How much do you spend on Valentine's Day? Twenty dollars on chocolates? Fifty dollars on flowers? One hundred dollars on dinner for two? The totals can rack up, and in these tough economic times, can we justify such expense so soon after the holidays? Now, we're not trying to be unromantic – but perhaps you can celebrate this Valentine's Day without incurring hundreds of dollars of spending. With many of us counting the cents these days, no one will hold it against you if you resort to some cost-effective creativity in the name of love and frugality. We've rounded up some of the best ideas for a Valentine's Day on a budget – which won't break the bank, or anyone's heart. (Check out, 3 Alternative Budgeting Styles: Which One Suits You?)
The Romantic Meal for Two
If you feel that the romantic meal out for two is an obligatory part of the celebrations, then there are ways to go out without spending a small fortune. Historically, there may have been a stigma with using a discount coupon when you're having a romantic dinner for two, but chances are you will both be glad to save a few dollars in the current climate so no one will complain. often has special offers on meals, so see if there is a cheap deal to be had in your local area. Check your local papers too, as restaurants may be doing special promotions for the holiday. Of course, you could also consider "moving the date." Aside from Valentine's Day, February is a relatively quiet period for restaurants. By celebrating Valentine's a few days early or late, you may well be able to dine out for a fraction of the price.

Staying in
You could have the romantic meal for two without being crushed into a restaurant full of other couples. What about staying in this Valentine's Day? If you're a hopeless cook, fear not. The grocery stores seem to be pulling out the stops. Find a high-end grocery store that offers a take home meal and serve by candlelight with a bottle of Prosecco. (Not champagne of course, we are on a budget.) The comfort of your own home and the absence of other diners may well make this is a preferable option in terms of cost and ambiance. (For related reading, see The Premium You Pay On A Valentine Gift.)

Scrap the Card
Is there a more overpriced piece of paper than a Valentine's Day card? We're not suggesting you don't send one altogether, but you can save $4 or $5 by making your own. Don't worry if creativity is not your strong point. A homemade something is always infinitely nicer than a shop-bought option. Papers and magazines are full of Valentine's inspired stories now, so why not cut out relevant words and phrases and attach them to a piece of cardboard. Or attach a photo of you and your partner, and write where the photograph was taken and what the memory means to you. These cards will cost cents to create, and will be infinitely more personal and meaningful than anything Hallmark has to offer.

Make the Gift
Does anyone really want those cheap stuffed toys and cheesy mementos? We'd guess not, so how about taking the time to make a Valentine's gift this year. How about writing down 10 things you love about your partner on a sheet of paper and sticking it somewhere they will see it first thing in the morning, such as inside their wardrobe or on the bathroom mirror? Or you could bake a cake, make a memory box of ticket stubs and photos, write a poem, or create a simple scrapbook of the past year's memories. That way you'll be giving a gift that your partner will remember throughout the year.

Spend Time Together
Why not plan a day out together as a Valentine's treat? This doesn't need to be expensive or elaborate. How about finding free art galleries or museums to visit? Taking time to go for a long walk? Or doing all of the household chores in advance, so that you can spend the weekend watching movies and relaxing?

The Bottom Line
Valentine's Day is about spending time with the person you love – not lining the pockets of card companies, flower delivery firms and restaurants. It really is the thought that counts, and with these ideas you can have a cheap but cheerful Valentine's Day this year. (For additional reading, check out The "New" Valentine's Day.)

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