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7 Underhanded Tactics for a Frugal Valentine

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Frugal Valentine's Day

Oh man, Valentine’s Day is coming up. It’s my least favorite holiday of the year. I mean, President’s Day is better than Valentine’s. At least you get a day off and you can find a good deal on a mattress. The mattress stores are going all out with their President’s Day advertising this year. I guess they are clearing out last year’s models, but I digress.

From a guy’s point of view, Valentine’s Day has such a tiny useful window in our lives. That window is when we’re dating and newly married. Let’s face it, I’m not trying to impress Mrs. RB40 anymore after being married for 15 years. These days, I’m just trying to do the minimum to keep the spark alive. We don’t need to fan the flame too much.  Do you feel bad for her? You really shouldn’t.  She doesn’t think much of the holiday, either.   Anyway, here are my super secret tactics for a frugal Valentine’s.  Don’t take it too seriously.  I’m just trying for a humorous angle today so no need to get offended.

Cook a nice meal at home AND open a nice bottle of wine

Here is where my culinary skills come in handy. I’ll cook some of her favorite dishes and we can settle in for a nice restful Valentine’s evening at home with the Winter Olympics. Lucky for me, her favorite dishes are homemade pizza and that kind of thing. It’s not too difficult and it’s fun for the whole family to see dad toss dough into the air. Don’t forget the most important part – open a nice bottle of wine. After a few glasses of a good local Pinot Noir, all will be right with the world.

Going out is nice too, but we’ll put it off until all the prix fixe Valentine menus are gone. Those 3 course meals can be a great value, but they are also more expensive than usual because the chefs are going all out on this “special day.”


Look what’s in this hand – it’s all about misdirection, my friends. Lucky for me, RB40 Junior’s birthday is around Valentine’s. We are spending more time and effort preparing for his 3rd birthday than Happy Heart Day. IMO, kid’s toys are much more fun than flowers. We’ll be all playing with his gifts and it will be a lot of fun.

Buy chocolate

Even primo chocolate bars aren’t that expensive. Check out Trader Joe’s, Cost Plus, or your local boutique confectioneries. A nice dark chocolate bar costs $5 to $10 and it goes great with that bottle of red wine you opened with dinner. I’d avoid individual truffles. At 3-5 bucks a pop at the chocolate boutique, it’s too fleeting.

Keep her expectations low

This one is very important. Don’t buy her jewelry one year and then a chocolate bar the next. You have to ramp up and down slowly. I used to send Mrs. RB40 expensive flowers on Valentine’s when we first got married, but I slowly reduced the budget to accommodate our newfound frugal lifestyle. I also have some valid excuses. Our cats like to eat flowers and then throw them up on the carpet, so we can’t bring flowers (or any potted plant) home anymore. Flowers also increase global warming. Those long-stemmed roses require fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. They are grown in South America and are shipped way across the globe. Let’s eat some nice chocolate and drink some wine instead. (Let’s just ignore where the cacao trees grow…)

Homemade with love

This year we’ll be making some cards for her to reduce the cost even more. Handmade things are always more appreciated anyway. A mom’s heart will melt at the sight of a 3 year old’s squiggly drawing. RB40 Jr. will insist that it is indeed a heart.  We have some free time this week so we’ll make it a project.


Everyone loves massages. Mrs. RB40’s shoulders and back are always tight from her long day at the office. I’ll reuse my Christmas gifts for people who have everything here and give her a 30 minute massage certificate. Guys, if you don’t know how to give a great massage, you really need to learn. This one skill makes up for a lot of shortfalls.

Keep her exhausted

This last one is my super secret weapon. Ask Mrs. RB40, “What would you like?” and her answer probably would be sleep. Actually, I’m pretty sleep deprived, too. Junior keeps us super busy until he finally conks out for the night.  After that, we catch up with chores, books, and social stuff on the computers. I blog and she edits. Life is just so busy these days and we don’t get to bed until late. Maybe once the kid is a bit older and more independent, then we’ll consider going out on Valentine’s again.

That’s all folks

That’s all my tricks for Valentine’s Day. When we were in our 20s and didn’t have a kid, V-Day was more fun. Now, it’s just not very important anymore. Perhaps when the kid is in out of the house, we’ll pay more attention to Valentine again.

