Denver Bar Association
February 2010
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Do’s and Don’ts for a Budget-Friendly Valentine’s Day

by Christine Wood

Although the economy may be in the toilet and your personal budget may be tighter than last year, this doesn’t mean that your plans for a special Valentine’s Day have to go down the drain, as well. With a little creativity, you can still convey the message that you care enough to send the (almost) best.


Do re-card. There’s nothing wrong with using a signed Valentine card from the past, even if it’s from an ex. With a little white-out, you can just change the names. It’s okay to keep the sentimental hand-written message, as this adds a fresh new voice and perspective to the relationship. 

Do take advantage of free activities offered to the public. For example, a memorable evening could be spent riding up and down the 16th Street Mall shuttle. There’s lots to see from the shuttle, the seats over the batteries get nice and warm and there’s always entertainment on board.

Do be a victim. Maybe you’re in the position where a significantly expensive gift is expected, such as jewelry. Save the receipt, and plan to give your gift somewhere in public. Before the big night, arrange to have a friend (not known to your significant other) in the area where you’ll be. Just as you present the gift, have your friend walk by and steal the present. You can then return the present later and get a refund.

Do fake a sudden illness. This will get you out of an expensive evening. When you’ve recovered, you can try to sidestep any gift giving by “discovering” that the illness affected your ability to remember it was Valentine’s Day.

Do consider forming a “time share” group for an expensive gift. For example, you might consider going in on a pricey gift with three other individuals, with the agreement that each recipient has a particular allotted time of the year when they may have/wear the gift. This could be divided equally regardless of financial contribution, or in proportion to the amount of money contributed by each individual.

Do use your creativity for some at-home, wholesome entertainment. Rather than an expensive night at the theater or movies, a thoughtfully scripted sock puppet show will be a memory for the two of you for years to come. You also might consider taping it so that your date will have the DVD to relive the memory.


Don’t overlook the obvious: free gifts. For example, the next time you take a trip, take the freebies from the hotel room. Scented lotions and potions are always a hit, and nothing says “I love you” like a shoe mitt. On extended trips, you may even acquire enough gifts to make a basket; such as throwing in the bag of pretzels you got on the flight, which adds an especially nice touch. If you combine this with a trip to the dentist, you can even add mouthwash and dental floss, which is always meaningful for conveying unconditional love.

Don’t spend money on roses or flowers. You can make your own bunch of flowers by cutting your neighbors’ when they’re not looking; or, many office buildings have elaborate floral displays in the lobby that can be harvested.

Don’t be afraid to deviate from the heart-shaped box of chocolates. Craft stores and party supply stores often have heart-shaped boxes and wrappers. You can create your own gift box, such as a collection of throat lozenges, paper clips, buttons, etc. instead of ordering expensive chocolates.

Don’t forget about cubic zirconium or crystal in place of diamonds. Most women won’t notice the difference, and if they do, they are pretty understanding.

Don’t hesitate to sneak food into expensive restaurants. Just like you snuck food into movie theaters as a kid, this is an easy way to lower the overall dinner tab. Consider sneaking in a pre-made salad, ready-to-serve soup and individual dessert servings. Microwave dinners also work great if you can sneak off during the dinner to warm it up. Chances are your server won’t notice.

Don’t be afraid to run some risk for an adventuresome date. For example, a sure-fire memorable evening might be spent sneaking into a White House dinner, with the extra bonus of having “dinner on the house.”

Don’t overlook the sentimental value of family heirlooms. No matter how odd or unusual an item may be, it can take on special value when presented as an item that has been with your family for decades. Who wouldn’t want to get Grandma’s Bingo Square quilt or Uncle Mort’s antique lawn mower from 1935? It’s not just any quilt, it’s a quilt with sentiment, which speaks volumes of how much you care for the other person.

All it takes is a little creativity. After all, it’s the creative thought that counts, not the amount of money spent.

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