I am fast approaching middle age, so I'm no longer a young man. I think over the years of being broke I have learned a few things that help to minimize my lack of cash impacting my love life. Save your money and skimp all year, but there are a few times you need to pry open that bill fold and spend a little at least. Best to make a little go a long way, and do it when it will make the most difference. Occasions like her birthday, your anniversary--and Valentine's day.
Here are a few low budget, and even no budget, suggestions for the man who wants to be dating someone or happily married through the end of February.
And I checked with my long-suffering wife on these--so don't
attack me for being a sexist chauvinist pig, that's her job.
1) Flowers - Flowers are still about the least expensive gift that will make a big splash. For $20 or so you can usually get a dozen roses--though you get what you pay for and the more you spend the nicer they look. You can always save money by buying just one nice rose and delivering it to your sweetie on her lunch hour yourself. The time you invest and the element of surprise make up for the fact that you spent just $5.
Another nice low budget option is to grow some flowers, or plant some flowers she will see everyday. If you live together in an apartment it might be hard to secretly grow a flower box full of tulips, but you can also buy potted plants. Treat them right and they will survive all year or longer for the price of cut flowers.
2) Candy - Women have been telling us for years that size doesn't matter, and here's one place where it's actually true. If you buy your woman a 5 lb. box of chocolate in the shape of a heart, she's either going to eat a few pieces and waste the rest or eat a bunch of it and feel guilty or sick.
Find out what kind of candy she likes and get that. Even if this means hunting all over town for Clark Bar, Chunky and Cadbury Fruit & Nut, she will love it much more than generic stuff in a red box. Tie it up with a ribbon and make it look cute.
3) Dinner - Next to jewelry, dinner can be the most expensive item on this list. Unlike jewelry, there are ways to lessen the price of a nice dinner. Try cooking for a change--and not just fish sticks or mac and cheese. Plan an elaborate meal with at least a meat, a vegetable (it can be salad
), a side dish, crusty bread and wine. Light some candles. This doesn't have to be expensive. Pasta with homemade pesto, chicken, and a tossed salad, something better than "2 Buck Chuck" and you're done.
If you do go out, go someplace cheap with sentimental value. How about the place you went on your first date? Most likely it wasn't too expensive, but it will have great memories. Taco Bell has a warm spot in my wife and my hearts because we went there on an early date after a wedding reception that served only cake.
4) Jewelry - Can't cheap out here. Don't even try! Better to not even buy jewelry for your love than to get her something with diamond chips, cubic zirconia, sterling silver or colored glass.
There are things you can get like jewelry that cost less but are no less special. Having worked in an antique hardware store the two most immediate suggestions are antique keys, and the keyholes they go with.
One of the first gifts I gave my now wife was an Art Nouveau keyhole escutcheon from the early 1900s. It was fairly common when it was made, but now it might as well be a Fabergé egg for how many of them you see around. Little antique keys are even less expensive, and so cute the Tiffany & Co. now makes a line of them starting around $200.
5) Services - If you are at the point where it's either a gift for the significant other or a bus pass so you can get to visit her, buy the bus pass and give her a foot massage or a back rub or (my wife's favorite
) brush her hair for half an hour while you watch something she wants on the TV.
So there you have it, my little round up of ways to save money on Valentines day without seeming cheap. Seeming cheap is like seeming desperate--people can smell it on you. It's okay to be frugal or thrifty, but sometimes you need to let the moths out of your wallet and spend a few bucks.
By the way, last week I mentioned setting up two coupons to monitor how well the Packers and the Steelers did at selling T-shirts and hats on NFL Shop
. Well, the results are in: In the end it was close. The Pittsburgh Steelers had 53 customers, the Green Bay Packers had 57.
And I ate about 6 pierogies and a couple of brats.