Valentine’s Day, Done Inexpensively

By Dallas Sargent

Gift-giving can be stressful enough around the already-established gift-giving holidays, so it can often be overwhelming and financially stressful when the secondary holidays like Valentine’s Day come around. We can often feel bogged down with the pressure to show love and devotion – to be “on” – all the time that we force it. And like it or not, whichever choice you begrudgingly make will translate as such with the gift you’re giving.

But what if it doesn’t have to be like that? Because with a few simple steps, Valentine’s Day can actually be a lovely, low-stress time.

Remember What’s Important

The act of gift giving doesn’t just affect the recipient. The pressure to find the perfect thing – something thoughtful and specific, that isn’t so extravagant that it will overshadow all future Valentine’s Day endeavors – can weigh on the giver, while the pressure to show the right appreciation and reciprocate in kind can weigh on the receiver. This is mostly self-imposed, of course, and churns out wasted energy.

Think of Valentine’s Day as a day created specifically to show appreciation and love to your partner in whatever capacity that might entail. Try and remember what brought you together in the first place and devise a way to recreate that. You and your partner, after all, chose each other, and that’s what really matters. And most importantly, let go of the notion that your partner expects something expensive. They just want you.

Experiences, Not Things

By no means does this mean you should phone it in. Sometimes life gets particularly busy, especially after the holidays when it can be even tougher to get back into the swing of things, and you fall into a routine. Dishes pile up. The kids don’t understand that the world won’t end if they don’t get their needs taken care of right away. The house seems to have found its way into disrepair again. However it manifests itself, the word “romantic” doesn’t sit anywhere near the front of the tongue.

The silver lining of the busy lifestyle is that it enchants the banal, everyday activities that used to be so common. Making dinner together (complete with dessert, if you want to incorporate the time-honored chocolate-giving tradition), walking through a park, working on a puzzle: the idea is that you spend time together bonding over something that you work toward together.

Creativity, in all of its manifestations, can be the language of the heart. Maybe peruse used bookstores for magazines, and grab some cheap cardstock to make cards instead of buying ones. Using disparate images through the art of collage can help to remind you of the qualities you find so alluring in your partner. And it’s sometimes easier to show feelings through indirect means – pictures can provide you the springboard to give deep, honest compliments while easing any self-consciousness you might feel in the process. And they’re personal enough that if they contribute to your house as a disaster zone, you’ll find them and smile.

Additionally, you can make it an activity of togetherness by creating valentines for friends using the same tools and supplies. It would be a nightly activity that spreads the love far and wide while bolstering intimacy you should have as a couple.

Create a Tradition

Maybe making dinner or valentines for yourselves or loved ones will become something that happens every year. But if not, maybe you can create a new tradition. It can be an easy way to take some of the stress out of the aforementioned potentially problematic decision-making process. Plus, having something that you know will happen is a lot easier to budget for year-round than something spur-of-the-moment.

You could start small. Maybe you could rent a movie from the library – old movies; the kind where unbridled passion and adoration of the lead actor can hardly be contained. The kind before explosions replaced inventive ways of expressing love. The kind that never go out of style.

You could plan a short trip (a weekend) or a staycation and discover (and rediscover) places that are meaningful to you as a couple. You can browse inexpensive options using websites and apps like LivingSocial and Groupon. If nothing else, you can use them as ideas to create your own adventure.

Nice Things

While experiences tend to resonate after time has passed, sometimes it IS nice to give something tangible to your partner. When that time comes, what do you do?

If you absolutely need to give an expensive item, it might be worth considering a certain Valentine’s Day anniversary – maybe the closest multiple of five or so, 5 years, 10 years, or otherwise – to give it. While it’s never fun to wait when it comes to an exciting, big gift, it provides a period of time to budget properly and ensure that the purchase is not arbitrary, but thought out and meaningful.

However, most people will forego the temporary glitz in exchange for a meaningful item that represents togetherness and/or an expression of creativity. Think along the lines of giving a plant instead of giving flowers. It may not shout “romance” as loudly, but it lives longer and serves as a reminder of a specific Valentine’s Day – not to mention the shared experience of helping something, like your love, bloom.

Regardless of how you celebrate the day of love, remember that you chose each other and, at the end of the day, what you should really want is to hang out and remind each other why you want to keep doing just that. Just, you know, shake it up a bit.