Looking to create a Valentine's Day that is high on romance and low on finance? You are not alone. According to the National Retail Federation, the average couple will spend $102.50 for Valentine's Day in 2010, a 17% decline from last year.
If the recession has taken a bite out of your budget or you just want to spend less, here are a few companies offering frugal options for celebrating Valentine's Day.
White Castle - The "House of Crave"
Most people may not associate this burger chain with the royal treatment, but White Castle is rolling out the red carpet for lovebirds. The company's website invites couples to "indulge in a romantic candlelight dinner" with flowers, decorations and tableside service.
This year's Valentine's Day dinner offers couples a special bonus - White Castle will take free digital pictures which will be available for viewing on the company's website.
There are almost 400 White Castle locations in the United States. Call your local chain to make reservations, or else you may not receive tableside service. (This year, avoid some shopping blunders and take a vacation from spending. Read Top Holiday Spending Mistakes.)
Red Lobster - "Your Favorite Seafood with Your Favorite Person"
For seafood-loving couples, Red Lobster is offering a three course meal for two for $29.99. Couples are invited to choose from a special menu, which includes two dinner entrees with salads, along with an appetizer or dessert for the special price.
Whataburger - Buy One, Get One Free
Whataburger's "I Love Patty Melt" Valentine's Day campaign offers to feed two for the price of one. Couples who opt for dine-in service can purchase a Patty Melt Whatameal and receive a second Patty Melt Whatameal free. Each Whatameal comes with french fries (or side salad for an additional cost) and a beverage.
Whataburger has over 700 locations in 10 states. Web savvy customers can even ask their Valentines to the "I Love Patty Melt" dinner via e-mail, with an invitation from Whataburger's website.
Hallmark - Augmented Reality Cards
Reality TV has dominated television programming for years, now Hallmark hopes their augmented reality (AR) cards will dominate the holidays. The cards come in various forms, for users with different levels of technological comfort. Some replay a voice recording from the gift-giver which the recipient can hear upon opening the card. Others require the recipient to visit Hallmark's website in order to receive an animated message.
The AR cards are priced from $2.99 to $5.99 each, and are available wherever Hallmark cards are sold. (These marriages resulted in financial heartache. Check out 6 Famous Prenup Screw-Ups.)
Hallmark also has a stuffed animal which will respond with one of four "sweet messages" in response to the words "I love you". The "I Love You" Response Bear sells regularly for $29.99, but customers who purchase three Hallmark cards can buy the bear for $14.95.
AT&T - Free Messaging Phone
According to AT&T, a text message is one of the "fastest and most fashionable ways" to say "I love you." So, just in time for Valentine's Day, the wireless carrier is offering a free messaging phone.
In the realm of economics, there is no such thing as a free lunch. In the world of wireless, there is no such thing as a free phone. Customers must purchase a new smartphone and sign a two-year contract on qualifying voice and data plans in order to be eligible for the free phone offer. The Samsung Flight and Pantech Impact are two models that are free after a mail-in rebate.
The Bottom Line
If your Valentine's Day budget is a bit smaller this year, have no fear. Just make the best of what you have. After all, more money does not necessarily make for a more memorable occasion.
Remember, many promotional offers vary upon your location, so visit each company's website for details and be sure to make your plans in advance.