At our house, Valentine's Day is a special day for all of us. It's not just for my husband and me, but also for each of us. We use the day to tell each other how special we are to one another. With this in mind, planning for the day takes on a new dimension: The meal must be fun, not just delicious; the gifts must be fun but frugal; and the activities must be family oriented. How is a family supposed to accomplish this on a penny budget?

Planning is the key to any successful day. Leaving the event to the last minute will only cost us a bundle. Decide ahead of time what the meal should look like, what the activities could be and the gifts should be. Use library books for craft, meal, game, decorating, and gift ideas. I have listed a few of my favorite resources (taken from Frugal Families) at the end of this article.

The day's events do not need to be too elaborate to be special: It's the time spent together preparing for it that speaks to the family members. A few simple touches can make this day fun. Have the kids cut out paper hearts and decorate the house. Use different colors and types of paper (foil, lace, etc.). Make paper chains from red and white paper. Make a chain or wreath from valentine cards you have received. We have found some great, unopened Valentine's Day decorations at thrift stores too.

Another thing we do is study the origins of this day. We read about the saint called Valentine and why showing love is a feature of this day. There are several books in the library about this story.

Here are a few ideas that we do to make this day special:

  • Talk as a family about giving an extra gift to a local organization that helps the poor. Go together and give the money personally (if possible), accompanied by a valentine that you have made together.
  • Make chocolate heart lollipops: Get an inexpensive chocolate mold and sticks from a craft store and pour melted chocolate into them.
  • Make strawberry milkshakes (and any other "pink" food you can think of).
  • Make festive ice cubes: Place candy hearts in ice cube trays before they freeze. Serve at dinner in the drinks.
  • Study old-fashioned valentines and make one using doilies and construction paper.
  • Bake a heart-shaped cake for the family dessert. Hide cinnamon candy hearts throughout the cake for fun!
  • Make paper placemats and cover them with clear contact paper.
  • Make coupon books and/or bookmarks for each other.
  • Have a candy treasure hunt.
  • Do a science project: Cut the base of the stem on a white carnation and put it in a glass of water that has red food coloring in it. In a few hours the flower will turn red.
  • Make an acrostic poem for someone with a valentine word (love, pink, red, heart, kiss, etc.). Make each line something you like about that person.
  • Watch a Charlie Brown movie together.

For your spouse, a touching gesture or gift usually means more than an expensive gift. Many of the gift items listed above would be well received, or make a coupon book (a back rub, a foot rub, doing their chores for a day, etc.), a handmade card, or a poem.
Here are a few more of my favorite ideas:

  • A nicely written list of all the reasons that you love and appreciate him or her. Go an extra step and make the paper that you write it on.
  • Bring your loved one breakfast in bed.
  • Cut out paper hearts and write love notes on them. Place them throughout the house (and in their lunch box) so he or she will find them all day.
  • Put a heart-shaped cookie in his or her lunch.
  • Go for a walk, holding hands.
  • Pull out your wedding album and look through it together.
  • Listen to romantic music (classical, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra).
  • Send an e-mail to each other letting the other know they are being thought about.


Happy Celebrating!

Jonni McCoy is the author of Frugal Families and Miserly Moms. Visit www.bethanyhouse.com to learn more about McCoy's books.