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By Vanessa Sanchez, and Bankrate
It’s that time of year when we’re all bombarded with ads for flowers, cheesy jewelry commercials, and heart-shaped candies at the local drugstore. Which means, of course, Valentine’s Day is upon us.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), spending for Valentine’s Day reached an all time high of $19.7 billion last year. (Pretty impressive for what many consider a made-up holiday.) Although consumers are expected to cut back on their spending in 2017, the average consumer will still spend around $136.57 this year. That’s down from the record-high of $146.84 in 2016.
If you want to do something nice for your loved on on V Day, but don’t want to spend a lot, we can help. Here are some unique and cheap date night ideas.
· Short on cash? Rent a romantic movie and pair it with all the movie fixins'.
· Try looking for something out of the ordinary when buying a gift.
· Use what she's passionate about and build a gift off of that.
It's not a dozen long-stemmed red roses and a pricey box of chocolates that women get all misty-eyed over when mid-February rolls around each year. True, retailers love to push these traditional heart-day gifts, but most women would be far more impressed by a simpler -- and often less-expensive -- gift that somehow touches her heart.
It really is the thought that counts -- not that you thought to get something, but that you put some thought into what you got. You'll make your sweetheart feel special by picking gifts that connect with her personal passions rather than falling back on the same old same old, which, in effect, is telling her you didn't care enough to put any thought into it.
Usually, expensive means very little. "In fact, depending on where a couple is in their relationship, extravagant gifts like expensive lingerie or fancy chocolates can seem overwhelming," says author and etiquette and gift-giving expert Leah Ingram. "If you've just started dating, a big gift can imply more depth to the relationship than is really there. It can also be awkward if the guy splurges on a big Valentine's gift, but the woman doesn't do the same."
Men in married or long-term relationships can also take heart: your sweethearts, too, can be wowed by relatively inexpensive but thoughtful gestures, says author Robyn Spizman, author of "Make it Memorable" and "The Giftionary."
"Woo her with a single rose, with a note attached that says, 'You're my one and only.' Or on Valentine's morning, cut self-stick notes into heart shapes, write something sweet, and leave them in key places: her bathroom mirror, the refrigerator or her car door.
"More than expensive gifts, women want their men to show them that they truly cherish them. By doing a little homework and paying attention to the things their loved one really cares about, men can make women feel adored," Spizman says. "It's not about cost."
Here are some other creative and modestly priced Valentine's ideas for gift-challenged men:
Show a special feature: Invite her to your place for a special movie night, complete with popcorn and hot cocoa. Show that you've been thinking of her by buying her favorite romantic movie online (again, it's OK to ask her for movie suggestions without revealing your entire plan). Check for movie deals at sites like Deep Discount DVD or compare prices at comparison sites like My Simon or Google Product Search. A few favorite feminine V-Day flicks: "Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail," "An Affair to Remember" and "Love Actually." If you're a little on the artsy side and don't mind subtitles, try "Like Water for Chocolate," from Mexico.
Say it in your own words: Who needs Shakespeare? Many women, including Fawn Fitter of San Francisco, say a heartfelt card is worth its weight in gold. "Not some verse from Hallmark, just something sweet in his own handwriting. That's all it takes," she says.
Eat in: Consider making a romantic dinner at home for your sweetie instead of going to a pricey restaurant on Valentine's Day. After all, many women hate the crowded restaurant scene on Feb. 14 as much as men do. Or how about breakfast in bed? If you've got even a shred of culinary talent, get up early and prepare her favorite -- pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream, perhaps, with hot coffee, a carafe of mimosa and two champagne glasses.
Use your apps
Never be ashamed to look for good deals when it comes to planning a date. Be financially smart and also creative by checking out apps like Groupon, Pulsd and Fever. These are all apps that I’ve personally used to plan some of the best dates I can remember.
These companies will give you the scoop on your city and you can find anything from 3-course dinners for half the original price to free events at your local bar, theater or park. I’ve even bought a Groupon for flying lessons that cost less than $140.
It might take 30 or 45 minutes for you to find the perfect fit but planning a unique date while also saving a few hundred dollars sounds like a big win!
Cook with a culinary kit!Believe it or not, for some, it’s the effort that counts on this special day. Anyone can call a restaurant and book a reservation but it says a lot more if you take the time out to cook an intimate dinner.
Don’t know how to cook? Kits like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh make it easy. Again, prices vary so you have to poke around to see what fits your budget as well as dietary needs. But what’s great about these services is that you get all the ingredients that you need and step by step directions.
If you are notorious for not being able to toast a piece of bread without burning it, you might want to invest in a few different meal options for backup. Even with the extras both services offer meals starting at $8 to $10 each. Not bad considering you’re getting fresh ingredients delivered right to your door.
Geocaching is kind of like going on a treasure hunt wherever you are in the world – and a fun and free date night activity. Once you download the app you will see the caches around you. You select one and your GPS will give you directions to its exact location. You can find anything from action figures to pictures but you don’t know what you’ll find until you get there. There are over 2 million geocaches worldwide and when I created my account there were hundreds of hidden trinkets all around me.
The rule is that you can take what you find, as long as you replace it with something of equal value. Once you find your cache, you can log it into your app and sign your name in the logbook at your destination.
This kind of unpredictable adventure can lead you to random conversations, discovering new places you never noticed and might even give you a new outlook on the same town you’ve always lived in. Or, you can always go on a Pokemon-hunting date if that’s your thing!
Test drive your dream cars
No one said you actually have to buy a car in order to test drive it. Head to the dealer of your choice and ask to test drive the car you’d like. If you have a valid license and ask nicely, they shouldn’t give you a hard time. If they do, move on to the next dealership.
It’s fun to pretend with whoever you’re with – even if it is just for a 10 minute drive, in a car you may never buy. But that’s a 10 minute experience doing something new.
Make vision boards togetherMaking a vision board is something people do to help turn their dreams into reality. All you need is cardboard or poster boards, glue, scissors and a few magazines. The idea is that whatever you dream of or whatever you desire out of all aspects of your life, you find images of and paste on to the board.
Not only will this force you to think about your own dreams and wants but it will tell you a lot about the person next to you. It’s a great way to start a conversation and also a way to get to know your date on a deeper level without having to ask any awkward questions.The best thing about these cheap date ideas is that they’re not only for a significant other. Remember that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples, it’s also a time to spend with anyone you love – including family members and friends!
Yours for a productive 2017,
Bruce ‘the Poor Man’
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