Even cheapskates like me get struck by cupid's arrow on Valentine's Day. But that doesn't mean I'll be spending anywhere close to the $158 the National Retail Federation says that the average guy will spend on his sweetheart this February 14. Here are some tips for saying amore for a lessee this lover's holiday:
- Breakfast in bed. Skip the crowded, overpriced dinner out. Surprise your valentine with breakfast in bed instead. Set your alarm a little early and try my romantic favorite: pieces of toast with a heart shapes cut out and eggs fried in the center, like this. Breakfast in bed is always a treat, especially on a Tuesday morning!
- A lifetime's worth of roses. Rather than shell out big bucks for a dozen roses that'll be dead in a few days, buy your lover a rosebush to plant outside. Many varieties of rosebushes can live 30 or more years, and attractive landscaping increases the value of your home. Depending on your climate, some rose bushes can be planted right now; or order one for delivery when it's planting time and just include a picture it in your Valentine's Day card.
- Chocolate crockpot fondue. No holiday is complete without breaking out the crockpot. Forget about the $30 heart shaped box of chocolates, and try this simple, inexpensive recipe for chocolate fondue made in the crockpot instead. It's something the whole family can enjoy.
- Now that's hot lingerie. I guess priorities and tastes change as you grow older, but last Valentine's Day my wife and I exchanged bright red "union suits" - one piece sets of thermal underwear - with each other to wear instead of pajamas. We both think they look kind of sexy (in a lumber camp sort of way!), and I like the fact that we can turn down the thermostat at night, because between our union suits and each other, we stay nice and warm.
- Private-label cheap champagne. I've ranted before about the high price we pay for fancy packaging. Instead, buy an inexpensive bottle of champagne or other libation you think your sweetheart will enjoy, and then make it really fancy by removing the cheap label and using this free website to design and print out a romantic "private label" for your Valentines celebration.
- Anything homemade, from the heart ... or in the shape of one. It's truly the thought that counts, and nothing says "I've been thinking about you" more than a gift you make yourself. Here's a picture of the pin I made for my wife the first Valentine's Day we were married. I carved it from a piece of wood I'd secretly saved from the first Christmas tree of our marriage the December before. The cost: free. The reaction when I gave it to her: priceless.