Valentine’s Day: Cheap Dates and Quality Time

As Valentine’s Day is fast approaching (February 14th is this coming Tuesday), you may still need to come up with an affordable date idea. If we broke the bank to celebrate every holiday throughout the year, we’d be broke ourselves.  

Yes, you can absolutely splurge a little on an expensive dinner out, but if you’re looking to save money this year maybe you can try some of the following five activities:

  1. Instead of spending money on typical Valentine’s products, mutually decide on an at home activity that you could invest in.

16299381_1291067520951162_1872430606541810506_nThis year Chris and I bought a new boardgame that we can play with just two people (up to six) called Pandemic. We had a night recently when we became more familiar with the rules so that we can really enjoy it on Valentine’s Day. Romance can mean different things to different people, and to us in our first year of marriage (third year of living together), our best-friendship is a big part of our love. We embrace our friendship by making sure we will both have fun – we hang out. If you’re on a smaller budget I suggest checking out the games section of Value Village, I’ve found some great games there for under $5.00!

  1. Find a recipe on Pinterest.

the_best_of_dean_martinIf you have the time, cooking together can be a lot of fun. Chris and I often like to put on a playlist that works well with our meal. For example, when we cook pasta I like to put on my Dean Martin album, or sometimes we just put on a 90’s Spotify playlist to sing and dance to. You will either share pride over your delicious meal or laugh at what bad cooks you are which will make for a funny memory – it’s about the quality time you spend together more than it’s about the quality of the food.

  1. Write a love letter.

Chris and I have done this a few times for past Valentine’s Days as well as anniversaries. It costs nothing and makes you feel really good about each other. This is the kind of gift that takes a little thought and effort, but goes a long way. Writing each other letters is also a good practise to keep up healthy communication and remind one another why you’re together. Don’t be afraid to add some humour into it with inside jokes, love letters don’t have to be all serious (they’re meant to make you smile).

  1. Borrow a classic romance movie from the public library.

Sometimes Netflix just doesn’t cut it, especially if you’re like me and have watched basically every romantic comedy on the list. When that happens, you can check out this incredibly useful resource that exists in most cities called the library. You can even put things on hold or find out which branch has which DVD via the good ol’internet – this is better than Blockbuster. My local library carries modern movies as well as many older classics, including a personal favourite: Roman Holiday. Watching a movie on a comfy couch (not necessarily the big one with dust bunnies), having the ability to pause for bathroom breaks, and not paying outrageous prices for snacks are all good reasons to avoid the movie theatre this Valentine’s Day.

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  1. Explore a local art gallery.
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Hand Embroidery I made of the RMG last year.

Want to actually leave the house? Many cities have art galleries with free or donation based admission like The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) in my hometown or the Station Gallery one city over. I strongly encourage people who “don’t do art” to try this date idea, I think you’ll be surprised at how much you might enjoy yourself. Galleries are fantastic places to walk (healthy) and talk (healthy for your relationship). You can see how similar you are or just how much your tastes differ. Chris and I also like to make fun of the odd piece, again an art gallery doesn’t have to be a strictly serious environment – have fun!


These five ideas are simple and affordable, some also allow for comfort which is a huge plus in my books. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about extravagant gifts, it should be about celebrating your love for each other by spending time together and creating positive memories.

Let me know what some of your plans are in the comments!

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The Gift to Thrift: $8507 Wedding Budget Breakdown

(Scroll to the end to see screenshot of my Wedding Wire Budget)

I first started this blog by briefly introducing the internet to my August 2016 wedding. As I said then, my fiancé and I are really proud of how much money we saved by doing the whole thing for $8507.00. Today I thought that I’d breakdown the budget for you and give you some helpful tips when planning your own wedding for under $10,000.

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Tip #1: Before you start, buy a ‘coupon holder’ from the dollar store.
I used this to organize all of my receipts and the companies’ business cards – it was extremely helpful.

Our wedding was in Brooklin, Ontario Canada. We looked for venues within the Durham Region that weren’t typical wedding venues so that they wouldn’t come with that dreaded wedding price tag. Since our wedding was to host approximately 75 guests, smaller venues were an option and we actually found quite a few that were less than the one we ended up with. We just fell in love with the community centre’s modern architecture and windows.

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Our venue was the Brooklin Community Centre and Library, multi-purpose room.

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Tip #2: Sign up on Wedding Wire’s website.
I actually accidentally got started on the American version of the website rather than the Canadian one, but it worked out fine. Either site is recommended because of how helpful they are. Wedding Wire hosts multiple online services in one place. I personally used the budget tracker, personal wedding website, RSVP counter, and vendor reviews.


Three Highest Costs

The main chunks of our wedding budget went to catering, venue rental, and alcohol.

  • Catering = $3,393.68      
  • Venue Rental + Insurance = $1,215.57    
  • Alcohol = $890.00 (after returns)

Our catering price was actually approximately $2000.00 above what we had initially planned for. Chris and I are pretty laid back and had actually wanted to hire a local pulled pork place and use fancy looking paper plates. Due to ‘objections’ to our super casual dinner plans from both sides of our families we reluctantly upped the budget to get a caterer with better quality serving ware. This is one of the only things that we budged on to please our parents. What I’m saying is, if you’re up for a really casual dinner, you can get yours for about $2000.00 – just do your homework locally!

