According to the National Retail Federation's (NRF's) "2012 Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey," the average person will spend $126.03 this Feb. 14, a 10-year high for the survey and an increase of 8.5% from last year. The ads around Feb. 14 may make you feel like expressing your feelings for someone has to come with a four-digit price tag, but these Valentine's Day gift ideas will thrill your partner without emptying your wallet.
Dinner at Home
Valentine's Day should really be about paying attention to your partner, a sentiment that can be lost when you simply plunk down a credit card at the jewelry store (although we're not saying that gesture can't be thoughtful, and it is likely to be appreciated!). The same goes for a meal out. It can be a wonderful experience to dress up and try that fancy French restaurant all the critics are raving about, but chances are on Valentine's Day it will be fully booked, and according to the LA Times, will cost an average of $146.52 on dinner out).
Instead, consider making dinner at home. This gesture is all about the details. Cook his or her favorite food, take the time to set the table instead of just eating in front of the television, and dress up - your partner will definitely appreciate the effort. (For related reading, see How To Spend Valentine's Day On A Budget.)
Total Cost: Depending on the meal, less than $30
Movie at Home
Going to a movie may not be the best idea for Valentine's Day, simply because there isn't much chance for you to actually talk and engage with your partner. As a substitute, consider renting a movie or watching a special TV show at home. Again, this is all about the details: pick a movie he loves that you would normally not want to watch, or a TV show that makes you dive for the remote but makes her swoon. Take the time to set this up as a special occasion, not just another movie night in. Have popcorn popped, a warm blanket for the couch, and open a bottle of wine or perhaps a craft beer.
Total Cost: $15
A Domestic Day Off
What chores is your partner responsible for when it comes to maintaining your home? It may seem like a small thing, but getting a day completely off from household chores may be very well received. It also lets your partner know that you care about the home you have together (or the home he or she has if you live apart).
Total Cost: Free
If your partner spends any time on the computer, it's likely they have a site or two they visit daily. Consider submitting a photo or story to that website for a memorable surprise, especially on a Tuesday morning at the office. PostSecret is a great example of a site that exists to connect users to other readers by way of sending postcards and having them posted online. If that doesn't seem feasible, try getting in touch with a colleague of your partners and have them change your partner's computer background to a special message from you. (For additional reading, check out The "New" Valentine's Day.)
Total Cost: Free
Make the Time
Do you spend hours a day playing video games or watching TV and it makes your significant other crazy? Consider telling him or her that you'll spend the whole day without gaming or watching (and then stick to it) and instead plan to do something simple like taking a walk together or going out for a coffee. Bring a camera and take pictures of the two of you together. Specifically carving out time to spend together can have a big impact.
Total Cost: Free
Create Something Together
Consider taking on a project that the two of you can complete together. For example, visit a park or farm nearby and bring a camera. Take photos of where you are, of each other and ones of you together. When you get back, pick your favorites and print them out, then put them in picture frames or an album you have ready to go. Yes, it sounds a bit sappy, but you will always have a great reminder of the time you spent together – and if you're going to be a bit sentimental, Valentine's Day is really the day to do it!
Total Cost: $20
The Bottom Line
Showing how much you love someone shouldn't have to cost a ton of money, yet the NRF projects that total spending for Valentine's Day in the United States will reach $17.6 billion this year. By personalizing your time to reflect your partner's likes and dislikes, it shows that you listen and care about what they care about. And that will make for a great Valentine's Day together. (To learn more, check out The Premium You Pay On A Valentine Gift.)