Nine Tactics for a Frugal Valentine’s Day

Many of you out there are thinking about plans for Valentine’s Day – it’s just nine days away, after all. Many people spend hundreds of dollars on this day to make it very special, but in truth, what makes it special is the interactions themselves, not the things you bought. Here are nine tactics to make Valentine’s Day special without tearing your wallet to shreds.

Take time off. If you both have some vacation time built up, put in for a day off and spend it together. Do some simple and purely fun things that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to do. Cuddle together for a big chunk of the day and just enjoy each other instead of stressing out at work.

Make an elegant homecooked meal instead of hitting the town. Put in the time and make a wonderful meal at home. Put out a nice tablecloth, use a few candles, and make it a romantic evening at home instead of fighting the Valentine’s Day crowds out and about.

If you’re going out, do something unexpected. Lots of places will be crowded on that night, so do something unusual if you’re going out on the town. Don’t go to the high-dollar place – instead, ask around for something quiet and secluded and undiscovered. Not only will the meal be cheaper, it will also be more memorable and distinctive.

Do something low-stress. My wife and I used to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a trip to the bookstore together. We’d find some quiet chairs in the back and read through books together and talk quietly. We’d also go to a very low-key coffee shop and sip coffee together. These were very inexpensive things to do (provided we didn’t buy things at the bookstore), yet they were both enjoyable and fulfilling to us.

Don’t buy flowers without thought. Obviously, if your significant other would be devastated without flowers, pick some up, but don’t make it a requirement. I used to buy a dozen roses for my wife, but one year I came home with just two long stemmed red roses. Last year, I got a red rose, a pink one, and a white one. Another year, I got a flower selection that didn’t involve roses at all. In each case, I picked flowers with meaning instead of just pulling out the wallet and buying the dozen red ones.

Give a thoughtful gift. It’s easy to just buy jewelry or chocolates for Valentine’s Day, but it means more (and is less expensive) if you find a gift that truly has the recipient in mind. My wife is a science fiction fan, so one year in lieu of expensive gifts, I gave her a copy of Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love with a little inscription. Guess which gift she still remembers, many years later? It’s not the chocolate.

Write a note expressing how you feel to go with that gift. A little sentimental note means a lot more than some extravagance. Spend some time and try to express – in your own handwriting – how you actually feel about your partner and why that person is so important to you. No matter the gift, that note will be the part that is meaningful.

Look for free concerts. Many communities have free Valentine’s Day concerts by municipal groups that don’t get widely publicized. Take a look at your community calendar and see what’s out there to do for free on that day.

Remember that your love is about the two of you, not about other things – and enjoy it. Hold each other close and enjoy each other, not things and events. Share a few passionate moments – that will mean far more than anything else you can do on this day. Best of all, it’s free!

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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