What will you do on Valentine’s Day? What will you spend money on this year?

Disclaimer: This is just my opinion so you don’t have to get too riled up. How about sharing your opinions of Valentine’s Day instead? There is no need for swear words when you’re over 30.

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{ 36 comments… add one }

  • Kylie Ofiu February 12, 2014, 3:10 am

    Excellent tips! And they can be applied to other celebrations too. Hope your little one has a fun 3rd birthday. My daughter and nephew are both this week too, so our family focuses on them.

    Valentine’s Day was not really big here in Australia growing up but it has become a whole lot more popular. My guy is lucky, I have ZERO expectations for V day and honestly, don’t want to celebrate it. I think it is extremely commercial, overpriced and I’m happy he has to work that night. I am really bad when it comes to anniversaries too. Like I have no clue when we met, when we first went out, when we started being in a relationship or anything. And I don’t care. My parents never did anniversaries.

    But from talking with friends, I’m the only girl I know who thinks this way!

    My kids, however, are all over this! They want love heart cookies to give to their friends, cards, flowers, the works.

  • andrea_upnorth February 12, 2014, 5:06 am

    Asked my husband what we would like as his Valentine treat and he asked for a 6-pack of a specialty beer he wanted to try. It was less expensive to buy it as a 12-pk so I was able to get him a gift he WANTED for around $12. Not sure what I’m getting from him but it’s NOT flowers unless it’s a gift certificate so I can buy some plants once spring arrives. The way it’s looking, that will be awhile!

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 3:53 pm

      That’s great! A 12 pack of specialty beer would be great. Good luck with your gift. 🙂

  • Insourcelife February 12, 2014, 6:32 am

    We tend to do similarly low key stuff as well. One rule is no presents… Each of us has everything already so what’s the point? This year we are cooking dinner and hanging out with a newly engaged couple visiting from out of town. A nice piece of salmon from Costco, some sides and a couple of bottles of wine is all we need this year.

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 3:54 pm

      Good point. I don’t want to clutter up our place any more than it already is.

  • Justin @ Root of Good February 12, 2014, 7:11 am

    Ha ha, good article! Here’s what I’m doing. Already bought a $4 half dozen beautiful red roses from Aldi’s (before prices go up and selection gets crappy).

    $3 bottle of fancy cherry infused vodka ($13 before the $10 mail in rebate).

    I’ve been cooking for the Mrs. all week – homemade naan and butter curried pork, then naan dough in the pepperoni and mushroom pizza last night.

    That’s how to do V day on a budget!

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 3:57 pm

      $4 for roses is not bad at all. I need to learn how to cook Indian food. I think we have an Indian cookbook somewhere.

  • Amy K February 12, 2014, 7:34 am

    We have a lot of the same. Misdirection: my birthday was the 10th, so all of the focus was on that. For my birthday we had a great meal at home, but it’s probably the same meal we’d have if we cooked for Valentine’s day, so why have it twice in one week? –> Buy a wheel of brie, slather with jam, bake for 10-15 minutes at 250F. Slice a baguette on the diagonal and smear that warm sweet salty melty brie/jam mixture on it. Yum. Make chocolate fondue (chocolate chips, whipping cream, heat), dip strawberries and the rest of the baguette in it.

    We were going to get a babysitter so we could go out dancing Friday night, then realized it was V-day and what 20 year old would want to come over and babysit? So Valentine’s day might just be some extra kisses, and we’ll go out dancing next Friday instead.

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 3:59 pm

      Happy Birthday! It’s great to have a birthday around a non holiday. 🙂
      Mrs. RB40 would love that brie. Enjoy your weekend. Sounds like V-day just got in your way of having fun.

  • Well Heeled Blog February 12, 2014, 8:23 am

    I like getting cards so I ask for a card every Valentine’s Day.

    This is a genuine question, Joe… is this passage really true, or is it just a little tongue in cheek (or both?): “I’m not trying to impress Mrs. RB40 anymore after being married for 15 years. These days, I’m just trying to do the minimum to keep the spark alive. We don’t need to fan the flame too much.”

