Beat the Clock with Frugal and Simple Valentine's Day Ideas

by Chris Birk on 10 February 2011 3 comments
Photo: Rosa y Dani

That sweet, gentle ticking isn't the beating of your loved one's heart.

It's the clock, cruelly counting down the minutes remaining until another paycheck-draining Valentine's Day (ah, romance).

OK, so it isn't quite that bleak, but the average consumer is projected to spend $116 this year on V-Day gifts, up 11% from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. All told, Americans will shell out more than $15 billion on Valentine's Day items. But the reality is that couples don't have to empty their pockets in order to have a memorable, romantic day. (See also: Weird Things You Didn't Know About Valentine's Day)

There are myriad inexpensive alternatives that are likely to generate the same kind of spark and memories as that heart-shaped bling or a multi-course meal at a heralded restaurant. Here are just a few ways you can have an unforgettable Valentine’s Day without breaking your budget:

Disregard the Calendar

Since Valentine’s Day is on a Monday this year, it may be inconvenient to celebrate at the beginning of the work week. Likewise, most couples will probably make plans for the preceding weekend. Ask your significant other if it’s OK to make plans for the following weekend. Also, after February 14 the corny gifts — chocolate, roses, teddy bears — hit the sales shelves.

Remember: The Little Things Count

Just because Hallmark and Zales advertise extravagant gifts doesn’t mean you need to go big or go home. Pepper the romance throughout the day by writing notes and strategically locating them in your lover’s pocket, car, purse, or lunch. Gifts can be cheap, especially when they reference inside jokes or show what you know. Mix CDs, scrapbooks, and photo collages are easy, thoughtful alternatives. For the less crafty and more traditional types, send a love letter via snail mail. 

Use Coupons

Seriously. No one needs to know. Use an online portal like Rate It All to hunt down great deals on, um, personal apparel.

Show Off Your Culinary Skills

Breakfast in bed is always a great choice. Try prepping a nice lunch that you can deliver to your partner’s workplace on your lunch hour. Then, wow him or her with a stellar dinner. Gourmet food at home is guaranteed to be cheaper than going to a restaurant and comes without the hustle and bustle. Turn on some romantic tunes, dim the lights, and encourage nice attire to make it special.

Don't Forget Technology

It doesn’t take tons of creativity to start a blog, and it’s free. From now until February 14, post one or two sentences each day. Nothing needs to be poetry, but keep it genuine. Try by simply listing a little thing you adore each day. Come Valentine’s Day, you’ll have a list of sweet things to present to your lover. If you’re willing to spend some cash, look for a digital picture frame. You can use a memory disk to load memorable photos.

No matter how appealing and convenient those commercials portray expensive gifts, put forth a little energy to save some scratch and deliver a romantic, meaningful gift.

Cliché it may be, but it's true nonetheless: So often, it is the thought that counts. Mimicking an advertisement doesn’t require much thought, just more money.

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Guest's picture

Great Valentine ideas! My gf is going to appreciate them :)

Guest's picture
Christie

Our favorite frugal Valentine's tradition: heart-shaped homemade pizza and movie night at home for the family. Even the kids love it! Our other favorite frugal celebration is a candlelight at-home dinner with filet mignon, twice baked potatoes, some great dessert, and the kids eating up in the library upstairs. Works for all of us!

Chris Birk's picture

OK, heart-shaped homemade pizza sounds awesome. I'm sold.