Here comes Valentine’s Day, when your heart may be full of love but your bank account could be low on cash. How can you mark the day with a great gift that won’t further deplete your funds? You’re in the right place to find out.
Typically, February 14 triggers a spending frenzy. In 2022, spending on all things red, heart-shaped, or otherwise lovey-dovey hit $23.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, up from $21.8 billion a year earlier.
So this is clearly a moment where people want to bestow a token of their affection on their beloved. This list of 15 affordable Valentine’s gift ideas will show your heart is in the right place without ringing up credit card debt. Pretty sweet, right?
Valentine’s Day Gifts on a Budget
Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for hundreds of years now, with the first messages declaiming love appearing in the 1500s. Commercially produced valentines swept across the U.S. in the mid-1800s and have been going strong ever since. The image of Cupid, the Roman god of love, with his bow and arrow, has been a long-time favorite representation, and birds (who often mate in February) also became a symbol of love.
These days, there’s no need to stick with those icons. Expressing your devotion can be done in an array of ways, often for very little cash that won’t blow your budget, as you’ll see in this list.
1. Sweet Treats
You could easily spend a bundle on top-tier chocolate truffles, but candy bars from the impulse rack at the checkout line can be equally satisfying. Put together a small bag of your honey’s favorite treats. Add a handmade card noting, “I’m sweet on you!” for a thoughtful and cute Valentine’s Day gift without going overboard.
2. Plant Power
While roses are a classic V-Day gift, price gouging can kick in around the holiday, making this a very expensive way to say “I love you.” Instead, why not avoid credit card debt and buy an adorable (and low-maintenance) potted succulent instead? It can show your affection and brighten your honey’s home. Look for them on Amazon or at The Home Depot or Lowe’s; they can cost just $7 each. Add tissue paper and some ribbon, and you’re good to go.
3. A Favorite Home-Made Meal
Skip the $100 dinner, and opt for a delicious meal at home. (Stash the money saved in an emergency fund or start a travel account with it.) Maybe that’s a chef’s recipe for three-cheese mac and cheese and a nice bottle of red wine or a good steak and salad with French vinaigrette. Choose something you don’t normally make that feels first-class but stays within a sensible budget.
Here’s another affordable luxury that won’t bust your line-item budget on Valentine’s Day: While chocolates and fancy candy are delicious, sometimes a good old-fashioned treat from your childhood can feel more fun and meaningful. Grab a bag of marshmallows, graham crackers, and bar chocolate to roast over a fire.
Don’t have access to an open flame? No problem. Heat an oven to 350 degrees and layer a small baking dish with graham cracker squares, chocolate, and marshmallow halves. Repeat with another layer, topping it off with remaining marshmallow halves. Bake for nine to 11 minutes until marshmallows are puffed and golden brown on top.
5. An Over-the-Top Valentine’s Day Card
What’s an extravagant Valentine’s Day card? You know the splurge-y ones: Maybe they are three-dimensional, cut-paper pop-ups or encrusted with dried flowers. Some play music when you open them. Others are embossed with metallic designs. Whatever the details, even at their most expensive, they are likely to give you change on a $10 or $20 bill and put a smile on your sweetheart’s face.
6. A Handmade Valentine’s Day Card
On the other hand, what could be more wonderful than a handmade card from one’s boo? You might make a collage with magazine images or doodle a little drawing. When a heartfelt sentiment is added, that can be quite the Valentine’s Day keeper.
7. Cupid Coupons
Show your appreciation for your significant other through cupid coupons to be cashed in for loving gestures. These money-saving coupons don’t skimp on thoughtfulness. You can make them for a 10-minute massage, cooking dinner one night, doing their laundry, or watching their favorite reality show (which you really don’t like) together.
Come up with different coupon ideas and place them in a decorative jar or envelope. Your partner can then redeem these gifts throughout the year.
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8. Low-Cost Local Activities
There are plenty of fun, free activities that you can take advantage of locally. Head back to your favorite spot in the park for a stroll, or drive up to a local scenic overlook. Search your city for free museums (many museums have times or days when you can visit at no cost) or points of interest that you haven’t been to together.
9. A V-Day Party
Why not do a group Valentine’s Day happy hour at home? Ask friends to BYOB, and celebrate together with simple snacks. Whether you make it a surprise for your beloved or not, you’ll have fun as a group, and you won’t have to worry about spending a ton of money.
10. Selfcare Supplies
Who can resist a little pampering? Head to a shop like Ulta or Sephora or look online at Amazon and other e-tailers for not-too-pricey moisturizers, masks, or shower gels. These often come in cleverly packaged sets for the Valentine’s Day holiday. These low-cost gifts are not only a treat for the recipient; their affordability can also make them a form of financial self-care for the gift giver.
11. A Love Letter
The written word goes a long way. If it’s been a while since you’ve confessed your love or you have yet to do so, express your feelings in a handwritten letter. Reflect on the past year with your bae, and tell them why they are so special.
If you’re short on words, write the top reasons why your partner makes you smile. Put each reason on a Post-it note, and leave them throughout their house or in their car.
12. DIY Roses
They may not smell as sweet as what Mother Nature makes, but LEGO Roses ($13) can be a fun gift. You can pre-assemble, or let your love go crazy building the 100-plus-piece blooms.
13. Scavenger Hunt
If you’re really crafty, come up with a scavenger hunt. You can make it themed according to your loved one’s favorite book, TV show, or movie. There’s nothing better than solving a Harry Potter-themed riddle that leads your partner to the Gryffindor House Cup or Tom Riddle’s diary.
Try coming up with four to five clues that lead to a small gift. A gift card to a local coffee shop feels more significant when you put together a scavenger hunt with your honey’s favorite things in mind.
14. Movie Night for Months
Research and write up a list of movies you’d love to watch together. Maybe they’ve never seen your favorite Hitchcock flicks or the “Lord of the Rings” saga. Leave a bunch of blank lines on your list for your love to fill in the movies they would like to stream with you, and have fun sharing together time while checking off each entry.
Trying to save money on streaming services? Check out services like Hoopla and Kanopy that can allow library-card holders to watch films for free.
15. Class Gift
Embark on an adventure together. Check your local library, community center, or arts organization for free or low-cost one-time classes, and sign both of you up. For instance, you might take a memoir-writing workshop, calligraphy tutorial, or strength-training class to spark a new hobby.
Valentine’s Day Explained
Curious about this holiday that’s all about love and how it got its name? Here’s a bit of history: Valentine’s Day may have been so named in honor of a priest who was martyred around the year 270. He was said to have signed a letter to his jailer’s daughter “from your Valentine” as that was his name. Legend has it that he befriended the young woman and healed her from blindness. His example may have helped to inspire today’s tradition.
Other versions of the day’s history also exist; no one is 100% certain of the origin.
Valentine’s Day by the Numbers
Here are a few interesting statistics related to the Valentine’s Day holiday and gift shopping:
• Men spend $235, or almost twice as much as women do at $119, on average for Valentine’s Day.
• In a recent year, Americans spent $6.2 billion on jewelry, $2.3 billion on flowers, and $2.2 billion on candy for Valentine’s Day.
• Online dating activity can rise as much as 33% in the two weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, perhaps signaling that many people don’t want to be alone on that holiday.
You are now armed with great Valentine’s Day ideas that maximize the moment without blowing your budget. With these tactics, being financially savvy doesn’t have to take a holiday while you celebrate.
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