Valentine’s Day! Ideas and budgeting tips.

Happy Wednesday!
Sorry I've been a bit MIA lately…I've taken two walks of shame from Labor and Delivery in the last few weeks because baby #3 keeps trying to come before he/she is ready.
Not so fun.
The good news is that I'm officially 37 weeks tomorrow, which means baby will be full-term (hooray!)
…and my new project will be to get this baby OUT rather than fighting to keep it IN!
Wish me luck on that one.
Needless to say, I've been a bit preoccupied!
But I wanted to pop in and give you some tips for how to avoid spending a lot of hard-earned dough this V-day. I did a number of V-Day posts last year, so I'm re-posting one and linking back to others so you can get a smorgasbord of ideas.
Aw, isn't that fun?
So just remember…
…you do NOT need to spend much this Valentine's day to make it special! 
Here's how my hubby and I do V-day for each other:
  • We trade off. Every year we trade V-day and our anniversary. My hubby takes Valentine's Day this year, so I will be in charge of our anniversary in April. We trade next year. It's been a marriage saver because A) it's not the awkward elephant in the room of “is HE planning the date this year…or should I?” and B) we aren't trying to surprise each other at the same time. Plus, it gives my poor hubby a break! Who says the men should be the ones that have to do every romantic holiday, right?
    • What being “in charge” of that holiday means to us is: The one in charge plans the date, organizes the babysitting, and tracks the budget.
    • This year my hubby has Vday. Even though he is “in charge” of the day, I will still get him a card and modest gift…but HE is the one in charge of the activities for that day.
  • We go low-key on gifts. When we fell into hard financial times and had to work our tails off to get out of our $10K+ of credit card debt a few years ago (read the full story HERE) we learned a few valuable lessons. One of which is that no gift ever feels as good as being financially responsible feels.We used to buy each other whatever gifts we wanted for holidays because…hey! it's time to celebrate, right?! Well, let me promise you something…it's not doing ANYONE any favors. We have decided that living the life we always dreamed for the REST of our lives is worth practicing some delayed gratification and not going all-out with expensive gifts that suck away far too much hard-earned cash.
    • So we try to stick to thoughtful, homemade gifts as much as possible (see below for ideas). Honestly, I think running to the store and buying an expensive gift is a cop-out! There is usually little thought involved, and it's an easy out when I buy him an expensive gift. The less you spend on a gift, the more creative and thoughtful you have to be.
    • So what DO we do for gifts? see the next point…
  • We stick within budget. Whether it's dinner, babysitting, or gifts, we stick to our budget. Enough said.
    • My husband has $200/mo for his budget, and I have $600/mo for mine (though it will go up a little soon when baby #3 gets here). His budget is the one that covers date-nights (including babysitting), cars, and his personal entertainment, mine covers groceries and “other” (see HERE for more info on all of this). Whatever budget we have is what we spend. If our budget is tight that month, we get creative and make our gifts for each other (see below for ideas), cook dinner for each other, trade babysitting rather than paying a sitter, find a daily deal site with a good deal on dinner or an activity, etc.
    • For our 5-year anniversary my hubby wanted to buy me a custom wedding band. That was several hundred dollars and obviously wouldn't fit into our budget. He set money aside from his budget for months in order to cover the cost without having to dip into savings. He simply kept the money in his “husband checking account” I talk about HERE.
    • However, if one of us wants to do a gift for the other that doesn't fit within our monthly budget, we tend to discuss it. Romantic? Maybe not so much. But practical? Absolutely. He might come to me and say something like, “I would love to get you something special this year for our anniversary, but I will need extra money for it. Are you ok if I find room in our budget for it somewhere?” and we discuss what we would need to do to shift our money around. Our rule is that if a gift is over $100, we talk about it. Hey, what's mine is yours, and I don't want him to waste hundreds of dollars on a gift that I don't really want or need!
    • I told my husband early on to never buy me flowers. They are pretty, but they are expensive, cliche in my book, and die so quickly! So one year he found a beautiful plant and bought it for me. We were able to enjoy it for months, and I thought it was a creative twist on the bouquet of flowers that everyone seems to buy for Vday.
    • For my hubby I have a book that I started when we were first married. In it I list things I love about him. I started by going to 100, then for our anniversary I took the book back and went to 200…then 300 on the next Vday, and so on. Now I just grab the book and add to it whenever possible, and I'm up to 600+ things I love about him. Each Vday I get out the book and we read it together. It's fun to see how things shift through the years as we include children in our lives, and grow together. It's a gift he looks forward to every year.
    • My hubby will take a dry-erase marker and write notes to me on the mirrors in our house. Free, easy, but melts me every time.
    • For our date night, we like to go out and do a fancier dinner than usual, or get a hotel somewhere for the night. Yes, those cost more than a typical date for us. So how do we budget for them? Easy…(see next step)
  • We plan ahead. If we want/need extra money for our special date or gifts for each other, we simply plan ahead.
    • For me, I try to go one week without grocery shopping that month (click HERE for how I grocery shop). Trust me, it's not as hard as it seems! I just plan ahead the week before and really try to focus my shopping on staple items that will last me two weeks (buying extra milk and produce for example). Then the week of no grocery shopping I cook using only what I have on-hand. It's amazing what you can come up with! By doing that I have an extra $100+ to spend on Vday, without going over-budget on anything! Amazing how that works. Once again, see how I track my weekly budget HERE.
    • For my hubby, his budget includes date nights. So we plan ahead and basically put all our eggs into one basket (the Vday basket). We just make the rest of our dates for the month extremely cheap, or free. Ex: We will find a coupon code for a free Redbox movie and make dessert at home, so we don't have to find a sitter. We will go to a free festival, event, or facility, and we always try to trade babysitting. That way he has nearly all of his budget to use on Vday if he needs to.
  • We get creative and never pay full-price. 
    • Once again, we really really really try to trade babysitting with friends. It can be tricky at times (especially bedtime) but it's so worth it! This Vday we are trading nights with our friends; they take Friday, we take Saturday. Saves us a ton of money, and we each get a night to ourselves! If we want to stay in a hotel, same thing; we find a couple to trade  overnight babysitting with, and maybe we celebrate Vday a weekend early. Really, not a big deal people!
    • If we go overnight somewhere, we try to find last-minute local travel deals. THIS is a great website for Utah. VRBO.com is also a great place to find condos and houses to rent for affordable prices.
    • As mentioned above, we search daily deal sites weeks in advance for deals on dinner, massages, tickets to events, hotel stays, gifts, etc. HERE's a list of sites to try.
    • For gifts and dates we always try to think a little creatively, and always look to get the most bang for our buck. Sure, we could go to a 4-star restaurant and pay $150 for dinner for the two of us. But really, we could enjoy time together at a nice restaurant that only costs us $50 or $75 for dinner, and have more money to do fun things together. The same goes for gifts. If I have $50 to spare for a gift for him, I could run out and buy a sweater for $50, or I could do an entire basket of cute/thoughtful things, many of them home-made, to stretch the $50 and show even more love to my hubby.
    • We try to find a way to copy something that's store-bought. For example, my hubby loves chocolate-covered strawberries. Rather than buying an expensive box, I go to Costco and buy the best strawberries I can find, and dip them myself! Only costs me a few dollars and he loves them all the same.
So that's how WE do it in our house. Here are a few more resources to help:
Click HERE for fun Vday party game ideas

