I am not usually a Valentine’s Day type of person. It’s a commercialized, chintzy, kinda made-up holiday. I even once wrote a screed on why it’s dumb: A Frugal Weirdo’s Anti-Valentine’s Day Manifesto.

But let me tell you, this year, I am ON BOARD. Sign me up for ALL the tacky holidays.

Frugalwoods reader Barbara summed it up perfectly:

Mostly, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. But with the pandemic, I feel the need to celebrate every milestone just for the sense that time is passing.

May be all be as excited about Valentine’s Day as Littlewoods with her two babies

Yes, Barbara, preach it! My thoughts exactly. Maybe it’s the yearlong pandemic, maybe it’s the excessive snow, maybe it’s being home with a five-year-old and a three-year-old EVERY SINGLE DAY. Whatever the reason, I’m celebrating everything I can possibly think of/contrive to celebrate.

I still can’t quite get myself to view V-Day as a romantic holiday, but I’m digging the kid angle. I am cutting out paper hearts, baking heart-shaped mini cakes and I painted my nails red. I painted the girls’ nails too, but they’ve mostly picked the polish off, so hey–new activity for me: vacuuming up nail polish flakes. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

While my Valentine creativity pretty much stopped in 1989 when I homemade cards for my entire Kindergarten class, I was thrilled–though not at all surprised–by the fabulous things you all have planned for February 14th. Since we’ve heard enough from me, let’s turn to the readers!

Welcome to my monthly Reader Suggestions feature! Every month I post a question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group and share the best responses here. The questions are topics I’ve received multiple queries on and my hope is that by leveraging the braintrust of Frugalwoods nation, you’ll find helpful advice and insight. Join the Frugalwoods Facebook group to participate in next month’s Reader Suggestions.

How Frugalwoods Readers are Celebrating Valentine’s Day 2021

In the Community

Michele wrote, “We usually keep it simple…. we always give our kids a heart attack (paper hearts with all the things we love about them taped to their doors in the morning when they wake up), maybe some homemade treats or a special dessert. When my kids were little we would gather all our crayon stubs and bake them into heart shaped crayons and tie them with ribbon to give as Valentines at school. We honestly really love Valentines as an opportunity to LOVE others. One year we made homemade paper Valentines for all our the homeless friends at our local shelter (with candies of course), another year we made joy jars (mason jars filled with paper heart scriptures we wrote, candies, tea, etc. and paired with daffodils) for the retiree’s in our local ladies group. It’s a really great day to be fun and creative and make people feel happy.”

Bake for friends and neighbors!

Caitlynn said, “Since we won’t be making homemade valentines for my daughter’s class this year, being virtual, my girls made heart shaped cookies with their grandma for all our neighbors! The bags were leftover supplies we already had.”

Ann shared, “I’ve crafted homemade valentines for ladies at a transitional home in our city. Just as the women, no two cards are exactly alike. I’ll give them to one of our church members who’s on staff, asking her to decide who should get each card. Made some treat boxes for the children as well.”

Cindy wrote, “Our town is doing a dinosaur hunt that you can walk or drive through. Businesses put dinos in their windows, a map is available on the website, and you go find the dinos!”

For The Whole Family

Erin shared, “We’re not big V-day celebrators, but we make heart-shaped pizza (my family tradition, which happens to be covid-friendly and small-child accessible). A special dessert. Massages are a great idea! De-stressing & connecting as a couple, who couldn’t use more of that? We picked up a secondhand massage table last year and it’s been so worth it for us.”

Cindy is, “Using any restaurant gift card we got and ordering much missed restaurant take out for lunch or dinner. Getting each other something we’ve each wanted but wouldn’t buy for ourselves. Getting the kids their favorite candy and a valentines craft. Also making cards for classmates and grandparents. Using up any extra valentines from past years that seem to add up and contribute to our clutter. We may decorate our windows/front door with rainbow hearts for our neighbors to see as well. And I want hubby to get me wine and chocolates!”

