Love don't cost a thing, unless it's Valentine's Day.
Asking someone to "Be Mine" just might entail a diamond ring, red roses, designer chocolates, elaborate lingerie and fancy French fare.
Last year, Americans dropped about $17.6 billion on the day, or about $126.03 per lover, according to the National Retail Federation.
Despite that 10-year consumer high, expressing your love doesn't have to empty your wallet.
Here are five unique, simple date ideas to celebrate Valentine's Day without all the fuss:
Romantic Picnic. Melissa Ramos Hiatt of Making It Sweet suggests bringing Napa Valley home: "My husband and I have done picnics in the living room on Valentine's Day. Valentine's lunch is always cheaper than dinner, too! You can make a day out of it - have a big lunch, have wine, cheese & crackers for dinner."
Have a Heart. Sondra Santos Drahos of Happy Healthy Hip suggests cooking with heart. "I love the idea of creating heart-shaped meals or treats or homemade cards for one another...maybe a hidden note in the lunchbox or on their pillow."
Words of Love. Debbie Anderson of San Diego Momma brings old-world romance to the scene. "Get a journal, date it, and write on the first page all the reasons you're glad you're with your significant other, and then promise you'll write in it each Valentine's Day. It's so romantic."
Family Scavenger Hunt. Rachael Nash Wunderlich of Too Tutu Cute involves the kids in a family day o' love and whimsy: "Our big event is always the scavenger hunt. I cut out out big red paper hearts and write little clues on them. After dinner, they race around the house to ultimately find a small gift, usually a cute Valentine's Day cup or something from the Target dollar bin and a box of conversation hearts."
Relive your vows. And me, I'm a budget babe too. Each year, my husband and I relive our wedding day. We sip a little bubbly from our wedding flutes and watch our wedding video followed by the film we used as a theme for our wedding - Casablanca - while noshing some yummy chocolates and strawberries.
How do you say "I love you" on a budget?
"I choo, choo, choose you"
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