Tips for a Frugal V-Day

Merry Valentine’s Day, everyone!  For those of you with significant others to love and adore, I hope you are able to spend the day with them and have a wonderful time.  For all the accusations that Valentine’s Day is a ‘Hallmark Holiday’, propagated and sustained by companies that are looking to cash in our affections, it’s still hard to resist the urge to demonstrate our love by raining gifts and attention on our beloved.

Unfortunately, doing so tends to start racking up the expense; even if you avoid the lure of diamonds, gold, and other babbles (which get expensive quickly, as I’m sure you can imagine), the costs of ‘cheap’ gifts like flowers and chocolates can still add up.  Particularly if you are still waiting to buy your gifts (in which case, what are you waiting for?), trying to get a traditional gift, no matter what price range you are looking, can get a bit pricey.

So, why not opt for a different, more frugal approach to the most romantic of holidays?  There’s plenty of ways to celebrate V-Day while not busting your wallet.  For some examples to get your brain working:

1) Cook a dinner : Do you want a romantic meal but don’t have reservations (or a desire for huge expenses dining out at an overcrowded restaurant)?  Why not make a meal at home?  Admittedly, it is likely that you won’t be able to cook something quite as fancy as you could get at a nice restaurant (particularly if, like me, your cooking skills are barely adequate to cook simple meals for yourself), but there are plenty of simple, easy to make recipes that could serve as the basis for a nice dinner for you and your beloved.  This method works particularly well if you are usually the eater, rather than the cooker.  If you want to make the meal even more special…

2) Enjoy a picnic together: A nice suggestion from Charissa on Generation X Finance, you can spread a blanket on the living room floor and have a nice meal together.  If you live in an area where the ground isn’t coated in a foot or so of snow, you could even consider an outdoor picnic (although, there is something surprisingly cute about having a picnic on the living room floor).  If you lack cooking skills, it could make a decidedly enjoyable way to enjoy a meal together.

3) Go for an old-fashioned date: You can go out on the town without spending a fortune; teenagers (who aren’t known for their vast reserve funds) go out all the time, and not all of them bug their parents for the money.  Consider an inexpensive dining spot (or again, cook your own meal) and see a movie or go out for a few drinks.  (Not too many drinks; it is a work day tomorrow, after all.)  You can have a fun time together without spending a fortune to do so.  Of course, if you want an even less expensive celebration…

4) Watch a favorite movie (or two) together at home: It IS possible to have a good night together and enjoy each others’ company without spending any money at all.  Chances are, you have at least a few movies you both enjoy on DVD (or perhaps even video tape) that you haven’t watched in a while and would enjoying seeing together.  In the spirit of the season, you might want to stick with romantic movies, but if you are like Sondra and me, a comedy or anime (or a marathon of The Big Bang Theory) might be more appropriate; as long as it’s something you and your loved one both enjoy, it could make a fun night together.

5) Wait until the holiday is over…: Less a suggestion of how to spend less today, and more an approach on how to save money on your Valentine’s gifts in general.  Come tomorrow, all those cards, candy, and most other Valentine’s Day paraphernalia will likely go on sale, and you can easily get them at 20%, 30%, even 50% (or more) off and enjoy a Valentine’s Day with all the fixings, provided you are willing to wait a while.  (NOTE: You want to make sure that your significant other is on board with the plan to wait; there are few things that make a more troubled Valentine’s than a significant other who feels that you are trying to get out of celebrating and buying gifts, rather than simply waiting.)

6) …Or just don’t celebrate: If you want a truly frugal V-Day, the simplest way is to simply not do anything out of the ordinary.  Assuming that you have a strong, healthy, active relationship, you should be able to treat today as just a normal Monday (albeit, one where you are likely to see a lot of pink decorations at your office or any stores you visit) and go on your normal dates and enjoy each other as you normally do without making a major deal out of today.  (NOTE: All the same precautions seen above apply double; deciding not to celebrate should be a joint decision, since it would look like you are jilting your romantic partner if you do so unilaterally.  Maybe you want to use one of the frugal suggestions above this year, and bring up the idea of not celebrating the holiday for next year.)

There you are; several ideas for how to have a frugal, fun, and generally enjoyable Valentine’s Day.  I hope you and your significant other have a great day today; as I am living apart from my beloved Sondra as I am attending graduate school, I’m going to be spending the day missing her (and probably spending much of my time chatting with her via cell phone).  If you are lucky enough to have someone special in life and to be able to spend today with them, it doesn’t really matter how you spend it, as long as you can spend it together.

Happy (and Frugal) V-Day, Everyone!

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