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When it comes to planning Valentine’s Day gifts for your sweetie, take a cue from the field of behavioral economics. “Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions,” according to an article in The Atlantic, “Buy Experiences, Not Things.”
Gifts of experiences or simply adding a personal touch to affordable gifts also can have a greater impact for the money.
“You can impress your sweetheart without depressing your budget,” says Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson. “Just use your imagination instead of your dough.”
Whether you’re thinking of giving an experience, a homemade gift or a carefully chosen purchase, you’ll find something for your honey among these money-savings tips:
1. Give flowers on a budget
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Spend some effort selecting the blooms, because a wilted bouquet or cellophane-wrapped bundle from the grocery store can give the impression of a last-minute gift grabbed without thought. A few tips for giving flowers on a budget:
- Flowers must be kept cold to last well, so avoid roadside vendors and do your research before using a florist online.
- Shop in person ahead of the Valentine’s Day rush. Ask a couple of florists to explain what they can produce within your budget.
- Local florists are a good bet because you can see the quality of their flowers and examples of their arrangements.
- Make a big impact with less-expensive flower varieties by selecting very fresh blooms and presenting them well, for example, wrapped in attractive tissue or paper or perhaps tied with a satin bow.
- Tuck a small card with a romantic note into the bouquet.
- Avoid delivery charges by picking up and delivering the bouquet yourself.
For more ideas read “8 Ways to Get the Best Value on Valentine’s Flowers.”
2. Make a puzzle of your love
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Order a customized jigsaw puzzle made from a photo of you and your honey ($29.99 at Shutterfly). Plan to spend a romantic evening assembling the puzzle together.
3. Cook a romantic dinner
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Splurge on fabulous ingredients and prepare them lovingly at home, serving them in a romantic setting. Here are ideas to get you cooking:
- Cooking Light has recipes for some romantic dinners for two, including filet mignon with mushroom-wine sauce, pan-seared scallops on linguine, coconut and basil steamed mussels, roasted lobster tail. and chicken Milanese with spring greens.
- Take the Romantic Meal Planner quiz at Epicurious (you’ll need to upload the latest version of Adobe Flash) to determine the best menu to serve your Valentine, from breakfast in bed or a picnic in the park to a pull-out-all-the-stops roses-and-candlelight romantic dinner.
- Food & Wine’s romantic recipes include sexy foods (including grilled oysters with spicy tarragon butter and goat-cheese stuffed roasted figs) and romantic dishes (lobster capellini with leek-tarragon cream sauce, oysters on the half-shell with rosé mignonette and chocolate soufflé cakes with vanilla-thyme ice cream are a few).
- Country Living has 40 romantic recipes for Valentine’s Day.
4. Play games
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Create an evening of fun playing games with your primary loved one or with your entire family of loved ones.
An amazing Pinterest board is stuffed with ideas, including this very small sample: Date-Night suggestions, team-building Games for a Winning Marriage, ideas for a Truth or Dare game night, 100 Funny & Random Questions to Ask Your Husband and 10 Great Questions to Ask on Your First or Second Date.
Delve into “serious games” with your sweetheart or with all your loved ones. FiveThirtyEight.com says these games are characterized by deep strategy, while also being relatively easy to learn. “The Settlers of Catan” and “Ticket to Ride” are two “popular gateway drugs of the genre,” the article says. “Twilight Struggle,” another deep-strategy game, gets high marks at BoardGameGeek.
5. Make a sexy gift
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- Reader’s Digest explains how to make gifts of scented bath oil.
- Cosmopolitan Magazine has a list of “16 Homemade Sex Toys You Need to Try.”
6. Stuff a bag with sweets
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Charm a loved one by putting together a bag of his or her favorite sweets to give with other Valentine’s Day gifts. Start with a small gift bag from the grocery store and load it with the sweets you know your honey craves most. Use homemade cookies, high-end chocolates, grocery store goodies or simply fill it up with classic Valentine’s candies. Tie a big red bow on or around the bag.
