The Thoughtful Way to do Valentine’s Day

The Thoughtful Way to do Valentine’s Day

In December we released a survey about what people looked forward to the most about the holidays. The survey results showed that people were most interested in spending time with family and that giving or receiving gifts was a fairly low priority. Consequently, we wondered this sentiment carried over to gift-giving on Valentine’s Day. While we didn’t conduct a national survey, as we did for the winter holidays, we did ask people to share their stories with us about the best, worst, and oddest gives they’ve received for Valentine’s Day. With Valentine’s Day just days away, we thought our readers might benefit from the successful, failed, and “what the?” attempts of others.

Originally we asked our contributors to only tell us about gifts that had been purchased – we are a consumer organization after all. Despite this request, most of the gifts people said they loved were very thoughtful or not store-bought. (Hint, hint!)

The “I remembered that one thing you said and found something to commemorate it” Gift (contributed by a young professional in New York, NY)

When my boyfriend and I first started dating I mentioned one time that I’m pretty sure I’ll wind up being a long-haired old lady in a tie-dyed t-shirt and Birkenstocks. On the first Valentine’s Day we were a couple, he drove two hours to surprise me with the gift of an orange and white tie-dyed t-shirt from the art school around the corner from his office. When presenting me with it, he said he was looking forward to seeing me wear it when I’m 70. He’s revoltingly good at mushy stuff.

The “Something we can do together” Gift (contributed by a Tacoma, WA native)

One amazing gift I received for Valentine’s Day was a journal designed for couples. It had questions for couples to answer about the early days of their relationship, goals, etc. My boyfriend gave it to me half filled out, answering questions about the early days in our relationship – what he thought of me when he met me, the moment he knew he was serious about me, what he is looking forward to most for our future. It wasn’t very expensive, but taking the time to get it and answer some questions and leave space for me to contribute as well meant a lot to me. We still take time to read it now and then. It’s definitely the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received.

The “Ultimate Surprise!” Gift (contributed by a proud South Carolina mother of two)

Three years ago I bought a pregnancy test on Valentine’s Day and gave my husband the best gift he could have asked for. After 11 months of trying, my husband and I were finally able to start planning for our newest edition – something you can’t buy in a store!

The “Warm and Fuzzy” Gift (contributed by a U.S.-transplant from Russia)


Note: We advise only proceeding with this kind of gift if you know it’s something the recipient absolutely wants and can commit to take care of. You should probably be committed to this person as well, because joint-custody of pets can get pretty complicated.

The “Classy-fied” Gift (contributed by a Washington, D.C. native)

One of my favorite presents my dad would give to my mother was to write her a love note and post it in the Washington Post classified section.

The “Treat Yourself” Gift (contributed by a Minnesota gas)

I buy myself a piece of Tiffany’s jewelry for on Valentine’s Day. It’s the best gift!

While that last option may be a bit pricey for some of our readers, treating yourself, single or no, is a good way to brighten your spirits and be reminded that you don’t need someone else to recognize your worth. You can just do it yourself!

The “I see where you were going, but apparently you didn’t” Gift (contributed by a “Virginia is for Lovers” man)

One of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve received for Valentine’s Day was also one of the oddest. My girlfriend spent $200 (in-part for charity) to have “cavete mulierem in equo” (a Latin phrase meaning ” beware of the woman on a horse”) branded letter-by-letter on an oak-barrel topped bar stool at the restaurant where we were celebrating Valentine’s Day. Bizarrely enough, that was our last date – she sent me a “Dear John” email. I eventually went back to that bar to sit on the relic of my relationship, but it was months before it finally got made. I got to see it and sit in it once and then the bar went out of business.

There are a few lessons here…

The “Thanks, but no thanks” Gift (contributed by a Vegas gal)

Once, someone bought me an entire display of Valentine’s Day candy and left it on my desk in homeroom in 9th grade as a secret admirer! My teacher pulled me aside and asked if I was ok after I found out who it was from. Unfortunately, it was some one I had no interest in who also tended toward unhealthy stalker behavior. I was mortified! She pulled the other student aside and handled it, but I was so scared to go to homeroom for the rest of the year for fear that there would be something else on my desk for me.

This may be a difficult concept in high school, but the line between thoughtful and creepy isn’t that thin. If you’re not sure how your gift recipient feels about you – err on the side of caution. Grand gestures may not always be welcomed.

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Kyle Burgess is the co-founder of two social enterprises and has worked in strategy, communications, and program management for a decade. Kyle received her Master’s degree in International Relations & Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and her Bachelor's degree in Political Science from American University.


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