Valentine’s Day 2015 will cost more.

thThat is, it will cost more if you’re an “average” consumer. According to the National Retail Federation, the tab will run $142.31.

That’s $8.40 more than last year, and a lot more than we plan to shell out. How about you?

Total spending is estimated at $18.9 billion (yes, with a “b”) on flowers, candy, jewelry and other gifts. Of course, no one really has to spend that unless he or she really wants to do so. Inexpensive or free ways abound to celebrate the day o’ love, such as:

  • “Leave stick-it notes around the house; write the things you love about her on them.” (Kyle James, “Valentine’s Day: Make it affordably awesome this year,” Rather-Be-Shopping.com)
  • “Give her a get-out-of jail-free card, as it were — good for one time — where you promise not to notice or complain when she screws up. Give a gift certificate for her to take a night out with her friends while you stay home and take care of the kids. Give her a gift certificate for a bubble bath while you vacuum and do the laundry. Or take one of her dirty and least-favorite jobs off her hands — cleaning and detailing the car, for example.” (“10 inexpensive Valentine gifts that will rock her world,” MoneyTalksNews.com)
  • “Use a soap bar to rub a love message on the mirrors or use a lipstick to do the same.” (MyDearValentine.com) If you do this, make it clear you plan to clean these missives off the mirror yourself. Then follow through.
  • “Some people like to go to the card store together and pick out cards, then read them to each other. Pick a funny card and a sweet card. Then, when you’re done, just put the cards back. A fun outing and doesn’t cost a thing.” (Emily Guy Birken, “80 ridiculously cheap (and creative) Valentine’s Day ideas,” PT Money)
  • “Create a website.  You can use Google Sites or any other free website and add cute Valentine’s Day clip art, a poem and some photos.  Then, email it to them.  This is a great gift if you have a long-distance relationship, and it’s free too.” (FunTimesGuide.com)
  • Don’t have a spouse or partner? See “How to celebrate Valentine’s Day alone,” on the Bargain Briana website.
  • Or go the snarky route, as my daughter did one year: “In the past, when I was single, I was a big fan of the anti-Valentine’s Day. One year, I rented ‘Saw’ and made a bunch of spaghetti and had a friend over. We figured it was appropriate for Valentine’s Day because the sauce was red… and so was the blood in the film.” (IPickUpPennies.net)

Note: The examples/articles noted above tend to focus on women. But most of these ideas work for men, too.


Why limit ourselves?

As I’ve said before, this “prove your devotion by spending a lot!” stuff leaves me cold. That goes for birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas, too.

Think for a moment about who’s warning you about the need to find the “perfect” gift: Why, it’s the folks who propose to sell you those gifts!

To be clear: You can spend more than $142.31 if you like. Lots more, even. Just do it intentionally, not because you’ve been guilted into thinking that price tags = proof of love.

Right now DF is trying to pare down stuff, not accumulate more of it. Both he and I are reining in spending of all types, in order to have some other things we want.

For me, that’s three trips in the next three months. Two of the plane tickets are being done via buddy passes (90 percent off) and bunking with family and the other (speaking at the New Media Expo conference in Las Vegas) – is a business expense. Even so, I’m going to need walking-around money in all those places and I’ll also need to take my hosts out to dinner as a thank-you gesture.

Here’s what I expect to spend on Feb. 14: zero dollars. Or, rather, relatively few sunk-cost dollars: We’ll fix a nice dinner with what we have on hand, listen to “Saturday Night at the Opera,” maybe play cribbage or Scrabble, maybe just read a lot. I actually do have a card for him, but only because Hallmark Crown Rewards sent me a couple to entice me to buy more.

No matter what we do, we’ll remember how lucky we are to have each other. But we do that the other 364 days a year, too. Why set aside just one square on the calendar to recognize love?

Readers: What, if anything, are you doing to mark the holiday?

