Valentine’s Day may seem pretty far away still, but don’t be fooled: you'd better get a game plan. If you're the type who just took down the holiday decorations, don't panic! From drawing up a game plan and perfecting the necessary skills, to finding the perfect gift (of course), and making sure your wallet doesn’t burst into flames, we've got your back.
1. Start putting money aside
In 2016, the National Retail Foundation reported that the 55% of Americans who celebrated Valentine’s Day spent $19.7 billion, with nearly $12 billion going towards gifts, $1.7 billion towards sweets, and $4.5 billion towards romantic dinners. Each individual shelled out an average of $146.84 last year, and under-35s splurged an average of $185. It’s not exactly chump change, which is why it’s a good idea to start saving now before you have to throw it around like a Rockefeller in two weeks.
For those who can’t say “no” to Seamless coupons or after-work happy hours, money saving apps like Digit and Unsplurge will do it for you. Digit is an automated savings account that monitors your income and spending habits, and socks away about 5.5 percent of users’ income on average. In two to three days, Digit takes anything from $2 to $17 and puts it in a separate savings account you control. If you request to withdraw $13.22 daily, you’ll hit $185 in 14 days. Save $20 a day and you’ll have a nice cushion to spend over if needed.
Unlike the automatic savings account, Unsplurge sets actual monetary goals. By setting a goal of saving $100 per week, you’ll have an additional $15 to spend on chocolate by the end of week two. Get encouragement from the app’s community coined “the Town” to help reach your goal quicker. Who knew peer pressure could be so lucrative?
2. Creep, a little, on your S.O.’s social media
If you just started dating, we strongly advise that you keep your social media stalking light; you don’t want your V-Day to turn into an upcoming episode of Law & Order: SVU. But even if you’ve been together for a year, remember that falling into a routine is equally as hazardous as not having anything planned at all -- so do due social media diligence.
Lots of outdoorsy photos and shared travel articles? Opt for something more original than making reservations at a restaurant, like a romantic picnic in the park or a day trip. If your date’s Instagram feed is filled with food porn and perfectly-lit brunch photos, find yourself an eccentric restaurant that offers a tasting menu so they can try a little bit of everything. If their Snap story is just one, long night out, plan a romantic night at a cocktail lounge with a dress code.
3. Make restaurant reservations -- stat
According to the restaurant app Reserve, 25% of Americans celebrate V-Day by going out to eat, meaning reservations at fancy schmancy restaurants are already hard to come by two weeks out. According to Google Trends data from 2010 to 2015, Italian restaurants are the most popular choice amongst couples, with French and Spanish coming a close second and third. Moral of the story? If you’re already behind on reservations, this top three will be tough, so have a backup plan.
If you can’t get a reservation at your first choice, research apps and sites like... the one you are reading now (!) for spots that opened within the last three months; they’re more likely to have open tables and Valentine’s Day specials to get you in the door. Regardless of where, keep one super important thing in mind: if you want a special accommodation, make sure to mention it when placing your reservation so the staff has time to adequately prepare.
4. Test run your romantic homemade meal
Whether rustling up your date’s favorite romantic dishes or unchartered culinary territory, have a tried-and-tested game plan. If you’re lacking basics like a decent pan, large knife, and eating utensils that aren’t plastic, head to a home goods store -- now is the time to stop living like a caveman. When you're all set, start cooking it up, and take notes along the way so you can make any necessary adjustments come V-Day.
For those who think dumping out your Seamless order onto real plates is the equivalent of a home-cooked meal, fake some culinary skills with meal delivery services like Blue Apron or HelloFresh, which provide simple step-by-step recipe, complete with photos, for personalized meals.
5. Learn how to make a legit cocktail
While a bottle of wine is sure to set the mood, impress with some newfound bar skills first. Pencil in a mixology course two weeks before Valentine’s Day. Classes are often sold at discounted rates on Groupon and Living Social, and will make you an impressive party host ever after.
For further inspiration, head to your favorite cocktail lounge or bar on off hours (early afternoon tends to be the best time) and have a candid conversation with the bartender over a drink. Any tips on simple cocktail recipes, complimentary flavors, and presentation will help you in the long run.
6. Book with a florist
In 2014, an estimated 257 million roses were grown specifically for Valentine’s Day. To put that astronomical number into perspective, if you aligned each rose tip to tip, they would circle the Earth approximately four times. So yeah, buying roses on V-Day isn’t going out of style anytime soon.
However, it’s also not helping your wallet. A dozen red roses cost about $20 more than any other color, and a bouquet on Valentine’s Day is often priced twice as high as on any non-romantic day. While you could save a few bucks by heading to the grocery store, chances are the bouquets aren’t as fresh and thus won’t live as long, making them a waste of money in the long run.
While red roses are always on point, nonconformists can buck the trend with red tulips. Not only are they cheaper (you can probably grab a bunch for as little as $10), but according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, they’re also a declaration of love. You’re not being a cheapskate, you’re being symbolic.
7. Check shipping times
If you decide to purchase your gift online -- as 27.9% of consumers did last year -- keep pesky shipping times and costs in mind. Free shipping means the product could arrive anywhere from four to 12 days after purchase, and even expedited shipping gets risky: not only do the rates get higher (you can pay as low as $7 for 2-3 day shipping or as high as $25 for next day), but if there’s any service issues, there’s no way you’re getting that delivery before V-Day. Our advice? Start looking -- and buying -- now.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while one-of-a-kind pieces are thoughtful, they also sell out quicker than products bought at a department store. Assume that anything you see now will be long gone next week. If you’re going way fancy, and looking to get something engraved, make sure the proprietor has at least two weeks to finish the job. Trust us -- you’d never live that one down.