5 Simple Ways to Have a Frugal Valentine's Day

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With love on Valentine's day
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By John Schmoll

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Who doesn't like to take a day to show a loved one just how much they mean to them?

The retail industry takes that desire and preaches one message: You must spend money to accomplish it. The National Retail Federation reports Americans spent almost $150 per person for Valentine's Day gifts, totaling nearly $19 billion spent. This amount will make almost any frugal person shudder.

What is the frugal person to do? What if you want to show love to your special Valentine but not give into the retail message of the amount spent equating to more love? Thankfully, there are many possible options. Here are a few to consider.

Don't buy anything:

Retailers like to make us think we need to spend to have an enjoyable Valentine's Day. That's simply not the case. "A great way to save money on Valentine's Day is to plan an experience and not buy things," says personal finance expert Catherine Alford of Budget Blonde. That might seem impossible to do or contrary to the idea of Valentine's Day. It's not. The day should be about spending time with loved ones and sharing memories, not just buying stuff. Alford explains a family can plan a free outing for the day and come home to bake something together. You get to express the same love without the added cost.

Have a potluck:

Dining at a romantic restaurant is a popular Valentine's Day activity. There's nothing wrong with that, though prices are commonly raised, making it an even more expensive night out. Personal finance expert Scott Alan Turner explains a great frugal alternative to the expensive night out. "Get together with a group of friends and have a potluck dinner and a game night to celebrate and have a great time," he says. I know a potluck doesn't scream romance. That's not the point. The point is to share time with those close to you, not give into the idea that you have to spend on a pricey meal out to create memories.

Do something you never do:

Life is busy, and it can be a challenge to schedule time for something special. Valentine's Day is a great way to stop in the middle of the chaos of life and enjoy something you say you want to do but never allow yourself to do. "Do that one thing you never have time for. For some couples that may mean going to a movie, or sleeping in late. Valentine's Day this year is on a Sunday. Sleep in late, or fix breakfast in bed together," says author Becky Blanton. The beauty of this option is you can spend as little or as much as you want, though the point remains the same: Spend time to develop that relationship and create memories. That's what your loved one will remember, not the high-priced gift you bought.

Delay by a few days:

We all know prices on items like flowers (roses specifically) and candy spike right before Valentine's Day. Such a spike makes the traditional celebration even more expensive. "The most unconventional (but possibly most effective), would be to celebrate on the February 15 or 16. Flowers, chocolate and other items are being discounted back to pre-holiday prices, so if you typically buy those items you can definitely save quite a bit of money," says personal finance expert Nate Michaels of Hack Your Budget.
This is something my wife and I have personally done in the past as we typically don't celebrate the traditional holiday. We'll go out for a meal or buy gifts a few days to a week later allowing us to save a fair bit of money. It is important to point out, however, the need to discuss this with your partner prior so as to make sure they're okay with not celebrating on the exact day.

Be creative:

As has been said before, Valentine's Day is about spending time with those you love, not spending an exorbitant amount of money. A great way to celebrate the day without spending a lot requires some creativity. That can mean a lot of things, from buying a different and more reasonably priced flower, to making your own card, to a walk if your weather allows, to cooking a meal together.
All of those options are significantly cheaper, if not free, and communicate the same thing a pricey night out does. Valentine's Day is a fun holiday to celebrate. It can also be quite expensive. Look for other options to create memories that don't carry a hefty price tag.
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