OFFBEAT OF THE HEART
This year, with Feb. 14 falling on a Sunday, Valentine's Day threatens to last the whole weekend. For the single guy or gal, Valentine's Day can be full of loneliness and self-doubt. For couples, choices abound -- from a romantic getaway to a small gift or card. Doing nothing is obviously the cheapest choice, no matter the relationship status. But being frugal is no reason to ignore Valentine's Day. There are plenty of ways to express love and enjoy each other's company besides an extravagant dinner or chocolates. Plan something that truly reflects your affection and relationship, rather than a sense of obligation.
TAKE A CUE FROM LATIN AMERICA
When figuring out what to do for Valentine's Day, look to Mexico. El D韆 de San Valent韓, or el D韆 del Amor y la Amistad as it's commonly known, is a day for appreciating friends and family in addition to significant others. Chocolate hearts are often presented to aunts; flowers may be exchanged between cousins. So be inclusive -- giving to more people encourages more modest gifts that will likely cost less than a blowout dinner for two at the fanciest place in town.
CELEBRATE AFTER EVERYONE ELSE
Date night on Feb. 15, or after Valentine's weekend, means coming home to half-price bags of chocolate for dessert. Flowers also return to their normal prices while restaurants ease up on reservations and ditch the overpriced Valentine's Day specials.
SPEND THE DAY IN FEAR
Watch a horror movie together, or catch the premiere of the latest half-season of "The Walking Dead," which conveniently drops on Feb. 14. Arm-clenching scenes of terror bring couples closer. Or go full throttle -- dress up and pretend it's Halloween instead of a day of romance.
PLANT FLOWERS INSTEAD OF BUYING
Give a cut rose and the beauty fades in a week; plant a rosebush together and add beauty to the neighborhood for a lifetime.
Use Valentine's Day for personal development: Read a book, create art, or begin to learn a trade or hobby. It's also a good day to recommit to a New Year's resolution.
LEARN FROM COMEDIANS
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have each contributed a Valentine's alternative on their respective TV sitcoms, "30 Rock" and "Parks and Recreation." Fey's Liz Lemon, having given up on finding love, says she'll have cookies to "celebrate the Feb. 14 birthday of Anna Howard Shaw, famed American suffragette." Poehler's Leslie Knope explains Galentine's Day, "the best day of the year. Every Feb. 13, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home and we just come and kick it breakfast-style." (Come to think of it, Valentine's Day is also a good time to just binge-watch "30 Rock" or "Parks and Recreation.")
CLEAN THE HOUSE
It's never too early to begin spring cleaning. If you love sprucing up the house, organize a room or keep extra busy by making cleaning supplies at home. If you don't, treat yourself to a maid service.
MAKE THE DAY ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE
Instead of giving flowers and chocolates, give to someone less fortunate. Volunteer, donate goods, or try other charitable ideas that don't cost a dime.
CELEBRATE SINGLES AWARENESS DAY
SAD is celebrated Feb. 15 with gatherings of single friends and sympathetic couples. They often wear green, which sits opposite red on the color wheel, to mark the anti-occasion. (China celebrates Nov. 11 -- that's 11/11, or one one one one -- as Singles' Day, and South Korean singles set aside April 14 as Black Day for grousing about not getting gifts on Feb. 14 or White Day on March 14.)
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
The list of excuses for simply skipping Valentine's Day is long: Pasta drenched in garlicky sauce with a side of garlic bread makes a terrific dinner; being rebellious is hot; Necco Sweethearts really don't live up to the hype; a day of remembrance is in order for those who died during the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Most of all, we should show affection for significant others, family, and friends every day of the year.