The Dish: While there are fabulous Prix Fixe Valentine's Day dinners at restaurants like Millennium, $75 per person is a bit steep for me. Sometimes Valentine's Day can be more about dropping serious cash on candy, cards, fancy dinners, and flowers, and you forget that it's really about spending time with the person you like. So here are my tips for romancing your partner with special gifts that cost only one or two pretty pennies, not millions.
1. DIY Dinner. Instead of an expensive dinner out, my husband and I are cooking for each other. He's going to make me one of my favorite meals—he makes a mean seitan marsala—and I'm whipping up Candle Café's chocolate mousse pie for dessert. Add some candlesticks and a glass of Framboise and it's a way more personal meal than any five-star chef could create.
2. Love Letters. The art of handwriting a note or a letter means so much more now than the 10,000 emails we read every day. Pick up a simple notebook at your local art supply store and spend the week writing love letters to your significant other. Each day, write about how you fell in love with them, favorite dates, or even a love poem. For a little inspiration, Pablo Neruda's collection of 100 Love Sonnets is so wonderfully romantic. And how much did your own love sonnets cost you? $2.99.
3. Handmade cards. One of the best Valentine's Day cards I ever got from my husband is a drawing he did of our yellow lab and our tuxedo three-legged cat holding a heart in their paws. Ridiculously cute and I loved it more than any $5 puffy-heart-fancy-cursive-generic Valentine's Day card. Draw something that means something to the both of you. Handwrite the note. Get creative. It only costs a sheet of paper and your time.
4. Free flower delivery. Who doesn't enjoy getting flowers? It's sweet and it makes your office desk look pretty. But instead of paying someone $15-plus to drop off flowers to your sweetie, do it yourself. If it's possible, pick up a pretty bouquet from a corner market (red roses are so overpriced that day, so go for something like pink Gerber daisies, which last longer anyway) and hand-deliver them to your significant other's office. Bonus points for getting to see your sweetie mid-workday? Check. Are you a better surprise than some random delivery guy? Definitely.
5. Mixed CD. Maybe I'm old school, but a mixed CD with your partner's favorite songs or just great love songs (try Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, or Sade) is a great way to share music you love with the person you love. Draw a great cover, handwrite the songs that are on the CD, and hand it to them before your romantic DIY dinner.
The Final Word: Valentine's Day is about celebrating the person you love and not about how much money you spend on said person. Ultimately, putting some thought and care and a little bit of elbow grease into the day will be much more rewarding than a dinner that costs more than a quick weekend getaway (hint: take said getaway the weekend after V-Day, when the crowds have died down). Enjoy the day!