Creative ways to love your sweetie without spending too much

Valentine's Day Gifts for Less

by Shaunna Privratsky


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Couples want to celebrate in style on Valentine's Day, but the budget might be looking bleak. Before you settle for a 99-cent card, take a look at some creative ways to love your sweetie without souring the dough.

Luxury doesn't necessarily mean expensive. The traditional Valentine's Day gifts are jewelry, gourmet food or sweets, and gifts of thoughtfulness. With a little ingenuity, you can give a gift that only looks like you spent too much.

A great place to score terrific jewelry at rock-bottom prices is your local pawn shop. The days of dusty old shops tucked into the seedy side of town are history. You might be able to trade in some of your old, unwanted or broken jewelry for the perfect gift. Go beyond traditional diamonds and look for pretty pearls, brilliant gemstones or birthstones.

Retail stores also offer deep discounts on jewelry this time of year, so if you're looking for something extra special, do some shopping around, or go online for the best discounts.

Chocolates are an old standby, but that box of anonymous chocolates on the drugstore shelf might leave behind a sour taste. Instead, think quality. A few exotic chocolates in a reusable container can make your loved one melt. Check with candy shops or gourmet food stores for some sweet deals.

Toast each other for less this Valentine's Day. If your celebration wouldn't be complete without a glass of champagne, expect to pop the cork to the tune of $40 to over $120. Instead, try domestic sparkling white wine. An inexpensive brand to try is Italian Prosecco.

If you'd like to spend the weekend together, look for fantastic deals at hotels and bed and breakfasts. Many offer packages that include breakfast in bed, an upgrade to a luxury suite, a bubbling tub big enough for two or other amenities to celebrate your love.

Pamper your honey with a visit to a spa, or create one at home for much less money. Make a soothing face mask with plain yogurt and pureed cucumbers. Warm up fluffy towels after a shower or bubble bath and deliver them with a kiss. Give a nice long back rub or foot massage with lavender-scented lotion. Go online for more ideas. Type in "homemade spa treatments."

The gift of time is often overlooked, but can be the best present of all. Try giving your significant other the whole day off by running all the errands, spending a weekend camping, or just turning off everything and watching the stars together. Or rent all his favorite Bruce Willis movies or the latest season of Grey's Anatomy and cuddle on the couch.

Flowers are another standby, especially roses. Unfortunately, the cost of a dozen roses skyrockets the week before Valentine's Day. Instead, choose other types of flowers in a gorgeous bouquet. Or purchase a single perfect rose in a vase. For extra savings, pick up the flowers and arrange them yourself in a vase from home.

Besides budget, Valentine's Day can bring other challenges. If you are just starting your relationship, how do you celebrate without going overboard? If you are an established couple, where do you find the time for romance?

New couples may not want to plunge headfirst into Valentine's Day declarations, but still want the day to be special. Lessen the pressure by double dating or meeting at a favorite restaurant. Choose thoughtful gifts like a favorite artist's latest CD or a funky card that plays music. Avoid jewelry or too expensive gifts this early in the relationship.

Growing couples are often working around each other's hectic schedules. Show your sweetie how much you care with a thoughtful gift that reflects his or her tastes and interests. Plan mini-dates like skipping out on work a half-hour early to catch happy hour at your favorite restaurant or getting tickets to a game.

Committed couples are looking forward to spending the future together. You may also be juggling more responsibilities, so time together is a priority. Book a weekend away at a hotel, bed and breakfast or cottage by the beach. Ask friends or go online to find vacation swaps. Someone who lives by the ocean might be thrilled to visit your cozy condo in the city.

No matter how you are celebrating Valentine's Day this year, don't wait until the last minute. Shopping and planning ahead can save a bundle. Look for sales at your favorite stores and shop online for huge discounts. Putting some thought into your gift, no matter if you spend a little or a lot, shows how much you care.

Valentine's Day is all about your relationship. The best way to celebrate is to focus on what makes you both happy. By using these budget tips, you can experience Valentine's Day luxury for less.

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