Valentine’s Day is bearing down upon us, and it’s that time when men start to panic. What do you get your partner that’s not going to look rubbish but won’t break the bank? Can anyone achieve such a feat? Get creative this year using all the ideas in the MoneyMagpie Valentine’s guide for men.
All women are impressed by a man who can cook – even if they don’t admit it. Show a bit of prowess in the kitchen this Valentine’s Day and she’ll be putty in your hands. She’ll appreciate the effort you’ve gone to – plus it will work out considerably cheaper than a restaurant.
Eating out on Valentine’s Day can be an expensive let-down – although you might struggle convincing her of that. Apart from the hiked-up prices, you may find yourself squashed in with hordes of other couples and being rushed by the waiter so they can get the next couple served. So why not do it yourself? There’s loads of simple yet sophisticated dishes that can be prepared without you needing to be a master chef. Go to My Dish, the BBC, the Good Food Channel and Jamie Oliver’s site, all of which have good recipes for amateur chefs. Other help is at hand:
- Asda has some great offers for an easy-to-cook, romantic night in for less than a tenner. All you have to do is put things in the microwave, pour the wine and make the place look romantic. Easy.
- M&S always have valentines offers and meal deals and are bound to be top quality.
- Skulk around your local supermarket keeping your eyes peeled for offers in the days leading up to Valentine’s. Meat and fish on the fresh food counters often gets reduced during the week so snap it up at a cheaper price.
- Get more tips on saving money on food in our lifestyle section.
If staying in isn’t an option…
If you know your partner has their heart set on dinner in a fancy restaurant, it’s best not to disappoint. Fear not – if there’s one good thing about tighter times it’s that eating out, even on Valentine’s Day, can be dead cheap.
- Book through TopTable.co.uk or 5pm.co.uk – there’s loads of 50% off deals, set menus from as little as £10, and top fancy restaurants like the Ritz at knock down prices.
- Check out our Cheap Eats article for all the vouchers that are circulating right now – 2 for 1’s, 50% off, free bottles of wine… keep your eyes peeled!
Flowers with a difference
Better value flowers doesn’t have to mean sneaking onto roundabouts the night before Valentine’s Day and picking them. Just get clever with what you get from the flower shop. If you know she wants a big bunch, wallet-crippling roses aren’t the only option. There are plenty of other flowers that are just as stunning but somewhat less expensive (gerbera daisies, lilies). Also, it never hurts to go for something different every now and then. But buying just one lilly and wrapping a bow around it looks great and will cost you a fraction of the price. Flowers only look good for a couple of days – it’s more about the thought.
One classy stem with a nice bow looks better than a tired old bunch from the local corner shop or petrol station any day. Roses will always go down well though – Tesco are offering a dozen red roses for just £20 and Marks & Spencer has some gorgeous Valentine’s bouquets starting at £22.00.
Or impress her big-time by giving her a bunch of flowers that represent a specific message. In Victorian times different flowers took on different meanings, e.g. a pink carnation means ‘I’ll never forget you’, an orchid means ‘beautiful lady’, a pink rose means ‘perfect happiness’ or ‘please believe me’. Collect up a selection of flowers that say what you want to convey. You will probably need to add a note explaining it, though, as no-one now speaks ‘flower’. She will still be extremely impressed that you’ve bothered to do it! Making your present can save you big bucks. Plus you’ll get extra brownie points for doing it yourself.
Create Valentine’s photos, calendars or collages that tell a picture story of your time together for a unique, personal gift. Pick a theme for the photos – a holiday, a party, the story of how you met.
You can order pictures from websites like Snapfish or create a collage yourself. You can create something really neat and professional looking by publishing your pictures in a photo book. In fact, you can tailor any number of gifts with your personal photos – anything from canvas prints to mugs to key-rings. Snapfish have all kinds of deals and offers available.
Impress with your IT skills
If you’re an IT geek you may have found it was a bit of a hindrance in getting the girl of your dreams. Well now you can use it to your advantage by making a Valentine’s screensaver for her showing a surprise romantic message when she turns on her phone or logs onto her computer in the morning. Who says geekiness can’t be romantic?
Make your own Valentine’s hamper for her. Hunt down an old basket from a charity shop (they look more rustic and authentic) line it with a patchwork cloth, and fill it to the brim with traditional picnic fare – sandwiches, scones, jams, pickles, teas, chocolate, a bottle of wine… She will lap it up and it won’t cost the earth. If you can’t be bothered to do it yourself, M&S is selling reasonably priced hamper baskets for Valentine’s.
