When you ask college students what a satisfactory date would be, their answers are usually something along the lines of, “grabbing coffee or dinner together close to campus and then hanging out afterwards.” When you ask them the same question on Valentine’s Day, the answer is probably similar — except considerably more expensive. These ideal Valentine’s dates include having dinner in an actual, intimate, non-campus-dining restaurant, going to see a real show or concert, or perhaps even a replication of any date scene pulled from a romantic movie. Considering the budgets of most UR students, hiring a flash mob to dance for your significant other in Grand Central Station is probably not an option.
While showing up to your date’s door with a couple coupons for the movie theater and a carton of Mel sauce may be sweet or utterly pathetic depending on who is asked, most students persevere to make more out of the holiday. Financial constraints aside, romance is not dead. Many couples improvise and spend their funds wisely and thus are still able to give their partners the affection and appreciation that they deserve without extravagant gifts.
Senior Samantha Echaves is one such partner.
“We are planning on having dinner at his place to avoid the chaos of going out,” Echaves said. “I’ll be making a traditional dinner from my heritage, and he’ll be doing the same. Of course we’ll have a beer too. Making dinner at home saves a ton of money and means that I don’t have to cook the rest of the week because I’ll have ample food.”
For those who do go out to eat, planning for this holiday can be an ordeal, especially considering many other couples are coveting the same perfect, romantic dinner. A late evening time slot might have been booked long before your phone call, so settling for 5:00 p.m. might not be out of the question. There is also uncertainty in even making a reservation at all as the best locations will be most likely be filled.
Despite the difficulties of properly shooting Cupid’s arrow and having a great date, there are many willing to brave this challenge for their significant other.
“It’s his first Valentine’s Day, and I want it to be special for him,” junior Phillip Cohen said. “I’m planning on a trip to one of the museums or art galleries, probably either the George Eastman House or Artisan Works. Then we’ll probably get food on Park Avenue, and afterwards, stop at La-Tea-Da and try to grab a cupcake from the bakery if possible. I’m planning to kind of see how it goes.”
For many couples, Valentine’s Day is not just a day to celebrate each other, but also their relationship. To ensure the essential ingredient of romance, men and women alike feel obligated to spend a relatively large sum on their partners for this special occasion every year. According to the National Retail Federation Valentine’s Day spending survey, the average American spends almost $130 on gifts and the projected total of these expenditures for 2013 is around $18.6 billion.
For those willing to purchase a gift for their partner, Valentine’s Day can be a guessing game with serious consequences. Without prior consultation, you may be faced with a whole garden variety of flowers and not know her preferences. The rose is classic and symbolizes romance, but it can become trite when that bouquet becomes the annual gift. If the buyer does not beware, he could also get scammed by a holiday-specific price increase.
The more serious, or rather wealthy, partner will gravitate toward purchasing jewelry in addition to stuffed animals or chocolate. College students may lean more toward the latter two for their affordability, but that Snickers bar from the Common Market has the potential to effectively sabotage the evening. When a tight budget constrains your romantic intent, go less for generalities and more for your partner’s specific interests. They’ll appreciate that you know their favorite candy bar, even if it is just a Snickers.
The Valentine holiday card is another nice touch, a keepsake that won’t get eaten. Personal messages have the ability to pull at heart strings and are reread again and again if the person holds onto the card. Conveniently, those personalized messages also cost considerably less than those six-bucks-a-pop Hallmark cards.
For some, long distances exacerbate an already pricey situation. Sophomore Samantha Whalen is celebrating this Valentine’s Day far away from her boyfriend, but doing so creatively this year.
“He’s in Arizona, but I bought a serenade from After Hours, and they are going to sing one of our favorite songs via Skype,” she said. “I’m also planning on reading a poem at an open mic night and having someone video tape it so I can send him the video.”
Some of these long distance tips can be employed by local couples as well. Ultimately, the key to a Valentine’s Day on the cheap is to focus on the sentiment and less on the cents.
Additional reporting by Alice Gao. Brady is a member of the class of 2015.