For several years, it was a February tradition on Consumerism Commentary to look for moderation on Valentine’s Day. Many young couples would like to use the day to express their love, but might not have the financial means to do what television commercials make you believe is normal. If you have additional ideas, feel free to share them below.
I stopped the tradition of sharing frugal Valentine’s Day ideas by 2010, as I was all ready farther away from a frugality mindset myself. For me, I had a substantial income from my own business, and I was simply counting down the days before leaving my day job to pursue Consumerism Commentary full time.
Frugality wasn’t the first thing on my mind, personally, but it was and is still an important approach for couples throughout the world.
I understand that Valentine’s Day is just another day, and couples can and should be expressing their love every day. I also understand that the holiday is almost purely commercial in nature; Hallmark is only one of the companies that view the holiday as a pay day.
And other retailers excel at making the public believe that spending money is essential for expressing love. But here’s the thing. There are very few worse things you can do as a couple than going into unnecessary debt. I can’t imagine there are people who go out and buy a luxury car for their partner with a giant bow, but Lexus wants you to think there are.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day in a way that bears no resemblance to the commercials. I say avoid mass-produced “love” encouraged by jewelry, luxury vehicle, tropical resorts, and florist companies, and take a personal approach.
The reality is that for a good portion of couples, frugality isn’t just a choice, but the only choice. The recession officially ended years ago, but its effects still linger. Millions of people are unemployed or underemployed, and paychecks for everyone but the highest paid workers haven’t risen.
Looking at Valentine’s Day through a frugal lens can allow you to express your feelings without sacrificing your financial condition as you stretch to afford to spend a night in a hotel, go on a cruise, or buy a car.
Here are some of my suggestions for experiencing a frugal Valentine’s Day this year, some serious, some with tongue firmly planted in cheek. (And if everything works well for you this holiday, perhaps your tongue may find its way somewhere else.)
1. Make your own greeting cards. Hallmark would have you believe that people love receive cards that play music when opened. Of all the lies commercials tell, this has got to be the worst. No one likes cards that play music, especially eight-bit monophonic music. No one likes personal recordings in cards, unless they’re really funny.
Even standard greeting cards aren’t worth the price. I can never find one that expresses my thoughts accurately. If I could find a card, what would that say about my thoughts? If a card truly spoke for me, my thoughts about love would have to be so generic that thousands or millions of others would express their love the same way.
I refuse to believe that any individual’s brain cells and synapses are aligned in the same way as thousands of other people.
The bottom line is that it takes little effort to hand-write a note or design your own card. You don’t need mad Photoshop skills to make something, either. You can visit this site for some free designs that allow you to easily add your own text. Or just find a photograph of the two of you together and add a note. It’s so much more personal and meaningful.
While you can find $0.99 Valentine’s Day commercial cards, the more popular cards at Target or CVS can cost $5.99, $6.99, or more, while at a Hallmark card store there’s virtually no limit.
2. Pass over the brand-name chocolate. A chocolate connoisseur won’t be impressed with Hershey’s or M&Ms, so the real chocolate is going to be more pricey. Chocolate is a great comfort food because its chemicals stimulate pleasure centers in the brain. You can spend $60 to $100 ordering chocolate to be delivered to your loved one’s place of work on Valentine’s Day. For this, Edible Arrangements is one of my favorites. You can get fruit and chocolate!
But it’s expensive. I’ve found over the years from Consumerism Commentary readers that chocolate is a Valentine’s Day necessity. Suggesting the elimination of chocolate will start reader riots. Here’s the frugal twist. Buy some fresh fruit and chocolate powder or chips from the grocery store instead, and spending the evening making your own chocolate fondue. That way, you take a food favorite and save a lot of money while enjoying a fun couple’s event.
3. Don’t rent pornography. Rather than supporting a dangerous industry, pick up the camcorder, mount in on a tripod, and get to work. If you’re too shy to film your own, peruse your local sex library. If you do, however, choose to take the do-it-yourself approach with your partner, please be sure not to upload your work accidentally to a public website. Lives have been ruined — though in a few cases, fortunes have been made. But chances are slim that you’re the next Kim Kardashian.
4. Avoid lingerie. Here is something that’s pointless. Why spend a lot of money for a small amount of clothing, particularly if the desired end result is the removal of said clothing. Stay naked. Nudity is sexier.
In the past, readers have suggested a strip tease as a fun, frugal, sexy activity to get the night started. You don’t need new lingerie when the focus is on the removal; in fact, a strip tease that starts with business attire might be hotter. If you’re into that kind of thing.
5. Turn off electrical appliances. No television, no lights, nothing that draws power provided by an outside source. Light a candle if you need to see, but otherwise just get in bed and cuddle in the dark… without the aforementioned lingerie.
Save a few bucks on the electricity bill for the night.
6. Skip the gourmet dinner. Filet mignon at Ruth’s Chris is unmatched in terms of taste. Another one of my favorites is the four-course fondue dinner at The Melting Pot with cheese, salad, entrees, and dessert. Dining as an experience is an important part of life for many people, but it isn’t a frugal choice. Those Melting Pot dinners can easily cost upwards of $100 for two, especially once you add in the alcohol.
I’ve been somewhat successful, romantically if not culinarily, cooking myself for the more important occasions. It helps that I don’t cook often; when I do, it’s a special occasion in itself. And remember, when it comes out, it smells the same whether it’s McDonald’s or Omaha Steaks.
7. Create a playlist. They tell me that mix tapes are out of fashion in the twenty-first century. I was big on mix tapes throughout high school and even college. It was never a challenge for me to find songs that I wanted to share with other people, and since I already owned the music for the most part, the only cost was blank audio tapes. Towards the end of college, blank tapes gave way to blank CDs.
When I first started exploring frugal Valentine’s Days, the MP3 player was the device of choice for listening to music. But even in a few short years, the iPod is gone and people listen to services like Spotify on their mobile devices. This has become my method for enjoying music as well. And one thing Spotify does well is allow users to create their own playlists — mix tapes of today.
So create a customized Valentine’s Day playlist to share with your spouse or lover.
8. Find free entertainment. Outdoor concerts in February might not be popular where you live; this doesn’t happen in cold New Jersey, but it may be an option in Arizona, for example. Chances are good you might be able to find some music or theatrical performances for free somewhere near you, if you don’t live somewhere rural.
Some city symphony orchestras and theatrical groups offer free concerts at certain times of the year, so you may be able to find some quality entertainment without spending much money.
Also check out these 5 romantic outdoor day-date ideas under $30.
Note: Don’t feel bad if you are without a partner on this Valentine’s Day. All of the above activities can be accomplished as well, if not better, on your own. If you have any additional frugal Valentine’s Day tips, be sure to leave comments here.
♥ Happy Valentine’s Day from Consumerism Commentary! ♥
Photo: slightly everything