You can express your affection without spending a fortune. I'm not saying you have to cheap out, merely that thoughtfulness usually beats extravagance. The home-cooked dinner, the handwritten card, the fun activity you planned because you love doing things together. A huge flower arrangement, an expensive dinner and lavish gifts aren't always the path to your special someone's heart.
Below I've rounded up some suggestions for the frugal-minded, some affordable alternatives to the traditional Valentine's Day expenditures.
Opt for outings
It's a common refrain these days that experiences are more memorable than physical things. Indeed, what's your significant other more likely to recall fondly: flowers that died in a week or the painting class the two of you took together?
That's why I'm a strong proponent of planning an outing. It shows you put some thought into the occasion. It gives you an activity to do together (and being together is what it's all about, right?). And it creates memories -- not something you always get from yet another dinner at a restaurant.
Here are a few ideas, along with some estimated costs:
- Go geocaching: Free
- Take a painting class: $35-40 per person (but check Groupon for deals)
- Do an escape room: $25-35 per person
- Go axe-throwing: $20-35 per person
- See a movie: $8-12 per person (see below for a deal)
Remember, it's not critical that you do your activity on Valentine's Day proper (which is a Thursday this year, and therefore not especially accommodating to work schedules). But you can announce the gift of the activity -- and, hey, anticipation is half the fun.
I'll also note that while the movie option is probably a little boring, it's still two hours in the dark with your beloved. You can mix it up by seeing a classic or an art-house film, something out of the ordinary. Just remember, again: Pick something they want to see, not something at the top of your list.
Sinemia Classic - 1 Movie Day Per Month for Two: $7.99Simenia
If you both love movies, here's a way to guarantee a monthly date-night -- and save money in the process. Sinemia's most affordable plan lets the two of you see any movie for just $8 (so $4 per person), or bump up to the 3-movies-per-month plan for $16. A newly added feature lets you roll over one unused ticket per month.
Save on flowers (or skip them altogether)
How important are flowers on Valentine's Day? Probably a lot less than you think. I recently conducted a Twitter poll, and fewer than 10 percent of respondents said flowers were "fully expected." The vast majority were pretty much split between "not essential, but nice" and "not expected/wanted." But -- important asterisk! -- I have no idea what the gender breakdown on my respondents was.
That's good news, because flower prices are only going to increase between now and Valentine's Day. A bouquet of roses that cost $35 in early January will quickly jump to $45-50 -- perhaps higher, depending on where you buy.
Translation: skip the flowers. Or, if you like the symbolism of the gesture, a single rose will do just fine. Consider this response from @chieflittletoes to the aforementioned poll:
I hate wasting money on overpriced roses. [My husband] still wants to spoil [me], so he sends me pics of bouquets he would buy if I let him. All the thought and romance, none of the wasted money. Plus I usually get dozens of bouquets this way, in all the colors. One rose, if you HAVE to buy, is plenty!
Still feel like nothing beats flowers? Here are a couple of the best deals currently available:
Get a $50 Valentine's Day flower arrangement for $30
This deal is good on well over a dozen different arrangements, some priced a little below $50, some priced a little above. Either way, you stand to save $20. And you've got until Feb. 12 to get your order in and still score Feb. 14 delivery.
Use a cash-back service to save as much as 30 percent
Thankfully, just as florists jack up their prices this time of year, so do cash-back services raise their rebates. At Ebates, for example, you can get 32 percent back from Florists.com, 30 percent from ProFlowers and so on. Not sure which of these services to use? Here are my picks for the best cash back services right now.
Save on dinner
If you haven't already booked a table for Valentine's Day, well, good luck. But you know what's even better than dining at a crowded, overpriced restaurant? A home-cooked meal at home. (Psst: You're on cleanup duty as well.)
Are you a klutz in the kitchen? Consider some of the amazing things you can accomplish with an Instant Pot (or similar pressure-cooker), which allows even non-chefs to create some pretty gourmet meals quickly and easily.
First, learn. Then check out this roundup of , a few of which consist of full meals.
Now for dessert. You simply can't beat the classic chocolate-dipped strawberries -- and they're incredibly easy (and inexpensive) to make at home. Just wash and dry some berries, melt some chocolate chips on the stove or in the microwave, then dip.
Hit up Google or YouTube if you need more help, but that's really all there is to it.
Want to give the gift of less cooking over an extended period? Consider a mail-order meal service, one that can bring partially or even fully prepared gourmet dinners to your door. For example, just in time for Valentine's Day, Plated is offering first-time subscribers free desserts for a year with promo code BEMINE.See it at Plated
That's just one possibility; check out CNET's full roster offor others. Just remember, this is something of a commitment -- you can cancel later, but you're committing to 2, 3 or 4 nights a week of delivered meals, at least in the short term.
Whether you opted for a Instant Pot creation or a meal kit delivery, though, you can also add a movie at no extra charge: Round off your evening with a handpicked film from our selection of.
Save on gifts
Ah, the eternal question: What's an appropriate Valentine's Day gift? If you're thinking tech gear doesn't seem very romantic, well, you're not wrong. I'm not going to suggest something like a Bluetooth speaker or, horrors, a Fitbit.
That said, how about something that's practical, pretty and seen every day? I'm thinking about a new phone case, one with a meaningful design: a custom photo, decorative floral pattern or favorite sports-team logo. It's a nice option for people who like to change up their look from time to time, and it's definitely not crazy-expensive.
At Velvet Caviar, for example, you can choose from a wide assortment of unique and decorative phone cases, and score 25 percent off sitewide and free shipping with promo code CNET.See it at Velvet Caviar
I'm also a big fan of the new Tile Trackers, which are insanely useful and very affordable. The Tile Mate, for example, runs just $25 -- but you can get one for $20 with promo code FINDLOVE (which expires Feb. 9). It attaches to a keychain, purse or the like, then helps find misplaced phones. And it works in reverse, too, meaning a phone can help find a misplaced keychain, purse or the like.See it at Tile
Again, this is hardly a romantic gift, but it's all in how you frame it. "I know how frustrating it is when things go missing," you say, "And a guy I know says these Tile things are awesome." Most importantly, make sure these sort of things are part of a larger gift experience -- these should be the Valentine's Day equivalent of a stocking stuffer, not the main gift!
I'm not going to go any further with gift ideas, because I think there's a better way to spend your money.
This story originally posted on February 5, 2019.
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