Remember the film Wall Street? And the excruciating Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, who was always going on about how lunch is for wimps and how time is money? Well, I’ve been thinking this weekend that he was sort of right. Not about the lunch bit, obviously. Anyone who tries taking my lunch away won’t live to see high tea. But about the time thing.
See it takes time to make money, but also to save it, and when time’s running out, when I’m pressed, or panicking, or on a deadline, all of the usual money-saving strategies fly out the window and I find myself chucking money at a problem to make it go away.
Never Skint chums, will this be more evident than today – the day before Valentine’s – when last-minute lovers the world over find themselves making emergency calls to florists and being conned out of £90 for a dozen blooms. Or ringing round every restaurant in town, to discover that the only table left for tomorrow night is at the Michelin starred swank palace in the poshest part of town – then making a booking anyway cos, well, cos choices have run out.
Don’t do it to yourselves! There are still ways to score in the romance stakes without paying last-minute prices. It’s the duty of skint folks the world over to resist the pressure of tomorrow’s big spend and find savvier ways to spread our love. So, with 24 hours left to get your Valentine’s Day sorted, how to do it without busting your bank balance?
First up, cards: Those giant padded shop-bought ones can easily set you back around £20 and anyway, the queues at the card shop will be out the door today. Instead, head for the art store to buy a sheet of plain coloured card and some glitter, then get to work tonight sticking on a couple of your favourite pics and a handmade heart. Then all you need is a poem – and a deadline is great for creativity. Ta-dah! You’ve got a card which will melt hearts far more than those padded Hallmark flummeries – all for less cash than a coffee.
Next, flowers: Oh, it’s a happy Monday for florists today. By all means, add to their joy by buying some blooms but avoid the moneyeaters, ie red roses – a dozen long-stemmed ones cost around £70 just now, plus delivery. Save money by getting a nice mixed bouquet with maybe three red roses in it – less than half the cost at £30. Or go for a flower not traditionally associated with Valentines Day but which your partner loves. And whatever flowers you choose, deliver them yourself. Delivery typically costs six pounds. And of course everyone, no matter how skint you are, no matter how last-minute your plans, should avoid flowers from the garage forecourt – unless you want to end up wearing them.
With gifts, I’ve always found the best tactic is to invest thought not cash and with only a day to go it’s the speedy option too. Raid your belongings tonight to find favourite photos of you and your love together, then pop them into a frame (whip a photo out of one you’ve already got if you don’t have a spare), or make a mix CD of your partner’s favourite music and popping it in the car CD player so it comes on tomorrow morning morning. Other ideas include coupon books with ten to fifteen coupons, which your partner can redeem throughout the year. These might include coupons for a back massage, an offer to clean the house, a token for breakfast in bed etc. Cost – nada. Or make up a love box. Just take a shoe box, line it with posh tissue paper and fill with: chocolates, photos, a coupon book, a mix CD inside, a homemade card or a love letter – all individually wrapped. Alternatively you can write your sweetheart a love letter and stick it in their pocket, handbag, wallet or under the windscreen so they find it at some point on Valentines Day. I know a girl who found an admiring letter from a stranger under her windscreen one morning – she married him a year later.
Now for the Valentine’s celebration. Forget that Michelin swank palace. Stay at home and cook a meal, then go out on Thursday – the prices will be slashed, the food will be better and you won’t have to listen to that 100 Romantic Hits CD the restaurants bring out every year. Tomorrow, cook your favourite meal at home, light candles, get dressed up – I’ll leave the rest to you. But if you’re a traditionalist who feels that Valentine’s Day isn’t complete without a meal out, what about lunch instead? Taking a long lunch will feel more decadent – and be far cheaper too.
So, even if you’ve left it all a bit late there’s still time to have a fabulous, skint Valentines Day, if that’s your thing. Basically invest thought, not cash and steer clear of tacky. Expect the same. If anyone buys you a helium balloon on a stick tomorrow, or a teddy of any description, you are well within your rights to ask them for the receipt and march it right back to the shop. Ha. Maybe there is a little bit of Gordon Gekko in me after all. Have a happy day, skint pals. Valentine’s love to you all.
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