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  1. Gipssy T Lupin

    My husband always buys me flowers and chocolate. However, he buys the flowers wholesale, not in an arrangement, and a small token box of chocolates. This is probably for the best because I owned a Flower shop once and know how much the markup is and mentally criticize the arrangements (I know its mean,but I can’t help it and I don’t let on), so this way I make my own bouquets. As for the chocolates, he buys a small box because we are both Diabetic and trying to lose weight. I would tell him not to do either of those things, but he really enjoys buying them for me and I don’t want to ruin it for him. We also exchange e-cards, which cost pennies because I subscribe yearly to American Greetings and send hundreds of e-cards per year to far off friends, family and business clients. This way we celebrate the “holiday” but don’t spend much money.

  2. Gipssy T Lupin

    P.S. I always make him whatever his current favorite meal is at the time and share the chocolates, for our Valentine’s Day dinner.

  3. Heather Mentzer

    I made fabric valentine bags for each of my four children and my husband and I a few years ago. Every February first the bags come out and get hung on everyone’s bedroom door. I randomly place small candies, love notes or handmade trinkets in the bags. Everyone gets into it, leaving little surprises for each other. I love how it extends the holiday at a dreary time of year and doesn’t really cost anything. My husband and I generally make a card or write a love letter to each other and my husband (a chef) cooks me a spectacular meal.

  4. DH proposed the day *before* Valentine’s Day — he was too anxious to wait — so Feb. 13 is “our” Valentine’s Day. As much as I’d like jewelry, etc., I know that nothing says “I love you” like a paid-off credit card bill! So we exchange cards (I try to find one sweet and one funny/sexy), and he may bring a potted plant home from work. I enjoy sweets, so I’ll make something like a pan of brownies, and perhaps we’ll make a nice dinner at home. Except for veal and seafood, there isn’t too much I can’t re-create in my own kitchen. It doesn’t always taste identical, and I do have to clean up, but you can’t beat the price!

    • Donna Freedman

      DF says our food tastes good because it’s “prepared and shared with love.” Haven’t had a bad meal with the man yet, and I think that’s the reason.
      Happy anniversary.

  5. Tina in NJ

    My 21-year-old son is on the “rip-off holiday” rant this year. His GF wants to go someplace nice (read:expensive restaurant) and he’s a host at a restaurant. Valentine’s Day is a Saturday this year and you won’t catch me anywhere near a restaurant that day! We’ll make a nice dinner at home and I’ll make creme brûlée cheesecake bars for dessert.

    • Donna Freedman

      I’d suggest to the GF that she wait until another day to celebrate; as your son knows, the places will be packed and the tables need to be turned so no lingering over dinner.
      But I’m with him: Let’s not buy into (as it were) other people’s ideas of how the day should be celebrated. Show your love every day of the year, and recognize Feb. 14 as a quaint little custom that got out of hand. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do something nice. But “nice” isn’t necessarily measured in dollar amounts.
      Thanks for reading, and for being a consistent commenter.

  6. I won’t be one spending big bucks! We usually get cards and some candy and call it good. I still do something little for my kids that are young adults too! I think I am doing some baking this year and mailing it out…nothing says love like sugar cookies and brownies all decorated!

  7. I’ll send the kids some cash and I bought $.50 cards at the Dollar tree. Den and I usually try and find a little adventure to go on and he might bring me some Walmart flowers. We never made a big deal of it. Thank goodness.

  8. My hubs and I exchange cards and some small gift (usually we set a price limit of 20$). Then I make spaghetti using the sauce we made with tomatoes from our garden. I put a cheap red tablecloth on the table, light a candle and have a romantic dinner at home with the man I love most.

    • Donna Freedman

      That sounds lovely! But I admit my first mental picture was from “Lady and the Tramp,” with the spaghetti-slurping leading up to a dog kiss. Or maybe of your husband nudging a meatball over to you with his nose…
      Seriously: It’s quite special, and I bet the home-grown tomatoes make a wonderful sauce.
      The two of you are lucky to have each other.

  9. We made sure to schedule our normal massages on Valentine’s Day itself. Other than that, we’ve got no idea.

    Restaurants are hell, so a meal doesn’t sound great. (Plus I’m saving up for a pricey meal for our anniversary.)

