By Cherie Lowe
Can you feel it? Can you see it? Love is in the air.
OK, well maybe the symbols of love just line the seasonal aisle at your favorite big box retailer. I have all the mixed feelings when it comes to Valentine’s Day.
On one hand, the notion of celebrating love for love’s sake makes my heart flitter. But deep down I know spending money and love are unequally yoked. One doesn’t always necessarily indicate the other.
A heart-shaped box of chocolate purchased at the drugstore represents a myriad of emotions — from deep sentiment to panic on the part of the purchaser, from gratitude to confusion on the part of the receiver. Love is patient and love is kind, but typically love isn’t $9.99.
This is not an excuse to boycott the holiday altogether. More than likely dumping Valentine’s Day could cause your significant other to feel anything but love and perhaps dump you.
Here are some smart strategies to let your heart beat with the rhythm of love while keeping the flow of cash from getting carried away in the currents of romance.
Begin with a budget
What’s more loving than a budget? I kid. I know most people find budgets restrictive and less than romantic. However, your budget allows you to guide your spending without getting whipped up into a marketing frenzy.
Consider what expenses you might have this February. Will you be going out to dinner? Will you purchase a card? Is a more expensive gift on your list? Set a sum total and then break your spending down into separate categories. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Sometimes it’s OK to skip one of the traditional Valentine’s celebrations of love.
Consider homemade gifts
Here’s what I’m not saying: write “I love you” on a sticky note and call it a day. Although, come to think of it, my husband would much prefer this — especially if I attached the $3 I would have spent on the card.
Don’t be cheap with your love. Instead, find ways to display just how much you care by making your own gifts. Probably the easiest area to go D.I.Y. is the card. Crack out your scissors and fold a piece of paper in half to cut out a heart like you did in elementary school. Handwrite a tender note of affection. Or type a longer letter counting the ways you love your special someone.
Heart-shaped cookies or a favorite dish might be another great symbol of your love, too. They do say the way to the heart routes through the stomach.
Many women love fine jewelry on Valentine’s Day. I’m more of the type of girl who likes small projects around the house finished. Fix the leaky toilet. Clean out the closet. Wash and sweep out the car. Change the lightbulb or scour the tub. Choose to serve your Valentine by making each day brighter through simple acts of service. The littlest things can make the biggest difference.
Opt for lunch
We know there’s nothing magical about going out on the evening of Feb. 14. If you’d still like to share a nice meal together, consider going out for lunch instead of dinner. Often lunch menus offer more affordable options. As an added bonus, the restaurant won’t be nearly as crowded. And if you have school-aged children, you won’t need to hire a babysitter either.
Celebrate a day late
The candy still tastes as sweet on Feb. 15 and 16, but you’ll pay 50 to 90 percent less for it. Agree with your sweetheart before (keyword: before) Valentine’s Day to celebrate a day or week later. Then you can enjoy the traditional symbols and gifts of the season but spend considerably less money. Try to avoid temptation by not looking through the seasonal items until after the holiday passes.
You don’t have to spend money to show your love. Nor do you have to wait until Valentine’s Day to celebrate your sweetie. Use these effective strategies to make an investment in romance all year. If you’re smart about how you approach this February, the dividends could pay out your whole life long.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She 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 firstname.lastname@example.org