Below I have copied and pasted THIS POST I did last year about how to spoil your honey AND save some money this Vday (click HERE for the TV segment I did on this post).

Enjoy, all you little love-birds!

Today is a special MEGA POST.

Valentine's Day is coming up.
What a fun holiday! It reminds us how important love is, how good it feels to be loved, and how fun it is to spoil those you love!
However…VDay can be expensive.
Fancy dinner.
Babysitter.
Roses.
Gifts.
New outfit.
Valentines for school.
Decorations.
Cookies, candy, treats…the list goes on and on.
But guess what? Vday doesn't have to be expensive!
In all honesty, it doesn't have to cost you hardly anything.
YIPPEE!!
All it takes is a little creativity and some planning ahead.
Here are my ideas for a Fun, Cheap, or Free (and memorable) Valentine's day:
(Note: Most of these things you can find on my pinterest boards.)
Decor and Projects
  • After Vday go stock up on clearance holiday items and use them for future Vdays.
  • If you like to make your own decorations, make decorations that will last from year to year so you don't waste materials…or time!
  • Reuse Christmas items: red and gold ribbon, tissue paper, white and/or red lights, candles, etc. Anything that is red and isn't too “Christmas-y” is perfect! Save your wrappings and/or buy them on clearance after the fact like I did HERE.
Here are some DIY decoration ideas:
  • Make a heart-shaped wreath, one method is using my tutorial HERE. You would use the same technique as my tutorial, just find a heart-shaped form from the dollar store or using a coupon at a craft store. You can also use this technique with cupcake liners for a more wrinkled effect, I just question the durability,
  • Use leftover Christmas gift tissue paper to make Vday pomander balls (see my tutorial HERE).
  • Use leftover Christmas ribbon to make roses (See the tutorial HERE), string garland together, decorate your table (see photo below), or tie ribbons around candle sticks for simple touches.
  • Have your kids help you make valentine's hearts with things they love written on them. String them together as garland, or put them up on your windows or walls.
  • Make sewn heart garland using this tutorial HERE.
  • Make your kids' valentine's for school at home. It's a fun family bonding project, and is a good way to use materials that you might already have lying around. HERE are some ideas.
Food and Treats:

