism. Taking a look at my calendar, January is New Year’s, February we have three consumer days, March will have two (St Patricks Day and Easter), May we have Mother’s Day and Memorial day, June is Father’s Day, July Independence day. Then we move into August and September with their back to school sales. October through December is one big advertising dream. This doesn’t even count family celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations.

      If we could cut back or reject shopping every time one of these special days comes along think of all the money we could save.

      To be fair that $500 figure was for the “dream” gifts but the article I referenced went on to say the average spent was $147 per person. Now, the best gift I can think of is one that allows us to spend time together, like your upcoming trip- have fun by the way. My opinion is we are here on earth to have a good time, to experience all life has to offer and to do that with the people we care about. So for me I’d rather have and experience gift or just a get together with friends or family than material gifts that add to the stuff I own, I’d rather have the memories of the experience.

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  7. We don’t really give a flying flip about football here, and aren’t drawn in by sales if we don’t need a thing. Super Bowl and President’s Day aren’t a problem for us.
    This year for Valentine’s Day I sprung for a box of Brownie Mix, a can of Berry Pie Filling Whipped Topping and Ice Cream. All very bad things, but, Special Occasion Bad doesn’t bother me nearly as much as Everyday Bad.

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    • I do enjoy football, but wouldn’t waste big bucks on food to watch the game. I don’t get the constant snacking in front of the television but that’s because I’m getting old and still remember when eating was at meal times only and television wasn’t on all day.

      Your Valentine’s treat sounds delicious and I’m all for little treats now and then.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Crazy. Valentine’s Day never really took off here as a commercial opportunity, like Mother’s Day. They do advertise and you can buy chocolates and flowers but few people really do, and it’s usually only the romantically involved (not all friends, children, relatives and so on). Cards aren’t sent much for any occasion, only if someone is far away.
    My daughter says her BF is cooking her dinner later on. I don’t think the other daughter is doing anything special with her husband, they are glad for a quiet Sunday in with the kids (the weather is grey and wet today!). My husband and I went out briefly at lunchtime and I was the only person wearing anything red (for fun!)… it was nice to see families get together and have fun on a Sunday, regardless of an artificial “holiday”.
    We don’t have anything like your number of “shopping day” opportunities. Right now there are springlike home decorations and a few Easter bunnies (chocolate) around, but our stores are more geared to seasons than holidays: summer goods will follow (outdoor toys, swimsuits…), then sales, then back-to-school in August, autumn and Advent/Christmas, that is our year, commercial yes but not as much as US/UK. We also still have religious holidays in the calendar, which have mostly been abolished in the UK, and stores (which are closed in the evenings and on Sundays anyway) are closed for Good Friday, Easter Monday (March this year), Ascension Thursday and Whit Monday (May this year), for example. Other more Catholic areas of the country or regions of Germany or Austria nearby may have more holidays than we do, but Europe is on the whole still on a Christian calendar like that.
    However, I fear this is another area which is danger of becoming Americanised, sadly.

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    • I so wish we could learn from your country and go back to treating holidays as less commercial. We need people and places to set the example for the rest of us so I hope your country doesn’t start to take after us.

      We indoctrinate the children as soon as they enter school. For Valentine’s day the kids must bring in Valentine’s cards for all the classmates. They make special cards for the kids with their favorite characters. If Valentine’s day is supposed to be about romantic love then having children give cards to their class makes not sense other than to teach them to buy and gift to more than their significant other. Of course, I don’t view it necessarily as a day to express feelings of romantic love and give something little to the grandchildren.

      This year for Valentine’s day my son and his family stopped out and since they know I love hot chocolate but don’t drink it because I’m trying to be healthier they made me a large cup of hot chocolate and brought it to me in a thermal cup. That was my gift. 🙂

      Our number of shopping days has gotten way out of hand. There are a few like St Patrick’s day in March that is more about going out to drink and getting drunk than it is about shopping but I mentioned it because it’s still a day we spend money. We do have green decorations in the stores and some go all out decorating their homes with green stuff for the day, others just wear green.

      Our stores are never closed. There are some that close for a few hours on say Christmas or Easter, and we have smaller shops that close after a certain hour each day but then there are the stores such as Walmart, large grocery and convenience stores and fast food restaurants that stay open 24 hours a day. The town I live in is unique for the area with most businesses closing by 9 pm.

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    • Lighting candles is good. We don’t have a day that is just about something as simple as lighting a candle, unless you are Jewish and follow their religious traditions.

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