Don't Put Yourself in the Budget DogHouse for Valentines Day

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Don't Put Yourself in the Budget DogHouse for Valentines Day

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I find Valentine's Day very stressful. I don't think I'm alone.  

I'm imagining guys sitting in front of their computers reading this nodding their heads up and down, and the ladies rolling their eyes.Don't Put Yourself in the Budget DogHouse for Valentines Day 

It's not that I don't like to show my wife that I love and appreciate her. It's not like I don't know how. It's the pressure of the perceived expectations. Have you ever really listened to the radio and TV commercials as we near Valentine's Day? 

Will anyone be surprised if one day jewelry stores just cut the BS and use the ad campaign, "You suck as a man unless you buy your lady a diamond?" 

The following link is to an ad from the jewelry department at a national department store.  It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life, but I think it effectively illustrates my point:

This sort of environment leaves some men clueless about how to meet the expectations of Valentine's Day. Have you ever been in a Wal-Mart at 5:00 a.m. on Valentine's Day morning? I have (head bowing in shame).

It's a sea of unshaven men in sweatpants and baseball caps staring in desperation at the displays of chocolates, stuffed animals, and cards, hoping to patch together a gift just good enough so as to not put them in the dog house, and then get home before their significant other wakes up. 

The problem, in my opinion, is that retailers have conditioned us to equate love with material items. So, naturally on a day when we are supposed to show the important people in our lives how much we love them, we think, "What should I buy them?" People ask, "What did your husband buy you for Valentine's Day?"

Who gave some jewelry store or car dealership the right to tell me how I should express love to my wife? Why can't the question be, "What did your husband do for you for Valentine's Day?" Your significant other fell in love with you for a reason.  Expressing your love for them should be the most natural thing in the world. 

I started planning Valentine's Day right after New Year's.  That's right-- a full six weeks ahead of time (pat self on back).  What better way to plan, than to whip out a piece of paper and make some lists!  For this project, I made two lists: one containing things that I believe my wife loves about me; the second containing things my wife enjoys.  Then, I looked for pairs of items (one from each list) that went together.  Finally, I looked over the pairs and came up with ideas that would make Valentine's Day special, but that I could accomplish relatively inexpensively.

Involving the Kids

My wife loves the fact that I am extremely active with our children.  My wife adores our children.  So, I decided to do an activity with the kids to make a gift.  While my wife isn't home, we're going to make heart-shaped sugar cookies and put our names on them with icing.  On Valentine's Day morning, we're going to wake up my wife and "give her our hearts." 

The Food

My wife loves that I like to cook.  One of her favorite things to eat is beef Wellington.  Going to the type of restaurant that would serve Wellington would be very expensive. So, for our Valentine's Day meal, I'm going to make it.  I've made it before, and it turned out pretty well.  Since then, I've learned some things, so I'm positive this time I'll knock it out of the park. The problem is the cost for the ingredients needed to make a beef Wellington approaches $100 (the beef tenderloin alone is at least $60) and it serves more than two people.  So, how can I make my wife Wellington inexpensively?  Read on...

The Friends

My wife loves to be around lots of people. Me... not so much (at least not as often as she does).  But it makes her happy that I give in to her concept of "the more people the better" even when I don't really want to.  So, for our Valentine's Day dinner, I'm inviting two other couples, our closest friends, to share in our celebration.  I spoke with them, and they agreed to split the cost of the meal if I would prepare it.  All of our kids are going to a different home (we have several kids in the group that are old enough to babysit), and we will have the dinner at my house.

The Romance

Don't Put Yourself in the Budget DogHouse for Valentines DayMy wife savors life.  She wants to go everywhere, do everything, and fully live her life out loud.  I love that about her. So, after our friends have left for the evening, and the kids have gone to bed, I have something planned for just the two of us.

First, I will make the tuxedo strawberries pictured at left (the picture is of some that my wife and I made for a different event).

We'll have a bottle of our favorite champagne.  We'll sit on the couch, eat the strawberries, drink the champagne, and watch a DVD I've created that is a slide show of our life together.  We can relive our life together so far, all the memories we've created, and the fun that we've shared.

The Cost

Below are my estimated costs for our Valentine's Day activities:



Beef Wellington Ingredients                     






Dessert (Homemade Cheese Cake)     


Subtotal for Meal                                                                                     


Price per couple                                          


Sugar Cookie Dough and Icing               


Wine (One bottle from each couple)       


Tuxedo Strawberries                                  




Subtotal for individual expenses             


Estimated out of pocket expense:           


While $77 isn't the kind of money you find in your couch cushions, I can tell you that in the past I've spent close to that during one of my 5:00 a.m. trips to Wal-Mart, and those gifts used no creativity, and had very little personal touch.  Additionally, if I wanted to dramatically reduce the cost, something less expensive could be substituted for the wine and/or champagne. 

 So, what do you think? 

Do you think my plan will make my wife feel as special and as appreciated as I'm hoping, or do you think it will land me in the dog house like the guys in the video link?

Related Links:

 The List

 Celebrating My Anniversary Romantic and under $70

 In Debt and Ready to Party

Travis PizelTravis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt blog and is a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP) and in his posts he shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.

Follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles

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  • Great ideas Travis!  I know my boyfriend also stresses out a bit on Valentine's Day, and I do my best to reassure him that what he DOES for me is much more important than what he BUYS me.  I've even told him not to buy me flowers because they are a waste of money considering they die within a couple of days.  I do think women should take the initiative of telling their significant others that it's okay for them NOT to get into debt over the holiday as the commercials and people tend to make women feel like they should be receiving grand gifts.   The whole point should be spending quality time together!

  • Travis, are you for real?!  This is incredibly romantic and your wife will be thrilled!

  • are off the hook creative Travis! I'm forwarding this to my husband! :-)

  • Wow, you really went over the top on this one!!!  Your wife is going to fall in love with you all over again.

  • Cheryl, Ali, Nichole and Monica - Awwwwww, thanks ladies, I appreciate the kind feedback!  I let the kids in on the plan last night.  We have the perfect opportunity to get the cookes and slide show done this weekend as my wife is leaving town for her sister's wedding shower.  I've instructed my wife she can't read this entry until AFTER heart day - so here's hoping the non-dinner pieces of the day can remain a suprise!

  • I just had a thought.....this post could generate some questions.  How will  the Wellington turn out?   Can I really bake cookies without burning the house down?  Will the non-dinner pieces remain a secret now that I've told a twelve and eight year old?    Can I stay on  budget?  Can I find a way to come in under budget?  Will my wife really love it?  Come back to this post on 2/15, and I'll answer these questions and any other ones I can come up with!

  • Travis,

    Do you have a brother? You are truly amazing and a testament to the fact that there really are some good guys out there! I think your wife is going to be thrilled and you definately won't be in the dog house this Valentine's Day!

  • You have wowed us all...truly fabulous!!!!

  • Thanks Suzanne and Jennifer!  I'm getting really excited for this year's Valentine's day!

  • Well, Valentine's Day has come and did it turn out?  As with any well laid plans, you need to be flexible as conditions warrant.   Some adjustments had to be made on the fly.  One of the couples that were going to join us had to cancel as they have a newborn, had a rough night the previous evening, and just didn't feel much like socializing.   So, instead of purchasing an entire beef tenderloin we purchased individual tenderloin fillets.  Since we had less people, the kids stayed at our home and ate with us.  My son wanted Wellington, but my daughter requested chicken nuggets.   I bought 3 fillets for my wife/me/son, and our guests bought fillets for themselves. We decided to skip the salad as my wife had a large salad for lunch, and our friends brought sliced Vienna bread.  We also combined dessert and the tuxedo strawbers to form one desert that was a bit more healthy.  The dessert was made of individual yellow shortcake bowls, fat free whipped cream, strawberries and blackberries.  Here's the cost breakdown:

    Heart Cookies:   $0.00 - We had all the ingredients at home, so no need to puchase anything!

    3 Beef Tenderloin Fillets:  $.19.00

    Wellington ingredients / potatoes / Vegetable:  $20.00

    Desert ingredients (for at least 6 desserts):  $11.00

    Skipped the wine for the meal, had a desert wine (Mescato de Asti - champange like) already at home:  $0.00

    Chicken nuggets - $0.00 - we ALWAYS have these ready at home.

    Total cost:  $50.00

    So, that's all the logistical did it turn out?  My wife loved being woken up by her family and getting the cookies with our names on them.  She walked out the door to go to work with a smile on her face.  Our friends and our families had a great dinner.  We hadn't spent time with them for about two weeks (this is abnormal for us) and it was great to talk with them for the evening.  The Wellington turned out spectacular if I do say so myself.  I also made a simple dipping sauce made out of red Cooking wine, beef stock and butter.  Even the kids completely cleaned their plates.  Desert topped off our tummies as we watched the slide show with the kids (they really wanted to see it).  The slide show brought back alot of memories that we hadn't thought of for a long time.  We laughed a lot, and the kids loved seeing pictures of themselves when they were smaller.  I also included pictures of some deceased loved ones - that meant alot to my wife. She laughed, and she teared up.  When we got to the end, and I told her I could have made it much longer (it was 8 minutes and 17 seconds long and included about 130 pictures), she exclaimed that she wished I would have as she wanted more.

    It was an awesome, Valentine's Day not only for my wife and I, but for our entire family, and for our guests as well!

  • Oh, I forgot to mention...there's some pictures of the cookies, wellington and desert over on the DebtChronicles facebook page!  Check 'em out:!/DebtChronicles

  • Well, that link didn't pan out well.  Try this one:

  • On June 29 th , my wife and I celebrated our 15 th wedding anniversary. Given our current financial situation, I had to rely on creativity to give my wife the special day she deserves for putting up with me for 15 years.

  • My wife's birthday was on the 6 th of July-just seven days after our wedding anniversary. Creatively planning two events that close together is a tall order for any husband.

  • These rebel hairs seemingly necessitate a periodic trip to the hair salon to be colored. Millions and millions of innocent, well-behaving hairs to be artificially colored for the transgressions of a few. What does it cost to atone for the brazen misbehaving

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