Now THIS is a Valentine’s Day gift I could get behind

Tracey wrote, “…we do Sunday family dinners so this year I think I might do some little heart love notes for everyone in the family whose coming and maybe get my creative on and make some heart shaped cookies.”

Sara shared, “We don’t really celebrate other than I get each of my two kids a variety box of chocolates. Buy them on the after Christmas clearance because they already are in a red box. Perfect frugal hack and the kids love the sweet treat!”

Heather is, “Debating between heart shaped charcuterie or heart shaped fondue (DIY at home either way) for the family. My 12 year old wants to cook something nice for my husband and I!”

Kimberly said, “We never really made a big deal for Valentine’s Day. But a few years ago when my daughter was a toddler, we made Valentine’s cupcakes and decorated them together. It’s become our annual family tradition. We are already looking forward to making them again this year!”

Gorgeous sunset Mr. FW captured on a hike last week

Allison wrote, “I’m making a “love notes jar.” I will take supplies I already have – jar, paint, papers, cardstock. The idea is we have a dedicated spot where, throughout the year, we can write notes to each other. I am thinking I may include prompts as well. Like, draw a card and write a note that answers the question about the other person.”

Kimberly said, “We’ll set a small gift budget that will be challenging and fun. Lobster dinner at home. Fondue. Bonfire and s’mores for the kids. Family games. Netflix and chill after the kids are in bed.”

Kate Elizabeth said, “Every year for my daughter I cut out hearts and write on them what I am proud of with her, each one has a new thing. She is 8 this year and it is amazing all the new things I am proud of each year.”

Angie wrote, “We got valentines for our girls (who are 1 and 4), cards, a coloring book, etc. Something small as a gift, but really it’s a gift to us since it should occupy them for a bit as we continue to work from home with 2 little kids. My husband & I decided to splurge and support a local business and pre-order their Valentine’s Grazing Box. Has half dessert, half cheese, crackers, etc. Something new to try.”

As A Couple

Barbara wrote, “My husband bought a class pack of superman valentines while we were dating and gives me one every year on my pillow. At the time, I thought it was a good sign that he thought he needed the class sized pack.”

I think this pic from 2016 might be the last time we took a photo of just the two of us without the kids!

Kate said, “Sometimes my husband and I try an online escape room or puzzle game at home. It lets us connect in a new way. We also own an in-person escape room, and let me tell you – you learn A LOT about someone by solving puzzles with them! Also, solving an escape room puzzle is such a dopamine rush – perfect for date night. There are a ton of free and inexpensive online games out there these days, too.”

Jessica said, “Our first Valentine’s day 14 years ago we were both broke and had only been dating a few weeks. I was having a lousy day and had mentioned a few days prior I was craving Sloppy Joe’s. He surprised me by making them for me. We take turns cooking them, but, every year since we have Sloppy Joe’s on Valentine’s. It’s the only time of year we have them. It’s special because it became “our” tradition, like an inside joke to remind us of the early days.”

Rachel wrote, “With our daughter, we’re sending valentine’s cards to people that we wouldn’t normally send valentine’s to, to make it special. This includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. They definitely will not be expecting anything and I know they will love it. For my husband and I, we will get some strawberries and chocolate hummus dip from Aldi’s, make a special dinner of pasta carbonara, watch a movie, and give each other massages. I bought a $3 massage tool from the bargain store the other day, and I’m going to get my $3 worth hahaha. (Husband does not yet know he is giving me a massage for Valentine’s Day).”

Kellie said, “I’m not sure what the weather is there (I’m in Australia in Summer) but a night hike with torches, picnic by candlelight and stargazing sounds great to me.”

Sarah wrote, “I have bought my husband of 9 years a $14 gadget that will allow the production of cold-smoked cheeses, fish, etc. (He’s been talking for years about building a giant contraption to do the same, and hasn’t gotten around to it.). However, since we’re predicted to have an ice storm with a high of 20F and a low of 9F on V-Day (and this is MISSISSIPPI), I imagine we might be trying it out with no power camping in one room. Memorable!”

