Valentine's Day is right around the corner. It's the Superbowl for spouses. Believe it or not, there's actually a science to playing Cupid.
Three essential ground rules to playing Cupid's game:
When there's the expectation of a gift, the gift receiver experiences less joy. Well, it's actually worse than that. If the gift giver fails to meet expectations, it creates problems.
You'll find success with sentimental gifts.
Experiential gifts, such as a thoughtful night out, foster stronger relationships than materialistic purchases.
Those are the ground rules. However, gift-giving is more complex for the financial opposites who attract.
Dr. Scott Rick is an award-winning Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. Dr. Rick, who was also a previous podcast guest of ours, focuses on understanding the emotional causes and consequences of consumer financial decision-making.
Dr. Rick's new book, Tightwads and Spendthrifts: Navigating the Money Minefield in Real Relationships, focuses on his interest in how financial opposites interact in a marriage.
A tightwad is not slang for being cheap. They fall on the extreme side of frugality. If you're frugal, you love to save; if you're a tightwad, you also hate to spend.
He dedicates a chapter to explaining how financial opposites should approach gift-giving. I asked Dr. Rick to provide insight into how we can best play Cupid.
My wife knows I'm within arm's reach of being a Tightwad on Dr. Rick's financial spectrum. For me, or any tightwad, a sacrifice involves spending enough for her to know it created discomfort. This, of course, is in addition to choosing something sentimental and creating an experience we will never forget.
Dr. Rick states,
"If my partner is a tightwad, and they buy me something expensive, I suspect that was very painful for them. They put themselves in harm's way (psychologically speaking) for me. If that's not a signal of love and affection, I don't know what is." says Dr. Rick.
Conversely, those with spendthrift partners are accustomed to them spending money, and spending more on a gift could create frustration. They would appreciate a frugal gesture that showed thoughtfulness and financial restraint.
What's the lesson this Valentine's Day?
Be sentimental. Write a meaningful note. Tightwad spouses must give love, and spendthrift spouses should know how much you care by spending money.
If all else fails, studies show that it's easier to go right when you purchase exactly what they said they want.