One of our favorites times of the year is coming up…yes I’m referring to Valentine’s Day!! And yes, this is Thrifty Al writing and no, Thrifty Cas doesn’t have a gun to my head while I write this. Seriously, we really do love Valentine’s Day…it was 19 years ago that I proposed to Thrifty Cas during our Valentine’s date!! I’ll never forget “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” playing in the background as I proposed to her – she’s always referring to her “showers of blessing”!
So, tis the season to celebrate your love and to try to do so thriftily (but of course not to lose the romance!).
And since Valentine’s day is around the corner and you can’t likely skip it without causing havoc in the house, we thought we would share a few ideas with you to celebrate the loves in your life, but stick to it creatively and affordably!
We wanted to share these ideas so that you can realize that you can have a very romantic and special Valentine’s without having to spend any money.
We wanted to quickly recommend that you check out our Valentine’s Shortcuts post to save time and money. Most of the ideas cost nothing to very little money to do!
The first objective on everyone’s agenda is….finding a cheap solution for a babysitter!! This one is really and truly easy if you put your mind to it. What is the solution?! It’s called the babysitting co-op (ok, I just made that up)!! As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, make a plan with another couple with kids that also need babysitting. You may be able to exchange overnight sittings, for a full night of…well, er, uninterrupted fun. What a better way to spend Valentine’s Day then have one night to you and your loved one and then another night with a house-ful of kids!! What’s so great about this (besides the FREE babysitting – huge SAVINGS!) is the kids can spend time with their close friends too!
If you have kids, either have the older kids watch the younger in another part of the house, or if your kids are younger you can usually plan that they will go to bed early (around 7:30-8). If you kids are older, they can have their “kids’ date night in” in another room of the house watching movies or playing games. This frees up your night without the cost or headache of a sitter on Valentine’s Day. We did this for many years.
Today, we have finally reached the point where we have teens. Two of them at the time of writing this post. So our teens girls get to babysit the younger kids. Regardless of how old/young the kids are, you can likely find a free or affordable babysitting plan.
Now that we have gotten the kid ideas out of the way, we are going to break down a list of ideas for three different scenarios:
- The No to Very Low Budget Ideas
- The Small Budget Ideas
- The “Make the Most with the Budget You Have” Ideas
#1 – Cheap Ideas for Valentine’s Day with a No or Low Budget
The best way to celebrate is to have “date night in.” It’s the cheapest, and quite frankly, quite a romantic evening without a bunch of strangers around.
Make a special dinner:
- For the main dish – Create your entree (pastas are romantic and very inexpensive) with foods you have on hand. Be creative and pull out some ingredients and then google “recipe for:” and list the ingredients that you have and you will probably be able to come up with a new and fun dinner. Allrecipes has a great recipe search tool to come up with the perfect dish! It’s odd how a new dish can get you out of your comfort zone while helping you laugh and have fun in the kitchen. One of our cheap pasta favorites is pasta with olive oil, sliced fresh green onions, fresh sliced tomato chunks or grape/cherry cut in half with Parmesan cheese – very simple, but elegant and yummy!
- For dessert – Follow the same steps as you did with dinner and find ingredients that you have in your pantry already and google them to find some new fun ways of using them. For example, there are so many things you can do with a cake mix. If you have a fondu pot, you can take some simple ingredients and turn them into a very romantic dessert – make your own chocolate dipped strawberries and more. Check AllRecipes.com and they have a fun search tool to find recipes that include and don’t include certain things.
- For the beverages – Mix a juice or kool-aid with sprite, ginger ale or other sparkling drink. Also, check our recipe section here where we shared a fun bubbly beverage to make. We also shared a couple of really simple, affordable and elegant desserts (like mini-cheesecakes) too.
For the setting:
- Make the dinner setting something special using what you have on hand already: tablecloths, flower petals, dim lights and candles, decorations, love notes, etc. You can cut heart shapes out of paper or fabric!
