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Family Ties: Surviving Valentines Day on a budget
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Valentine's Day can be a costly holiday. To reduce the cost but retain the sentiment of the day, move beyond traditions. There are a variety of ways to show loved ones how much they mean to you without emptying your wallet.

You can give a creative gift made by hand:

n A homemade present such as a recipe box of handwritten recipes or create a digital family recipe book and send by e-mail or burn to a disk.

n A scrapbook of memories and photos. Find one of kind photos and make copies. You can really get creative and make collages or go online and create free virtual albums.

n Bake something special. It could be sweets such as brownies or cupcakes or it could be healthy such as sugar-free cookies or a granola mix.

n Make a bouquet of flowers from gift tissue paper. Check out a book from your local library for even more fun ideas. Get your children involved. They enjoy making crafts and even more they love spending the time with you.

n Write a love letter to your spouse, the person you are dating or your children. Children love getting "personal" mail so stamp it and drop it off at the post office.

n Decorate the table for all meals on Valentine's Day. You can simply cut out hearts or buy one rose and spread out the petals over the table.

n Make heart-shaped pancakes or French toast (do it the night before to save time early in the morning).

n Look for free activities that could make for a fun date night. Check out a classic movie at your library. Make your own gourmet popcorn (add sugar and cinnamon, parmesan cheese, chili powder, etc.) Get out several of your photo albums or cd disks and recall the happy memories from your wedding, vacations or time spent with family.

Green tips for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day can also be costly to our environment, so think green. These ideas will help you treat your wallet and the earth right on this romantic day.

Each year, millions of cards, candy and flowers are exchanged on Valentine's Day. This year, before purchasing a card, consider making a card from recycled or natural materials.

If you don't have time to make a card, send an e-card. Many e-cards are free. By making a card from recycled or natural products, or by sending an e-card, you can reduce the amount of waste produced and save money.

Old Valentine's Day cards (and cards for all occasions) can be sent to the St. Jude's Ranch for Children's Recycled Card Program to be reused. For more information, visit their website at

Instead of going out to eat at a restaurant, plan a candlelight dinner at home. Make your family favorites or try some new recipes. Use locally grown foods and products if possible.

Not sure what to buy that special someone? Why not give a gift certificate in which you offer services such as to clean the garage, wash the car or watch the kids for an afternoon?

Encourage your children to make gift certificates for the ones they love, also.

Instead of buying a dozen roses that will wilt and die, invest in long-term flowers such as a rose bush. Adults aren't the only ones who love flowers. Buy your son or daughter their own rose bush. Teach them (or learn with them) how to care for their plant.

Check out a book from your library or come by our Extension office for a free pamphlet to find out how to care for roses.

Color is definitely a personal preference. While the red rose may be the first to come to mind especially around Valentine's Day, a rainbow of colors exits. Some of the most popular rose colors with the sentiments they express are:

  • Red: Love, respect
  • Deep pink: Gratitude, appreciation
  • Light pink: Admiration, sympathy
  • White: Reverence, humility
  • Yellow: Joy, gladness
  • Orange: Enthusiasm, desire
  • Red and yellow: Gaiety, joviality
  • Yellow: Sociability, friendship

Adapted from University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Her Family Ties column appears in Sunday Life on the first Sunday of each month and on Contact: 770-535-8290.

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