Valentine’s Day shouldn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. (Amanda Voisard/For The Washington Post)

My husband and I have what I think is a romantic routine for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

On Valentine’s Day morning, I’ll turn to him and say, “Honey, do you love me?”

To which he replies, “Sure, I love you.”

“Great,” I say to him. “We just saved about $8 because we don’t have to buy any greeting cards for each other.”

We laugh and go about our day. We don’t need stuff to show our love. I don’t expect flowers (they die). I love chocolate, but neither of us wants any since we are both trying to lose weight. It’s too crowded at restaurants.

My love language is words of affirmation. All my husband has to do for Valentine’s Day is talk sweet to me, and I melt. I’m good. And we save a lot of money.

“If love is free, why does it cost so much to express it?” asked’s Chris Kahn. “Valentine’s Day can be ridiculously, unromantically expensive — especially for those of us who wait until the last minute to buy something. It’s the ultimate example of a demand-induced price spike. Everyone in America is searching for the same, relatively small set of gifts: chocolates, roses, greeting cards, ‘romantic’ dinners. And retailers know it.”

The average person will spend $142.31 on candy, flowers, apparel and more this Valentine’s Day, up from $133.91 last year, according to the National Retail Federation. The group says total spending is expected to reach $18.9 billion.

Turns out married couples do spend less on each other. Married people said they plan on spending about $136 to celebrate Valentine’s Day, $18 less than engaged couples, according to Rakuten, an online retail marketplace.

And it’s not just spending for mates. The NRF survey found that nearly 60 percent of consumers will spend on other family members, children’s classmates and their teachers.

If you’re aren’t a skilled penny pincher, here are some tips to help you celebrate on the cheap:

●Kahn of says: “The easiest thing to do to save money is to DIY your Valentine’s Day! Make your own cards and write your own messages. Cook dinner instead of go out to a busy restaurant! You’ll get more mileage out of a low-cost gift that’s built from a little time and effort — and love!”

●Know your partner’s love language, writes Abby Hayes for U.S. News and World Report. “The key to a great relationship — not just a great one-time date for a special night — is understanding each other,” she writes. “So think about the times when your significant other has responded most warmly to you. Was it after a long back rub? When you complimented her appearance or told him why he’s important to you? . . . Why is this relevant for your upcoming date? Because if you can plan a date where you both end up feeling loved and happy, you’ll be successful — even if you only spend $5!”

●“Re-enact your first date,” suggests Erik Folgate for the Money Crashers Web site. “Chances are that your first date wasn’t too extravagant, and he or she will melt over the thought.”

●Talk money. “If that doesn’t sound romantic, think again,” writes Carolyn Bigda for Kiplinger. “A 2014 survey of married couples by the consumer services division of the credit bureau Experian found that 73 percent of women and 60 percent of men say they found their spouse more attractive when he or she was willing to talk about personal finances.”

Color of Money Question of the Week

What’s the best Valentine’s Day gift you ever got that didn’t cost a lot of money? Send your comments to Please include your full name, city and state. In the subject line, put “Valentine’s Day on the Cheap.”

Live online chat today

Let’s talk love and money. Please join me at noon Eastern time for my weekly live online personal finance discussion. Join the chat today.

And mark your calendars for next week, Feb. 12. I’ll be joined by the authors of “The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In or Moving On,” the Color of Money Book Club selection for this month. Here’s my review.

Love and Money Discussion

You may decide you don’t want to ruin a romantic evening talking money, but should you decide it would be a good discussion to have, Kiplinger has a couples and money quiz to help get the conversation going.

“Money doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your love life,” writes Kiplinger’s Lisa Gerstner. “With the right attitude, even financially incompatible couples can live happily ever after.”

So, take the quiz.

Honey, I Need Some Money!

Got financial issues with your honey? Tell me about it as part of the Color of Money “Honey, I Need Some Money!” contest. How do you and your partner handle your finances? Do discussions end in fights? Send your comments to

Winners get a free copy of my book “Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich.”

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to