- We would even recommend moving the dinner setting outside of the kitchen/dining room into the living room or even the bedroom for a change of scenery.
- Also, don’t forget the romantic music – you do not have to go out and buy any either! Just use Pandora.com and you an have easy listening for FREE (with a few commercials here and there).
- In addition, check our Pinterest board for lots of last-minute, money-saving ideas!
For the activities:
- Write a poem or love letter to each other or play a game where you name your favorite memories from each year of your marriage or reminisce about your favorite memories. Get to know your spouse more by playing a fun game where you ask each other about your favorites foods, vacations you have spent together, or your favorite songs. Just get talking and it might just spark something more to learn new things about your spouse.
- Have a do-it-yourself couples massage at home with the classic music and setting.
- Watch your wedding video or vacation video together, watch movies you have at home and haven’t seen for a while.
- Play cards or even a board game.
- Set up a bubble bath with the special fixings. Even look at making your own bath salts or bath fizzies and massage lotion bars for the occasion.
For gifts for each other:
- Make a scrapbook or photo gift together and you’ll find even more to talk and reminisce about! Seriously, if you are planning on making the scrapbook already, then doing it together can be a great way to make it that much more meaningful.
- Write a poem or love letter that you can keep in your keepsakes or create a gift that brings back memories.
- Make the classic coupon book!
Ways to Save as a Family and Kids – Enjoy a Family Valentine Party at Home
Family Valentine Parties can be a great way for each in the family to get to know each other more, to appreciate time spent with one another and to learn to be “gracious and loving” even more with one another. Here’s some ideas.
For the Dinner: Make a fun dinner with ingredients you have on hand (see tips above) and use red food coloring to turn as much of it as you can pink or red. For a special dessert, use some of that food coloring to decorate sugar cookies or ice cream sundaes.
For the activities:
- Have the kids make valentines for each other, listing why they love and appreciate their siblings and parents, etc.
- Have a dress-up where everyone comes to dinner and acts like ladies and gentlemen (great time to sneak those etiquette lessons in there).
- Play family games together or watch a favorite family movie.
For valentine exchanges: Make homemade valentines! There are HUNDREDS of ideas and ways to do this, but the Family Fun site has a lot of ideas as well as Pinterest. Find projects that use the supplies you have on hand already so that you do not need to purchase anything. In addition, you will find a ton of other ideas on their site for foods, parties and more.
For gifts for family and friends, make your own:
- Bath salts and bath fizzies that we mentioned above are a fantastic gift! Combine with any of your stockpile of lotions or other personal care items for a nice gift.
- Make a food gift.
- Make a photo gift.
- Make Handmade Valentine’s Day Cards
For the Home Decor:
- Make your own decorations by recycling and using the resources that you have at home. We recommend you check out our previous post HERE or check out our Pinterest page for Valentine’s shortcuts that save time and money!
- Have the kids make homemade decorations to decorate the house. Check out the AllFreeCrafts site for ideas.
These are only a few ideas for a virtually no cost Valentine’s Day celebration this year. Remember that sometimes activities that you might do together anyway can become a great date-night opportunity when you set aside the time.
#2 – Ways To Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a Small Budget
We have already shared in the first part of this article about ways to celebrate and basically spend nothing! So now we want to share ideas on how to have a Thrifty Valentine’s Day on a small budget. Again, over the years, we have been under each of these circumstances when the Valentine’s Day holiday rolls around.
We are romantics at heart and love to celebrate our marriage covenant and spread the love to our kids! Even though money has been an issue in the past, it has not stopped us from making it a very sweet and special day for all of us.
So here are some ideas on things WE have done to celebrate Valentine’s Day for the years that we had that small budget set aside.
Ways to Save as a Couple – Celebrating and Going Out On A Different Day
First, things first, if you have kids that are younger, consider babysitting swapping. What we mean is see if there is another couple that will watch your kids one night while you go out and then watch their kids so they can go out and all free of charge.
