How to celebrate love, not money, on St. Valentine’s Day

Are these dates glamorous and Instagram-worthy? Absolutely not. But we realized that in spending less, we got more.

Nemanja Glumac | Stocksy United

Proverbs 15:7 states, “Better a dish of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.” Yet, our current consumer culture would have us believe we should spend extravagantly to prove our love on the feast of St. Valentine. Just over $500 to be exact. That’s the cost of a Valentine’s Day according to Bankrate research when you add up the flowers, champagne, chocolates, jewelry, and the dinner. So many of us start with new financial goals in January only to have them eaten away by what now is frankly a commercial holiday. Why give in to this societal pressure when you can genuinely spend time together without spending lavishly?

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That’s the challenge my husband and I accepted this past month as we buckled down after our December budget, with its parties and celebrations, got away from us. We’d be able to have fun without spending money, right? Turns out, not only was it easier than we thought, but not spending tons of money on dates actually allowed us to focus on each other rather than something we would have paid to distract us.

Here are some ways you too can spend time, not money, as Valentine’s Day approaches:

1. Challenge each other to funny contests

This is obviously a no-brainer: you save money if you stay in. Instead of ordering a movie and a meal (both of which can add up quickly), perform a MacGyver-like survey of your surrounding and see what materials you already have in your home. You know those fancy paint-n-sip events that are trendy right now? Well, I haven’t been to one, but I know the two things involved: wine and art supplies. I haven’t laughed as hard as I did when my husband and I revealed the beautiful “portraits” we had made of each other using our kids’ watercolors and markers. If you love games, might I suggest a cooking challenge? Not only is it a way to rid the pantry and fridge of must-go items, but it’s an “interesting” way to whip up a dinner and discover a new recipe. Ricotta-banana pancakes? Big hit. Tuna bean cornbread? Not so much. Up for a challenge? Weather-permitting, pop a tent or just some blankets, and enjoy a night under the stars. Just you, your loved one … and the baby monitor. Ditch the cell phone and escape for the night, or until your back starts to hurt. We’re not that young anymore.

2. Go build a house, or walk a dog

Look outside your home and see what your community has to offer. Check the arts section of your city’s local paper or website. Chances are there are free or low-cost events for the public. My husband and I love wandering around bookstores. However, the temptation of a hardback novel and a pricy pastry often overpowers us. Our cheap-date switch? The library and our own cuppa Joe. Switch up your usual Saturday night dinner and movie for a Saturday afternoon museum trip or a Wednesday night free open-mic. Don’t have the budget for a babysitter? Reach out to a friend and offer to do a babysitting swap. Want to give back? Spend the day volunteering with your loved one. Ask the local animal shelter if they need dog walkers, see if your church offers citizenship or English conversation classes, or reach out to Habitat for Humanity. The time spent with each other becomes even more valuable when you spend it giving.

3. Plan your date … at church

Nobody said Saturday night had to be date night. Sunday morning sometimes is just as good. Although we typically go to church as a family, there have been occasions when my husband and I will go church by ourselves. This gives up time together but also time to think and reflect … and nobody is tugging my hand and asking to go potty. After, we sometimes go for a walk or a cup of coffee. Another resource is your parish office of family life, which might hold marriage retreats and seminars. These events tend to be low cost and a great way to meet other parishioners. And remember all that Pre-Cana prep? Our parish priest once explained a Pre-Cana exercise he had an engaged couple complete. You sit in silence just looking at each other. During that time, you are only allowed to say three words. This three words have to describe your future spouse. One person says a word she has chosen. Then you sit for 10 minutes thinking about it. The other person says his word describing the other person. Again, sit for 10 minutes. After an hour, the exercise is done. Sound a little weird? I admit, it was. But it was also intensely meaningful.

Are these dates glamourous and Instagram-worthy? Absolutely not. But what we realized as we pulled the purse-strings on our entertainment budget, was that in spending less, we got more.

Katie Waite
Katie Waite

Katie Waite is a full-time mother and part-time teacher who lives in the DC/metro area with a husband, two kids, and an unruly dog. She writes at comomedy.com when she is not grading essays, running errands, or chasing her kids. She has started making regular hair appointments and occasionally wearing mascara.

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