ROMANCE ON A BUDGET

Spring is my favourite season as it’s the perfect time for love and romance. There’s no better time to declare your love to your partner (or your like to a budding summer interest) than with thoughtful dates, gifts, and mementoes. While it’s fun to drop cash on the guy you’re nuts about – concert tickets, drinks, a baller gift for his birthday – these items can start to add up. To keep from having to get a second job, why not pepper in some frugal and fun options? Here are 5 ways to keep your romance hot and your purse strings taut:

BRING THE RESTAURANT TO YOU

I’m not talking about throwing together some chicken fusilli and opening a bottle of Pinot. I’m talking, become the GM, hostess, sommelier, and server of your own in-house bistro. Yes, cook the fusilli and pick up a bottle of Pinot Grigio, but do it right. Set the mood with lighting and music – tea lights in mason jars and a playlist of your favourite romantic tunes. Decorate with wild flowers or other foraged treasures. Think about your guest’s experience. When he walks in the door, will he instantly feel the romantic ambiance or trip over your roommate’s shoes? Tidy up your space and create your own bistro at home for a fraction of the cost of going out. Your attention to detail and thoughtfulness will never go unnoticed by a fellow worthy of your efforts.

HOMEMADE FROM THE HEART

Cards, mounted pictures, scrapbooks, playlists, framed concert posters, the cork from that first shared bottle of wine – these gifts are priceless in memory and take very few dollars to make. Just because it’s homemade doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have value. Homemade gifts can be cost effective, but it’s the time you take and the thoughtfulness that you pour into these mementoes that show your partner the worth of your combined love. I happen to love making cards for that special someone. Perhaps a collage of things you’ve shared as a design, drawings or poems that you like. Once I even made a Google docs slideshow card! Or what about an iMovie made just for your love? Editing programs can be learned pretty quickly through YouTube tutorials. Before no time you’ll have a completely unique gift for that special someone.

THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE

Part of my gifting modus operandi is surprise. Whether it’s a card or a batch of homemade cupcakes, a great way to score romance points is through surprise. This can be a bit tricky, as you have to be prepared for the risk of failure. For example: “Surprise! I got us reservations at that restaurant you love.” “Noooo! I just joined our office softball league and we’re short players tonight.” This scenario can totally happen. So be prepared. As a personal anecdote (which is perhaps a bit embarrassing since it could have failed so epically), I was nuts about a guy who was out of town for the summer. I missed him and thought a surprise was in order. Not having access to a car, I booked a train ticket, got aboard with an overnight bag, two wine glasses and a bottle of wine. Without warning, I showed up at his door with the two glasses and vino and asked if he was free for a drink tonight? Looking back, I think that’s a bit crazy. He could have not been home, had plans, gosh – even had another woman over! We had a wonderful evening but the potential for disaster was high. But c’mon, you only live once.

USED BOOKSTORES ARE YOUR FRIEND

I love to pick up little things for people just because I was thinking about them. Further to that, my fave gift is a book. The book is a simple yet powerful gift. It says, This whole narrative is particular to you and also that book will forever remind your love of the time you just surprised him or her with a gift out of the blue – which, (sad to say), doesn’t happen often. Used bookstores are perfect for this. They are cost efficient. They often have rare editions. Plus, for me, a really great used book already has character – a few dog-eared pages, a stranger’s handwritten margin notes – I love this. Hopefully your partner will, too.

CITY-WIDE SCAVENGER HUNT

Many years ago, for a one-year anniversary, I pulled off an epic city-wide scavenger hunt for my partner. It was an amazing surprise, and it took a lot of planning, but the execution was simple and the whole thing can be as light or heavy on your wallet as you’d like. The trick to a scavenger hunt is the planning. Basically, you have to plan your route first and then make a series of fun clues that you can post that will lead your partner from one location to the next. But here’s the trick, when you actually go to hide the clues through the city (which was amazing! I hid clues in both obscure and high-trafficked spots and they were still untouched by the time we got to them), work backwards. Move from the end of your destination to the beginning in case any surprises arise. Example: You want the next clue to be at that outdoor café you love, but when you get there, the café is closed because of road construction outside. Work backwards and you can make changes according to the environment.

This was a great surprise because it walked my partner through the city, reminding him of the wonderful things we had done through that year. However, I had hidden one clue under a table at the Pusaterie’s café in Yorkville. When we finally got there on the route, the café had closed and the staff was cleaning up. I will forever be indebted to the manager who, upon hearing our adventure, eagerly asked his staff to sort through the recent garbage to find the clue, which they did! Scavenger hunt saved!

Whether it’s an anniversary, date night, or just because, the most important thing should be spending time with the one you love. At the end of the day, to love and be loved is truly priceless.

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