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  • Valentine's Day Doesn't Have to Break the Bank

    Just like many other holidays, Valentine's Day can be a source of stress for people who want to find the perfect way to show their loved one how much they really care. And it can be especially stressful for those who have to limit their spending in the process. But there's no reason to give in to the commercialism, the old cliches of candy and roses, or even the belief that diamonds are a girl's best friend.

    And though it really is fun to see your sweetheart's eyes light up when they open your gift, it doesn't mean you have to go over the top to get that effect. There's nothing wrong with spending the big bucks if you have the resources, but there's also no reason to put yourself in a financial bind just because a holiday comes up.

    Do what you can to make the day special, but keep within your budget. Any well thought-out gift can be perfect if you know it's something they'll appreciate, no matter what the price tag. Remeber that someone who loves you won't want you to jeopardize your financial health to prove you care about them.

    Your relationship isn't based on how much you spend on each other. It's based on how well you know each other, the friendship and emotional support you give to each other, the activities you enjoy doing together. And, um, how good they look in those blue jeans...

    And while Valentine's Day is normally thought to be a day of romance, every couple has their own idea of what is romantic. Keep in mind that the mushy stuff is not for everybody. Some of us don't want to sit by the fire drinking wine while feeding each other strawberries, no matter what day it is.

    Practical types might prefer something they can put to use nearly every day, even if it's not a "romantic" gift. Yes, there are women out there who would love to receive a certain kitchen appliance as a gift - as long as you aren't buying it just to have her cook for you more!

    And I know plenty of men who would rather receive the power tool they've been coveting for months, instead of the cologne you want him to start wearing.

    Sporty and adventurous types might prefer a hike and a picnic or a day of skiing over a dinner and champagne at a ritzy restaurant. And there are all kinds of cool gifts that can be found at a sporting goods store that may be appreciated far more than flowers and chocolates that will be gone in a week.

    If your honey stays home with the kids and takes care of the house, she (or he) would probably appreciate a day without having to oversee those responsibilities. Surprise them - wake up a little earlier than you usually do, straighten up the house and make breakfast. Go on a low-budget excursion, take a drive to your favorite state or national park, or try something you've never done before.

    Having a meal together is something nearly every couple will do together on Valentine's Day - we all have to eat. But it doesn't have to be expensive, just someplace that means something to your relationship. Go to the place you had your first date, a place that specializes in your sweetheart's favorite type of cuisine, or a place they said they wanted to try sometime.

    And if you can save on the meal, you may still have enough cash after dinner to drop in at a comedy club for some laughs, go dancing at a hot new club, or challenge each other to a few games of pool at the local billiards establishment.

    Or you can skip the crowds and just stay home together. Cook a meal together and then surprise your darling with their favorite desert afterward. Or, pizza and beer can be the perfect evening for some couples - and no kitchen mess to clean is always a plus.

    Even a low-budget Valentine's Day can be remembered as special if you get a picture taken together. Forget the pricey photo studio; ask a neighbor to stop by to snap a picture before you go out on the town, or bring your camera with you and have a friendly stranger snap a picture while you're out having fun together. Frame the photo and give it to your honey, and then you'll always have a permanent reminder of how you enjoyed your day together.

    Think about the things that brought the two of you together and the things that always make you laugh together. Whatever you do for your Valentine will be perfect no matter how much or how little you spend, as long as you remind your sweetheart why you love and appreciate them.
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