As a longtime cheapskate, and a new cheapskate mom, I have often been bemused by the amount of money people spend to prove to their spouses and children just how much they love them.
No time is this more true than on February 14 of each year, when love advertising goes into overdrive to convince consumers that true love is measured by wallet thickness.
For a family on a budget, the prospect of children’s parties at school, gifts or mementos from parents to kids, and the all-important Valentine’s gift between spouses can make you wish that the calendar could just skip from January to March.
Fortunately, making this year the most memorable Valentine’s Day yet for your family can cost next to nothing. Here are some cheap Valentine’s Day ideas that will leave your wallet untouched and your family delighted:
Ideas For Kids’ Valentine’s Day Parties
The yearly Valentine exchange in the primary school classroom is an important part of American childhood. In many classrooms, students are asked to give a Valentine to everyone in class, which means your child is on the hook for anywhere from 20 to 30 cards.
1. The obvious money-saving answer is to make the cards. But what if you’re missing the crafty gene, or are fresh out of red and pink construction paper, or your child insists that everyone is giving Valentines with their favorite licensed character on it?
One option is to purchase the cards at the dollar store. Some offer cards for as low as fifty cents each. They will mean just as much as an expensive card. Or, if you save your cards from year to year, recycle the ones from last year by cutting off the cover.
2. Make cookies and cupcakes at home rather than stopping by the bakery for baked goods.
3. You can print out licensed character Valentines from www.dltk-holidays.com/valentines/cards.htm. These can be printed in color or black and white, so your child can decorate them himself, or if you’re short on time you can put these together the night before.
Something Special for the Kids at Home
4. If you desire to shower your child with balloons and stuffed animals, consider a dollar bag of balloons over the dollar a pop mylar ones and blow up the entire bag of colored latex balloons. Some stores will blow up balloons with helium for a low fee.
5. A small stuffed animal from the dollar store works just as well as the high priced toy from gift shops or toy stores.
6. Children need your time more than material goods any day. A day with you means more that store bought gifts. Spend the day playing games and having fun making Valentines cookies will mean more than expensive gifts.
If you walk down the aisles of any major department store after Christmas, it seems like Valentine’s Day has become another major decorating and gift-giving holiday for children. But you really don’t need to spend money to let your kids know you love them.
7. Instead of buying Valentine candy, bake heart-shaped cookies or pink-frosted cupcakes with your children. They’ll remember the time with you long after the sugar high has worn off.
8. Instead of a heart-themed gift, play a game with your kids. AmazingMoms.com has a great list of creative and easy Valentines games to help your little cupids have a great day.
Valentine’s Day Gifts for Your Sweetheart
Despite what the diamond, chocolate and rose industries might advertise, it is possible to have a romantic Valentine’s Day without spending money on your sweetheart. Though the word “budget” does not necessarily call romance to mind, “creative” certainly does.
Valentines Day has become so commercial that we have been sold a bill of good telling us we must spend to win the hearts of our loved ones. Reality is, that is simply not the case. Valentines Day is a day to share time and feelings of love with others, and that, can be done on a budget without sacrificing the day.
9. Knowing your boyfriend, husband (or girlfriend or wife) is the key to providing a romantic, memorable, and cheap Valentines gift. Take over a hated chore; cook her favorite meal for dinner; make a date to look at the stars. The gift you give is only limited by your imagination, and it will likely be much more romantic than anything store bought.
Here’s a few more ideas:
10. Make a mix tape. You know, a collection of your favorite songs or songs with a specific theme. Mix “tapes” are made easier these days because of iTunes.
11. Plan a movie night, at home. Get free movies with Redbox using their codes, or just pay a $1.
12. Write a special, hand-written note. Nothings says I love you, like the words “I Love You” handwritten on a note. Well, maybe saying “I Love You” says it better…but you get my point.
13. Cook a nice meal from scratch. If you never do any cooking, make a special effort sometime this weekend to cook up something nice. Or, if you both like to cook, why not make a date to cook up something new and extra special. For dessert, make your own chocolate covered strawberries.
14. Plan a picnic if the weather is nice. You supply the food and drink and a nice blanket. Find your favorite place and just hang out. I know you Yanks are laughing at me right now. But it’s warm enough here.
15. Go for a walk. How long has it been since you and your loved on just walked together? Pick out a park you’ve never visited, or go to your old favorite. Couple it with the picnic idea and you’re set.
Check out more ideas in this funny video by What the Fain:
16. Give Valentines cards while you’re at the store. Some people like to go to the card store together and pick out cards, then read them to each other. Pick a funny card and a sweet card. Then, when you’re done, just put the cards back. A fun outing and doesn’t cost a thing.
17. Go out to eat. You can still do this and be frugal if you learn the tricks to save money when dining out.
18. Valentine’s Day does not have to put your budget into a tailspin. Keeping the spirit of fun will help you give your family the holiday they dream of, without spending a dime.
Adults often scramble to spend money on expensive flowers and dinners. There are countless ways to share the day without going broke. Look at local specials advertised in your area.
19. White Castle has the classic dinner for two, great for a date night; just pretend you are a couple of teenagers and go.
20. Need a more expensive and grown up meal deal, try going to lunch rather than dinner.
21. Most restaurants offer a lower price lunch special than the price of dinner. Use coupons and buy one get one offers for entrees and desserts.
22. Go out for coffee and dessert at a very up scale place and skip the expensive meal.
23. Go to the grocery store and buy the supplies for a dinner. Use your coupons, shop specials and cook a special dinner at home. Add a few candles, dim the lights and enjoy.
24. Discover your city. Spend the day visiting local landmarks and museums. Depending on where you live and the weather in your area, plan a day outside. Go ice skating and carry a thermos of hot chocolate.
25. Pack a dinner and go to the lake, build a fire, and star gaze. Check out a book about astronomy from the library and take with you as you study the heavens.
26. It seems like we cannot have Valentine’s Day without flowers. Consider a potted plant, one that can be kept. Some stores offer potted miniature rose plants, or other flowering plants. These last long after the flowers fad, but if you need cut flowers, consider buying them from a discount or grocery store.
27. Shop thrift stores, Salvation Army or Good Will for a special container to use as a vase for the flowers.
28. Thrift stores often have Valentines Day themed coffee mugs, red and white or pink dinner plates and other decorations. Buy them there and recycle buy filling with candy, or other treats. Wrap with colored cellophane from the dollar store and you have a Valentines happy for less than half the cost from a gift store.
29. Go to the library and check out romantic movies.
30. While you’re at it, check out books about Valentine’s Day and read with your children.
It really is what is in your heart that counts. Count your dollars saved as part of helping keep your budget in line while making the day special. The values you teach your children about sharing without over spending is an act of love.
Couples are a lot happier when not in debt. That counts when you make Valentine’s Day special without making each other over spend. Have a happy and cheap Valentine’s Day.
List your cheap Valentine’s Day ideas in the comments below…
Image by Temari 09