Rae Ann shared, “We are making cheese and chocolate fondues in the crockpot and making a charcuterie board of things to dip in the fondues. I found two different fondue recipes to try on Pinterest. We will stream a rom com and play board games together.”

Andria said, “My husband and I watch the least romantic movie we can find (free streaming or acquired from the library) and usually eat pizza. Previous movie selections include: Contagion, Species, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Parasite, Sea of Love. This year, we’re leaning toward Body of Evidence. This is probably not the kind of suggestion you’re looking for.”

take-out, you say?

Rebecca wrote, “We are doing a Valentine’s date night “in house” – by live streaming a concert: “A Romantic Night In” with Dave Koz, Brian McKnight and special guest Shelea. Plus romantic dinner, dessert & drinks. (Champagne, filet mignon, and I’m not sure what else yet! LOL!)”

Jennifer said, “We make spaghetti and spend the evening together, it’s our tradition since we started dating 16 years ago, married 11 years. We set a spending limit, one year it was $5 which is actually kind of difficult, most cards are half that. We started making cards for each other and found small gifts. I kind of like the limit, it gives it a level of challenge.”

Talia wrote, “My husband and I decided to start foregoing cards and instead we get a bag of candy for each other, with a nice note taped to the bag   We’ll also probably make a splurge-y (as far as grocery ingredients go anyway!) dinner and dessert together and enjoy it while my parents watch our 3 year old for the night. Normally this would include wine but I’m pregnant this year! For my daughter, I found a Minnie Mouse candy box on clearance after last Valentine’s Day with a long expiration date, so she’ll get that this year! I plan to check out the clearance again and see what I can find for next year. She and I will also make heart cookies together for friends/family since she loves to bake with me. ”

Sara said, “We will order our favourite sushi and eat it together with our favourite cats. Afterwards most likely an hour in the jacuzzi. Oh and we always dress up even if we celebrate at home!”

Not gonna lie: this is my IDEAL V-day dream. And yes, I took a picture of myself reading and drinking in bed…

Kristi shared, “Since our anniversary is February 26 (we’re going camping at a new state park), we don’t really get crazy for v-day. We usually have some steaks (still don’t feel comfy at restaurants), a nice bottle of Malbec or Camenare wine, and there was talk of watching Casablanca after our debate on whether it’s a romantic movie or not (I’m on the camp of no, because they aren’t together and she has to settle). I will say that in the past, I went to our local brewery and made valentines cards for veterans. It wasn’t on Valentine’s Day, but it’s definitely something to think about this year as an idea project.”

Magdalena shared, “My husband is having an emotional low and I am preparing a collage for him with pictures of things he loves (his hobbies, travel destinations, family pictures…) and mindfulness quotes I think might maybe be helpful. I am really nervous because I don’t know wether he will love it or feel “bullied” into having a better mood.”

Paz wrote, “My husband and I are planning a love notes scavenger hunt! We will each make and hide 14 (semi arbitrary semi meaningful to us number that seemed high enough to be interesting but doable) notes around the house. Also might attempt chocolate covered strawberries.”

Katy Anne plans a, “picnic inside. One year made fancy lobster mac and cheese (with the “fancy” cheeses). Scavenger hunt for prizes!”

For Yourself

Amy plans an, “At home pamper date with facials and foot soaks. Take-out in the backyard then wine and goodies dipped in our chocolate fountain by the fire pit.”


Lorra said, “My poor husband. He keeps wanting to do something special for me on V Day, and I’ve never been one to care much for it. I find flower arrangements wasteful and I still have chocolates from Christmas, I don’t wear much jewelry and I think lingerie is hilarious (think Grinch on Valentines!) I told him to keep adding $ to our cruise fund for our next one if we ever get out of this travel/lockdown/mask situation. At this point, we are going to take one hell of a vacation with what we’ve squirreled away! And then I will drink a fruity red or pink drink, on a red or pink beach towel in my red or pink bathing suit and celebrate belated Valentine’s! LOL”

How are you celebrating this year?

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  1. Our anniversary is on the 25th and we always try and celebrate that properly (not necessarily expensively) on around the date, so V-day has never really been a huge thing for us. I’ve bought some chocolate for husband and the kids, but nothing crazy. It’s just not that big a thing for us.