Go Out To Dinner on a Different Night:
- Dinner Out: If going out to dinner was what the two of you had in mind as a special treat this year, consider doing this on a different night other than Valentine’s Night. The reason: Valentine’s Night is INSANELY busy and often the romance is crowded out with strangers, noise, waiting, and frustration. When much of the population is on a date, it can be difficult to set the mood. Also, because it is such a popular night, many restaurants will not allow discounts and coupons on the holiday – so the prices could be higher because you often cannot take advantage of those deals. Also, don’t forget about gift cards and ways to save eating out.
- Consider Date Night In and Dessert Out. This is a fun way to “go out” without all of the expense! Have a nice romantic quite dinner at home (see the section above and just buy food according to you budget – including steak dinner in) and then enjoy dessert (and maybe a beverage) out at your favorite restaurant. Even pick up a treat at a place like Coldstone, Baskin Robbins, Jamba Juice and then take a drive (or a walk if you live somewhere warm) to a nice spot and soak up the scenery while enjoying a nice chat with no one else around but the two of you.
- Consider Dinner Out and Dessert in with Movies, games or previously mentioned activity ideas!
Make the Different night of celebration AFTER Valentine’s Day:
- This is one of our most famous tricks! We enjoy a family party at home each year with the kids on Valentines or even the weekend after (they are so young that they don’t know the difference) and then the two of us have our celebration after on a different night. What this means is that EVERYTHING Valentine themed will be greatly reduced from the flowers, cards, chocolates, teddy bears, candy, etc. This essentially means that we can have two or three times the celebration on the same budget!
- The crowds are not hitting the restaurants and hot spots like crazy so going out is a bit more enjoyable.
- Finally the coupon discounts and restrictions are not in place anymore! We can enjoy a cheaper night out by using our usual eating out tricks of the trade (which, in a nutshell is combining a previously purchased discount gift card and combining this with in-restaurant discounts/specials or coupons).
For gifts for each other:
- If you are celebrating before or on Valentine’s Day, consider shopping for flowers at the local grocery stores or Super Center (e.g., Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club). They typically will have the lowest prices around for items like flowers, chocolates, bakery desserts, etc. Plus you can use coupons before Valentine’s Day for many of the candy and different things.
- Check on local deals for your area for the gifts as many companies are trying to capitalize on the holiday by offering specials in your local area and from the group buying sites for your local area like Groupon and your local deal sites.
- Often times home-based businesses will offer competitive deals on these items as well. For example, we commonly see signs in our area for family-based businesses that are making flower arrangements or other gift ideas. Its awesome to support these types of businesses and the quality is often superior to that you can get by a bulk-made company.
- Make a photo gift of personalized engraved gift. We mentioned this previously, but it really is a great idea!
- If you are shopping to celebrate after, then there are WAY more options for your small budget in the area of gifts to each other.
- Make homemade gifts, cards and poems and then consider the night out (whether that be dinner, movies, dessert, or whatever) as part of your gift and “splurge” as a thrifty person would do. By “splurge” we mean including drink and dessert at dinner, snacks at the movies, etc. ( as an example 99% of the time we only get water out so ordering a beverage is a special treat!).
- The homemade heartfelt gifts are always the most memorable and special to each of us and so consider saving money completely in this are and going all homemade.
Ways to Save as a Family and Kids
We are going to mention what we earlier: a Family Valentine Party at home! But again, just like “dinner in,” just take it up a notch or two as your budget allows. For example, spend your “small budget” on pizza night – we love to get our families favorite take-and-bake pizza, but in a special “heart shape” for the holiday. Alex will also bring Carnations from the grocery/super stores home to the girls in this house (flowers melt a girls heart at any age!) and maybe a special bakery item or homemade bakery treat!
We have also taken them out to a place that they enjoy and “splurge” on dinner for them, like going to McDonald’s and getting Happy Meals or eating at home and going out for ice cream, etc.
