RISMEDIA, February 4, 2009-The hype surrounding Valentine’s Day has long influenced American consumers to dig deep into their pockets for the traditional roses, chocolates, and jewelry. According to a 2008 report from the National Retail Federation, consumers expected to spend $122 on Valentine’s gifts last year. But this February, in the midst of a roller-coaster economy, the flutter many Americans are feeling has more to do with financial worries than a quickened heartbeat caused by love. While times are tough, The Debt Diva, Clarky Davis, suggests we take a page from Cupid’s book to have a frugal but still romantic Valentine’s Day by focusing on the heart.
“Remember, Cupid inspires love with his bow and arrow, not an expensive bouquet of flowers or diamond ring,” Davis says. “Don’t be pressured to go overboard with expensive gifts to celebrate your love. Stay on track with your budget. There are plenty of ways to show how you feel without spending a fortune. I like to call these special moments, Debt-Free Dates”
The Debt Diva’s Debt-Free Dates
1. Romantic Dinner: Have a nice candlelit dinner at home. Cooking at home costs much less than going to fancy restaurant. Dress up in something nice and make something new.
2. Treasure Hunt: Create a map and go to all your special places or favorite spots. Hide a little gift at the end to wrap it all up.
3. Day of Fun: Since Valentine’s falls on a Saturday this year, you can plan a whole day of activities, which could include breakfast in bed, a day at the park, a movie marathon and a romantic dinner.
4. Movie Marathon: Movies are a great way to spend time together cuddled up on the couch. Pick movies that are special to you both or find something you each like and want to share with one another. Another idea is to watch home videos to bring back memories from your wedding or kid’s younger years.
5. Live Music: Check out a concert in your town that you both enjoy. There are also local cover bands that play music of a favorite artist at an inexpensive venue or even for free.
6. Wine Tasting: Many vineyards offer a tasting for around $10. This is a romantic fun way to spend the day. If you make a purchase at the end, many vineyards will even apply the tasting fee to the product.
7. Relax: Take the day to spend relaxing together at a bookstore, a coffee shop or even at home. Sometimes you just need to rest and know you are there for each other.
8. Take a scenic drive: Drive to special place or get out of town for the day. Talk and reminisce about good times.
9. Do a second “first date”: Ask all the get to know you questions. Give yourself a low budget and have some fun doing the things you did when you first met.
10. Dance: Take a slow dance at home after dinner or find somewhere free to dance the night away later in the evening.
“Your budget is probably already tight this year as you are paying down debt, adding to savings and trying to survive with current economic conditions. Your efforts will pay off,” Davis says. “But if you still want to give your loved one something special, here are some gift ideas that say ‘I love you’ without making your piggy bank squeal.”
Frugal Valentine’s Day Gifts
1. Homemade card: Get creative and make a card yourself instead of spending money on a generic store bought one. Cut out heart shapes and add a loving note.
2. Sweet tooth: Make something yummy for him or her. Pull out the cookie cutters and make heart shaped cookies or brownies. Another idea is chocolate covered pretzels or cupcakes.
3. Flowers: Instead of buying an expensive bouquet from a florist, make it yourself. Check out your local big box retailer or even local grocer for great deals. Try and get creative as well. Roses are classic, but there are cheaper options that may be even more impressive. Even a single flower shows you care if you can’t afford a full bouquet.
4. Express yourself: Write a poem or sentimental love note. This is something they will keep forever. Buy a sheet of scrapbook paper or parchment to write on to add a little something extra.
5. Coupons: Create coupons or vouchers for him or her to do something special at a later date and time. Some ideas include a massage, a car wash, a day with the kids, or something else that best fits them.
6. Pictures: There are lots of ways to make photos special. Make a photo album online at sites like myphotoalbum or shutterfly. Create a scrapbook of the special moments together from the year. You can also add things to the scrapbook like ticket stubs, program covers, etc.
7. Music: Create a CD full of romantic music or make a CD of your loved one’s favorite music.
8. Book: If your sweetie loves to read, buy a book they have been wanting or one from a favorite author, and add a special note.
9. Spa Day: Look for discount deals on spa packages. You can probably find lots of discounts this year. Do a couple’s massage or purchase a day of pampering for your loved one.
10. Wrap it all up: Create a basket or box full of great items. Add the CD, the book, a framed photo, scented candles, gourmet coffee/tea and some bubble bath.
“There are lots of ways to have a frugal and affectionate Valentine’s Day,” says Davis. “It just takes a little bit of creativity and planning. And most people will appreciate a special date or gift from the heart that shows you really care.”