    We’re not terribly interested in the movies that are out. Maybe we’ll go to the cheap house? (There we can get two tickets, popcorn and a drink for the cost of two tickets at a normal theater.)

    Or maybe we’ll celebrate the day before or after.

  10. Punkin Pye

    Generally, we like to have a quiet, romantic evening at home. We usually get cards for each other and throw some steaks (bought on sale and tossed in the freezer) on the grill. My husband adores grilling and it gives me a break from cooking. We also get a couple of individual desserts from our favorite bakery. Then we rent a move or two (usually Redox). Open a bottle of wine and you have a perfect Valentine’s.

    It is a little bit of a splurge, but I cringe when I think what a steak dinner, wine, dessert, and a movie for two would cost if we went out for it. So, I don’t feel so bad about the added expense.

    • Donna Freedman

      What’s life without a little splurge now and then? Sounds quite lovely and what’s more important, it works for you. Don’t let other people tell you you’re doing it wrong.

  11. We just watched the Valentine’s Day episode of Downton Abbey, in which the servants were all very excited to receive Valentines in the mail, and spent the day speculating as to who had sent whose. Even the established couples sent them unsigned, and had fun pretending they had secret admirers. For the cost of a stamp, everyone had a fun, playful day.

    Last year, we did dress up and go out for steak dinners… it was a lovely evening, but the holiday crowds did nothing to add to our enjoyment. Truth be told, I’d prefer to go out any other night! My husband is a romantic, so even though I’m working a half-day on Valentine’s Day, I’m sure we’ll do something to celebrate (probably cook a favorite meal at home). And Abigail’s comment about massages inspires me to suggest to my husband that we give each other massages that night… he’s never said “no” to that yet!

  12. This year for Valentines Day we are planning an outing together in advance, this may seem like its not as romantic/or a surprise, but planning it together and looking forward to it can add to the fun. We are going to see a play at a local University, they offer BOGO tickets online for one day. It pays to be on the email list for local entertainment as they often send you coupon codes and discounts.

  13. Cathy in NJ

    My husband loves a good restaurant meal so we are going out for Valentine’s Day. The somewhat frugal part is we are going Friday the 13th because the 14th has a special menu, aka much more expensive for the same thing. We exchange cards and I am going to slip a discounted gift card in his.

  14. I am definitely not a fan of the consumer-focused mentality of Valentine’s Day. It just feels so fake and saccharine to me. We much prefer to show our love year-round and to celebrate at home with a nice home-cooked dinner (which is what we do every Saturday night anyway 🙂 ). I can’t imagine throwing away $140+ on V Day!

    • Donna Freedman

      I recently read an advice column letter (Ask Amy, I think) about a woman who really wanted her husband to buy her flowers now and then because that was her idea of “romantic.” He just wasn’t a flowers kind of guy. Ultimately she realized that while she could count on the fingers of one hand how often he’d brought her bouquets, she could also count on the fingers of one hand the number of times she’d scraped her own windshield, dug out the car when it snowed and done other uncomfortable chores.
      That was how he showed her he loved her: by doing things to make her life easier and to spare her discomfort.
      So while I have nothing against going out to dinner or buying flowers for your loved one if that’s what makes you (and him/her) happy, I’m totally against doing one nice thing a year and getting a free pass to be inattentive the other 364 days.

      • I completely agree! And that story is a perfect illustration. It’s definitely all about how you treat each other every single day, not how you buy a gift once a year.

  15. Zero dollars this year, just like last year. I am a fan of the home-made card. I recall one that was shaped like the sole of a shoe, with the words “I love you from the bottom of my sole.” Or the special home-cooked meal, or the game of cribbage … though I cannot promise to lose. All of those things don’t cost much. I don’t want to receive flowers, or chocolate, or the rest. I wouldn’t say no to a home-baked sugar cookie, though.

    • Donna Freedman

      Since DF does bake fairly often, I might be surprised with a cookie. Or a loaf of bread. Then again, he does that for no reason at all throughout the year, so perhaps he’ll specifically skip Feb. 14.

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