It’s a February tradition on Consumerism Commentary to look at Valentine’s Day from a perspective of moderation. Each year, I consider how a couple for whom frugality is important can still feel involved in the holiday of love. If you have some thoughts to add, please leave your comments at the bottom of this article.
The way I see it, Valentine’s Day is an occasion mostly meant for companies like Hallmark who market Products of Love to willing consumers who do not communicate their feelings well enough throughout the rest of the year. But I’m not that cynical. Celebrating Valentine’s Day in a unique way can be a great way to express love for others in addition to all that can be done on the remaining 364 days. From greeting cards to diamonds, and from Lexus to 1-800-Flowers, companies and brands want to be associated, or indelibly linked, to the holiday. I say avoid mass-produced “love” and take a personal approach.
Today’s economy lends itself well to this alternate philosophy. According to government statistics, more people are out of work today than were in that situation one year ago. 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 and wrap it in a bow.
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 find its way somewhere else.)
1. Make your own greeting cards. There are few things I can’t stand. One of the few is cards that play music when they open. Not only is it annoying, but the music is often recorded in horrible fidelity so that it can be stored on a tiny, hidden device. But even standard greeting cards aren’t worth the price. I can never find one that expresses the thoughts as they exist in my head, but what would it say if I could find one? It would say that my feelings are mass produced, and the way I feel about someone can be expressed in the same words that thousands of other people would use, and 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.
2. Pass over the chocolate. First, I don’t consider M&Ms and Hershey’s candy to be real chocolate. Chocolate starts with Godiva or Lindt, but still has room for improvement. Better chocolate, like a drug, might stimulate the hypothalamus, increasing pleasure for those who consume. Chocolate is a great comfort food for that reason. But good chocolate can be expensive, so it may be something you’d like to skip this year.
Skip chocolate and choose fruit instead.
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. Keep it private.
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 and doesn’t support terrorism.
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.
6. Skip the gourmet dinner. Filet mignon at Ruth’s Chris is unmatched in terms of taste. Another one of my favorites is fondue at The Melting Pot. Dining as an experience is an important part of life for many people, but it isn’t a frugal choice. 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. These days, it’s the MP3 player that seems to be the preferred way to listen, and the way to bring the mix tape up-to-date is to create a playlist and share a compilation of MP3s.
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.
♥ Happy Valentine’s Day from Consumerism Commentary! ♥
Photo: slightly everything
Updated February 13, 2012 and originally published February 11, 2009.