VALENTINE’S DAY ON A BUDGET

Just because the economy is in a slump doesn’t mean that you can’t have a memorable Valentine’s Day. With a little imagination, you can come up with romantic ideas that’ll make your sweetheart feel special—without straining your budget.

Think how much fun it would be if you came up with ideas that are unique to your relationship.

Here are some suggestions to jumpstart your creativity:

Celebrate on Valentine’s Eve. A much cheaper alternative to going out on Valentine’s Day is going out on Valentine’s Eve. Because it’s not yet as popular as celebrating on Valentine’s Day, this means you can take advantage of the good food and ambiance of your favorite restaurant at a bargain, compared to the typical Valentine’s Day packages.

If you think you’d feel like something would be missing because you’re not celebrating on the exact day, think of Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve—celebrating at these times doesn’t diminish at all the meaning of the holidays they represent.

Involve the children. Who says you can’t have a perfect Valentine’s Day when children are around?

Instead of hiring a babysitter for the evening, how about making the children part of the celebration? Create a “mission” for them—to make Mommy and Daddy’s Valentine’s dinner the most romantic ever.

Tell them that this year you’ve decided to go to [your family name] restaurant (Smith Bistro, for example). In this restaurant, the older children are the chefs, and the younger children are the servers. To add to the excitement of their “mission,” give them a free hand in planning the entire dinner—the menu, the table setting, the music, etc. They can make chef hats, aprons and server uniforms from newspapers.

 Your part is to get dressed up just as you would if you were going to a fancy restaurant, and lavish the “restaurant staff” with praise. Not only will your children cherish the memory, but you can bet that their own children and their children’s children will hear about this evening.

Create a romantic picnic. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend, so an outdoor picnic-for-two is perfect when the weather cooperates. Instead of heading to the nearest park, see if you have other options that would be just as romantic. A tree house in your backyard? A snow-covered lawn on a sunny day? Your apartment building’s roof (or office building–but you probably have to pull some strings)?

Don’t forget that indoor picnics can be just as romantic. Spread out a bright red blanket on the den or a covered patio. Arrange pillows (in your favorite colors) on top. Add delicious food and soft music, and voila—a magical evening in the making.

Prepare Valentine’s dinner together. If you both like to cook, make two gourmet meals—each other’s favorite. From planning the menu to making the list to grocery-shopping—togetherness is the key. When you get home from the grocery, open the first bottle of wine (you got two, right?). Have a few sips as you do the chopping and the laughing, and the peeling, and the kissing, etc.

Guys—dazzle her with flowers that are unique. No, this doesn’t necessarily mean exotic flowers, though they can be—this means flowers that are unique to your relationship. For example, give the same type of wildflowers she held as she walked down the aisle on your wedding day.

If you’re proposing, hand her Marigolds (for “marry me”) just before you pop the question.

 If you’ve always told her that her hair smells like gardenias, get her a bouquet (better yet, pick the flowers yourself).

You get the idea.

Renew your commitment. Go back to the place where you got married and renew your marriage vows. (If you’re not married, renew your commitment to each other.) If it’s not practical to do so, go some place that would bring back the memories of that special day. For example, if you got married at a church 500 miles away, you can explore your city or take a short drive to the country to find a similar church.

You don’t need a special ceremony for this occasion, nor witnesses. It can be just the two of you, expressing once more in words the love that has flourished in your heart throughout your blissful time together.

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