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?