14 Ways to Spend Less Money on Valentine's Day
If you're rolling your eyes at the fact that you have to loosen your wallet once again so soon after Christmas, you're not alone. Because while Valentine's Day is an excellent excuse to concentrate on reconnecting with our significant others, it's also a day that we've come to dread because of the anticipated cost of expressing such love.
This year, however, you don't have to be a slave to the dollar sign if you're willing to put in a bit of thoughtfulness, creativity and time. Check out these 14 ways to celebrate your better half without going broke — then add your own low-cost ideas in the comments below.
1. Skip the Restaurant — Prepare a Home-Cooked Meal
My husband once tried to take me to dinner on Valentine's Day without a reservation. That's all I'll say about the situation since I'm pretty sure you can figure out how it went down after that. To avoid being frustrated and annoyed on Two-Fourteen, we now skip dining out altogether and opt to make a homemade meal instead — but one decidedly more fancy than an ordinary night's dinner.
If you're not exactly a whiz in the kitchen, don't fret just yet. There are plenty of apps available to walk you through the cooking process. SideChef, in particular, is an ideal resource for step-by-step instructions on how to prepare wow-inducing meals like Bourbon-marinated flank steak, herb-roasted Cornish game hen, and lemon-baked cod fish.
2. Use Daily Deals for Discounts If You'd Like to Dine Out
If you're a gambler and want to roll the dice by dining out on Valentine's Day, at least hedge your bets by picking up a daily-deal discount, says Bakke.
"If you want to visit a restaurant, use the websites Groupon or LivingSocial to find 50% off vouchers to local eateries," he suggests.
But buyer beware: Some of the vouchers make have blackout dates that include holidays like Valentine's Day, so be sure to read the fine print before purchasing the discount.
3. Make a Handcrafted Valentine From a Favorite Memory
I'd much rather receive a handmade gift — even if it looks like it was made by the three-year-old trapped inside my husband's body — than an arbitrary gift that equates cost to affection. And there are innumerable ways you can make something from the heart.
"Print out a photo of your favorite memory together and glue some embellishments to an inexpensive frame, suggests a rep at Krazy Glue. "This cost-effective gift is made with love and shows how thoughtful you can be."
Alecsy Christensen, Miss Utah USA finalist and author of the blog Glitter Gatsby, offers another dynamic idea.
"Show your valentine how much you care by gifting something special anyone can make," she says. "My Valentine's Day gift idea would be '52 Things I Love About You' on a deck of cards. Write something you love about your loved one on a piece of paper, glue it to a card, do this for all 52 cards, and hole punch all the cards together and secure the cards with binder rings."
These are gifts that keep on giving for years to come, and they let your partner know that they're worth your time and effort.
4. Complete Unfinished Projects Around the House in the Name of Love
In lieu of a gift this year, get to work and earn your partner's affect instead of buying it. Revisit your "Honey Do" list to see what projects still need to be completed around the house — surely there's a thing or two that needs a little TLC. You can kill two birds with one stone by going this route, if your partner appreciates the man (or woman) hours you put in.
5. Plan a Romantic Movie Night in With Valentine's-Inspired Snacks
Movie nights are a staycation staple, but they're perfectly acceptable (even better, I think) on Valentine's Day. Let your partner pick the flicks — or share the title-choosing responsibility — and prepare a few easy-to-make snacks to enjoy during the screenings. Try this peanut butter and chocolate-drizzled popcorn recipe with only 190 calories per one cup serving, these cherry-marshmallow Rice Krispies treats (which also include M&Ms!), or candy shop-quality chocolate-covered Valentine's pretzel sticks.
6. Plan a Low-Cost "Experience" Date to Facilitate Interaction
Doing is much better than saying — which is why you two need to get out and about to show your affection instead of exchanging it verbally.
Zina Kumok, author of the blog Debt Free After Three, agrees.
"Experiences are always more valuable than things so instead of buying gifts for Valentine's Day, we try to do things together," she says. "Last year we went to an arcade together. We played lots of games together and it was so fun doing something silly for a couple hours. On the way back we stopped by a flea market and walked around. It should be more about celebrating your relationship than getting a gift."
Josh Aaron, author of the blog To Build My Own, feels similarly.
"Don't spend anything at all," he says. "Instead, give your girl an experience. Take her to watch the sunset, cook her a light but tasty dinner, use candles and romantic music, and dance with her a little bit. The key is to make her feel special. Expensive gifts help, but they aren't better than meaningful experiences that show her you care."
7. Get Creative and Shake Things Up in the Bedroom
One of the best parts of Valentine's Day is the facilitation of intimacy that's often put on the back burner the rest of the year. This year, kick your bedroom antics up a notch and get creative. I can't go into too much detail in this regard (family blog and all), but I'm sure if you put your mind to it you can put together a night to remember.
