“Guys, Valentine’s Day is not that complicated — give, and you shall receive.”

The now-famous words from Adriana Lima in Teleflora’s Super Bowl Commercial had guys across America adjusting their pants after her getting-dolled-up routine.

CEOs across America had to adjust their pants, too, but for a completely different reason: They could already feel their wallets getting fatter as men absorbed the not-so-subliminal message.

Do you even know what country Saint Valentine was from? Or that there were many with that same name? Probably not. I didn’t either. But thanks to American commercialization, you probably know you’re expected to spend money in honor of Mr. Valentine.

Let’s break down exactly what is going on and some ways to beat it…

Sorry, ladies, you can enjoy, but this rare, one-off post is primarily for the guys!

The Price of Love

So let’s do the traditional, old fashioned Valentine Day math; I’ll give cheapskates the benefit of the doubt and round down for conservative prices.

  • Dozen Roses: $30 – $50 (unless you managed to buy early and hide them in the fridge).
  • Gift: $30 for the cliche teddy bear or box of chocolates. Plan on more if you buy real chocolate rather than the waxy, brown-colored stuff that Hershey’s claims to be chocolate.
  • Dinner: $60 + tip + wine, assuming you go someplace that accepts real reservations so that you don’t wait in the queue for over an hour.
  • Entertainment: $40+ unless you’ve got something more interesting up your sleeve, this usually involves dessert, a comedy club, dancing, or drinks somewhere.

The total cost of a random, commercially-propagated Tuesday night out at home? Certainly no less than $150, most certainly more.

Cute bungalows in Pai, Thailand

For Everyone Who Thinks They Can’t Afford to Travel

Now, let’s look at the Thailand math. For that same $150 you can:

Sleep for 15 nights in a bungalow on Koh Lanta where you can see the Andaman Sea from your porch, or do 6 scuba dives, or drink 75 Chang beers with beautiful women from all over the world, or eat 150 plates of delicious pad thai — the list goes on.

The Rock-Star Date Night in Thailand

On a date night in Thailand, for $150 you and your partner can:

  • Sleep in a romantic, island bungalow: $10
  • Wake up and spend the day on a dive boat, doing two dives each: $100
  • Or rent a motorcycle to explore the island for the day: $7
  • Or go snorkeling at sunset: $10
  • Eat in a restaurant with a view: $4
  • Dance until sunrise at a beach party: $20 (for two Thai buckets)
  • Go for a moonlight swim under the island stars: free.

You get the point.

In the end, what do you think your love will remember more: the pasta dinner at a packed restaurant full of other bored couples, or the sharks the two of you swam with?

Realistic Valentine’s Date Options

So not everyone is lucky enough to have Thailand as an option. But unlike what the retail world would like for you to believe, there are alternatives for a memorable Valentine’s Day date rather than propagating a ridiculous, commercially-driven holiday!

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not anti-date, and I certainly do believe that you should give to the one that you love. What about:

  • Go Hiking:¬†Exercise produces endorphins, the same opiate-like stuff produced by the pituitary gland during an orgasm. Let’s see roses match that.
  • Get Adrenaline: Adrenaline, is well, adrenaline, and it’s guaranteed to turn your date on more than that teddy bear, no matter how cuddly the Chinese sweat shop made it look. The cold weather in February might limit outdoor options, but what about indoor rock climbing, an indoor shooting range, trying a martial arts class, trying horseback riding, learning Indian tantra, attending a trial tango class, throwing up together in a Bikram yoga class, etc. The key is to do something for the first time (novel experiences are better remembered) that gets the blood and adrenaline flowing (which builds bonds).
  • Do Something New: Shared knowledge and new experiences bind people together long after those roses are thrown out. Share a photo book, learn a magic trick, take some pictures together, try juggling, learn a little of a new language, write a poem for her, learn to throw a pizza crust in the air, whatever — get out there and expand your repertoire!
  • Cook Dinner Together: Working on a dinner project together is fun, cheaper, healthier, and much more interactive than shouting across a table in a restaurant packed to capacity. Try to cook something new and strange together. Forget the usual pasta, that’s too easy. Try rolling sushi maki together — your first effort is likely to end in utter failure, but that’s part of the fun.
  • Make Art: Spend that gift money on some basic art supplies. You can both paint the same canvas; doing so requires interaction, rather than zoning out at a play or movie like the other zombies. Try erotic painting in the bedroom — then see what happens when she looks at the artwork days later.

Use your imagination, and follow the age-old mantra: Never do what all the other brainwashed smucks are doing.

If your partner is attracted to shiny things in the first place, you’re screwed regardless of how much fine dining, chocolate, and roses you send her way. Unless you are an heir to your uncle’s fortune, there will always be another guy out there with a faster car, nicer clothes, and bigger…investments.

The conundrum of sexy Adriana’s pay-for-play message is that buying love is a fleeting fix. Sure, you can go above and beyond for this Valentine’s Day, and it may make your date squeal with delight, but next year you’ll have an even deeper hole to dig — assuming that she didn’t upgrade for that guy with a newer Tesla than yours.

Instead, consider giving your girl something that many rich douchebags tend to forget: love, active listening, attention, new experiences, quality time, affection, and good memories.

Greg Rodgers
Greg Rodgers

Greg is a full-time vagabonding writer and adventurer who escaped the corporate world. Now he helps others begin a life of travel.