    I do, however, love Easter. Love it. I’m not even slightly religious, but I can 100% get behind a holiday that combines a long weekend in weather that is likely to be still-decent (southern hemisphere late-late summer) and food and not a ridiculously overblown expenditure, or huge pressure to do and be and buy and so on.

  2. There is an indie movie theatre near me that has interactive movie nights, where the audience is given a bag of small items (bubbles, small toys, etc) and a “to do” list and are encouraged to use those items and shout out famous lines at certain times during the show. It’s really campy and fun. Since theaters are still closed where I live, my boyfriend is putting together his own, with a surprise movie in mind. It’s probably $5 for supplies and homemade popcorn. I’m so excited!

  3. We’re doing pink waffles, and I got my toddler some heart patterned PJs (NWT on eBay!) because she already needed some. 😉

  4. Yes, we are doing ALL the holidays this year- including finding out about ones we never celebrated before (my fave so far is Diwali! we lit every candle in the house and ate Indian food!). We usually do very minimal Valentines, but this year we’re doing chocolate fondu with the kids- and they are psyched. We also do the hearts on their doors (not daily, because I’m not that diligent a mom, but they get them!) and we’ll probably have a special meal of some sort from stuff in the freezer…. My husband and I don’t do gift-giving except when we find something perfect (not for specific holidays- just when there’s something we really want to gift the other person) and I *did* find something special recently that’s coming soon, from a local potter. But it’s most definitely NOT a Valentine’s gift!

  5. Our date anniversary is at the end of the month, so Hubby and I have always celebrated that instead (by recreating our first date, which was going out for ice cream). VD was always just cards and chocolates and sometimes flowers which I do love but they die and that makes me feel sad they gave their petaled lives for a Hallmark holiday. But this year, we realized…nothing says “I love you” like a new book. Well, okay, one other thing, in the time-honored way of all long-term romantic partnerships, and we’ll do that too (and as Grandma said, if you can’t guess, you shouldn’t know).
    P.S. – Kudos to your reader Andria for spending the day with hubby watching the least romantic movie ever. LMAO

  6. I love the idea of a heart attack! We also decided we were going to make a cookie cake. I bought break-and-bake chocolate chip cookie dough and jarred vanilla frosting. We’ll roll out the dough, cut it into a crude heart shape, bake it and then decorate it with rainbow sprinkles and the frosting that we will laden with food coloring. I’m generally a from scratch person but these days? Sometimes I gotta be lazy.

  7. If you live in the Western US or Pennsylvania, Grocery Outlet Bargain Market (or Gross Out, as my kids call it) almost always has decent white or rose wine for $4-5 a bottle and fancy ice cream and chocolate bars (i.e. Lindt) for less than you would pay at the regular grocery store, like $2-3. We use the Vivino app to see what the wine ratings are before buying.

        1. When I read the headline, I thought “safe” was modifying both wallet and COVID. Ha! If you’re being frugal, you can indeed have a wallet-safe Valentine’s Day!

  8. Three course fancy meal and I am contemplating wearing a dress and jewelry. Agree that this is the year to embrace every holiday!

  9. As a native Californian who ended up in Massachusetts, I learned V-day is a nice excuse to celebrate a little bit. I’ve never liked going out to restaurants (overpriced, overcrowded) on that day, but I do try to create a nice meal and have little gifties that day. It perks up the dreary winters that, by mid-February, seem endless. We can never remember from year to year what we did on V-day, but the one memorable dessert (molten chocolate lava cake) with homemade ice cream was pretty freaking legendary.

  10. My partner and I started a tradition the first year we started dating (5? years ago now) of making homemade macaroni and cheese (with optional mix-ins!) followed by chocolate fondue. We also exchange cards which I’ve kept in a keepsake box. We might swap Molly Yeh’s almond cake for the chocolate fondue this year, but we haven’t decided yet. We’ll still exchange cards though- that’s the part I really look forward to the most.