8. Hold Off on Buying Jewelry Until After Valentine's Day
Offers.com savings expert Amber Sager says "if you're planning to buy jewelry for your Valentine, hold off until after February 14. Right after Valentine's Day, the demand for jewelry goes way down, and retailers supply huge discounts to attract customers."
This is a tricky tactic, because what's the point of giving a gift after Valentine's Day, right? But if your partner is flexible and understanding and loves to save a few dollars just like you do, waiting to buy jewelry until the holiday has passed may result in significant savings.
I think this is something you two should discuss in advance, however — sure, it won't be a surprise, but it's much better than saying nothing and giving nothing on February 14; disappointment will abound — so you're both on the same page in terms of expectations and perhaps can plan an alternative activity in the meantime.
9. Compare Prices Before You Buy Your Valentine's Gifts
You compare prices on almost everything else you buy — or at least you should — so why wouldn't you do it when trying to find an ideal Valentine's gift?
"Just because you found one bouquet for $100 doesn't mean it costs that much everywhere," Sager points out. "Offers.com has a Valentine's Day Savings Center that allows you to compare the best deals and coupons for Valentine's Day, and we update it with the best offers daily."
10. Create a Coupon Book That Your Significant Other Can Redeem From You
This is another tried-and-true low-cost gift that puts more of an emphasis on doing rather than saying.
About an action-inspired coupon book, Sarah Edison of The Love Your Job Project says some of "the best Valentines Day gifts are the least expensive. The best I had was a homemade book of 'coupons' (things that my significant other would do for me), such as one free hour-long massage, no laundry duty for a week, a homemade dinner, car wash and vacuum, breakfast in bed, and other romantic gestures that don't really cost anything. This can be a great gift because it is creative and unique to your relationship."
11. Satisfy His or Her Valentine's Sweet Tooth With From-Scratch Baked Goods
Take note, gentlemen: If you ever have the pleasure of dating me in the future, you'll always win my heart with freshly baked cookies, cakes, pies, and pastries. Hope you like 'em pudgy.
Seriously though, if you're an aspiring baker, start with these decadent, easy-to-make Ultimate Deep Dish Brownies from Katie Moseman, writer at Recipe for Perfection, to make the holiday all the more delicious.
12. Try the $1 Anti-Commercialism Valentine's Challenge
Valentine's Day for $1? Seems unlikely, but if you take your cue from Angela Reed-Fox and her husband, both directors of a cycling center in the UK, you can do it — and have some fun while you're at it.
"For several years, my husband and I have taken the $1 challenge. This is mainly because he thinks V-Day is a day for businesses to make guilt money out of men, and partly because being original says 'I love you' more than picking up flowers from the garage on your way home," she says. "A couple of ideas we've done in the past is an 'I love you' box — an inexpensive wooden box filled with tiny little scrolls printed with 'I love you' reasons — some of them mainstream, some more bizarre. Or using sticky notes to plant 'I love you' messages everywhere. Seriously, everywhere! That sucker in the bottom of the hole punch took months to find — but having 'I love yous' popping up well after the day itself leaves you with a lovely, warm glow."
13. Spring for the Practical Household Gift That Was Already on Your List
Instead of buying a present that doesn't have a true function, decide together that this year's Valentine's gift will be something that you both want to make your lives more convenient or something that you need to replace an old, perhaps non-working household item.
"Don't waste your money on flowers that are perishable or a fancy box of chocolate that will probably be misinterpreted because of added pregnancy weight," advises Zaida Khaze, mother of two and inventor of the Wiggletot Diaper Changer. "Be economical, buy the gift you already intended to buy for the home that will help save you money."
14. Just Go With the Flow and Find the Extra in the Ordinary
This is by far the best solution to saving money on Valentine's Day that I've heard in a long time. It's cute, clever, and these two seem to embrace the irony of such a simple outing on a day that otherwise can be taken over the top.
"A few years back my girlfriend (now fiance) and I were shopping at Costco on Valentine's Day," recalls Brent C., founder of personal-finance site Vosa.com and all around awesome boyfriend. "After shopping we were talking about where to go for dinner. We mutually decided on getting hot dogs at Costco, which I think are $1.50. We sat there, talked and laughed while enjoying our $3 Valentine's dinner. This has now become a tradition that we do every year, although sometimes we do spring for the chicken fingers, which totally blows the $3 budget. We make it fun, and I often joke throughout the year and especially as Valentine's Day gets closer that I better call to reserve the 'best table by the tire section' before someone else does. This year we'll be in San Diego over Valentine's Day and we are already planning our Costco hot dog dinner date — and we're planning to get a $1 churro for desert!
"I think it's possible for anyone to find fun ways to share the sentiment without breaking the bank," he continues. "It's all about making it about the experience rather than the price of the dinner and wine."
Touché. Let's all take a page from Brent's playbook this year.
Do you have low- or no-cost Valentine's ideas to add? Let us know in the comments below.
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