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9 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day

Meg Favreau

Even though you can't buy love, the average American intends to spend $133.91 on candy, cards, gifts, dinner and more for Valentine's Day this year. According to the National Retail Federation, this number is up slightly from $130.97 last year. Sure, we all want to give our loved ones gifts and amazing experiences. But, love isn't about stuff, it's about spending time with someone you love. It's showing you care.

Here are nine ways to celebrate Valentine's Day on a budget:

1. Make dinner together. Going out to eat is nice, but cooking together can be a romantic collaboration. Pick a menu that allows both of you to participate, and don't choose anything too complicated. You want to enjoy your time together, not stress out over how to debone a quail.

2. Go for a hike. If you can't go away for the weekend, check out some new scenery locally. Hit a trail together, hiking to someplace with a spectacular view. Don't forget to pack a picnic!

3. Plan a movie night. With some movie tickets costing more than $15, a night at the movie theater can be a serious budget buster. Instead, make watching a movie at home a special event. Snuggle under a blanket, and make your own snacks.

4. Make a CD. Live music is fun, but it can be expensive, especially if you want to go to a show on Valentine's Day. Many theaters and bars jack up prices for special holiday events. If you want to celebrate your partner with music, make a mix of songs that remind you of your sweetie. Then, spend the evening listening to the CD together and talking about why the songs remind you of her.

5. Take a memory trip. Some people like to relive their first date as a way to celebrate their relationship, but it can cost a lot. Instead, do something similar: Rekindle what it was like when you first started dating by playing music you listened to, watching movies you saw in the theater together and looking at photos from the beginning of your relationship.

6. Give a jar of love. Cards are impersonal, and they can cost $5 apiece. Make your love note truly meaningful with a love jar. Write -- on individual pieces of paper -- all the reasons you love your partner, then put the papers in a jar. Give it as a gift.

7. Make dessert. You probably have the ingredients in your house to create a dessert, whether it's cookies, cake, truffles, mousse or pie. It'll be more personalized than a box of chocolates, with no surprise candies in the mix.

8. Open that bottle of wine you've been saving. When we own nice things, we often try to save them until the perfect occasion. The truth about the perfect occasion is you make it perfect. If you have a bottle of wine you've been saving, don't wait for a big promotion or another celebration to open it. Enjoy a glass of wine with the person you love. It's reason enough.

9. Have a photo taken together. Part of why jewelry can make a nice gift is your sweetie will think of you while wearing it. Instead of buying an expensive bauble, take the time to have a special photograph taken. After all, what better gift is there to remind you of time together than a photo of the two of you?

Meg Favreau is the senior editor for the personal finance blog Wise Bread, which covers rewards credit card mistakes and other personal finance tips.

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