  11. I so feel you! I’m also celebrating everything that I normally wouldn’t, just to have something to plan and look forward to.
    I just started playing the ukulele 2 weeks ago and for Valentine’s day I made a video of myself playing and singing. It’s hilarious because I made my own funny lyrics and I’m a horrible singer. Lots of fun to rehearse though and can’t wait for his reaction. He’ll be pretending he likes it even though it sucks.

  12. I am don’t have someone special in my life but the day will be noted. Tonight I am looking after my granddaughter while her parents go out a day early. We will be making brownies and cut them with heart shaped cutters. My son is a chef and he is always very pleased to not work Valentines Day. He isn’t working this year.

    As a family we will meet for lunch to remember my father who passed away on Valentine’s Day. I am going to do my levlr best to make sure the day doesn’t degenerate into a sad day.

  13. We never go out to VD and always make a fabulous meal at home with complementary wine. Cards and flowers but no other gifts. This year it’s getting harder and harder to get excited about much so I am trying to shake it up a bit by leaving little love notes in hidden places around the house to be discovered by him. Also will surprise him with a yummy wine tasting and am making chocolate bread pudding for dessert!

  14. My hubby is an on the road truck driver who is due home this weekend and will be driving through bad weather to get home for Valentines 💝 if he makes it safely he always makes me the best omelets ever and a gift 🎁of dark chocolates 🍫❤

    1. Wishing your husband safe travels! We’re covered in ice currently with another snowstorm moving in tomorrow night here in Kentucky. Hope you all enjoy your day together!

      1. My husband is a truck driver also, but home every night (remember my dad being gone for days/weeks) & was able to get his drive in before 💗day morning. We were lucky & didn’t get over foor of snow until monday night/Tuesday morning& was able to take our daughter wedding dress to her for her summer wedding(4 hours each way) after breakfast & then home for steak dinner.

  15. My husband and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage in May, but we’ve never felt the need to do much on Valentine’s Day. Our motto is, “Love your lover every day.” LOL. I guess I’ve just seen too many people who are basically miserable and treat each other poorly go all out JUST BECAUSE IT’S VALENTINE’S DAY and drop untold amounts of money on flower arrangements, etc. Always just seemed a little ridiculous to me!

  16. V-Day was also not a big holiday in our house, but 25 years ago I packaged my husband’s now long-forgotten small gift in a “Bloom County” Valentine gift bag featuring “Bill the Cat” The most un-Valentine’s day gift bag on earth. My husband loved Bloom County and this bag made us laugh whenever we saw it. He saved the bag and the following year gifted me something it in, starting our tradition of passing the bag back and forth each year. My husband passed away about 8 years ago, and that bag is one of the few things I saved besides pictures. That crazy bag alone brings back a lifetime of memories.

  17. I didn’t grow up celebrating Valentine’s day, other than giving out candy at school as a little kid. But my husband likes to mark it, so I came home on Friday with flowers and I’m making cinnamon buns for him. Not entirely a selfless gift, of course!

  18. Trader Joe’s has roses at $13 a dozen and some as you know stock well-priced wine and spirits! Costco has macaroons that are within a good price point, too.

  19. I LOVE VALENTINE’S DAY! Always have–candy holidays are my favorite! Plus I waited a long time for my husband, and went through a lot of misadventures weeding out the schmucks before I struck gold with him. so I love to celebrate! As for my husband, he’d been divorced and single for a while, losing hope of ever finding anybody and getting back on the horse again, and then I came along, and he’s very happy to celebrate Valentine’s Day now. He’s a n old fashioned romantic and enjoys expressing it.

    My husband always decorates the outside of our condo with red lights, red garland and foil hearts. I adorn our living room with my collection of candy heart boxes, glitter confetti, and crystal candy dishes full of Hershey Kisses and Palmer’s heart shaped chocolates. Since roses are expensive and I don’t have luck making them last for more than a day, I get bouquets of pink and red carnations, which I love. For the actual day, we stay at home with a fancy home made dinner with candles and silk roses on the table, and dessert is a home made chocolate heart cake. After dessert, we exchange our little gifts. Another happy tradition is watching The Charlie Brown Valentine Special on DVD.

