WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Valentine's Day on a budget: Love for less!

Posted February 8


My frugal ode to Valentine's Day: Roses are red, violets are blue, retailers want lots of money from you!

Here are some Valentine's Day ideas to keep more of that hard-earned money in your wallet and less in the store register!


It’s all about the roses this time of year. The good news is that for less than $20, you can score a dozen roses every year at various stores in the area.

I'll have a list of roses deals from the grocery stores on the blog on Wednesday when the sales are advertised. During Valentine's Day 2015, we found a dozen roses for as low as $15.97! Walgreens and Rite Aid are selling roses for $19.99/dozen this year starting February 11 at select stores.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy roses. There are some gorgeous mixed flower bouquets available at grocery stores for $10 or less. Last year, they were as low as $4.00. Since many of us have cabinets full of vases, you won’t have to spring for that as well.

If you would rather give a more lasting floral gift, give a plant that will grow flowers year after year, like a rose bush.

Instead of flowers, you could give your sweetie (or your kids) a "bouquet" of helium heart balloons. They are only $1 per balloon at The Dollar Tree every day of the week!


Most frugal option: Eat at home! You can make a fabulous steak dinner for a fraction of the cost of most restaurant meals on Valentine’s Day. There will be good deals at most grocery stores for steak and shrimp and a bottle of wine at Aldi or Trader Joes is about the cost of one glass of wine at many restaurants. And the big plus is that you won’t be waiting in line to get into a crowded, loud restaurant for your romantic evening. Light some candles, get out the nice dishes, play some sweet music and enjoy the peaceful evening.

If the thought of cooking on Valentine’s ruins the mood completely, then at least get a deal on your meal.

* Go out for lunch instead of dinner – the menu prices are usually less expensive and so are the crowds.

* There is no rule that says you have to go out to dinner exactly on February 14th. Go out on a different night to take advantage of weekly specials that some restaurants offer. Plus, you won't have to fight the Valentine's Day masses yearning to eat out.

* You could even get take out for the main entrees from your favorite restaurant and then enjoy a peaceful evening at home. Provide your own dessert and drinks and you have saved a bundle.

* Daily deal sites: Groupon and Living Social have all been offering vouchers for restaurants. With these daily deals sites, you’ll find meals that are 50% off the retail price or better.

* has a list of Valentine's meal offers every year for various chain restaurants.

* Entertainment books: Use a coupon from the Entertainment Book or a coupon book like the Citipass book for a Buy One Get One Free deals. You can go to the Entertainment Book’s website and actually see a list of all the Raleigh area restaurants offering coupons in the book. If you don’t have one of these books, ask all your Facebook friends if anyone has a coupon book for your city and the specific restaurant.


If your honey is happy with Hershey’s, Russell Stover or other off the shelf chocolate, it’s time to hit the drug stores. There are many candy deals this week coupled with the drug store reward programs. You can see the candy deals that started at the drug stores on Sunday on the WRAL Smart Shopper blog. There will be even more this coming week.


You can easily drop $5 on a greeting card but you don’t have to. Walmart and some dollar stores (including Dollar Tree) sell cards as low as 50 cents each. The Dollar Store, Target, CVS and other stores have a line of cards that are $1 or less.Of course, making a sweet card at home is even more frugal. And how about writing an old-fashioned love letter to your sweetie!

Fun with the Kids

* Start the day off with some heart shaped pancakes using a cookie cutter. I like to top them with some fresh strawberries or raspberries and powdered sugar.

* Send a heart shaped sandwich, heart shaped fruit, heart shaped sugar cookie and a sweet Valentine in your little one's lunch box.

* Have your kids make their cards for the grandparents and parents. Homemade cards are fun to make with the kiddos and such a thoughtful gift. It's a fun activity for you to do together and you probably have all the arts and crafts materials at home already.

* Head to Dollar Tree for $1 boxes of kids character Valentine's cards to give away to their friends and classmates. I saw lots of cute cards including Spider Man, Star Wars, Princesses and more!

* Have a scavenger hunt for the kids or your special someone. Place little hearts all over the place with reasons why you love them written on each little note. Give them a hint on each note where they can find the next one. At the last note, have a little stuffed animal or a $1 heart box of chocolates waiting for them. Gather up all the sweet notes so they can keep them in a scrapbook to look at later.

Planning For Next Year

* Buy clearance Valentines cards and décor after Valentine’s Day this year to use next year.

* Buy red wrapped clearance candy after Christmas each year to use for Valentines Day 6 weeks later. The bags of red and green Hershey’s kisses are great. Use the red ones for Valentine’s Day and you can probably figure out something tasty to do with the green ones!

* Buy solid color red paper plates, cups and napkins from Christmas clearance each year and then use them at Valentine's Day.

