He’s baaaaaaack! Saint Frugaltine—the patron saint of all that’s frugal and yet still a romantic at heart—is about to take center stage again. With just about 3 weeks to go, the planning is probably already in your mind for Valentine’s day ideas. Even if I was ever to forget about it, I have a built-in reminder right here where I live. Her name is Suzanne, my wonderful wife, and she is an avid Saint Frugaltine fan in every way.
Now I don’t want to appear like someone who doesn’t believe in the celebration. I do, really. I have to admit that I like being romantic and letting my dear wife know that I adore her, but I also realize that it’s not in our best interest financially to spend all kinds of money on all the many varieties of gifts, jewelry, clothes and the like that the brilliant merchandising minds of our time come up with every year to entice us. Even just a nice dinner out can be a budget buster on a special day like this one. It’s not too far behind the biggies like Mother’s Day and New Year’s Eve as far as pricing and reservations go. So what can one do? I want to mark the day as special, and I want it to be romantic and memorable, but I don’t like the idea that if I spend a fortune on Saint Valentine’s Day, I won’t be able to fulfill all of my financial obligations in February!
Some Valentine’s Day Ideas
The first thing I think about is that this one special day doesn’t have to be just “one day”. I know it sounds a little corny, but as I have gotten older I have come to realize that love isn’t only the romantic kind, but rather it’s an attitude about how you live every day of your life. Love for your spouse, your family, your friends etc. makes everything you do better and it comes back to you many times over what you give of yourself. That’s why you needn’t feel any guilt about being a frugal Saint Valentine’s Day celebrant. You can take the day as one of the 365 days a year you celebrate your love. And although the day itself may mean some spending of the moment, it’s really only a small part of the feelings you want to share for the holiday, isn’t it?
So here it is. I have once again given this subject a lot of thought and I have come up with a few gems on how you can celebrate this year without busting your budget! Whether it’s your wife or husband, your girlfriend or boyfriend, or any other person you want to make feel special, heck, even if it’s your precious doggie, here are some ways to do it up right this year!
Dining if you decide to go out
The traditional thing to do of course is make those expensive reservations at a nice restaurant and be prepared for an overcrowded, high priced, noisy dinner out. The food may or may not be good, especially if you are not completely familiar with your choice of restaurants, and the crowds and cost are a turnoff. Be prepared to spend $50 per person for your meal and even if you have just one drink and dessert you’re looking at over $100 easy plus tax and tip at the low end.
Dining if you stay at home
What we have been doing for several years is to dine here at home. Now you’re probably saying, well Gary, don’t you do that every day pretty much and the answer is yes we do, but somehow on this day, it seems more special to us. How? Well first of all, we prepare it together. That means choosing the menu, shopping, and prepping including the appetizers and dessert. Yes, we do spend some extra money for this meal, but it is in no way as expensive as dining out even if we plan for “filet mignon” with all the trimmings.
Second, the cooking part is also a romantic fun way to spend quality time. We put on some music and open up the wine and relax. I must totally love my wife, the proof being the selected music isn’t from the ‘60’s which I play for most any day of the week and instead she gets to be in charge of music on this day! The only challenge is that despite the fact that we have a nice kitchen, cooking together can cause a traffic jam. Somehow though, we manage to do it.
I usually pull out the good china, light up a candle or 3, and do a little decorating. I have also been known to write few romantic lines of poetry so she’ll know that I had those kinds of thoughts in addition to the meal as my motivation. Would it surprise you to know that Suzanne has saved a bunch of my romantic scribbles over the past 11 years that we have been together?
After dinner entertainment out
Over the years, especially when we first were together, we enjoyed things like a concert or went to a movie for St. Valentine’s Day. That’s pretty much a guaranteed way to blow your budget out of the water. Even a movie today will run you $20+ for the tickets and add in the popcorn and drink (at the least) and you are staring at about $40+ for the evening out! So, alternative time…
After dinner entertainment in
What could be more romantic than snuggling up on the couch to watch a DVD or an On Demand feature from the hundreds of choices on the tube or even better the huge free assortment at our local library? We can pick a themed romantic movie, or just go with one of the recently announced Academy Award nominees so we have half a clue when we watch the awards show a couple weeks later! We have a great deal on our On Demand and we always have some free movie choices because we pay our bill on an auto-pay which rewards us with points that we use for free movies. It’s a win-win and blends right into Frugaltine’s Day!
There are still other things that I can honestly recommend as frugal tips that work well on a day like Saint Valentine’s Day:
The greeting card
If saving money is your goal, but you still want to relay the personal feelings you have, this year make your own special card. The prices of greeting cards seems to keep on going up, up, up and with a day like this one, it’s not unusual to see giant 5 foot cards that sell for $25 a piece as one of the many overpriced choices you have. At best, a card in most stores will run you $3-7. Yes, there are dollar stores so if you must buy then go, but I will tell you that a homemade card won’t cost you a cent and it will be worth a million dollars at the same time!
Flowers and candy
Flowers in February here in the Northeast? Uh, can you say, “Can I get raincheck?” on that until the springtime? Needless to say, flowers are really not a good investment. Instead, I recommend springing for some seeds and a small planter to start a little “grow your own” project this winter that will grow into something special later on. I have a plant that my mom grew back in 2003, before her death later that year, that I still have to this day. It is a warm loving reminder of her that I see every day. Don’t underrate the value of such a sentimental item.
When it comes to the candy, that can be a real problem for the two of us. We both love the candy. Love it. But I have found a way to win this battle, save money and still make everyone happy. How? Rule #1: never pay full price for the holiday candy! I just won’t do it. But, the day after, it’s a whole new world of markdowns and bargains and that’s when I feel like I can splurge. And the best part of this is that because I have negotiated this with Suzanne and promised to buy some 75-90% off treats, she lets me get away with it!
I don’t want to make it sound as if you can’t buy something really special for your “special person”. This time of the year is often a time for people to buy jewelry like an engagement ring for one of the biggest events of your life. If that’s your plan, good luck. Just keep in mind, if being frugal is also a part of your thought process that February is not a really great time for this entire category at retail. In fact, if you can wait until July, you can save 20-60% off the February-June prices at most jewelry retailers.
There are a lot of other things you can be lured into as gifts for the big day, things like stuffed animals, perfumes, colognes, and even personalized electronic gifts these days are part of the deal. I’d skip all of those things. They’re more like tokens I’d put on my Christmas list or perhaps just forgo all together. I’m more practical about stuffed toys in my 60’s then I used to be in my 20’s.
But however you celebrate St. Frugaltine’s Day, make sure you take the time to say the simple precious words out loud, “I love you”. You can’t ever say that too many times, but if you don’t say it on this day, it’s just wrong. Love is in the air my friend, and you should take a deep breath of it right now. You don’t have to wait until February 14th. Oh, wait, love is in the air… Why do I feel like this would be a good time to check for a marathon of Love American Style or The Loveboat on the tube? Or better yet, I can make a DVR recording for my wife to watch with me after dinner on February 14th! I wonder, will she buy that?
Are you planning to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day? What do you have in mind for your loved ones?