BUDGETING FOR VALENTINE'S DAY
Valentine's Day is approaching, which means many Americans will be dropping dollars in the name of love. Among respondents in a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, women plan to spend an average of $96.58 to show their affection and men an average of $190.53. Don't have that kind of money to devote to your significant other? With these 10 tips, you can make a big impression on a small budget.
'CAMELIZE' YOUR AMAZON PURCHASES
Whether you're shopping for a necklace, artisanal chocolates, or a quirky gadget, try the Camelizer browser extension. This handy tool, which supports Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, shows price history charts right on the Amazon product pages. The data can help you determine whether you're getting the best deal on whatever your sweetheart desires. You can also set price alerts to see if a particular gift drops to a price you can afford.
DINE OUT FOR LESS WITH DEAL APPS
Appetizers, entrees, a nice bottle of wine -- by the time dessert arrives, dinner has eaten a hole in your wallet. Apps such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and Scoutmob show available discounts at wine bars, dessert spots, and restaurants. At the time of writing, Sons of Essex in New York City was offering 50 percent off regular fare and brunch, for example. Some deals don't apply on Fridays and weekends, so beat the Valentine's Day crowds by celebrating mid-week. (The holiday falls on a Saturday this year.)
SHOP FOR JEWELRY ONLINE
Tiffany & Co. or a local jeweler may spring to mind when searching for a Valentine's Day bauble. But Amazon Deals is worth checking as well. The daily discounts include an impressive jewelry selection. At the time of writing, shoppers could grab 2.5-carat lavender cubic zirconia earrings for $23 (65 percent savings) or a sterling-silver and rose-gold heart pendant with diamonds for $48 (79 percent off). Deals last only while supplies do, or until a set deadline.
SCOUR SPECIAL MENUS
This year, with Valentine's Day falling on a weekend, more than the usual number of restaurants will promote special menus for couples. Find them by consulting Valentine's Day guides published by newspapers, city magazines, and blogs covering your area. OpenTable has compiled offers in many major cities and features a Valentine's Day reservation search. To ensure a prix fixe menu is a good value, look up the regular menu online and note the prices of individual dishes.
GET GIFT IDEAS FROM DEAL APPS
Apps such as Saviry, DealNews, and Slickdeals feature a variety of gift-worthy products. At the time of writing, DailySale was offering Swarovski crystal studs for $7 with free shipping (regularly $79.99). Saviry had wine-filled chocolates for $35 and flagged a Groupon deal offering 18-karat white-gold-plated Swarovski Elements hoop earrings for $15.
DON'T JUST WINE AND DINE
If a traditional meal and gifts don't excite you, look for tickets to an event. Sites such as CheapTickets, SeatGeek, StubHub, and Goldstar offer discounts on concerts, sporting events, musicals, and more. There's bound to be someone who didn't realize Feb. 14 was Valentine's Day and is now desperate to unload tickets and secure a dinner reservation. Try to snag discounted seats and treat your significant other to NBA All-Star Game festivities (if you're in New York) or Jason Aldean (in Charleston, South Carolina).
SWEETEN A GIFT WITH HONEY
Shopping online for a Valentine's Day gift? Honey, an extension for the Chrome browser, scours the web for coupons and automatically applies them to your purchase as you check out on a retailer's site. At time of writing, the likes of Macy's, J. Crew, and Etsy were offering discounts.
BE SMART ABOUT SENDING FLOWERS
It may seem like everyone is ordering red roses, but that doesn't mean you have to. Roses last about a week before the petals wither away. Instead, choose longer-lasting varieties that bloom just as beautifully. For a good value on Valentine's Day flowers, try a bouquet of Peruvian lilies, chrysanthemums, and carnations from a local florist. These flowers are available in romantic colors and cost significantly less than a dozen roses.
SPICE UP DINNER AT HOME
By staying in and cooking on Valentine's Day, you can save money and spice things up a bit with aphrodisiac foods. Cosmopolitan suggests mixing pomegranate cocktails, preparing an asparagus and avocado salad, serving salmon for the entree, and ending the meal with red wine and chocolate. The blog Happy Wives Club also offers easy recipes designed to spark some romance when the meal is done.
PLAN FOR NEXT YEAR
If your significant other appreciates sentiment more than food, jewelry, or flowers, start planning something that will bring back cherished memories in years to come. Start jotting down a daily note about your loved one, such as a sweet moment or a laugh you shared. Or record a series of short videos, especially on outings, dates, and during family events. Mobile apps such as 1 Second Everyday and Daily Diary can help. By this time next year, you'll have a budget-friendly Valentine's Day gift in the bag.