You’re a poet
Write her a Valentine’s poem. If it’s not so sickening that it causes the lady in your life to throw up or burst out laughing, you’re in business. Admittedly this can be a tall order.
If you’re not exactly a Keats or Byron – and your poem is closer to a limerick than an ode – you might want to give this a miss.
Though there are websites out there that will actually generate a poem for you. You can specify certain words or names that you want to be in the verse, and the site does the rest. Take a look at poem generators ike Festisite or Links2love… you big cheater. (Bear in mind that if she finds out your heartfelt words came from a computer rather than your tortured soul, she’s unlikely to be impressed.)
Think laterally about books
Don’t just grab the latest bit of chick-lit (unless she’s crazy about it). If you’re going to get her a book, make sure it reflects her personality or what she really likes. It’s really easy:
- If you know her favourite author, buy a book gift set. If she’s got a favourite book in particular, maybe you can get a special or limited edition of it?
- If she’s already got all her favourite books and authors covered, try Amazon for inspiration. Look up some of her favourite reads on the website, and look at the section that tells you what other customers who bought that book also bought. It’s a great way of finding out what people with similar taste to your partner buy themselves!
- If she likes sport, get her a sporting biography or memoir.
You get the idea. Push the boat our by buying some little presents to go with the book to make it even better. For instance:
- If you buy a cookbook personalise it by including a selection of spices, potted herb plants (or seeds) to go with it.
- Or a for a gardening book you could get her a trowel set that is flowery and girly
Get her a picture she can hang on her wall and always think of you. Not sure what she’d like? A framed, painted piece of art will usually go down well. Think abstract, floral and landscape, on canvas or sheet.
Sound pricey? Doesn’t have to be – for as little as £14.99 you can buy something pretty impressive this Valentine’s Day – go to Canvas101 or Canvas Republic and see what you can find. Canvas101 even lets you put your own art or photos onto canvas, if you’ve got a personal picture that you’d like to give as a present.
Make her a mixtape
It might sound a little cliche, but compiling yours and her favourite music into a Valentine’s mixtape may just be the perfect way of saying ‘I love you’ – or at least letting a singer who is considerably more talented and romantic than you could ever dream of being do it for you.
Using music from already purchased CDs and your iTunes library, it is the ultimate ‘thought that counts’ gift. For those that are a little strapped for cash, a mixtape requires you to spend more time and thought than money. It can always be given with another gift if you’re worried it’s a little too cheap, but If you can find songs that have a special meaning for your relationship, she’ll love it.
Your last Rolo…
Chocolates are a classic Valentine’s gift. Alright, it’s not original – but if your girl’s got a sweet tooth, you can’t go wrong. Don’t just go for a typical box from a cornershop – head to Thornton’s Chocolates or Chocolate Trading Company or chocs that will get the heart racing.
Wrap it with care
Men are rubbish at wrapping presents but presentation is half the battle. So get it done properly. Large department stores like Debenhams offer gift-wrapping service for a few pounds. Even a comparatively inexpensive gift can be turned into something special with a little effort.
If you buy a gift, wrap a coloured bow around it. And if you are well and truly stumped get a female friend to do it for you!
Romantic home-coming If she’s coming back home to see you, make an effort with the decor. A few candles can go a long way. They’re very cheap if you buy in bulk, and if you have a lot of them the effect can be amazing. Kiarie have some really stylish candles that are guaranteed to set the right mood. You could even go the whole hog and scatter some rose petals in a path from the door to the lounge – or wherever the present is waiting. Remember keep the candles away from curtains or flammables. She won’t be very impressed if you burn your house down.
Special Valentine’s skills Do something that is really unexpected and creative. You don’t already have to know how to do anything particularly – just follow these YouTube guides to using a bit of origami skill to create something romantic-shaped, like a heart-shaped card, an iris flower or a ‘beating’ heart. Practice like crazy before the big day until you’ve got it off-pat, then nonchalantly create it while you’re having dinner, as if you’ve had this trick up your sleeve for ages. Women love the unexpected!
If you have kids, it’s worth considering palming off the sprogs to someone else for the day if you can. Should your friends and family not be free, you could hire a babysitter or nanny. Try a leading agency like Top Notch Nannies or find local childcare at childcare.co.uk.