The Valentine's Day Challenge

by Nancy Twigg

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Does Valentine's Day have to be expensive? Not at all. Let me tell you a story of how my husband and I had one of the best Valentine's Day celebrations ever by limiting ourselves to spending $10 or less.

About ten years ago, my husband Michael and I both left good jobs to begin a home-based business. Within a matter of weeks, we went from two comfortable salaries to one sporadic stream of income from our fledgling business. On the first Valentine's Day after we became self-employed, we both knew we shouldn't spend much on our February 14th celebration. So we agreed to try something different. We decided to set a $5 spending limit per person for our Valentine's Day gifts.

To a spendthrift, a $5 spending limit on Valentine's Day would have been like the kiss of death: "What can I possibly buy for only five dollars?" For us, it became a game: "What kind of cool stuff can we come up for with less than five bucks?" Both of us enjoyed the challenge of searching out items that would fit the bill.

Michael is a woodworker, so for him it was easy. He used his time and only a little money to make me a beautiful oval frame for a wall mirror I already had. He used wood that was salvaged from discarded packing crates, 25-cent paint from a yard sale, and plans he drew up on his computer. The only thing he had to go out and buy was a dowel for putting the frame together, which cost only 76 cents at the hardware store. The end result was a beautiful mirror that hung proudly in our bedroom for many years.

For Michael, I found a desk calendar that had a different quote about love for each day. Because it was February, the calendar was on clearance for $4. I also found a woodworking book at a library discard sale for 50 cents. In addition, I made him a homemade card and a plate of his favorite cookies. When you add the cost of the cookie ingredients I already had on hand, I actually went over my limit just a little, but he was delighted nonetheless. In fact, we both enjoyed our gifts and the thrill of the hunt so much that we instituted the five-dollar rule for other gift giving occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries that year as well.

Are you and your loved one going through a tough time financially? Even if you're not, is the thought of saving money more attractive to you than spending a small fortune on Valentine's Day gifts? If so, I encourage you to try something different this year. Take the Valentine's Day Challenge. Set a small spending limit ($5, $10 or whatever fits your budget) and agree with your spouse to give gifts that are low in cost but high in creativity.

Use any special talents you have to create a keepsake. Put your cooking skills to work to whip up an inexpensive, yet irresistible treat in the kitchen. Shop the clearance racks to find some special something your sweetie would enjoy. Visit the secondhand stores to find a gently-used book by a favorite author or CD by a favorite artist. Use your budgeted amount to buy a gift card to the ice cream shop, coffee shop or movie rental store.

Think outside the proverbial box. Make it a game to see how you can use your creativity to give your sweetheart the most Valentine's Day fun for the least amount of money.

Nancy Twigg is a Christian speaker and the author of Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions

Take the Next Step:

  • Take the Valentine's Day Challenge. Set a small spending limit and agree with your sweetheart to give gifts that are low in cost but high in creativity.
  • Celebrate Valentine's Day the frugal way with these gift and date ideas both your Valentine and your budget will love.

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