  • Change the shape of your cinnamon rolls for a fun breakfast.
  • Add pink food coloring to your pancake batter, then pour the batter into metal cookie cutters placed on the skillet to make heart-shaped pancakes.
  • Make strawberry or red velvet cake/cupcakes.
  • Make your own chocolate dipped strawberries rather than buying them. I prefer to use Almond Bark (I find mine at Walmart). Dip the strawberries in chocolate, drizzle with white, or dip them in fun sprinkles.
  • Cut your kids' PB&J's into heart shapes using cookie cutters.
  • Put cheap or homemade treats into sandwich baggies topped with scrapbook paper for a creative treat for friends.
Gifts and Cutesy Stuff
I  think Valentine's Day gifts get SOOOO overdone! You do NOT have to spend a lot to show someone that you care.
I repeat, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SPEND A LOT TO SHOW SOMEONE THAT YOU CARE.
Here are some fun/cheap/free gift ideas:
  • 100 Reasons why I love you in a picture frame. I did this for my brothers for Christmas. I cenetered a photo in a Word document, made 4 separate text boxes and filled them with words, printed it on nice cardstock, and there you go! I put them in nice Costco frames (2 for $14 and come with a 100 free prints coupon). They were touched, and it was one of the best gifts I have ever given.
  • Write a cute love note with candy hearts.
  • 52 Reasons why I love you, each glued to a playing card. Punch holes in each card, hold together with paper rings, and there you go!
  • Make “why I love you” fortune cookies out of felt.
  • If you must send flowers, check daily deal sites (see my big list HERE) leading up to Vday. They always have deals! Might as well get them for cheap…even though I think flowers are a waste of money 🙂 The thought is cute, but they are so expensive and die! Check them also for massages, gifts, getaways, etc (see tip down below for more info).
  • Rather than sending flowers, buy a plant. It will be enjoyed for much, much, much longer.
  • Use balloons. Write something you love about the person on a slip of paper inside each balloon and fill their room, office, car, kitchen, WHATEVER with them. Yes, the cheap-o balloons from Walmart or wherever work great. No helium needed.
  • Simply get thoughtful. Jewelry and electronics are great, but the true meaning of Vday is to express love. Putting a bit of thought into something will be much more valuable than a gift that could break someday.
  • Make a pact with your significant other that you won't buy each other gifts, but will make something. It will be so sweet to see what the other one comes up with!
Special Date with that Special Someone
  • Swap babysitting. This may not work for all Vdays since most people will be going out, however, Vday is on a Tuesday this year. Buddy up with a friend – one of you take Friday night, the other take Saturday night, and there you go! Paying a babysitter (especially a good one) can get pricey. Trading is cheap-o. H
  • Make dinner at home! Using my price-matching/deal shopping technique you can get a nice dinner for a screamin' deal. Take advantage of all the cheapest local prices and only make one trip to one store! Click HERE for some of my favorite recipes. Trust me, men…nothing is sexier than coming home to a thought out, homemade meal.
  • Set up a picnic somewhere. If you want to get out of the house, you still don't have to buy dinner at a restaurant. Cook the food and pack it in the car ahead of time, then drive to a romantic spot and eat on the grass (if you have the luxury of living in a warm place!) or park somewhere with a view. Snuggle up with blankets in the back of the car and watch a romantic movie together.
  • If you do decide to eat out, be smart about it…NEVER pay full-price. 
    • Always search for coupon codes, coupons, and deals (sometimes if you eat before 6 you get a discount, etc.).
    • Buy unused gift cards for a discount from sites like THIS.
    • Check daily deal sites for good deals in the weeks leading up to Vday.
    • Buy restaurant coupons from restaurant.com, but read the fine print! Sometimes you have to spend a certain amount or can't use them on the weekends depending on the restaurant.
    • Split a meal.
    • Ask about their specials and deals. They often have promotions running that aren't on the menu, but are in ads and commercials that you might not have seen.
    • Go for water, and skip dessert…see my next tip.
  • If you go out to dinner, make dessert at home. They jack up the prices on drinks and desserts at restaurants, so opt out, and do a romantic dessert at home. Chocolate fondue, dipped strawberries, sundaes, brownies and ice cream, basically anything chocolate-y, right?! 🙂
  • End the night romantically. Get into some PJ's and play games together, talk, eat chocolate, sit by the fire, set goals, reminisce about when you first met, go through old photos, play a get-to-know you game (remember my recommendation HERE?)…after that I'm leaving entirely up to your own imagination. 🙂
  • If you really feel adventurous, go away for the weekend. Remember when my hubby and I went to Vegas last year? It was SO CHEAP because we did a timeshare presentation, as well as a bunch of other things. See our trip tips HERE.
  • Take advantage of daily deal sites to find deals on what you do decide to do. They will have discounts on getaways, hotel stays, restaurants, massages, pedicures, roses, gifts, anything you need, they will have them! Yes, you get lots of emails (each one will send one email a day) but it's a great way to get discounts on everything, including Vday stuff! I've compiled a list of some sites HERE.
There are a bazillion more ways to have an incredible Vday without spending much. Keep your eye on the real goal, which is to show love to those you love…NOT pay a lot because you feel like you have to.
What are some of your favorite fun/cheap/free Vday things?
Happy love-birds day!

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