One of the biggest holidays for couples is just around the corner. That’s right, Valentine’s Day will arrive (as it always does) on February 14th — inevitably bringing with it a scourge of overspending across this great land. With things like pricey dinners, expensive jewelry, and “you want how much for that plant?!” bouquets of flowers being commonplace on this holiday, it’s easy to understand why so many people feel they need to empty their wallets each year.
However, this year is the year to buck the trend and celebrate in a fiscally responsible and dare I say frugal manner. From gifts and dinner to date details, here are a few ways you and your partner can save money this Valentines’ Day.
Skip the gifts or get creative
As a married couple, my wife and I have also found it somewhat peculiar that, under the guise of giving gifts to each other, we’re really just spending our shared money buying things we may not need. That’s why we’ve done things a bit different when it comes to giving gifts. At Christmas time, this usually means just buying a single present together, but for Valentine’s Day, we typically make the date itself the gift. This way, we can go out and have a nice time without adding the cost of gifts to the total.
If the whole “no gifts” thing still isn’t for you, there is also the option of making gifts or finding some heartfelt surprises that don’t cost a fortune. This may be a bit easier if you’re crafty and can literally make something for your significant other, but there are also options for the less talented among us. For example, being the nerds we are, I know that finding some cute Marvel-themed accessories from sites like Etsy is sure to make my wife just about as giddy as if I given her a diamond bracelet (although she might contradict me on that point). Some other fun sites I’ve come across include Leaf Cutter Designs, which send out adorable miniature packages and letters. Finally, while it may cost a bit more, I also recommend the site Downwrite where you can commission a customized song from a number of artists. I actually got Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids and The New Amsterdams to record a song about my wife for our one year anniversary and it remains one of my favorite things ever.
Make dinner together
Valentine’s dinners can not only be expensive but, to be honest, they can also be kind of cheesy (and not in the ooey gooey delicious way). Plus, at this point, anywhere worth going is likely booked up. No worries — it’s probably better to stay in a make a meal at home instead.
Now, I’m not a very skilled cook. In fact, my specialties are limited to hot sandwiches and, naturally, mac and cheese. However, when my wife and I are in the kitchen together, there’s some real magic that happens. Even before we get cooking, I love the process of going shopping for ingredients and building our menu together. As a result, I’ve always found this to be a much more enjoyable activity than dressing up and heading to a packed restaurant. Plus, if you really enjoy the experience of cooking together, you might also consider joining services like Blue Apron or Plated to further replace your meals out.
Dessert and a movie
Once dinner is done, what Valentine’s Day celebration would be complete without dessert? As you’d expect, this imperative course could also be created at home or perhaps purchased ahead of time, but this is when my wife and I actually prefer to go out. Moreover, we’ve recently found a great spot to have a dessert and continue our date.
Just a few months ago, an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema opened up around the corner from us. If you’re unfamiliar, Alamo allows you to order food and drinks to have delivered to your seat during your movie (while also enforcing a strict no talking/no texting policy I truly appreciate). While the food selections are fairly reasonably priced considering it is a movie theatre, we’ve taken to just ordering dessert there instead. Truth be told, this is actually our plan this year as we already have reserved seats to see Black Panther on Thursday night. Speaking of which…
Delay your date to another, less busy night
As you’ll note, our movie date night is not on Valentine’s Day this year but on the day after. That’s partially because going out for the holiday itself can be a bit of a nightmare. In addition to many of the top dining and entertainment locations being busy as all get out, they might also limit their offerings or hike their prices via package “deals” for the occasion. So why not skip all that and go out on a night when you can actually enjoy yourself?
Despite what any Hallmark card might tell you, there’s really no rule that says you must celebrate your love on February 14th. Besides, making plans the for the weekend or week after can really open up your options. Even better, considering some of the crappy weather that February brings to much of the country, why not push off your plans to the spring? That way you can enjoy the nice weather and make a day of your belated Valentine’s.
Netflix and chill
For the truly frugal and/or just downright lazy, you can do what all the hip kids are doing: “Netflix and chill.” Okay, so that might have a different meaning to some, but let’s take it at face value for now. If cooking that great dinner has you worn out, you can always skip the theatre idea and plop yourself on the couch for some movie streaming fun (note: it doesn’t have to be Netflix — you can stream movies on subscriptions services like Hulu or Amazon Prime, rent them digitally from Amazon or iTunes, or pick up a Redbox from one of their many kiosks). Just remember: any teenager can Netflix and chill, but us 30-year-olds do it in sweatpants 😉
Cozy up by the fire
Going back to how awful February weather can be, it does come with one potential bright side. Is there anything more romantic than cuddling with your loved one while sipping wine and watching the fire glow? It may be a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason.
Obviously the big problem here is that you may not have a fireplace with which to build your romantic display (and I don’t recommend trying to improvise in this area). Thankfully, Netflix has you covered there as well. It may not be quite the same, but fun and romance are what you make them.
Valentine’s Day is famous for forcing individuals and couples to spend a small fortune trying to impress the one they love. Despite the widespread acceptance of such behavior in today’s society, there are plenty of better ways to show your affection for your significant other without spending your February salary. Whether you find some creative ways to give thoughtful gifts on a budget, elect to skip dinner out, delay your holiday plans in favor of a better date, or take on any of these other tips, I think you’ll find that having a romantic time and spending money are far from synonymous. Ultimately what’s important is making time to spend with your loved one and showing them how much you appreciate them.
This article was first published on Money@30.