A Valentine in 2009: Giving Freely While Spending Frugally

by Kim   |   January 29, 2009

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, more valentines may be of the homemade variety this year because of tight budgets. This may actually be a good thing. We at New Dream are not ones to advocate for obligatory spending to mark any holiday. At this time of year it's hard to escape the marketing blitz saying you must buy chocolates, roses or jewelry, or some other expensive or ephemeral gift if you're a red-blooded human. Those who know better, however, realize that though the economy may be weak, the heart can still beat just as strong for your friends, family, or significant other, and that's never measured in dollars. Whether or not you have a special someone in mind, we think every day is a good day to spread a little love around, and we all know that thoughtfulness is not measured in dollars and cents.

Read these memorable gifts given or received (some on Valentine's Day, some platonically) by New Dream staffers.

New Dream staffer Michele made me a cookbook last year for my birthday. She compiled healthy recipes submitted by other staff members and made it into a book.

10 things to show appreciation for someone you care about without spending lots of money:

  1. Give them a hug.
  2. Make them a card from scratch.
  3. Have an indoor picnic: just throw a blanket on the floor, light a few candles, whip up a yummy sustainable meal and enjoy!
  4. Walk somewhere to watch the sunset together.
  5. Wake up early to watch the sunrise.
  6. Bring them breakfast (heart shaped pancakes – using a cookie cutter).
  7. Write a poem dedicated to him/her.
  8. Read him/her a poem that has special meaning for you.
  9. Send them a love letter.
  10. Give them another hug.

Every year, for both my dad and my wife, I make calendars using online photo processing services that feature photos of (for my dad) all the grandkids and (for my wife) our two girls.  It doesn’t cost much, but I spend hours on it, obsessively arranging and re-arranging the photos on the pages corresponding to each month.  It’s the only thing my wife specifically requests as a gift.

My friend Kelly and I used to live within a few blocks of each other, and we got into an unspoken habit of taking the makings for a tuna melt over to the other’s house if she were having a bad day. Graduate school, relationship woes, and homesickness all seemed a little bit easier to handle with a bestie and a tasty hot sandwich. (Our secret was to use lemon juice and pepper on the tuna rather than other dressings.)

On special occasions David and I like to cook things that remind us of Austin, which is where we met.  I’ll surprise him by waking up early and cooking gingerbread pancakes from our favorite diner.  For presents we usually keep it low-key—he almost always buys me tickets to the ballet, since he knows I love it but would never normally make the splurge.

One of the nicest gifts anyone has ever given me was when a bunch of office-mates got together and redecorated my office. They painted a wall my favorite color (green), hung paper lanterns and found a vintage pennant from my old neighborhood.

Couples are used to getting all dressed up and going out to fancy restaurants to enjoy a nice romantic atmosphere. Well I think it's a nice surprise to bring that atmosphere to the dining room. Get together all your candles and decorate the dining room with fabrics. Put plants by the table and burn a few essential oils. Pop in your favorite slow jam CD. Prepare a simple but nice meal for the two of you.  And enjoy each other’s company. Sounds like a nice time to me.

Mary Jo:
When a close friend of mine was leaving the country for a while, I did a water color and copied a poem onto it that she had inspired me to write. She still has it and often tells me how she reads it for inspiration.