Celebrating on a budget

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It is not uncommon for Valentine’s Day to become the single most expensive non-traditional holiday, given all the splurging on gifts to impress that special someone. Valentine’s Day is more than just a day, where it is not uncommon for florists to thrive and chocolate companies to worm their way into relationships. While celebrating with one special someone may be nice on Valentine’s Day,  figuring out how to afford the perfect gift on a college budget can be quite difficult.

Consumers spend on average $116.21 on Valentine’s Day each year, according to statisticbrain.com. College students  living on a budget may consider that expensive. Financially responsible but  “broke” college students may want to try a simple Valentine’s Day, like freshman English education major Larson Hicks, who plans to celebrate the holiday with his girlfriend.

“We [Hicks and his girlfriend] have been together for six years,” Hicks said. “And I usually surprise her by getting a Valentine’s Day chocolate heart box, and [I] take out the chocolate and replace it with her favorite candy. One year, I put a pack of Sour Patch Kids in there. I always end up giving her the chocolate anyway, though.”

While heart-shaped boxes or packages of candy can be found at any local convenience store, Walmart sells a collection of Valentine’s Day heart-shaped chocolate candy boxes for less than $10. The boxes can vary depending on one’s preference. Walmart’s most popular Valentine’s Day heart-shaped box of chocolate is a 16-piece assortment of milk and dark chocolate for $6. Walmart also has a wide variety of candy such as Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, M&M’s and many others for under $5.

However, if you happen to be celebrating Valentine’s Day the day after, Walmart and other convenience stores such as Kroger, Meijer and even Walgreens mark down the price of the holiday-themed candy.

Hicks said that what he wanted most from his girlfriend was to spend time with her just doing mundane things.

“Never underestimate a dinner and a movie,” Hicks said. “It’s the perfect time to get to know each other more, and [also] more time to just bond with one another.”

For students who do not want to go out to the movies on Valentine’s Day, Redbox is a convenient way to watch movies at home for just a $1.50  plus tax per day. The company specializes in DVDs, Blu-ray and video game rentals. It has more than 34,000 locations at local convenience stores, fast food restaurants, grocery stores, mass retailers and pharmacies, including the Kroger on East Street.

For those who prefer the “classics,” Walmart offers a $5 bin of movies, including a two-for-one price romantic collection featuring “The Notebook” and “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”

Walmart also offers action-packed or horror movies for people who are not interested in romantic movies. Movies such as “Die Hard” and Stephen King films like “The Shining” and “Carrie” also appear in the $5 bin.

Another student who participates in the annual Valentine’s Day gift exchange with her boyfriend is sophomore graphic design major Linzie Williams. She said that due to conflicting schedules, she is trying to arrange a time for them to celebrate.

“I actually have class that night [Valentine’s Day], so I am planning to take him out the night before, or the weekend before,” she said. “It’s best to just go simple. Our favorite restaurant is Olive Garden, so that is where we will probably go.”

Both Hicks and Williams said they were willing to spend $30-$60 on their significant others for Valentine’s Day. Indianapolis offers many local restaurants that are romantic and affordable.

One of many places to celebrate on Valentine’s Day evening is The Melting Pot, located on East 86th Street. The Melting Pot often has special Valentine’s Day menus that are within budget.

A night in with take-out or delivery is another budget-friendly option. Papa Johns, Great Wall Chinese Restaurant and Marty’s Restaurant & Lounge are some take-out restaurants near campus. Many other restaurants also offer pick-up or delivery options.   

Both Hicks and Williams recommend a simple and laid back Valentine’s Day with their significant others.

“It’s just the thought that counts,” Hicks said, “giving gifts with meaning is what matters.”

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