    Do you really try not to impress her or do the minimum to keep the spark alive? When I think about the relationships around me that are flourishing, it seems like both parties are still trying to impress each other – not in a “fake” way – but in a way that that retains a little of the “I’m so lucky to be with you. I still can’t believe what a great catch you are and what a great team we are” fairy dust. This might be for every different audience, but I’m primarily thinking of the blogger at Lag Liv, who is a full-time lawyer with 3 kids, and her love with her husband – the romance and heat and fairy dust that is still there, is amazing.

    I’ve gotten into periods of “I’m not trying” with my husband, and it’s not good for either of us.

    So I don’t think Valentine’s Day is the be all and end all, but instead, I’d like to take some of the ideas for Valentine’s Day (romantic dinner, weekend getaway without kids, trying out a new activity, learning a new skill, taking a class together) and use it for the rest of the year.

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 4:02 pm

      A bit of both. We are just so exhausted that we don’t have time to be romantic these days. I think in a couple of years, it will be better. For now, I just try to do nice little things for her. We go out and have fun on the weekend with the kids. It’s good for now while he is young. Liv sounds like she is trying to hard. Good for her though. 🙂 Thanks for being constructive.
      We went away for a beach weekend last summer and it was amazing. We’ll try to do more this year.

  • Diana E. February 12, 2014, 8:59 am

    I must be the scrooge here. My husband and I have been married for 27 years and have never really done Valentine’s Day. Our attitude has always been, if you can’t show me you love me the other 364 days, don’t bother on the one society says you should. It means more to me if he randomly brings home something for me that he knows I would love.

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 4:02 pm


  • Troy February 12, 2014, 12:25 pm

    You know what I always thought would be really cool? My gf and I both snowboard, so I was thinking of taking her to a resort. We’d get out early in the morning (when the snow is all fresh & doesn’t have a gazillion different lines in it). Then I’d carve out “I Love U” in the snow on the hill (with my snowboard)

    But when I think about this seriously, there’s no way this is going to happen. It’s just not possible to carve these letters into the snow.

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 4:05 pm

      Have fun on the slope. I don’t know how you’d do the I love U either. 🙂

  • Pretired Nick February 12, 2014, 1:03 pm

    We don’t celebrate VDay. We just ignore it as the stupid corporate holiday it is. Saves a lot of money, sure, but also a lot of annoyance as well! Don’t worry, we’re perfectly happy without spending a bunch of money on dumb crap. (:

  • jane savers @ solving the money puzzle February 12, 2014, 1:55 pm

    Valentines is my least favourite holiday. Forcing people to express love on a certain day and too many unrealistic romantic expectations make it all seem so forced.

    Listening to one of the women I work with complain, every day for the last 2 weeks, that her loser husband has never given her flowers on Valentine’s Day makes me glad I have the 14th off work. When some of the women receive deliveries of flowers and some don’t it is not a happy place to be.

    That Lego valentine at the top is wonderful.

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 4:06 pm

      Flowers are so overrated. It’s all propaganda. 🙂 Thanks for your compliment with the Legos. We made that for the missus last year.

  • Dividend Mantra February 12, 2014, 5:59 pm


    “Keep her expectations low”

    I had to laugh at that one. That reminds me of those old “Mad TV” skits with the “lowered expectations” video dating series where these weirdos get on and try to find another weirdos. Funny stuff.

    I agree with this one though. Setting the tone from the get-go is important. Spending a ton of money on a first date, or the first few dates, is the wrong way to go. Be open with frugality and Valentine’s day won’t be a disappointment when it’s a simple meal where you enjoy the company of one another. That’s the best way to spend time anyway. 🙂

    Best wishes!

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 9:40 pm

      Those Mad TV skits are hit or miss. 🙂 I’ll have to look that one up on Youtube.
      I agree. You don’t want to misrepresent yourself too much. Your significant other might get the wrong idea about your money value.
      Thanks for dropping by.