We have family Valentine exchanges and we would still recommend homemade gifts for exchanges amongst each other. Not only does it save money, but they are the sweetest and most memorable Valentine’s of all! The dollar store (or dollar section at Target) is also a fun place to grab a handful of fun trinket like gifts, cards, and decorations. Our kids like to get things for each other and so letting them shop freely at the dollar store is a fun experience for them and takes very little out of our pocket.
For the activities:
- Consider having a game night out with your discounts and coupons! Indoor mini-golf, bowling or other family type activity out and go on a night other than Valentine’s night to take advantage of your coupons and discounts for these activities and so it is less busy!
Also, since the theme has been after Valentine’s Day to save, be on the lookout for the Valentine cards for next year, in addition to non-food gifts and decorations at those post holiday clearances. Just keep the things you find in that gift bin that we keep mentioning to pull out when you need it next year (and so you know where to find it)!
These are just a small handful of ideas of what you can do on a small budget and things that we have personally done over the years.
#3 – Ways To Celebrate Valentine’s Day No Matter Your Budget
So the final category covers the ideas on ways to maximize your budget no matter what it may be (whether a little or a lot) because it is always more fun and romantic when you knew you or your spouse grabbed a deal and maximized your savings with the money set aside for the occasion (it really is quite romantic when you think about it in those terms – of course we are The Thrifty Couple!:)).
We think back on our unthrifty days and how we tried to make occasions so “special, romantic and memorable” no matter the cost. We just went along with the cultures’ and retailers’ ideas of what was “special, romantic and memorable”! As a result, the most memorable part was the interest, debt and heartache after the fact instead of the event itself.
But in the last several years, we have had some of the most “special, romantic and memorable” Valentine’s Days yet and thankfully didn’t have the bill following us in the weeks and months to come.
There are MANY ideas on how to maximize no matter the budget you have. We are just going to share a handful and things we have done in the past and things we have even just started doing this year.
Ways to Save as a Couple
Going Out To Dinner:
- Find a date dinner night package. There are a handful of national restaurants that are offering special Valentine Date Night packages for a nice dinner. You will find that a lot of local restaurants will be offering some really romantic and special packages too. Check in your local newspaper, local news websites and more to find these special local deals. We enjoy going to a local nice restaurant on a special occasion – with them offering Valentine’s Packages, it makes it less expensive too.
- Watch for the lunch or “early bird” specials. To try and tame the crowds, many restaurants will offer lunch specials or an early bird dinner special (like before 6 pm) and you will have less crowds and possibly grab a better deal than those eating during the prime time.
- Find coupons and read the restrictions. If you find a restaurant you would like to take your honey too, try to find a coupon and read the restrictions to see if you can use it on that night.
- Grab the FREEBIES. Many restaurants might not have a special Valentine’s Day packages, but they will sometimes offer FREEBIES like FREE roses or FREE dessert, etc. Take note of these offers.
- Try a progressive dinner. This is a fun way to celebrate! What we mean is have an appetizer at one restaurant (that you have a coupon for and will allow usage on Valentines Day – the trick to grabbing an appetizer for FREE is to sign-up for a restaurants email list at least 24 hours before and many will send you a coupon for a FREE appetizer or dessert for joining!), then scoot off to your dinner reservation (with the deals we mentioned above), and finally later on enjoy dessert at your final location (again with any coupons or discounts you can use, see the additional trick under the appetizer). We have done this before and not only is it really fun, but you can score even more discounts because you can use more coupons at many places to make the overall meal cheaper. It is also romantic because you can really take your time and relish each other’s company and then enjoy your favorites at each restaurant (Red Robin has my favorite appetizer – Fried Zucchini which we have scored for FREE a few times and Chili’s has my favorite dessert, Chocolate Molten Lava cake – Yum). Include a special homemade or “within your budget” gift at each stage and possibly make the gifts progressive too (we will share gift ideas below).
