Love is in the air. The grocery store aisles are packed tight with candies and cards and it is easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all, listening to the words of every commercial that proclaims true love comes in sparkly jewelry and red foil-covered treats.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a grumpy Gus. I love any holiday that celebrates love. However, it’s easy to overspend and even confuse your very good intentions of spreading love with stuff. Consider the following ideas to keep your Valentine happy and your bank account in the black.
Let’s be clear up front. I do not want you to send your kid in with clearance-priced cards on Feb. 16, wishing everyone a happy Schmalentine’s Day. However, for the adults in the house, it is OK and probably a better idea to celebrate your love a few days after the holiday. Yes, you can pick up a themed gift at a fraction of its original retail price. But even better, you can venture to your favorite restaurant and not have to wait for a table for hours on end. So smooch your sweetie on Feb. 14, and save the night out for days or even weeks down the road.
Oh how I love the dollar section, filled with so many wonderful little lovelies and all for the low, low price of one measly George Washington. However, a week or two later, I typically find myself frustrated with the clutter that I’ve brought home. Seasonal home goods, décor and children’s items draw me in like a tractor beam, but I’m beginning to learn to resist these impulse buys.
During every holiday season, I scrutinize my purchases a little more intensely. Will the recipient really value the item? Can it be used beyond the holiday? Will it end up in the trash or donation bin? Most of these items aren’t worth what you spend; and even though it’s only a dollar, those small purchases add up over time.
None of the baby books I ever read warned me about the high expense of date night. Parenting isn’t for wimps or chumps. The expense of a dinner or night out on the town begins when you step foot onto your driveway as the sitter’s fee rises with every minute you’re gone. If your children are school aged, consider going out for a romantic lunch instead of an evening, when that would require hiring child care. Or see if you can get a friend to watch your kids midday while you and your spouse enjoy some time together. Lunch menus are often much more affordable than evening fare, too.
Whether you order carryout or prepare a fancier meal at home, dining in can be a great alternative date night. If you have children, put them to bed early and feast at your own kitchen table. Light candles, turn on a romantic playlist of music and spend time gazing into your significant other’s beautiful eyes.
Take a break from gifts
If you’re in the midst of paying off debt or pursuing other financial goals, this might be a good year to refrain from purchasing gifts. Instead, write a letter to your loved one or attempt a homemade gift.
The longer we’ve been married, the more I treasure time together or simply putting away the laundry over traditional Valentine’s Day gifts. Set expectations for gift giving early on, so your spouse is not disappointed come Feb. 14.
Show your finances some love this Valentine’s Day. Remember: True romance can’t be purchased at the store.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to email@example.com.