10 Budget-Friendly Ways to Get it Right This Valentine's Day and Beyond

By Jennifer Jolly on 4 February 2010 (Updated 10 February 2011) 16 comments

If you’re about to make a mad dash to order some flowers, grab a box of heart-shaped chocolate, pick through the last of the greeting cards at the local supermarket, or buy the one you love a (gasp) sweater, let me just stop you right now. Chances are, you’re doing this whole “show your love” thing all wrong.

According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, the average person will spend $103 for Valentines this year. That’s a lot of money, especially if you have yet to make a dent paying off the bills you ran up over the holidays. The survey also shows that more people than ever plan to give someone “a practical gift like a sweater.” Since all the December shopping surveys showed that most people hate getting sweaters, we need to re-think “practical” gift giving as well.

Here’s what we all seem to agree that we do like: something personal that shows you actually thought about us. So how do we show our love without forking over fistfuls of cash for flowers that last about as long as our first grade-school crush? I’ve put together a list of unique, inexpensive gifts, that don’t scream, “I am a total procrastinating cheapskate.”

1. Name your own price for flowers

Pricefalls uses a ‘Dutch Auction’ or descending pricing model, where prices drop as the auction continues. That means you can set a price for what you’re willing to pay and “win” fresh flowers delivered to your sweetheart for an average of 10-20% less than everyone else is paying. The site also shows you how much the shipping will cost right on the main page. Procrastinators take note: you can make last minute orders right up till February 13th — even for jewelry and perfume.

Cost: A dozen roses are starting at about $40 on the site right now, but a friend of mine just bid $23 and won it!

2. Create your own chocolate

With chocri, you can create your own chocolate bar by choosing a base chocolate (dark, milk, or white) — and your favorites from more than 100 toppings — which allows for more than 10 billion possibilities. In addition, you can give your creation a personalized name, like “Jennifer’s Sweet Kiss” for your Valentine. This German-based company hand-makes each bar with fair trade, organic chocolate, and 1% of each purchase is donated to charity.

Cost: Price starts at $8.

3. Create a personalized romance novel

Yournovel is a service that creates personalized romance novels that can be turned into eBooks or custom printed and professionally bound books. (You can even put your own photograph on the cover.) You fill in a 26 question survey, choose from one of their 30 titles, and then decide on a "wild" or "mild" overall theme.

Cost: $20 for an eBook that is sent within a few hours. Deadline for printed books is 2/5.

4. Personalized love journals

What I Love About You (Broadway Books) and The Book Of Us (Hyperion Press) are fill-in journals created by the Marshalls who have been married since 1984 (!) to offer a fresh way for couples to say "I love you." This fill-in-the-blank book prompts you to say what is in your heart, but may not always be at the tip of your tongue. My favorite prompt: “If we'd first met in a comic strip, the thought bubble over my head would have said...” Both journals are available wherever books are sold (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.).

Cost: $15 (per book)

5. Romantic treasure hunt

My mom used to hide our Valentine treat and have us go on a treasure hunt to find it. I absolutely loved finding my little box of heart chocolates hidden under the stack of towels in the linen closet after an hour-long search. But, if you don’t want to do it yourself, a company called Masters of the Hunt has it all ready to go for you. All you do is go to their website, buy the kit, and download it right then and there. It gives you a series of customizable clues to lead you to your final “treasure” which can be a naked game of Twister or even a marriage proposal (or both).

Cost: $17

6. Valentine goody box

Baking for Good is an online bakery that gives 15% of every purchase back to a charity of your choice. From decadent brownies and divine blondies, to crispy marshmallow squares dressed in brown butter and toffee, giving back has never tasted so good. Every purchase is baked fresh to order, wrapped in eco-friendly packaging, and promptly shipped right to you.

Cost: Large Valentine Box $45

7. Sweet nothings that mean more than anything

Charles J. Orlando, the author of The Problem with Women...is Men says the best gift he ever gave was a jar of little love notes to his wife. “One Valentine’s Day, I went to a crafts store and bought an unusual jar — a bit squatty, with a unique lid — and I hand-painted it. I then wrote my thoughts — by hand, on little slips of paper: 1,000 reasons why I love her. That jar sits on our mantle, and she regards it as the best gift she has ever received.” My own daughter did this for me (with the help of a friend) when she was four and I agree — this is the best present I’ve ever gotten.

