San Diego Financial Literacy Center

Tips to Stay on Budget and Still Say “I Love You” This Valentine’s Day

It might feel like we were just counting down the final seconds of 2016 and setting New Year’s resolutions, but Valentine’s Day is now upon us. With sales on everything “romantic,” retailers have wasted no time trying to take money from your budget to beef up their bottom line.

As early as mid- January, stores started filling aisles with pink and red. Although the marketing practically eliminates “I forgot it was Valentine’s Day” excuse, it can be used to your advantage. Having a reminder more than a month out will give you time to budget for expenses that you may face on February 14.

Not all gifts require spending lots of money. Below we go over five tips that can be put into practice to have a sweetheart of a day that doesn’t lead to a ruined budget.

  1. Cook a romantic dinner at home for a quarter of the price it would cost to dine out. Rent the first movie you ever saw together to bring back old memories.

Cooking and staying in will keep you away from crowded restaurants that can strain your patience and your budget. Cook something your significant other likes or find a new recipe and surprise him or her. A romantic night in can beat a restaurant outing any day of the year.

  1. Burn a CD or create a playlist of your favorite romantic songs. Add your wedding song or any other songs that bring back memories of when you first started dating.

Although the days of mixed tapes are long gone, the effects music can have on people can’t be denied. If you pick out the right combination of songs, you just might have the perfect gift. Whether you burn a CD or add playlist to your sweetie’s phone, your budget will be intact. It also is the gift that keeps giving year round!

  1. Spend $10 on a picture frame and put a memorable picture of you and your significant other in it.

If your significant other loves certain pictures of the two of you, pick one they like and get a good print of it. Put the picture in a nice frame and you’ll have a perfect gift that didn’t cost a paycheck. If you have been together for years try and find a picture from the early days that will bring back fun memories.

  1. Make cookies or a special dessert from scratch instead of purchasing heavily marked up chocolates.

Fresh-baked cookies are more of a treat with feelings than the store bought alternative. You don’t have to limit yourself to cookies, with the Internet you can find thousands of recipes for a desert that is sure to impress. Extra tip from the SDFLC guys! Consider making a practice batch, maybe bring it in to your office and get feedback from your coworkers. Or pick an old favorite you haven’t had in a while.

  1. Write a love letter or poem and give it to your loved one this year. Send it in the mail to their home or work. Spray a bit of your perfume or cologne on the letter. You will look like quite the romantic for less than a dollar.

This tip will take some extra creativity, but the added effort will be noticed. You might want to start early, writing poetry doesn’t come easy to most of us and the process may take a few days. If you’re unsuccessful in writing, find a nice poem online and use that. Originality might add to the significance of the gift, but a well-picked poem can work as well.


Unless you’ll be dropping down on one knee and popping the big question this Valentine’s Day, there is no need to drastically alter your personal budget. An original gift that took some time and creativity to make will show that you care. Not everyone expects an expensive gift, but no one wants to feel like their significant other has neglected them. This year, keep your budget intact and get creative. Try one of the tips above or some other budget friendly activity.

Do you have any special traditions do you have for Valentine’s Day? What other budget saving Valentine’s Day ideas have you used in the past? Have you tried any of the above tips? If so, we would love to hear about it.

About the Author