* As we all know, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to share a ton of love!

Please share any other frugal Valentine's ideas you have.

Do you have special Valentine's plans this year?

Here are some great suggestions from Smart Shopper readers from previous years:

“One time I cut out a bunch of hearts on Red construction paper and put little notes on them and hid them everywhere all over the apartment and she was still finding them months later! She loved it!” - superturfguy

“Instead of buying your Valentine a expensive card, write him/her a love letter.” - RLM

“We recycle cereal boxes to make valentine holders. We spray paint them and decorate them with stickers and heart shaped doillies from last year's valentine clearance and scraps of construction paper from through out the school year. They are SO cute, and, fairly inexpensive!” - lwright

“We celebrate by buying Valentine's candy on clearance after Valentine's Day! Love is celebrated every day in our house, but candy is only on sale like that after a holiday :-)” – sgbasham (I have heard of other people agreeing ahead of time with spouses to wait until after Valentine’s to buy the candy when it is 50% – 75% off.)

“My husband and I plan on going to the PetSmart in Fayetteville to adopt a cat as a Valentine's Day gift to each other...rescuing a furry friend might be one of the only things that is better than a VDay box of chocolates! ;): - Mrs. Mulkern

“I decorate the inside of my daughters lunch box with cut out pink and red hearts and pack her a lunch that is filled with red and pink foods. Even on the weekend when it's lunch time, I still pack it up just to see the excitement on her face. She really loves the pink heart shaped rice krispy treats! Sometimes I use a big heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out her sandwich.” - t0tAlChA0s

“Valentine's Day 1999 was my boyfriend (now husband) and I's 1 year anniversary. I cut out 365 hearts and wrote on each one fun memories and reasons I love him. I put them in a red mailbox and told him to read 1 each day for the next year of reasons I love him :)” – cheleberg

“I "bought" a pad of 200 heart shaped post it notes at Staples using my cartridge reward money....I plan to stick them all over my husband's bathroom and then close the door...when he stumbles in to the shower on Valentine's Day, won't he be surprised!!” – amomoftwo

“For my best friends, this year I plan to take a bunch of bright yellow bananas and attach a red ribbon with the sentiment, "I'm bananas over you!" For my boyfriend, I've gotten heart-shaped post-it notes, and will write things I love about him on them and then post them in a heart shape on the bathroom mirror and a few other places.” – mudrockstudios

“When we were dating, we made a "memory box" together and put random things in it like movie stubs, concert tickets etc. And through the years, we kept adding to it so on Valentine's Day we just go through the stuff and talk about it over dinner and a couple of Coronas at home!:)” – jvo7780

“My husband adores peanut M&Ms, so I hide them all over for him to find that day. Doesn't cost much and the kids and I have fun hiding them - and he has fun eating them as he finds them!” - lehrerin

“For kids, go to the Dollar Tree EARLY before all the good stuff is wiped out.” – lswiggins

“I like to make up my own coupons (Like "One full day of video game time - no questions, no interruptions"). It's fun making them, and it's nice to see the smiles they generate. Some are funny, and some are special.” - sethorp

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  • Faye Prosser -WRAL Smart Shopper Feb 4, 2016

    meredith88 - You have such a lovely Valentine's lunch planned. And it's amazingly frugal. Thanks for sharing.

    Jdouglas - If you do decide to go TV shopping, Monica LaLiberte just did a story about TVs on 5 on your side. You can find out info on a big $3000 TV for watching the Super Bowl. :-)

  • meredith88 Feb 4, 2016

    Also, if you save leftover red and green candies from Christmas and plan to use the red ones for Valentine's Day, the green ones are perfect for St Patrick's Day in March!

  • meredith88 Feb 4, 2016

    We agreed when we got married to not go out on the 14th. If we go out it is the 13th or 15th and often times we cook at home. This year we're going out on the 15th since we both have the day off work for the holiday. I got a gift certificate for a free lunch at a very nice restaurant near Duke University so we are using that to go to lunch for free. We'll leave a nice tip but otherwise no cost! Bonus, restaurants are less crowded at lunch time! Then we are going to go walk around the Duke Gardens and Duke Chapel since neither of us have seen it in person. After a couple hours of walking off lunch it will be time to head for the carpool and back to reality.

    We agreed for 2016 to stop giving physical gifts for special occasions and rather to make memories together. So we won't exchange any gifts. We still have some cards from when Borders went out of business so we'll give those to each other. Otherwise spending uninterrupted time together is our gift!

  • jdouglas13 Feb 4, 2016

    Thank you Faye! I'm hoping to come up with something romantic and unexpected for my DW. Now I know what she really wants is a 55" 4K HDTV Smart TV, but that is not happening, so hopefully I'll come up with something else she will love.

  • tc35d Feb 4, 2016

    That time of year again