Our venue rental went through the city of Whitby’s permit coordinating services which was made more difficult by employees switching positions halfway through planning (the first woman was a joy to deal with and the second was not). They provided the tables and chairs without any added price which was great too, our caterer had linens.

We probably bought close to $2000.00 worth of alcohol for the wedding. Chris wanted to be overprepared and if you get help from an LCBO employee that has worked with a bride and groom in the past, they will help you buy the right amount and right size of bottles to help make returns a lot easier. We were very happy that people drank quite a bit, and we didn’t run out of anything. Our bar tender (from the caterer) worked hard that night, yet we still brought back half of what we bought!

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Tip #3: Feel lucky.
Yes, I won my wedding gown, BUT (and this is a big but) someone was going to win and it could be you. The wedding dress doesn’t have to be a big price listed on your wedding budget. You should go to every boring/tiring bridal show you can to enter their contests. Even if you don’t win your gown, there are a ton of other options to save money here. With accessories and alterations, my ‘free’ gown cost me just under $500.00 which was my dress budget before winning anyway.

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I had planned on wearing a gorgeous gown (colourful or not) from an expensive dress store like Melanie Lynn, Laura, BCBG, or The Bay. Do we really need to wear white on our wedding day? I think not. I would have had just as much fun in a bright emerald green dress.

I had also considered buying a used wedding gown – I’ll be selling my own once I get it dry-cleaned. Women only wear these things for one day! ONE DAY – that’s nothing! I wear vintage clothes from the 1960s that have been worn many more times than these gowns that need new homes. Adopt don’t shop applies to both dogs and dresses!


Biggest Cost Savers

Four of our biggest cost savers were using grocery store flowers, not hiring a DJ, having a friend do the photography, and having nimble fingers for DIY projects.

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Have you heard of the cost of flowers for a wedding? Too much to spend on things that cannot be reused. I pre-ordered the flowers that I wanted for my wedding from Sobeys to be ready to be picked up on the morning of the wedding. Our flowers cost $158.28 – total, for centrepieces, bridesmaid bouquets, and one bridal bouquet. We arranged them ourselves and the guys really didn’t care about having boutonnieres. It’s all about considering what is actually important to you.

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One of my favourite photos from the wedding: Chris and I after the ceremony, walking out to Beat Your Heart Out by The Distillers.

We asked one of our best friends to help us coordinate the music that I had carefully downloaded for the night. We used our iPad to have a dinner music playlist, a dance playlist, and separate areas for important cued songs including those used during the ceremony, first dance, father-daughter/mother-son dances, etc. My only suggestion here is that you use a computer with iTunes instead of the iPad. The tablet device didn’t provide the option to fade into songs which as a perfectionist bothered me. Our closest friends and family enjoyed themselves and danced a bunch! My step-mom was actually impressed enough to ask me to provide the music for her parent’s 50th anniversary this past October.

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This is a personal favourite of mine

When we started looking for photography I wanted to ask people that I knew first. Amazingly, after asking my friend Caitlin Currie how much she would charge, she offered her services to me for free out of kindness and friendship. She did us a massive favour and we love our photos, we wanted to give her at least a little something though so we gave her $200.00. What we love most about our photos is how candid some of them are or the way that they look real compared to how overly Photoshopped some wedding photos are these days. They are us and she did a wonderful job.

Things that I did myself/with the help of friends and family:

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  • Cut and assembled paper decorations (bunting and paper airplanes on yarn)
  • Made our cake topper (Dollar store dinos with crafty clothes)
  • Partially personalized bridesmaid gifts (hangers and embroidered makeup bags)
  • Invitations and Guest Coaster favours (Used an easy editing site called PicMonkey.com and then used my own designs when ordering them off of Vista Print’s website when they were half price)
  • Candy Bar bags (bought brown paper bags from the dollar store and stamped 100 of them with mom)
  • Grey table runners with iron on hems (Thank you Heather Luckhart for holding the scary iron)
  • My makeup

 

Tip #4: Thrift shops, thrift shops, and more thrift shops.
When I say this, I don’t only mean storefronts, but also wonderful resale apps like Kijiji and Varagesale. I bought so many of our decorations used and for half or less of their original price. Varagesale became a personal favourite of mine because of their glorious Holidays-Wedding category in which users consistently posted barely used decorations from their own weddings. Often times, you have a large gap between getting engaged and getting married, the key is to always be on the lookout for deals and to convince your fiancé that a wedding item storage room is necessary (half of our office was dedicated to this).

So with a ton of hard work on not only my part, but the efforts put forth by my friends and family, we were able to keep our wedding under $10,000! We loved our special day without spending the price of a house down payment and are happier for it!

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Last bunch of Tips:
#5: Don’t have one set image of how your wedding should be.

#6: Things don’t have to match to work – we used an assortment of different sized glass vases for flowers.

#7: Pinterest and budget blogs are your best friend for DIY ideas, have confidence in yourself.

#8: What matters is that you enjoy your wedding, stop trying to impress people by going big.

#9: Let parental figures have the occasional win, but this is your wedding, they already had theirs and I bet they wanted it their way too.

#10: Have fun. Things will never be perfect, that doesn’t exist. Your attitude is really important in creating one of the happiest days of your life.

 


Finally, here is a screenshot of my Wedding Wire Budget page:

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