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Love means never having to say, 'I'm broke.'

We fret enough about going cheap for Christmas. For many of you that’s nothing compared to Valentine’s Day. You have to fight the belief that nothing kills romance like affection on a budget. The truth is, if you are creative and thoughtful, you can show your special someone your love and appreciation without later going on a date with them to bankruptcy court.

The key to making Valentine’s Day meaningful is to plan well for the day. If you’re going to make something, your best bet is to get started early.  How about creating something that is a reminder of a memorable moment in your romance. Maybe it was your first date, or the first kiss. Create a small scrapbook with photos and other reminders of that date. If you went to a concert, see if you can find the ticket stub and put it in a frame or a book surrounded by symbols of the significance of that date.

If dinner is part of the program, consider a night of creating a special meal together. Add to it something special that neither of you has to make, like a bottle of wine or a dessert. Working together on something, particularly something you’re going to enjoy together, can create a lasting bonding experience. And remember, our love for our partners is more often about what we do together, not so much the stuff we buy for each other.

The next suggestion might work better with couples that have a longer history together. If making dinner together is not workable, but going out to eat is, don’t be afraid to use Groupon or some other discount to pay for your meals. Couples in a new romance might be hesitant to go this route, at least on Valentine’s Day. One way to make it work, though, is to be up front about your plan from the beginning. “Dearest,” you say, “I’m going to use a coupon on this dinner, because I would rather spend that extra money on you some other way.” You get the picture.

If you have been together years or months, you can celebrate wherever you are in the relationship by attaching a number to the reasons you love someone. For example, if you have been together for 15 months, you can create 15 small gifts, one for each month you have been together. Attach a note to each one. Make finding each gift a game. The first 14 items, at least, can be from a discount store even. Give your loved one candy and attach a note explaining it’s a symbol of how sweet life is now that you’re together. Splurge a bit more on the final gift.

In your celebration the most important thing to remember is to give gifts your partner will appreciate, not just things that are easy for you. And if you’re with someone you want to be with for a long time, say forever, chances are good that your partner will also appreciate staying out of bankruptcy court while still feeling loved.

Published Feb 10, 2014.