When my husband and I were first married, to say we were frugal would be an understatement. We would rejoice when we went grocery shopping for the week and spent less than $20. In fact, one week we managed to get by with just $12 of food in our cart.
We didn't spend a lot of money on gifts or holidays. I did a lot of DIY items - cross stitch, crochet, painted boxes, handwritten notes, etc.
Old habits die hard. If it were up to my husband, we would still be spending under $30/week on groceries and counting pennies for everything else. Fortunately, I've convinced him to loosen his grip on his wallet a bit. That doesn't mean I feel the need to splurge at every opportunity. I still wait months between haircuts, buy my clothes secondhand, and second guess almost every purchase.
With so much practice in stretching a dollar as far as it will go, I've learned how to do Valentine's Day on the cheap. Notice - I'm merely talking dollar amounts. Just because you're saving money doesn't mean the gift means any less. Some of my favorite gifts have had little to no monetary value.
And now, you lucky people, I'll pass my wisdom on to you via a few do's and don't's.
For your loved one
DON'T buy generic. Yes, flowers and a box of chocolates are the classic route. But you'll get a bigger bang for your buck if you do something your loved one will appreciate. I would love to get fuzzy socks or another big fluffy blanket. Gourmet hot chocolate and a gift certificate for a massage would make me absolutely giddy. Or a signed book by one of my favorite authors.
DO take advantage of sales and dollar stores. Just because it's only a buck doesn't mean it isn't good. Take $20 and load up on everything Valentine's at the dollar store and surprise your loved one with a bunch of love at work. The memory will last longer than anything you'll buy.
DON'T buy inferior quality. Sometimes things are just plain ole cheap.
DO personalize your gift. I get that not everyone is crafty or good with words. A simple handwritten note expressing your feelings is more precious than gold and diamonds. Monograms, inscriptions, etc. Make it special.
DON'T do last minute if you can absolutely help it. And by last minute, I mean scribbling something on a page you tore out of your kid's notebook as you rushed out the door to desperately find a restaurant with available seating. Yeah. That sure makes a girl feel special.
DO opt to do dinner in. Restaurants are crowded and crazy Valentine's Day weekend. Instead of making your loved one wait in the lobby for a table to open up, have them wait on the couch while you throw together something special.
DON'T make your loved one do the dishes afterwards. Especially if you use practically every dish in the house to make the meal. That's just rude.
DO get a sitter. Trade off with someone else. "You take my kids for the evening on Friday, I'll take your kids on Saturday."
DON'T give an IOU. Really? That's the best you can do? Wow. Hope you like the single life...
DO litter your house with little love notes. Hide them in unexpected places. Use post-it notes and index cards. Hang them from the walls, the ceilings, the cabinets.
For the kids
DO ask what kinds of Valentines they would like to give to their class. If your kid is into Legos, run with it. Minions? Star Wars? Princesses? Princess Darth Vader? Ninja Rainbow Ponies? Oh, yeah. You'll make your kid's year if you make it work.
DON'T go crazy, though. A simple card and a small gift - pencil, glow stick, candy - is plenty. Don't be THAT mom. You make the rest of us look bad.
DO utilize Pinterest for ideas. Last year, that's where I got the idea for my 6yo's Spider-Man Valentine's box. This year, we found the Valentines he's going to give. There are a million ideas out there. There's no need to reinvent the wheel.
DON'T stress. They're kids. Unless something traumatic happens or spectacular drama ensues, no one is going to remember you sent your kid with Valentines that aren't perfectly centered or that look like a 2yo put together (because sometimes that does happen). They're all about the candy and toys anyway.
DO make your kids feel special. Leave love notes on their door for them to find in the morning. Surprise them with a special breakfast. Let them eat in the family room while watching a favorite movie. Take them out for a parent-child ice cream or pie date. Or both.
DON'T assume they know you love them. Tell them. Often. This applies to spouses and other family member as well.
DO give them hugs and kisses and lots of snuggles. I've read somewhere that kids need something like six 'touches' a day to feel connected. Maybe it's more. Ruffle their hair. Pat their back. Tickle. A lot.
DON'T forget to appreciate them while they're young. Find things to love about them. Take time to listen. Let them know you're there for them.
DO be a good example and show them how to treat someone they love.
For everyone else
DO wish them a happy Valentine's Day. Do it with a smile and be sincere.
DON'T impose on someone else's plans. And don't assume someone who's single doesn't have plans. They're not your automatic babysitter.
DO be kind and considerate.
DON'T judge. There have been years my husband has gotten me a kitchen appliance for Valentine's Day. While it doesn't sound romantic, it was exactly what I wanted.
DO appreciate what you have. You're more blessed than you believe.
And the last one...
DO have a happy Valentine's Day!
Next week we'll talk about dragon-slaying tool everyone needs in their arsenal - forgiveness.