It’s a tale as old as time. Or at least as old as Hallmark. Couple sees Valentine’s Day on calendar. Couple spends lots o’ bucks to show their love. It doesn’t have to be like that, but for us, it was.
The Ghost of Valentine’s Day Past
Last year, my husband sent me a text in line from the grocery store. He couldn’t believe his eyes or his ears. He was watching a big spender buy virtually every configuration of heart-shaped candy the grocery store stocked. (Side note: Why? It’s like Russian Roulette where there is maybe one or two passable pieces and everything else tastes like a cross between leftover Advent calendar chocolate and wax.)
Slow your pat on the back, good sir. Up until recently, this same Valentine’s Day critic used to whisk me away to the most expensive sushi restaurant in town, shower me with gifts and flowers, and even purchase those really spendy $5+ greeting cards.
But greetings cards and even fancy dinners don’t have anything on flowers. While I knew flowers were expensive, I never realized just how expensive they could be. Mr. P used to send one or two bouquets to my work. He paid an upcharge to make sure they were delivered with a vase. And another upcharge to make sure that they were delivered during the school day. Never mind that Be-still-my-heart stuff. Once I caught wind of the cost, it was more like, Flatline my frugal heart, why don’t you? While Mr. P was taken aback in the checkout line last year, I would say our less-than-frugal Valentine’s of yesteryear easily clocked in at over $300.
A Peek at Valentine’s Day Present
This Valentine’s Day will be dramatically different, but we aren’t going full Scrooge on the holiday. We will scoop us gifts that we know the other person loves. We will probably even go out to dinner. But we will set more reasonable limits, buy consumables over clutter, and even dip into our veritable gift card fortune to celebrate. In fact, I don’t expect us to spend over $25 out-of-pocket on one and other, and that’s even allowing for Mr. P and his $5 Hallmark cards that he just can’t seem to quit.
Now that this is our first Valentine’s Day as parents, I know we will spend a bit more. While it’s true that this consumer culture holiday was dreamt up to celebrate romantic love, we also plan to dote on HP a little extra. Instead of buying an outfit he will only wear once or other gewgaws and thingamabobs he doesn’t need or even want, we will toss whatever we would spend into his college fund. When it is all said and done, I expect this Valentine’s Day to clock in right around $50.
Frugal Valentine’s Day Tips
Cards can be cute. I’m a sucker for stationery. There are some really adorable and hilarious Valentine’s Day cards on the market, but they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. If your Valentine likes sweet sentiments, check out your local Dollar Store, swing by Trader Joe’s, or create your own. Pick one up for Mr. P while you’re there, will ya?
Flowers are fine. Bouquets can be beautiful. They can also be a serious budget killer. This is definitely one category where a little bit of planning goes a long way. Both plants (they last so much longer!) and bouquets (they scream Valentine’s Day!) can be had for a steal this week. Store ads boast of reasonable prices on mixed bouquets and tulips, but if you snooze, you lose. Or you end up with the really pricey stuff. Which is why I keep texting screenshots of them to Mr. P. If your love has to have roses, shop around. They are on sale as well, though they will cost more and won’t last as long (alstroemeria are some of my favorites – those will make it clear to St. Patty’s Day!). And for the love of all things frugal, if you must spring for delivery, at least do a Google search to see what kinds of coupons you can unearth online.
So are meals out. Dining out doesn’t have to break the bank. Thanks to Groupon, Living Social, Cardpool, and myriad other online sites that will help you score dining vouchers and gift cards for less, you can keep eating out and staying on budget. Don’t dismiss carry-out options or celebrating a few days pre- or post-Valentine’s Day. You might save some cash, and you’ll definitely dodge the crowds. (Who just typed that? Who have I become? Helpme.) Of course, you could even scoop up some supermarket sushi or cook your own meal to save some green, too.
But knowing who you are as a couple is even better. If you aren’t all about that Valentine’s Day hype, don’t partake. Skip the card. Say adios to the flowers. Pass on the fancy pants dinner. Do something that celebrates you as a couple. Maybe it’s putting extra money toward your debt. Maybe it’s hunting down a Groupon to go rock climbing. Whatever you do, remember the whole point of this made-up holiday is spend time with the person you love.
So Tell Me…Where do you land when it comes to Valentine’s Day? Do you celebrate, is it a hard pass, or something in between?
We celebrate the day but not much. I like to make sugar cookies with the boys, and my husband will get me something modest. I’m not a fan of overpriced flowers or big gifts or going out to eat, I prefer something thoughtful and meaningful. Last year my husband bought me my favorite truffles and put little notes below each one. That was my favorite-the chocolates are all gone but I still have the box with all the little notes.
Your sugar cookies look divine! What a thoughtful gift he came up with, Liz. That’s just the best!
Like CMO, we do stuff for the boys, but Mr. ThreeYear and I don’t really celebrate. He’s traveling on Valentine’s anyway this year! 🙁 I love a thoughtful letter or note. That’s my favorite Valentine’s Day gift!
