A very DIY Valentine’s Day isn’t just thrifty—it’s also far more personal.
Buying a stuffed bear, a box of chocolates, or a bouquet of flowers takes zero creativity. It can also get pretty pricey. But creating a homemade meal or, better yet, doing a chore you know your significant other hates? Now that is true love.
How I Celebrate Valentine’s Day
During the 13 years my husband and I have been together—including eight years of marriage—we’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day in a multitude of ways. From ignoring the holiday entirely to going out for a prix-fixe three-course dinner accompanied by cliché red roses, we’ve done it all. In an effort to save money, my husband and I even skipped Valentine’s Day altogether several years in a row.
And while, yes, avoiding the day is certainly an easy frugal approach, I found I missed the holiday’s saccharine sweetness. However, I also had no desire to revert to the early days of our relationship when we felt compelled—pressured, even—to demonstrate our love by going out to dinner and buying tchotchkes. There had to be a middle ground, we reasoned.
We Act Instead of Give
My husband and I spend quality time together and demonstrate our love through actions. Although a bouquet of flowers is lovely, it really doesn’t do much for me in a long term, lasting sense. On the other hand, fixing a squeaky door handle that’s been bugging me? Now that’s a gift I can enjoy for years to come. It sounds unexciting and downright basic, but I find that giving our time to each other is more powerful than anything else. And at a more rudimentary level, I don’t need flowers, but I do need that door handle fixed!
It’s also true that buying a gift is totally devoid of individual personality and creativity. All it shows is that you can trade money for something made by someone else that anyone could buy. To me, a store-bought item doesn’t convey intimacy or deep connection. When we were first dating, my husband and I absolutely fell back on the trope of store-bought gifts because it was easy, it’s what society says to do, and we didn’t know one another well enough yet to give truly meaningful gifts. It took years for us to realize that neither of us wanted stuff from a store—what we both craved was the other’s attention and time.
Sometimes I have really specific tasks I ask my husband to do for me, like install a baby gate or hang up a painting. Other times, what I ask for is simply uninterrupted conversation. We’ll sit down at the dining room table together—after we’ve put our baby daughter to bed—with a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and just talk, with no agenda or purpose. This is merely an opportunity to enjoy one another’s company.
These acts—performing chores and talking—sound simple and perhaps even boring, but what’s important is they’re meaningful to us. By helping each other, we demonstrate our mutual respect and our desire to make the other person happy. Since my husband knows a bouquet of flowers would annoy me because I consider it a waste of money, he instead simply asks what he can do for me.
We Ignore Societal Expectations
My husband and I realized we were going out to dinner and buying flowers on Valentine’s Day because we felt like we should. Our culture (and advertisements) indoctrinate these trite, proscribed activities as mandatory if you’re in a relationship. There’s pressure to spend money in order to express your love—and it’s taboo to ignore this call to consumerism.
Recognizing that conformity was the impetus for our Valentine’s Day activities made it easier to give them up and create our own traditions. We were suddenly able to see these goading advertisements for what they truly are—thinly veiled ploys to buy more stuff we don’t need! Finding a more personal way to mark the holiday made it all the more meaningful for us. After all, there’s no law stating you must buy a present in order to demonstrate your love.
We Go DIY
I know many couples who make handmade gifts to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which is wonderfully thoughtful. Neither my husband nor I are very crafty (to put it mildly), so this isn’t really our cup of tea.
We do, however, like to make our favorite foods for each other. I’m the baker in our household and my husband is the chef, so we’ll often put in requests with each other for a special meal or treat. The idea is to listen to each other and acknowledge what small things we can do to deepen our connection.
We Spend Time Together
Taking time to give each other our undivided attention is a profound gift. In addition to enjoying a meal together at home—without interruptions—there are plenty of other ways to spend fulfilling time with each other throughout the year.
My parents—who have been married for 49 years—have always volunteered together. Whether serving meals at a soup kitchen, knitting blankets to donate to homeless shelters, or building a house with Habitat for Humanity, they’ve volunteered side by side throughout their marriage. Helping others has enabled them to find purpose and meaning beyond just their own needs and lives.
I also love the idea of committing random acts of kindness, directed at your partner. This is something my sister and her husband do, and it’s genius. It costs nothing, doesn’t take too much time, and is a fun way to reinforce just how important your partner is to you. Send loving texts to your partner throughout the day, do some of their chores, or even just give a hug during the hectic melee of the morning routine.
We’re Thrifty and Unique
These non-traditional Valentine’s Day celebrations are frugal, unique, and creative. And in my opinion, creativity is one of the most valuable aspects of living a frugal life.
Grownups, how do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.
While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.