It may be true that money can't buy you love, but that doesn't stop love-birds feeling the need to splurge every year on February 14.
In the US, consumers on average will be spending $196 (Dh720) on their beloveds, according to an American Express survey. Flowers remain the most popular gift, followed by chocolates, jewellery and electronics. Half of those surveyed said they intend to celebrate the day at a favourite restaurant, which is again seven per cent more than last year.
And there is more good news, ladies: men will be out-spending women.
In Dubai you generally don't need an excuse to spend, especially when malls, hotels, restaurants and spas run various promotions and packages, but some of these can be very expensive and are not necessarily good value for money. Before you realise, you are lavishing hundreds, if not thousands, of dirhams on expensive gifts for your significant other. Among the spenders will be those who are still paying the bills from their holiday spending and already facing money woes.
As with any spending, you should decide a budget that you can afford and stick to it.
"That means if you have to treat your wife to a super bouquet of flowers rather than a day at a 5-star spa, then that is what you should do," said Sarah Lord, wealth planning director at Killik and Co's Dubai office.
And those in debt, or those considering getting into debt in order to indulge those closest to them should think again, said Richard Taylor, chartered financial planner at Acuma Wealth Management, Dubai.
"Forget going out, go back to basics and make the effort to do a ‘homemade' Valentines."
Experts agree you don't need to break the bank to celebrate love. There are ways to be frugal and yet make it a memorable day for both of you.
Check out deals and offers
Though some may consider it inappropriate to show love using discount coupons or deals, but if you are looking to save and your partner understands and loves you, there is no harm in checking out the several online discount deals. The likes of Cobone.com and LivingSocial.com are offering Valentine's packages on popular items such as flowers, chocolates, cakes and jewellery — but when it comes to jewellery, make sure it's genuine. And for those who want to have that romantic dinner at a restaurant, make use of the Entertainer, with hundreds of ‘buy one and get one free' offers on main meals. Visa Gold Card holders, for example, can enjoy money-off deals of between 10 and 50 per cent on meals at selected restaurants. For clothes, check out stores in various malls and outside, offering discounts.
Try different flowers and smaller restaurants
Gift assorted flowers if a rose bouquet is beyond your budget. But if it's a rose that your lady likes the most, a single bud will still be cherished. It could be a good idea to present a potted plant that will last for years and remind her of you. When it comes to the price of flowers, it's relatively cheaper in supermarkets compared to standalone florists. And always go for refrigerated and about to bloom flowers.
When it comes to restaurants in Dubai, there is a wide range. There are quite a few local outlets — small and cozy that are not so expensive. Even for these you may need to have a reservation in advance. Ask your friends and colleagues for suggestions.
Prepare dinner at home
Devoting quality time to each other should be the primary objective of this day. So, rather than going out to an expensive meal at a high-end downtown or Jumeirah Beach Road hotel, you could buy the ingredients and cook a delicious meal at home. It shows you care for your Valentine. It will be much cheaper and as an expert says, if it is something that you haven't done in a while, doing it yourself may well be more romantic than going out to the swankiest restaurant. And if you are not a good cook, you can always order reasonably-priced takeaway food from a place you have eaten earlier and can vouch for its taste. With candles and petals, you can create a romantic ambience at home.
Make your own card
A personal touch to any gift makes it special. Cards on offer at gift shops can be expensive. Why not get a little creative and make a card that expresses your feelings and yet is low on cost. Stick a picture of you both or draw something cute and add some sweet phrases to make it special. Those who feel inadequate about drawing can download a romantic card from online sources and print it on high quality paper and add a few words of their own.
Create your own gift
Not all can afford diamond or gold jewellery or branded perfume or, for that matter, an iPad or a smartphone. Again, like the card, you could always give a handmade gift. You could burn a CD of your partner's favourite artists, gift an album containing pictures of some funny moments you spent together, or a frame with an old picture of you both — perhaps one taken on your first date. Why not create a small handwritten book of love poems collected from different sources, such as the mystic poet Rumi. Or make a scrapbook reliving old memories. You could also leave some post-it stickers where they are sure to find them — inside their wallet, bag or briefcase, or the wardrobe door — with messages of love. Of course those who are artistically inclined should gift what they are good at: paint a picture, write or record a song. Sometimes, gift cards, like "Just for You" offered by Visa allows the recipient the option of buying what they desire.
Do a joint activity
One way to minimise expenses is to do something together. And with the weather still pleasant, the UAE has plenty to offer. You could take a stroll in a park or a beach. Other attractions which you haven't yet visited could be the heritage sites, museums and art galleries. Check out the Entertainer and the daily deals which offer plenty of ‘two for one' admission vouchers to some of the UAE's best attractions. For the evening, you could get yourself a movie or a TV series on rent and enjoy it together.
This story first appeared in Gulf News on February 11, 2012