Not-so-expensive Valentine’s Day ideas

There’s nothing sweeter than true love. Each year in February, the aisles of the grocery store paint the shelves hues of pink and red with the most delectable treats.

We all desire to demonstrate our deepest sentiments to our funny valentines, but let’s be honest. That stuff can get expensive. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American spent $142.31 on Valentine’s Day in 2015 with total spending nationwide clocking in at a whopping $18.9 billion.

That’s a lot of do-re-mi on conversation hearts and fancy flowers.

It’s more than OK to lavish loving gifts on those you love each year. However, we’d all be wise to set a budget and then stick to it when it comes to spending money mid-February. Here are a few ideas to keep you on track and still come off like Romeo (or Juliet) to your sweetheart.

Consider lunch

A meal by any other name tastes just as sweet. Instead of going out for a fancy dinner, shave dollars off the check by choosing a lunch date. It will be easier to secure a table and the prices during the midday are much more palatable.

If you have school-aged children, you can also avoid the added cost of a babysitter.

Celebrate early (or late)

There are many advantages for choosing a different date than the 14th to show one another love. After all, any day can be Valentine’s Day if your heart is in the right place. Again to avoid crowded dining destinations and pricey menus, opt to commemorate your love a bit early or the days following Valentine’s Day. Celebrating later brings discount advantages when it comes to gifts and cards, too. On Feb. 15 and following, the aisles remain crowded with tints of red and pink but add plenty of discount signs to their presence.

There’s nothing magical about the exact date. In fact, historically it coincides with a rather tragic massacre. Create your own holiday and celebrate while saving.

Make your own cards

Whether for the kids’ classrooms or your special someone, making your own valentines has never been easier. Pinterest is flooded with fantastic free printable ones you can make at home. Or you can crack out the construction paper, glitter and glue to craft your own. Nothing speaks more of your love than a hand-written letter, too. Skip the $5 greeting cards and create a one-of-a-kind exhibition of romance.

Romantic dinner at home

Forget about going out all together and instead opt to stay in. Either order carryout or spring for your favorite foods from the grocery store (I suggest steak or lobster from the popular discount grocer Aldi). After you put the kids to bed, prepare a meal with each other and enjoy quiet time spent cooking and eating. Don’t forget to play your favorite music and dig out a couple of candles, too.

Create a memory

Flowers fade and you only have so much room in your home for trinkets and jewelry. Skip the conventional gift-giving path and choose to create a memory together, instead. Go for a long drive somewhere unique. Take a walk, hand-in-hand. Slow dance in your living room to your favorite song. Or read a love poem. When our lives end, we won’t want the knick-knacks, stuffed animals or other things, but we will treasure the time we’ve spent with the people we love.

Think outside of the heart-shaped candy box this Valentine’s Day. You don’t have to fit the mold. Strengthen your relationship and your bank account by being creative in your displays of affection.