    Normally we would dress up and glam up for a feast at our favorite Chinese restaurant the weekend after, but this year it will be Chinese take out and my Erica Kane hostess pajamas, LOL! Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

  20. I love these suggestions!
    My husband and I had a lovely day at the beach and we made each other home-made cut-out flowers~ believe it or not, he is very talented when it comes to arts and crafts and he created this beautiful “rose” bouquet for me all from cardboard cut outs! I was in love with him all over again 🙂 It was a perfect day to celebrate our love.



  21. I love celebrating everything and anything that can be celebrated, Valentine’s day included 🙂
    Daughter #1 prepared a game for us, and she and he sister made little gifts and cards for us. Daughter #2 baked a pink frosted cake. Both of them prepared a brunch for us (bacon, ham, eggs, potatoes, etc) with minimal help! (they are 9 and 11)
    Then I made a lasagna, garlic toasts and chocolate fondue for diner and we gave the kids a small chocolate treat and a pair of Valentine’s themed socks. Gave hubby a homemade card and a chocolate bar, and he gave me a card. Hubby and I got out all the stuff we accumulated in the last 13 years (cards, letters) and went throught them – walk down memory lane! Fun day filled with love.

    1. I thought I was the only one that gave 🧦holiday socks to kids every single holiday. Inexpensive gift that they always need.

  22. n preparation for Valentine’s Day we had a proactive conversation a week in advance. I reassured my husband that I did not want a gift, and wouldn’t feel disappointed when the day came. We planned a celebration in the form of food. My gift to him would be making a dessert, Red Velvet Cake Banana Pudding. This is a treat because we don’t make desserts except for holidays. His gift to me would be prime cut steak. This is also a treat because we eat mostly vegan, plant based diets. As I type this, the dessert is prepped and the steaks are marinating. We also got some kombucha to sip as we watch a movie later. I love this. We are taking advantage of our cooking skills, and using them to upgrade the necessity of food to a decadent celebration. The key will be to make sure we don’t go over our food budget for the month ($400).

  23. I can report that he loved the smoker gadget! It sadly did not end up being a surprise (so hard when living in each other’s pocket) because I had to bat a similar gadget out of his hands while we were out shopping for pre-ice storm supplies and explain that he already had one waiting on him. BUT….the one I picked out was deemed a superior design! In return, he bought me a couple of work-related e-books I’ve been eyeing. V-day itself we also unpacked a delayed Christmas present…we got ourselves a wonderful new workbench/toolchest that finally arrived, and so spent that morning sorting tools together so that there will not be so many “why would you put all the gripping and turning things together and not put a hammer with them?!! arguments about set logic versus frequent use logic. True relationship work, there!

  24. I have always loved Valentines Day! Even as a child, it was exciting to give and receive Valentines from your schoolmates. I would look at them at home spread out on my bed and if one was especially pretty and had Glitter, well that meant someone really thought you were special. This year I especially went BIG. Missing my 5 young grandchildren I ordered adorable heart dresses for my four young granddaughters and red and white striped baby PJ’s for our first Grandson, 4 month old Tucker. Packaged with sweets and treats and sealed with love. So happy to watch them open on FaceTime. Still exciting to receive a package in the mail from Grammy. I say any Holiday with chocolate involved is great in my book.♥️ My hubby and I made Chocolate covered rose strawberries 🍓 (online class) and even though we weren’t speaking by end, they came out great, Modeling chocolate who knew? I say after this year, pamper yourself and others. I bought myself Sunset Pink long stem Roses $12.99 dozen from Trader Joe’s and their Lavender body sugar scrub wonderful for dry skin. I had purchased an extra small prime rib at Christmas when on sale, baked potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Sparkling Dry Rose and served this pink Bubbly in Champagne glasses. My Valentine and I of 40 years miss our grandchildren so much it hurts our hearts, a year of health challenges and COVID, unrest in our Nation, despair. Yet I still feel grateful. ♥️ Your little Valentines are just precious.

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