It’s still a few weeks until Valentine’s Day but I thought I’d go ahead and offer up some tips on how to make a big impression on Valentine’s Day without spending a ton of cash. Some of these ideas are a bit time intensive so now is the time to get started if you’re planning on doing something crafty or artsy.
1. A heartfelt love letter always pops up on these lists and for good reason; what better way to show somebody that you love them than in a sincere outpouring of your affection? I think that many people consider this idea but then fail to follow through because it can be intimidating and there is always the worry that you’ll come off less like a romantic, but more like a corny doof. As somebody who has been paid to ghostwrite her fair share of love letters and wedding toasts, I can offer these tips:
- Give yourself plenty of time to write, rewrite and rewrite again. Give yourself a day or two between versions for the best results.
- Do write about specific, concrete events that relate to why you love your partner. For example, you can write about how you felt the first time you asked her on a date or tell him about how much you love to watch him play with the kids.
- Don’t worry too much about being literary and unique. Simple and sincere beats overwrought metaphors and words you dug out of the thesaurus every time.
- If spelling and grammar aren’t your strong points, consider having a trusted friend proofread it for you.
- It’s preferable to write by hand unless you are physically incapable.
- It’s okay to quote poems and lyrics sparingly but do give credit!
2. Make a photo album or collage of the memories you share. Many online photo developing sites offer fairly good deals on photo books that you can easily customize. Look for promo codes on sites like CouponShoebox to save even more.
An old-fashioned photo album with black acid-free pages and white corners for mounting the photos can look very crisp and professional if you put some care into choosing great photos and writing captions. You can also have a lot of fun with scrap-booking supplies. Do spend a bit extra on supplies that are made of materials meant to withstand aging, but take some time to shop around and combine store coupons with sales to make the most of your budget.
By the way, if its a tradition in your family to give the children treats on Valentine’s day, a small album or brag book of photos of them throughout the year is always a hit.
3. Plan a special dinner based on your shared history. Why spend a premium to eat at a crowded restaurant when you can have a cozy, intimate dinner at home for far less? Many industry experts actually recommend against going out for Valentine’s Day, so don’t feel like you are cheaping out. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to give a fully customized dining experience to your loved one.
Don’t feel like you have to go all out with fancy, intricate recipes involving pricey ingredients. Make what is appropriate for your skill level and that suits your taste. Even a simple pasta and salad will taste fantastic if you make it with care and present it well. Here are some other tips for planning your menu:
- Do a practice run a week or so in advance to make sure the recipe is solid and you understand all of the techniques.
- Look for recipes that don’t require a lot of involved last minute prep.
- Try to plan a menu that is meaningful for you as a couple. Perhaps you can make a meal based on dishes you’ve enjoyed while traveling or recreate your first dinner together or a meal you enjoyed on your honeymoon.
- Do your best to make the atmosphere romantic. You don’t have to light 1,000 candles but do make sure your dining area is clean and uncluttered, use your nicest tableware and slip out of your house clothes and into something fabulous before sitting down.
If these ideas aren’t quite what you are looking for and you’d like specific ideas for gifts that you can make or special foods, I’ve found that Pinterest to be an amazing resource. It’s also not bad for finding ideas for living well on a budget. You can browse around without joining, but if you’d like to use the site, you’ll need an invitation (I’ll be happy to send one to any MoneyNing readers who’d like one, simply let me know in comments. Btw, I’m not associated in Pinterest in any way; I’ve just found it insanely useful).