Cheap Valentine's gifts

Saying 'I Love You' for Less

by Gary Foreman

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This is for the frugal romantic. Last Valentine's Day I had $8. I went to the local grocery store and bought gladiolas (the cheapest flowers I could find - but very beautiful). I cut red tissue paper into hearts to look like rose petals. I also bought strawberries and grapes. I got out all the photos of the two of us and taped them to the wall in a trail leading to the bathroom. The bathroom walls were filled completely with more pictures. There was also a bath drawn waiting for his homecoming and fruit to feed him. It went over very well!

Sandy sure has the right idea. It isn't how much you spend on your sweetie. Instead, it's what you say and how you say it.

Of course, not everyone uses Sandy's methods. A trip to the website offers a dozen roses (their cheapest bouquet) for $40.98 including the service charge. And, according to the Greeting Card Association, only Christmas generates more greeting cards than Valentine's Day. It's estimated that we'll spend over $350 million on candy the week before Valentine's Day. Wow! That's a lot of love!

But chances are that Sandy made a bigger impression than any box of candy would have made. That's because her gift emphasized what they shared together.

Creating the perfect gift is a matter of thinking about the person who will be receiving it. One way to create a successful, frugal valentine is to highlight something special in your past. Begin by taking some time to think. Pull out your memories instead of your wallet. What were your partner's happiest moments? Are there special events or secrets that you share?

Finding a way to commemorate that time or event is the fun part. You don't need to be very good with words to write a love letter or poem. It's the memory that you trigger that's important. Not your choice of words or whether the poem rhymes. Trust me, you won't get a "D" on this assignment!

Another possibility would be to celebrate all the things you love about that special someone. Everyone likes to hear good things about themselves. And, who better to tell them than someone they love.

You can present those thoughts in a variety of ways. Try anything from a recorded message to a series of notes that your valentine will stumble across during the course of their day. Again, eloquence isn't necessary. You can be pretty sure that your grammar won't be critiqued.

Some events can be recreated. Return to the spot of that special picnic or lovers' lane. Or listen again to the music that you shared before. Just one or two elements from a special time will rekindle wonderful memories.

A second way to create a memorable valentine is to use the element of surprise. Most of us have an expectation of when, where and how we'll receive our valentine gift. Surprising your partner is an inexpensive way to add excitement.

Lunches offer a wonderful opportunity. If you typically prepare the lunch, it's easy to do something special for your valentine. Their favorite foods, heart shaped sandwiches, candy kisses or a special note are all inexpensive. Even if you don't prepare the lunch, sometimes you have the opportunity to get to the lunch box before it heads out the door.

Sometimes you can spread your surprise out over a number of days. For instance, you could deliver flowers one at a time. Or send a poem one line at a time. If you both have email at work, you could send one line every half-hour until the poem was completed. You might even want to start a day or two before Valentine's Day and take days to complete the message.

Another possibility is to give that special someone a "heart attack." No, not where you call 911. Rather, put a flood of hearts in their car, bedroom or office. Simply cut out or print dozens of paper hearts. Overwhelm them.

So, like Sandy, don't be afraid to avoid the expensive flowers, cards and candy. A little thought and effort could create the best way to say "I love you." Why not do something memorable for that special someone this Valentine's Day?

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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