Feel flash without cash

Want to make waves this Valentine's Day, but finances a bit dry?

Dubai - July 8, 2008.  A couple walk on the public beach at night, near the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. ( Philip Cheung / The National ) EDITORS NOTE: POSSIBLE OASIS *** Local Caption ***  PC0135-dubai2.jpgPC0135-dubai2.jpg
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In our previous issues we have enjoyed "spending" our hard-earned money on a variety of things that have kept us entertained, relaxed or healthy and active. In this issue I thought a challenge would be preferable, and propose some simpler ways to show your care, rather than relying on money. Romance doesn't come with price tag. In this "consumerist" society, in which we are tempted from all sides to buy, it seems appropriate to pose the question: could you impress with less money? Can we possibly resist the temptation to flip out our wallet and pull out the cash or card?

The way I see it, with money tighter than ever, here and now is the ideal time to take on what could be seen as the more interesting challenge of breaking the spending habit. The dismal economic scene can serve as an unexpected catalyst for our more "creative resources". To woo without the cash. True substance over flash.

What happened to the days where couples sent each other letters? Remember those? Sheets of paper on which beautiful calligraphy expressed feelings, ideas and thoughts? Today we type, or worse, copy and paste something into an email and just click send. This method is terribly impersonal, wouldn't you agree? Time to perfect your handwriting and set out to personalise this year's Valentine card or letter. Instead of purchasing that Hallmark card, consider a single sheet of paper with your very own words, in the form of a poem, for example. It is a given that you can find a good sheet of paper or two anywhere, and surely you already own a pen. On the expense side, this option is a saver. A block of paper and a pen are approximately Dh8.

Put some real thought into it. You can buy a bouquet for your better half, but how about putting your own together? Some flower shops allow you to prepare your own arrangements, and that knocks off the fils in the overall price. Instead of flowers that will inevitably perish in a few days, choose a small plant. Carrefour has some good options that will cost you the same as the classic bouquet. But your investment will last longer. If you really have your heart set on flowers, then try this: buy half a dozen and leave them in several different places for your loved one. Think of how nice it would feel to have little surprises every day for a week, all for the price of one bouquet. An average bouquet will run about Dh110.

Serenading someone is an enjoyable experience. It can take a good deal of courage, and you can't buy that. For this you have several options. If you are musically inclined, chances are you have your own guitar, or you can borrow from a friend. For the rest of us there is always the trusted MP3 player and speakers. The costs here are non-existent if the speakers are chargeable. Otherwise you are looking at the expense of batteries to power your soundtrack for the evening. If you can manage to serenade your date before leaving home and can incorporate an upstairs window, then more points to you, and still no cost. But the batteries are Dh27.

Picnics are an entertaining and relaxing way to spend a small amount of money and get a considerable amount of enjoyment out of it. It is a time when you are alone and focused with a loved one and canenjoy their company. It can be a great way to show how much you care about them. Picking the destination can sometimes be difficult, because there are usually so many options available. If you have visited an area once and had good luck, this place might be the best option for you to stage your meal. Most of items that you need for your picnic are likely already in your home. Blankets, cushions, glasses, plates, cutlery and napkins: these are all things you are saving money on. Your only expense will be the food you prepare and enjoy. Again, being creative will go a long way to keeping expenditures on the low side. Throw in a bottle of sparkling juice for Dh9.

If the great outdoors is not your cup of tea, then opt to stay at home this time. Instead of dining out try a home-cooked dinner for two.

Try cooking a simple meal together if your culinary skills are not that vast. One of the simplest and least expensive meals will usually involve pasta and the sauce that accompanies it. There are many varieties available to suit the most varied palates. The time spent together is worth more than money. If you don't have candles then that might be a small expense to consider. Instead of going to the movies, watch a "classic" that you have around the house and have not seen in a while. Bank on a nice pasta and sauce for Dh57.

Whatever your choice of venue for this occasion, you can always enhance your evening by enjoying a walk under the stars. It's such a simple way to spend some quality time with another person, yet so rarely done by the majority of people. The location for the starlit stroll might be a challenge. But it will cost you nothing.

As a reminder of the evening, why not burn a CD with a few of the songs you both enjoy? The CD will only cost you around Dh3.

You can spread joy in such remarkable ways. Looking into charities or causes you both believe in can only reinforce your ability to communicate and to find out more about one other. This can be an extraordinary experience to share, and the memories you create on this simple day will certainly strengthen your bond as a couple.

Overall, Valentine's Day certainly doesn't mean you need to overcharge your credit card. It's a time when you can display affection toward someone you care for without paying a mint. psantos@thenational.ae