Count on Martha Stewart to have loads of ideas for DIY Valentine’s Day gifts, including unique baked goods.
7. Create a memorable breakfast in bed
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Fill a basket with treats for a very special breakfast in bed. Include warm croissants, butter, homemade jam, fresh fruit and hot chocolate. Don’t forget a few fresh flowers and maybe a pitcher of freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. EHow has ideas for breakfast-in-bed gift baskets.
8. Listen up
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Forego electronic communication for one day (or one hour) and communicate heart-to-heart with those you love. Open up. Share your (positive) feelings (keep the negative ones to yourself, just for today). When loved ones respond, bite your tongue and listen with all your heart without interrupting. Nothing — absolutely nothing — is more sexy, loving or romantic.
9. Save when you buy a diamond ring
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If you have chosen Valentine’s Day to propose, start the marriage right by refusing to feel pressured into overspending. You can get a nice diamond on a budget. Read eBay’s guide, How to Buy a Diamond Engagement Ring on a Budget or consider an authentic diamond made in a lab.
10. Pack a picnic and read corny poetry
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Money Talks News editor Kari Huus and her husband have spent memorable Valentine’s Days curled up in the cabin of their docked sailboat, dining on picnics and reading goofy romantic poetry aloud or playing Scrabble.
No boat? No problem. Finding the venue is part of the fun. Consider bundling up for a winter picnic at a favorite beach or park. Or picnic in the middle of a mall or at an arboretum or museum. Take the picnic planning seriously. Fill a basket or box with your sweetie’s favorite goodies. Bring a Valentine’s Day card, chocolates, tableware, a tablecloth, a few flowers, wine or beer if you wish and plenty of napkins and moist wipes for cleanup. If you’ll be outdoors, remember a thermos full of hot chocolate, soup, coffee or tea, mittens, hats, plenty of blankets, extra wool socks and reusable or disposable heat packs for putting inside gloves and socks.
If you want inspiration for the poetry, ask for assistance from your local public library or browse poems by subject at The Poetry Foundation.
11. Make a romantic card
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A handmade card is one of the sweetest gifts imaginable. The key is spending time and care on it. You don’t need talent, just love. Bring your whole heart to the project and take the time to make something sweet or silly that conveys your love. If you can’t draw, cut out pictures and letters from magazines and make a collage.
12. Craft a treasure hunt
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Read instructions from Megan Reardon, blogger at Not Martha, for assembling three different Valentine’s Day treasure hunts.
13. Make a printed photo book
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Create a small printed photo book commemorating some of your experiences together. Don’t feel it has to document all your time together; just choose a few special moments for a Valentine’s Day gift. Thanks to the internet, there’s no need to slave over it. Just upload your photos and follow instructions. Check out some of the go-to services, such as Shutterfly and Mixbook. (For a more detailed look at your options, and pricing, check out this set of reviews by CNET.)
14. Give an imaginative gift certificate
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Give homemade gift certificates for the services and experiences you know your honey will love most. A few examples:
- Promise you’ll do the dishes once when it’s not your turn.
- Serenade your honey with a song you wrote.
- Tackle a hated job of your sweetie’s choice — changing the oil in the car, for example, or scrubbing the toilets, or coping with a child’s meltdown.
- Give a get-out-of jail-free card: This is your promise to graciously and completely ignore one occasion when she or he messes up.
15. Hire a baby sitter
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Find someone to watch your kids — ask a friend or relative or hire a baby sitter — so you and your partner are free to concentrate on having fun together. Plan a day or evening doing silly, cheap, fun activities. Here are a few ideas to get your imagination going:
- Play miniature golf.
- Go bowling.
- Walk for miles after dark holding hands. Stop at a cafe, window shop as you walk, or shoot a game of pool in a pub.
- Play paintball.
- Rent a motel room with a whirlpool bath and bring in Champagne and pizza.
Do you have suggestions for celebrating love? Leave your comments below, or on our Facebook page.