Those are great gifts. And holidays really are for kiddos, I think! It doesn’t mean anything to HP this year, but I’m excited for years to come.
I was never a big artificial holiday guy. Not big on birthdays, anniversaries of any kind, or Arbor Day. However, when I met Mrs. Oldster I realized that I was going to have to stretch my appreciation of these “holidays”. At this point in our lives, if we spend a few hundred dollars a year on good chocolates (no waxy crap here) and flowers, the world will not come to an end and our daughter’s college education won’t be in jeopardy. Would I do it otherwise? No, probably not. But if 25 years of marriage has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that it is not all about me.
I’m glad you spring for the nice chocolate! It sounds like you and Mrs. Oldster really have it figured out. That was our problem: for too long, we did what we thought couples should do, instead of what we really wanted.
Mrs. Picky Pincher
Isn’t it funny how much you can change in just a year?
This year I instituted a rule that we can only give each other gifts using items that are in the house (although judging by our credit card statement, hubs has already broken this, but whatever). I made him a few cute homemade gifts that I know he’ll love (like macarons!).
We opt to cook a very nice dinner at home for Valentine’s. We just don’t enjoy going out to eat, particularly for crowded holidays like Valentine’s. We splurged on a beef tenderloin and will enjoy it more than a restaurant meal!
Oooh, macarons. Yum! I agree that eating in can be just as nice (as long as I can convince Mr. P to do the dishes).
We have never been huge fans of Valentines, it seems a big con really. We might buy each other a card and he sometimes gets me chocolates and I make him some heart shaped chocolates with the kids. But that’s it.
We celebrate more on genuinely meaningful days such as our anniversary and birthdays.
I suppose what I like about the day (or any made-up holiday) is that it’s a reminder in the doldrums of winter to stop and show my appreciation. I like to think I do this all the time, but the truth is that I don’t. So I’m happy to splurge a little bit 🙂
Gary @ Super Saving Tips
We do some limited celebrating. Usually it’s a fancy dinner and movie, both at home for frugality. This year we’re taking some of our date night funds to see an Italian opera (at the movie theatre) that my wife really wants to see. Dinner may or may not be popcorn. 🙂
Movie theatre popcorn? With extra butter? That is the best dinner EVER!
I bought $9.99 worth of chocolate and heart shaped candy that I will hand out all day at the office and some in a small pack to Mr B. I like to take any opportunity I can to say thank you to the special, helpful, long term people in my life.
We will also be having dinner out this year at the local club using vouchers won at trivia (so free). And only because moving house the next morning means no pans for cooking. Aptly timed ?
That’s awesome that you use it as a time to say thanks. I think of it that way, too. I also get Valentine’s for my students (mechanical pencils!). Artifical as they may be sometimes, holidays can be a really nice reminder to find small ways to make other people smile.
In my previous relationship, we did not “do” valentine’s day. We felt satisfied with our yearlong approach to romance. One year I was having a bad day and completely forgot that it was V Day, and she had texted to ask if I needed anything to feel better and I responded chocolate. She bought the most ridiculous heart-shaped box and we laughed a ton. We would have had more chocolate if we did not have the packaging though.
I horde cards all year. Anytime I see something I’d like to eventually give, I buy it and keep it in my card box. That way I don’t have to rush out and get a $5 card at the last minute.
That is a great strategy with cards, ZJ!
Our first Valentine’s Day together involved flowers. Mr. P sent them to my work. It was spendy but really cute. I got fired about 15 minutes after the flowers were delivered (they released all first-year teachers). Suddenly, those flowers meant so much more.
Very much in the less-is-more camp when it comes to spending on Valentine’s! We’ll be making pasta from scratch to celebrate, a tradition that is fun, delicious, and cheap AF. Also brainstormed up some other ideas for budget-friendly celebrating: http://bit.ly/away_vdaycelebrate
Thanks for the sharing the links and the ideas!
We’re going to Barnes and Noble to spend old gift cards and have a mocha at Starbucks. In NY we did a romantic (not) meal at White Castle for Valentine’s Day. When we came to NC we switched to Sonic but it’s been a bit too chilly to eat sitting in the car. We enjoy making up quirky traditions.
P.S. I’ve have a greeting card in my dresser drawer I planned to give to Mr. G three years ago. But he told me he didn’t get me a card and he would have felt bad had I given him one. Too bad it says “Husband” on it or I’d bring it to my aunt in the nursing home. She wouldn’t know the difference but the staff would think I’m nuts.
That is fantastic! I forgot I bought a Sweetest Day card in October. So I’m saving it for this next one. I’ll probably forget again.
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early
I actually hate both cut flowers and cards, which is probably why Valentine’s Day has always been my least favorite holiday (I also hated chocolate growing up). That weirdo part of me has definitely saved us some money over the years though lol
That sure would save money!
I really love it when Mr. P buys me plants. But I’m starting to turn into the equivalent of a cat lady with foliage. So my prediction is Sour Patch kids. Or maybe he will pick up on my not-so-subtle hints of plants that I can put in the ground this spring.