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How to Do Valentine’s Day on a Budget

For many Canadians, Valentine’s Day is an occasion to spend money on the one they love. Whether it’s flower arrangements, imported chocolates, a fancy dinner out or a couples’ spa retreat, it’s quite common to see people dropping big bucks in the name of romance.

But what do you do if you and your partner are currently on a fixed income? Or perhaps you’re saving up for (or just dropped a huge amount of money on) a big expense like an exotic vacation, a car, or a house? Even if you could technically still afford a pricey Valentine’s Day this year, you may not think it’s the wisest idea.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to celebrate that will make both of you feel special without living in fear of your next credit card bill.

Have an experience

While expensive material gifts will always be a home run, they may not be realistic on a budget. In that case, consider planning low-cost activities you and your partner can enjoy together. If you’re both outdoors types, that can involve spending an evening at a skating rink, a beautiful nature trail, or a hill perfect for tobogganing. In the event that you’d rather stay indoors, a collaborative art project or a night of board games with some drinks and a curated playlist can be a lower-key but incredibly fun night.

Show off your creative side

If, however, you’re set on giving a material gift to your partner, there’s no reason you can’t use a bit of creativity to not only save money but make a unique present that will always remind them of you.

For those who are artistically inclined, a framed drawing, painting, photo, or poem is a heartfelt and one-of-a-kind way to show someone you care. If you have numerous photos together, you can even get them printed out to construct a homemade photo album. In lieu of store-bought chocolate, home-baked goods like cookies or cupcakes are guaranteed winners (just make sure to follow the recipe exactly if you’re new to baking).

A popular low-cost suggestion is to give a “coupon book” - that is, a book of homemade coupons that entitle the recipient to a week off from chores like grocery shopping, laundry, or dishes, to name a few. While this is a sweet way to let your partner know you appreciate all they do, it may work best for couples who have already been cohabitating for a while.

BYOR (Be your own restaurant)

Going out to dinner at an expensive restaurant can be a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but getting the bill isn’t as much fun when finances are tight. While you could always treat your significant other to a romantic burger and fries at a local fast food chain, that’s not exactly ideal if you’re looking to have a special evening together.

In this case, consider cooking a fancy meal at home. If you’re already kitchen-inclined, you may have a few recipes on your roster that you know are guaranteed to impress. If not, there are plenty of online resources (whether from cooking websites or YouTube channels) that will tell you what ingredients you’ll need and take you through the process step-by-step. Either way, you’ll have a dish made with love that your partner will surely love back. Add in some music, candlelight, and a classy outfit, and you’ll get a restaurant-level experience in the comfort of your own home.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be on Valentine’s Day

It’s always nice to celebrate on the day of, but truthfully, Valentine’s Day is more about a feeling than a calendar. With this in mind, it’s worth considering that things like chocolates and flower arrangements are often much more expensive on the days leading up to (as well as on) Valentine’s Day, so waiting a couple of days later to make that sort of purchase may save you a few bucks (providing your partner doesn’t mind celebrating on the 15th, of course).

Plan it out

If you’ve got your heart set on a bougie Valentine’s Day (but still have a more restricted income), you can always use a tried-and-true method: budgeting and saving. 

Figure out what you want to do on the big day and how much it’s going to cost, then construct a budget based on your regular income and necessary expenses. If there’s any regular purchases you can go without for a while, you can put that money aside in a “Valentine’s Day fund” each time you get paid. Using this method, you can see how long it will take for you to save enough for that pricey gift or dinner reservation. 

The bottom line

As Valentine’s Day comes around each year, it may be easy to find it a source of stress if you’re strapped for cash. The great thing is that there are lots of different ways to celebrate - you just have to get creative. So use our tips above, and if you have any of your own, be sure to share them in the comment section below.