Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and that timeless question remains: How can I make it through this holiday without breaking the bank or upsetting a loved one? The average American spent $126 on Valentine’s Day last year, according to the National Retail Federation, and since the economy isn’t quite wine and roses yet, it’s hard to justify that kind of hit to your wallet.
Here are five ways to save on the day of romance before Cupid shoots you down:
1. Stay at Home
Consider a romantic night in. Hotels and restaurants jack up prices for rooms and meals, and you’ll end up paying through the nose if you go for a traditional Valentine’s Day. Plan a home-cooked dinner of your partner’s favorite meal. Light some candles, put together a seductive playlist, and pop open an affordable bottle of wine (Trader Joe’s has great prices). Top it off with a creative Valentine’s Day-themed dessert – heart-shaped cookies, anyone? To go the extra mile, throw on that evening gown, or suit and tie. You don’t have to be James Bond to dine at home in formal wear.
2. Know Where to Buy Flowers
Flowers could be one of your biggest expenses on Valentine’s Day – if you let them. Try Whole Foods Market, Sam’s Club, or Costco for discount bouquets. Get creative with your floral gift and go for a less expensive flower, or take your loved one on a nature walk and pick your own wildflowers. Nature’s bounty is even cheaper than Costco, believe it or not.
3. Haggle Hard for Jewelry
Jewelers know their bread and butter, and it’s called Valentine’s Day. The markup on traditional jewelry is significant, so no matter where you shop, feel free to negotiate the price. Drive a hard bargain, start early, and don’t be afraid to walk away. You’ll also find some great treasures in local thrift stores and pawn shops. You’ll save a ton, and you might find that one-in-a-million item that your loved one will cherish.
4. Consider Free Options
Spending no money at all will be a challenge, but a few free entertainment options can be found. Take a romantic walk on the beach or have a picnic at a local park. Send your loved one romantic text messages throughout the day. Create your own Valentine’s Day card if you’re artistically inclined; or if not, find a romantic poem online and transcribe it. A personal touch is always more appealing than a canned greeting card.
5. Give the Gift of Service
Offer to cut the grass a few times a month, or commit to unlimited dish washing, laundry, or grocery shopping. A foot massage is a treasure after a long day at work, as is shuffling your Sunday schedule to allow for a few hours of football watching. Think about the little things that are important to your partner and you’ll score big points.
When it comes to saving money on Valentine’s Day, it’s all about creativity. Sure, you can drop a grand or two on a Rolex, but what will the financial consequence be? Put your mind to work, focus on non-consumerist gift ideas that your partner will enjoy, and add some romantic flavor to top it off. You’ll have fun, you’ll save money, and you’ll keep your loved one happy.
What other ways can you think of to save on Valentine’s Day?
David Bakke is a contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance, where he shares tips for saving money in all situations and living a frugal life without sacrificing health.