I recently came across a beautiful hat in NYC that I fell in love with while I was waiting for a cab! I thought to myself, “Wow, this would be such an amazing Valentine’s Day present!” Expensive gifts like these are popularized and sought after as a symbol of one’s love and affection for their partner.

The 2011 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey predicts that the average person will spend $116.21 — up 11 percent from last year’s $103. In the current economic climate, not everyone can afford designer hats for Valentine’s Day, which is traditionally a holiday filled with chocolates, roses, jewelry and a dinner out. If your Valentine truly cares about you, it doesn’t matter the price of the gift. If you follow these tips, the perfect Valentine’s Day gift can be given no matter your budget:

1. Prioritize Your Wishes

It is helpful to drop hints about what you would like and what would make you happy. However, if your Valentine cannot afford what you want, then it is ok to renegotiate the items on your list that you want. If you are in love with a designer hat, then say that is all you want this year. In return, offer to cook dinner for your Valentine rather than eating out at an expensive restaurant.

2. Don’t Overlook A ‘Fabulous Frugal Find’

If a designer hat is totally out of the question, then do a “Secret Valentine” event with your date or loved one and put a $75 spending limit on what you can each pick out at the nearest CVS, dollar store or bookstore! You would be amazed at how many great things you can find and it can be a lot of fun trying to pick out the best stuff for your loved one when on a limit. Remember, Valentine’s Day is about a lot more than the gift.

3. Everyone Loves Sweets!

One way to surpass the stresses of buying a gift that could potentially break the bank is to go the editable route.  Nothing says Valentine’s Day more than a box of chocolates. According to the National Confectioners Association, about eight billion candy hearts were made in 2009.  During Valentine’s Day, chocolate and candy sales reach profits of $1,011 billion. Gifting chocolate is much more commonly viewed as a requirement from your loved one rather than a budget-friendly alternative, so don’t miss out on this simple taste of admiration.

4. The Gift of a Written Word

Writing a heart-felt card is an invaluable gift that is sure to impress. Particularly for those individuals who do not excel in the art of writing composition, the fact that you put effort fourth is invaluable. Expressing your feelings is more important than expensive jewelry for many. 85% of all Valentine cards are bought by women. So don’t be another statistic and buy your Valentine a card!

In addition to the tips I’ve mentioned, I also turned to Dating Coach Marni Galison to gather her top 10 Valentine’s Day ideas for spending this holiday on a budget.

Kris: What are your date ideas for Valentine’s Day where you can be creative and you don’t have to break the bank?

Marni Galison:

(1) Cook for your sweetheart.  If you’re a guy whose idea of a homemade meal normally consists of cereal, preparing a full-fledged home cooked dinner should earn major points for both romance and effort (even if you buy dinner pre-made and just warm it up. You can serve it in three courses and you should still be smooching by dessert). Think about fun foods that are also known to spice things up (oysters, fondue, chocolate, etc.)

(2) Go to a restaurant where you get to prepare your food together.  Certain types of restaurants such as Korean BBQ, Japanese, etc., will present you with your raw ingredients and you become the chefs. It’s a perfect activity to guarantee a few laughs and hopefully edible food.

(3) Watch a mushy romantic comedy.  If you’re a guy who normally gets his way with the movie selections and cringes at the sound of the phrase “chick flick,” offering to watch Casablanca or the latest Nicholas Spark’s inspired film should make a big impact.

(4) Go to a spa TOGETHER.  Men will often give a gift certificate to their girlfriends to get a facial or massage for Valentine’s Day, but few things are as romantic for women as going together with your guy and getting the Couples Treatment.  Follow it up by sipping champagne in your robes and you should have one very happy and tension-free girlfriend!

(5) Take a walk or hike someplace with an incredibly romantic view.  If you live in an area where ocean views are a quick car ride away, why not take a hike and see it together?  You’ll burn up an appetite for a romantic meal and maybe more…

(6) Do something adventurous.  Studies show that doing something with someone that creates a bit of fear can actually increase attraction.  So, if you’ve wanted to go paragliding, bungee jumping, etc. this could be a good time to try it with your sweetheart to make it Valentine’s Day neither of you will forget.

(7) Book a dance lesson. Most women love to dance.  Most men avoid dance lessons at all costs.  If you book a sexy salsa or tango lesson you will definitely earn some handy bonus point to be used during next year’s football season while at the same time putting a huge smile on your sweetheart’s face (caution – do not go with Foxtrot or you could be conjuring up images of the “big day” that you might not be ready for!)

(8) Create something.  Most women love the thought of creating something with their beaus that they can put in their apartment and show off to their girlfriends.  Plan a date at a pottery making class but avoid the temptation to recreate the scenes from Ghost – at least in public!

(9) Organize some friendly competition.  Go bowling, play table tennis, hit ESPN Zone and come up with fun, sexy prizes for the lowest and highest scores (it’s a win/win scenario!).

(10) Volunteer.  If you’re dating a woman who is a Debbie Do-Gooder, think about donating your time to a local animal shelter or soup kitchen.  You will impress her with your altruism and you may fall further in love watching each help others.

If your significant other wants to skip Valentine’s Day altogether, it may be time to reconsider your relationship if they are not willing to invest any effort or time into making you happy. At a bare minimum, you should expect a thoughtful card and box of chocolates, even if you have only seen someone a few times. It is not about what you can get, it is about what you can give. Remember this, whether you have been in a long-term relationship or have just started seeing someone new.  If your partner no longer wants to give, it may be time to put the relationship on hold and be your own best Valentine.

Marni Galison is the Founder and CEO of Sunday at Noon, a matchmaking business specializing in personalized introductions and upscale events for New York single professionals. Marni graduated from Georgetown University in 1995 and received her law degree from Emory University Law School in 1998. Marni successfully practiced law in New York for almost ten years before starting her matchmaking business helping men and women take control of their love lives. Marni hopes that her clients, friends and all single New Yorkers will find the insights on the Sunday at Noon Blog enlightening and entertaining! For more dating insights, tips and advice, check out Sunday at Noon http://www.sundayatnoon.com.

About the Author
Kristen Ruby is the President & Founder of Ruby Media Group, a Social Media Marketing, Public Relations & Personal Branding Agency. Follow Kris on Twitter @sparklingruby or via her blog.
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