- PLEASE NOTE – if you do plan to go out on Valentine’s Day – MAKE A RESERVATION. Even restaurants that do not normally allow reservations, they will probably be allowing it for this evening.
- Movies and Theater. There is, of course, the classic movie out which is a nice treat. And we have posted about many movie ticket discounts before, so hopefully you have grabbed some! We rarely (if ever) have seen a Valentine Movie package to the national chain theaters, but your local discount theaters may have some! In addition, consider live theater shows or musical performances and check with your local grocery stores, banks or credit unions for discount tickets to live theater shows or local musical performances like the symphony!
- Consider a date package which might include a hotel night (which is a nice treat especially if it is in town with grandma and grandpa to help watch your kiddos or possibly consider the babysitting swap like we previously mentioned) and many will also include dinner and possibly a spa package. If you are a AAA or other discount travel club member, they may allow you to grab those additional discounts with your package. Plus you might also be a part of or plan to join the hotel’s rewards programs. For us, getting a night away from the kids and soaking in the hot tub is super sweet for those Valentine’s Packages! The package itself, especially if it includes dinner, could make for a nice discount.
- Consider a spa alternative – Natural Hot Springs! We are not sure how many of you out there have access to a natural hot springs, but it is AMAZING and really quite cheap! We live just about 1.5 hours away from our favorite hot springs and so we can drive down and back in the same day. It is like a spa feeling without paying the spa price. The one we go to really has a very romantic setting up in the mountains and all of the steam hides everyone else (typing this up is making me soooo want to go) so it is a very romantic setting.
For gifts for each other: There are MANY ideas that surround the world of gift ideas for this romantic holiday, so it all depends on what your budget will allow. But there are ways to maximize the savings.
- Use a group buying or daily deal site. This is a really good thing for you and your budget (as long as you are buying what you would normally use and organizing them so you don’t forget). The last few weeks, we have seen many deals for chocolates, flowers, gifts and more here and we hope that you have had the chance to take advantage of them. What this basically means is that you can buy a gift certificate for like 50% off to a chocolate, flower or gift company and then turn around and utilize it with the sale and specials they are having, which can often mean that you are saving 75-80% off your flower delivery or you are able to grab 75% more with the budget you have! This is a great way for the delivery service too as most all of the offers we have seen have the delivery service of flowers, chocolates, gifts and more! You can also use these to grab deals on jewelry, spa packages, dinner packages, golf packages and more! The sky is really the limit with what you can grab and what is available in your area!
- Price Compare. If you are looking for something specific, check the store circulars and then compare to online deals using Google Shopping or Price Watcher. You can read up more on this on our previous post.
- Shop with a coupon code online. If you are making a purchase online, head to Savings.com and search for a possible additional coupon code or discount before you make that online purchase! This could save you an extra 10%, 15%, 20% or more just by taking this extra step. You can also use a cash back site like Shop At Home to get money back on your purchases.
- Negotiate with the Jeweler. If you are in the market for jewelry, take cash with the budget you have set aside (we HIGHLY recommend having a budget set aside to keep you from overspending or keep you from grabbing credit – trust us, we made this mistake a handful of times) and really negotiate with the jeweler. This isn’t most likely going to work at places like JCPenney, etc. but at the smaller jewelry stores or local jewelers. We think all things are negotiable, especially if you have cash! You might be surprised and just what kind of a deal you could grab by doing this! There is nothing wrong with asking and giving them that cash incentive! They have sales goals and will often strike extra deals to meet those goals and bring cash to the till!
- Make that special one-of-a kind photo gift. Photo gifts are great for any budget. Again the daily deal sites here too have offered up some really amazing photo deals! This might be a great time to find a deal on taking a wedding photo and having it turned into something special.
In the end, you can find some amazing ways to celebrate your love without causing financial stress. There are certainly many cheap ideas for Valentine’s Day that you should be floating through this holiday with ease!