When the love bug bites, you either throw the Valentine’s Day budget out of the window, or panic ensues. Budgeting for Valentine’s Day can be tricky for some. It’s made even trickier by the fact that traditional gifts like red roses and chocolates can skyrocket in price in February.

A 2019 survey from the National Retail Federation found that respondents would spend an average of $161.96 on the holiday. Millennial spenders, ages 25-34, averaged $239.07 which includes money spent on spouses, children, children’s classmates, and teachers. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather spend $239 on a plane ticket to the beach than heart-shaped candy and cards.

You don’t have to be crafty or flush with cash to have a great Valentine’s Day. A little budgeting could help you prepare without panic. Check out our ideas on how to start budgeting for Valentine’s Day along with some budget-friendly gift and date ideas below.

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When to start budgeting for Valentine’s Day

The opportune time to start budgeting for Valentine’s Day is year-round. You can start at any time so long as you make saving for Valentine’s Day a recurring habit. But let’s be honest, most of us don’t think about this holiday year-round let alone save for it. 

If you’re scrambling to figure out what to do within the next few weeks, look at your total income. Figure out how much discretionary income you have. For example, the income you have left over after the essentials like rent, utilities, and debt obligations have been paid. Then, determine how much of your discretionary income should go towards V-Day.

How to start budgeting for Valentine’s Day

Once you decide when you want to start budgeting for Valentine’s Day, it’s time to implement action. First, create a budget exclusively for gifts. You can lump this into one gift category that covers birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and more. But if you enjoy spending big money on Valentine’s Day, I suggest making a separate category altogether.

Second, determine the amount you’d like to set aside in your gift budget. Then lastly, contribute to that budget each month. You can do this a la cash envelopes, or even better, do it virtually. Open a separate savings account or digital cash envelope. Label it “Gifts” to prevent you from using the money for something else.

Related: How to Save Money in 2021

Another way to budget for Valentine’s Day is to game plan what you want to do. Perhaps you want to go big by surprising your loved one with a weekend getaway. Maybe you want to splurge on that trendy restaurant that recently opened up. Regardless, planning ahead of time by listing out potential Valentine’s Day activities can help you determine how much you’ll need to save.

How & When to Start Budgeting for Valentine's Day | Qube Money Blog
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Budget-friendly date ideas for Valentine’s Day

At this time of the year, our budgets are still recovering from Christmas so you may not be in a position to go all out for your sweetheart. Here are a few date ideas that are thoughtful and inexpensive.

Dine-in, not out

One of my favorite ways to spend Valentine’s Day is to do a gourmet meal at home. You can get as fancy as a grilled steak or try your hand at homemade sushi. Sarah Wilson, the millennial woman behind the Budget Girl YouTube channel, makes sushi at home on a budget. In her video, she finds ingredients from Aldi to create a luxe meal without the big bill.

“You can make cheap, delicious sushi from the Dollar Tree, Aldi, or your local grocery store. You don’t have to go out and spend $50 on a sushi night,” said Sarah.

Sarah mentions you can buy short-grain rice instead of sushi rice to cut costs, and inexpensive cucumbers, imitation crab, and avocado make great fillers.

Scavenger hunt

Think outside of the box with a scavenger hunt date night. You could lead your sweetie through clues and points of interest. Better yet, you could hide clues around the house so you don’t have to leave the comforts of home.

Lauren Lane, a 30-year-old from Colorado Springs, created the ultimate World of Warcraft scavenger hunt for her husband last year. “My husband loves World of Warcraft so I made mini-quests with clues related to the game,” said Lauren.

Each of the quests led to small gifts, like a bottle of “elixir juice” a.k.a champagne and a geode rock that represented a fire crystal. Try incorporating your loved one’s favorite hobby or guilty pleasure into a scavenger hunt. Disney scavenger hunt? Sign me up!

At-home spa night

Nothing is more romantic than walking into a candle-lit room with soothing music playing. You could create an unforgettable Valentine’s Day by creating a spa night. Run a hot bath with candles for your sweetie. Give each other massages and leave a handwritten note bedside. Passion is well, free, and I don’t think anyone can complain about that on Valentine’s Day.

Budget-friendly gift ideas for Valentine’s Day

So, you’re in a pinch to snatch up a thoughtful yet economical Valentine’s Day gift. Doesn’t your honey deserve the best? Sure, but your wallet shouldn’t suffer. Instead, opt for something less traditional.

Pick their favorite candy, not chocolates

Look for your boo thing’s favorite candy in the candy aisle at the grocery store as opposed to buying specialty chocolates. My husband is a sucker for peanut M&M’s® and it usually costs a dollar or two. Compare that to a $10 box of chocolates from Russell Stover’s, you’re getting the sweeter end of the deal (pun intended).

Establish your own K-Day

K-Day was created for my husband, Kyle. Instead of coming up with a material gift, I decided to create a coupon that he could redeem for a day doing the things he loves to do. The day consisted of going out to the driving range, drinking a few craft beers, a massage by me, and a home-cooked meal. 

A bucket of golf balls at the driving range is cheaper than purchasing a full round. Plus, I could grab a six-pack of craft beer and ingredients for spicy jambalaya at the grocery store. The whole day can be done for less than $50.

Coupons are cute, too

In lieu of cards or gifts, make a set of coupons that your partner can redeem. Emily Jane Cox, a 30-year-old from Wales, gave her fiance Valentine’s Day coupons that made the holiday fun. “I wrote coupons that my fiance could redeem for a foot rub or evoke his right to choose the movie we watch,” said Emily Jane. 

She thought up 20 coupons that are all free or funny. “He still has a few that he refuses to give up such as ‘automatically win an argument,’” said Emily Jane.

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This could work for kids, too. Give them coupons they can redeem for a game night or get an extra 10 minutes of play before bedtime. You’ll have fun coming up with the coupons and they’ll get excited to use them. But maybe make a rule not to use all of them at once.

Save for Valentine’s Day and more with Qube

Show some love to your finances by setting up digital cash envelopes with Qube. Save for Valentine’s Day, vacations, and more with an app that helps you manage money with purpose.

Get started with Qube today!