My canny Valentine . . . love on the cheap

Here are some thrifty ways to say it, not spray it, for loved-up couples. photograph: getty images

Here are some thrifty ways to say it, not spray it, for loved-up couples. photograph: getty images

Mon, Feb 11, 2013, 00:00

It’s possible to be both loved up and frugal. Take our savvy advice on cutting costs without cutting the romance out of this Thursday

It is that time of year when many mostly sane people lose the run of themselves and their wallets as they try to prove they are more romantic than the Milk Tray Man.

Many love-blind fools will have little change out of €500 when the flowers are sent, the restaurant paid for, the sparkling gift given, and the padded card with the cute bear bought and posted. But, apart from ignoring it altogether – which certainly has its merits – are there ways to do Valentine’s Day on the cheap or is it impossible to be both loved up and frugal? Here are some ways to cut costs without being miserable.

Breakfast of champions

Want to look super-romantic first thing in the morning? Brilliant. Source yourself some heart-shaped cookie cutters – Kitchen Complements in Dublin will sell you a “sweetheart six-piece mini cookie cutter set” for €7.95. We reckon with this set you could have heart-shaped eggs, dainty pancake kisses and Cupid’s arrow toast at a total cost of less than a tenner. Buy yourself a cheap bottle of cava and some freshly squeezed orange juice and you will be good to go for 20 quid all in.

Up, up and away

If you plan to fly somewhere lovely as part of a romantic treat this weekend, you should probably know about a rather splendid deal being offered by the Dublin Airport Authority. If you book its “Valentine’s weekend parking package” you get up to three’ days parking – between February 14th and 18th – for €15. You will also get free Fast Track passes to help you avoid the madding crowds and a free sharing platter for two in Caviar House in Terminal One or in Flutes in Michael O’Leary’s beloved T2.

Roses are cheap

Nothing says Valentine’s Day quite like a dozen red roses but you need to be careful what type you buy and where you buy them. Grand Prix roses are widely considered the Rolls Royce of the rose market and by far the biggest Valentine sellers. A dozen can cost upwards of €80 when delivered by traditional florists.

Aldi and Lidl will be selling them from today at knock-down prices. Aldi’s Grand Prix bouquets, nestled in expensive looking foliage, go on sale tomorrow with a price tag of €29.99 for 12. If that’s too steep, it has less flash rose bouquets for €14.99 or a single “upper class” red rose for €1.99. Lidl is also selling cut-price Grand Prix roses that look at lot more expensive than they are, and has other Valentine’s flowers for €2.79. This is cheap – but we’d be concerned it might look it.

Supervalu, meanwhile, has a dozen red roses at a suspiciously cheap €3.99.

Marks & Spencer says its roses were recently voted best bouquet for Valentine’s Day by Good Housekeeping magazine. A dozen start at €14.50.

Mad for it

While florists might cost more – this week, the supply is more reliable, they will deliver, and we recognise the importance of supporting local businesses – we know they take a lot of flack at this time of year. But our florists are not really to blame for any price spikes this week. All over the world, people are trying to get their hands on roses and along the supply chain, prices are higher. Growers need to hire and pay extra staff, freight companies charge more and florists have to pay overtime to staff to cater for demand.

Last week the always lovely Mad Flowers was offering roses for delivery on Thursday through two deal sites for €49, a price that included a box of chocolates. We know that is not much use to you now, but it will still offer a good service this week with prices starting at €80.

Another great flower shop, Appasionata, has traditional bouquets for €100 but we liked its “medley of ruby red and funky pinks” which comes in a “tray of milk-bottles”. The price of €50 (which includes delivery) also appealed.

Sparkles for less

Bubbles are a must, and all the big supermarkets are trying to coax people to splash out on what they say are heavy discounts. Supervalu is selling Gran Troya Cava Brut at €10 compared with its normal selling price of €22. It has Pierre Darcy’s Champagne down from €48 to €22 and Grifon Prosecco, which was €11.49, is now €8. Now these prices might look amazing but they come with a warning. We couldn’t resist having a look at some of the options and were less than impressed to see that Asda in the UK was selling the Pierre Darcy Champagne last Christmas at a discount of £10 (€11.57). It claimed it had a full price of £23 (€26), which is a long, long way off the €48 Supervalu says it would normally sell this bubbly for. Similarly, the Valentine’s cava it is selling can be found elsewhere in Europe for less than €10 year round. For its part, Aldi is selling Monsigny Pink Champagne Brut at €24.99. In Aldi’s UK stores, the same champagne costs £12.99 or €15.

Dine in à deux

Call us a curmudgeon but Pricewatch does not think restaurants are a great place to be on Valentine’s Day. Diners are shoehorned into every available space and tables for two are pushed so close together that you can hear the rows of the grumpy couples surrounding you. Oh and you know those special Valentine’s menus? Well, the thing special about many of them is the price, which will be a whole lot more than it is worth.

We’re not blaming restaurants – it is an inexplicably busy night and they have had a very lean January. But it’s not for us. A meal cooked at home is a much better bet. If you can’t cook or don’t have the inclination, you will struggle to beat the Marks Spencer dine-in deal, which is running all this week.

For €25 you get a starter, a main, a side dish, dessert, a bottle of cava and a box of chocolates. marksandspencer.ie

Go solo

If you’re single, don’t fret – celebrate instead. While couples all over the world are spending money they don’t have on tat they don’t need, you can have a low-cost day and it is not just next Thursday that will save you money. Add up the cost of Christmas, birthday and Valentine’s Day presents over a lifetime and a person is easily worse off to the tune of at least €20,000.

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