  • Bryce @ Save and Conquer February 12, 2014, 7:54 pm

    I did splurge and buy a flower bouquet to be delivered on Feb 13th from an online flower shop. Total cost was only $20 including shipping since I had a free shipping code. I then went cheap and made a Valentine’s card in PowerPoint. I used Barbara Friedberg’s advice and listed 10 things I love about my wife in the card. I used clip art of Valentine slogan heart candy on the front and inside of the card. I think my wife will like it.

    • payitoff February 12, 2014, 8:36 pm

      very sweet! keep it up!

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 9:41 pm

      Great job with the Valentine’s card. The list of 10 things is a great idea. I’ll have to borrow that one. Thanks!

  • Chris February 12, 2014, 8:47 pm

    Here’s a doozie for ya Joe. My wife’s birthday is the day after Valentines day. Try to work through that. LOL
    Nonetheless, I think that I’m going to shoot for a little bit of skiing for the family – I haven’t done it for 20 years, and the rest of the family has never done it – for just the day. I’ll drive up and back myself (2 hours or so in one direction), and then it’s $70/person for ski lift tickets, ski or snowboard rental, and 1 1/2 hour education.

    • retirebyforty February 12, 2014, 9:43 pm

      Oh man. A ski trip is so expensive these days. It will be a ton of fun for the kids.
      Mrs. RB40 didn’t like going to the slope at all so we don’t go anymore.

      • Chris February 13, 2014, 6:22 am

        Well, $69 covers the cost of everything but driving. And since it’s a day trip for us (I can drive for 18 hours straight), it is not crazy expensive. They’ll all end up on the bunny hills no doubt, while I ski down the mountain. Woohoo … yes I am a crazy old guy! LOL

        • retirebyforty February 14, 2014, 9:51 am

          $69 for everything is great. I thought it was $69/person. That’s a lot of money…

  • John Wedding February 12, 2014, 9:48 pm

    My wife is completely cool going without gifts on Valentine’s Day because I surprise her with flowers at random times during other parts of the year.

    “Merry July 12th, honey. Here are some flowers!”

  • Little House February 13, 2014, 6:34 am

    I’ve never been big on Valentine’s Day. We usually cook something good to eat and watch a movie. Flowers, roses in particular, are crazy expensive and wilt much too soon. If anything, I probably do more for Valentine’s Day with my students – make origami hearts and ice cookies. Maybe I’m just not that gushy. 😉

    • retirebyforty February 14, 2014, 9:52 am

      Have a great Valentine. We are exhausted today so I’m sure we’ll just watch the Olympics… Valentine’s Day with the kids are a lot of fun.

  • Brittany February 13, 2014, 7:48 am

    My favorite line of the whole thing was “This one skill makes up for a lot of shortfalls.” I was rolling on the floor with laughter. I mean, who DOESN’T appreciate a good massage?! 😀 Thank you for your ever-helpful tips. If only I had a valentine to surprise and appreciate this year.

    In real life…I have never been a celebrater of V-Day. I’m of the opinion that your significant other should feel loved and appreciated every day, so if you have to have ONE day where you feel like you should probably make an effort, well, that’s just sad. So nothing special happening for me tomorrow; however, I am meeting up for “Galentine’s Day” at a new brewery in town tonight to celebrate with some girlfriends. 😀

    • retirebyforty February 14, 2014, 9:54 am

      Heh heh, you’re welcome. A good massage really goes a long way.
      Gelentine’s Day? That’s new.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina February 13, 2014, 3:13 pm

    We don’t have anything planned! Mentioned we should do pizza and House of Cards in our pjs. I just don’t want us to stress over it. And big occasions tend to be stressful. Plus, we don’t like paying for overprice service. And that’s what it is on a Friday night.

    • retirebyforty February 14, 2014, 9:54 am

      Have a restful day. It’s a long weekend too so you don’t have to stress.

  • David W February 14, 2014, 8:07 am

    The first year we were dating I made my now wife homemade pickles for valentines day. She loved it and still remembers it. This year we’re going to order food and make mixed drinks at home.

  • Erin @ My Alternate Life February 16, 2014, 1:48 pm

    Yeah, we don’t do Valentine’s Day. This year, we just drank while watching HIMYM, which is what we do pretty much every other day :). Grand gestures feel super phony, we just show love all year long without being overly dramatic about it.

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