Photo (cc) by Larkyn.
It’s that time of year again – love is in the air, and so is spending.
Last year, the average person spent an estimated $116 on Valentine’s Day merchandise for a holiday total of $15.7 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
If your heart’s in the right place but your bank account isn’t, not to worry. There are a lot of ways to save for V-Day, and in the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson shares a few of them. Check it out, and then read on for more.
Like Stacy said – and it’s true with almost anything – creativity saves cash. Here are several ideas to spend less this Valentine’s Day…
- Skip chocolates. Rather than buying the expensive stuff, grab a Valentine’s-themed gift bag (or a generic pink or red one) and add some cheaper candies like those little hearts that say “I love you.” Or skip candy altogether for the next idea…
- Bake. Especially if you don’t normally spend a lot of time in the kitchen, a batch of cookies or brownies can be a touching gift. Here’s a bunch of Valentine’s Day cookie recipes, but you don’t need to get fancy unless you want to – you can get the mix and heart-shaped cookie cutters (and sprinkles or icing if you want to go nuts) from the grocery store for a few bucks, and all you’ll need to add is simple ingredients like eggs and milk. Including the trip to the grocery store, it won’t take more than an hour or two.
- Flowers. While you’re at the supermarket, check out their floral section – as long as they keep their flowers refrigerated, they can be just as good as an independent florist’s and are probably cheaper. Refrigerated flowers last much longer than what you’ll get on the side of the road or online. And don’t grab the prettiest ones – grab the ones that are still budding. They’re just about to bloom, which is romantic, and they last the longest.
- Plants. Instead of paying a premium for dying flowers, you could buy a nice potted plant and grow your own throughout the year. Or you can get seeds, and promise to plant a little garden with your lover.
- Dinner in. We hate to send you back to the kitchen, but the cheapest and most romantic meal is homemade. If you’re not an expert chef, stick to something simple to make and cheat with a pre-made dessert and something nice to drink. Prosecco can be a less expensive alternative to champagne, and then there’s boxed wine. It’s affordable, looks just as good once it’s in a decanter, and research suggests there’s not much correlation between price and quality anyway. Find a nice spot to eat – you can do it picnic-style in the home as Stacy suggested, or even outside if you have space and it’s not too chilly. Dim the lights and use some candles to add to the mood.
- Dinner out. If you insist on eating out, celebrate early – V-Day falls on a Tuesday this year, which is a great excuse to celebrate on the weekend. You’re less likely to need a reservation that way and won’t pay the holiday tax of jacked-up prices. If you want to go somewhere upscale and still save, head out for an appetizer and beverage, but have the main course at home.
- Jewelry. Unlike wine, jewelry’s an area where you probably don’t want to risk faking it. Check out our story on taking the stress out of buying jewelry so you know how to evaluate gold and diamonds. Get the nicest thing you can, but don’t blow your budget – there’s always next year to save and get something better.
- Other gifts. If you can’t afford jewelry, period, here’s an idea. Along with a nice card, give a handwritten promise to provide some kind of service to your loved one. Pick some chores you normally avoid, and take them on without complaint. Or, how about a scrapbook? Prints are cheap, and you don’t even have to do all the work – assembling a collection of your favorite memories together can be a romantic event in itself.
One last idea: take advantage of pre-Valentine’s Day sales that are going on now, but won’t be next week. See Karla’s Today’s Deals column for examples.