Americans spent $18.6 billion
to show their love last Valentine's Day. In fact, Feb. 14 is second only to
Christmas in terms of holiday retail spending. On average, consumers dole out
$131 to shower their special someone with flowers, cards, jewelry and other
tokens of affection. No room in this year's budget for a grand display of love?
Do not fret. Even if you cannot afford to dazzle with diamonds, you can romance
your partner without breaking the bank.
Fixing your loved one a meal
is even more special if you are not usually the chef in the relationship.
Dinner need not be anything fancy or difficult to fix. Get creative. Plan a
candlelight picnic (indoors or out) with the usual picnic fare; serve breakfast
in bed; fix fondues of cheeses and chocolate; or skip the meal and prepare a
decadent dessert. If you really want to dine out, look for coupons on online
sites like Groupon.com, or
go out for a less expensive breakfast or lunch.
The Tradition: Weekend Getaway
Budget-Friendly Alternative: A Day Trip
You do not have to travel far
or stay overnight at a hotel in order to enjoy quality time as a couple. Check
out your local art museum, visit the zoo, or go for a hike at a nearby state
park. Pretend you are tourists and visit your city's popular attractions. Pack
a picnic lunch to enjoy or stop at a coffee shop. Take pictures so you can
later create a photo album of your special day together.
The Tradition: Greeting Card
Budget-Friendly Alternative: Do-It-Yourself Love Notes
You can easily dole out $5 or
more for a pre-made, commercialized card that does not even come close to
conveying how you feel. Instead, write a love letter that highlights all that
you adore about your significant other. Or capture your favorite memories as a
couple by creating a photo card or collage using an online photo site. Or leave
him or her little notes in unexpected places like the car, under a pillow, in a
dresser drawer and on the bathroom mirror.
The Tradition: A Dozen Roses
Budget-Friendly Alternative: A Mixed Bouquet or Live
Flower sales skyrocket for
Valentine's Day, but with some planning you can come out ahead. Look for
florist coupons on online sites like LivingSocial.com (just make sure the coupon is valid for use on Feb.
14). Or skip the florist and head to a grocery or warehouse store. You will
find beautiful bouquets for a fraction of what traditional florists charge.
Another idea: Instead of cut flowers, choose a live flowering plant that will
serve as an everyday reminder of your growing love.
The Tradition: Night Out at the Movies
Budget-Friendly Alternative: Watch Romantic Flicks at
Date night at a movie theater
can easily set you back $50 to $75 by the time you pay for tickets, popcorn,
candy, drinks, and for some couples, parking and babysitting. Cuddling on your
loveseat at home with a classic romance film can be more romantic than sitting
in a theater with strangers, and it is much less expensive. Grab a bottle of
wine, pour as much butter on the popcorn as you wish, light some candles, grab
the remote and get cozy.
The Tradition: Jewelry, Stuffed Animals, Chocolates
Budget-Friendly Alternative: Do-It-Yourself Tokens of
Everyone has some sort of
talent. Maybe you can knit your sweetheart a scarf or bake his or her favorite
cake. Create a coupon booklet good for massages, favorite meals, hiking at a
local park or a car cleaning. Mixed tapes may be a thing of the past, but you
can still create a playlist for your honey or a photo collage of your favorite
memories as a couple.
Remember that Valentine's Day
should be about spending time -- not money -- with the one you love. Make the
day truly special by putting thought and effort into creating unforgettable
Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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