Cost: $10 for the jar

8. Clean the bathroom

As Neil Ellington at CESI Debt Solutions says, “Sometimes the best gifts don’t come in a box.” I would LOVE it if my partner did one of those dreaded tasks that are constantly hanging over my head, like detailing my car or organizing the basement clutter. Is there something you can do for your spouse of loved one to show you care?

Cost: A little bit of elbow grease and a whole lot of love

9. Personalized music video

If you haven’t discovered Animoto by now, it’s high time you did. Just upload your photos and videos, add text, pick a song and in less than a minute, this online service creates a video with the visual energy of a music video and the emotional impact of a movie trailer.You can email the video to your loved one and/or post it to a blog, YouTube, Twitter, social networks or mobile devices.

Cost: 30-second videos are free, full-length videos are $3

10. Re-create your first date

This is a great one for men and women alike. Plot out a re-do of your first date or something close to it. It doesn’t matter if your first date was last month or 30 years ago. Wear the same clothes (or close to it), do your hair the same way. Go back to the same restaurant or park (whatever you did that first time). If you live somewhere totally different now, recreate the scene at home. Do it as authentically as possible. Make it a surprise.

Cost: Depends on that first date!

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Guest's picture

Some of these ideas are really cute. Fortunately for my wife, Valentine's Day comes everytime we have friends over. That's when she makes me clean the bathroom. :)

This is a good time to reflect on the impact that money has on relationships. One of our community members shared an amazing story about how she has been lying to her husband about their debt for years. Worth a read:

http://www.lifetuner.org/topics/19-credit-cards/discussions/380-i_have_b...

Guest's picture

The site you mentioned, chocri, actually just launched in the United States as "Chocomize"...prices are cheaper and I am sure shipping is too. I have ordered from them and actually am doing a giveaway on my blog for a $25 gift certificate!

Guest's picture
Pam

You have suggested some really thoughtful gift ideas. I really like the treasure hunt idea as well as the personalized music video. You've motivated me to be more creative this Valentine's Day. Thanks!

Guest's picture

These are great ideas - to customize your Valentine's gift. Just reading about how to customize your own chocolate bar makes me hungry! One year, I made my husband (then boyfriend) a giant heart shaped chocolate chip cookie. He loved it! This was before Mrs. Field's starting making them.

Guest's picture

I think something personalized of creative always comes across that you care and have tried more.

Guest's picture

It simple. Do a homemade gift kind of thing, whether it is a poem or a love note or whatever. Combine it with a "coupon", "offer" or whatever you want to call it, for a month of dishes, or cooking, or vacuuming, etc.

With me, it goes over like gangbusters

Guest's picture
Lori

I love the music video idea! Thanks!!

Guest's picture
Derek

I'm doing a homemade gift, a lamp, and doing dinner at home. The personalized romance novel seems like a "novel" idea, har har har. I might give it shot seems fun and unique.

Guest's picture
Lindsey

As far as I know, Chocomize was the first company to offer custom chocolate bars and they are not connected to choci. It's too late to order for Valentines Day with choci, but on Chocomize's homepage it says that you can place orders until the 10th for V day. I'm getting some for my bf :-]

Guest's picture
Finance

Good tips! I know chocolates can melt one's heart but I will be honest: be yourself! Be sweet! Be kind! Be who you are! :-)

Guest's picture
simon

Thanks for the tips. I got a great Valentine's Day hotel package at Valentinesdayhoteldeals.com

Guest's picture
Tracy

Love the jar idea. I think I'll do this for each of my 3 children and my husband. Thanks for a great idea

Andrea Karim's picture

I could not agree more on the bathroom cleaning.

Guest's picture
Grissom

Very good idea. Every year I hunted for a good idea for Valentine's Day gift. Now, I almost already tried out every kind of great idea I can grab.
I should make a list of all kinds of valentine gifts ideas! In this post, I got some.

Thanks.

Guest's picture

i love that you have "clean the bathroom." it's so true...and i'd second that, with clean ANYTHING!

Guest's picture
Jane

Great list! I love the idea to recreate a first date--that's really sweet. I have to disagree about the personalized romance novel though...coincidentally I just wrote up a little graphic about V-day gifts and personalized romance novels ended up on the mood-killing end of the spectrum.
http://www.brassmagazine.com/blog/valentines-day-cost-benefit-analysis-r...