Don't get ripped off this Valentine's Day

By Staff Writer
Nicolette Dirk, finance writer,
After barely recovering from the festive hangover, South Africans will have to prepare to fork out for Valentine’s Day tomorrow. Valentine’s costs add up with the usual gifts and romantic dinners but there are ways to cut down on these costs this year. 
“Valentine’s Day tends to be an expensive day for most people. It can easily cost close to R800 when you factor in all the different elements such as cards, chocolates, a dinner out and flowers,” said Eunice Sibiya, head of consumer education at FNB.
Damon Sivitilli, financial consultant at DebtBusters, said the spending culture of consumers is not as big as during the Christmas festive season. But he added that even a small loan for a gift can push someone, already in a financial crunch, over the edge.
“For Valentine’s Day people will generally spend more on luxury items and eating out and sometimes borrow extra credit to pay for it,” said Sivitilli.
He added that when it comes to events like birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day or Christmas season, people need plan ahead by saving up. But you should not be using your emergency saving to pay for events. 
Some tips to celebrate Valentine’s special, without over-spending.
Affordable alternatives to chocolate 
“There are plenty of heart shaped chocolates wrapped in red foil or boxes of chocolate on display at stores before Valentine’s, not only are they a cliché, but they are often fairly pricey. There are lots of ways to get your loved one a sweet present without spending a fortune,” said Sibiya. 
A cheap and colourful way to give a gift is to wash out a glass jar and fill it with his or her favourite sweets such as jelly beans or jelly tots and tie it up with a ribbon.  
Skip the store bought flowers 
The cost of flowers at Valentine’s shoots up because of high demand around this period.  
“Rather than buying flowers why don’t you pick some from your garden or even buy a plant, a small pot plant is not very expensive and can last far longer than cut flowers. If you don’t have a garden full of flowers, you could get creative and make them from paper or other materials you can find around the house,” said Sibiya. 
Can the cards 
Consider making your own card, if you have kids get them to help. Try to think out of the box, there are lots of different ways of sending a message without the usual card, and some of them may just be more personal than the usual cheesy greeting card.
Other alternatives are sending an e-card. There are thousands to choose from on the web and some are completely free. Try this site for e-cards:
Shun the restaurants 
Restaurants are usually packed on Valentine’s night and specialised dinner menus are more expensive then the norm. Skip the crowds and have your own special dinner, just the two of you. You can follow Moneybags resident chef, Dion Vengatass’s recipe here and make your partner a romantic but affordable three course meal.
“There are lots of alternatives to the jam-packed pricey restaurants. A home cooked meal with your loved one’s favourite foods should do the trick,” said Sibiya.
For the far-off lovers 
Instead of getting something couriered if that special someone isn’t around this Valentine’s, why don’t send them a gift of airtime, or a voice note. You don’t even have to spend money to buy airtime, you can use your bank rewards to buy airtime for your Valentine, with the proviso that they only spend it on speaking to you points out Sibiya.
“There are plenty of options for those wanting to send a special something this Valentine’s Day, that doesn’t have to break the bank, and may get their heart racing,” she added. 

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