These days, we equate Valentine's Day with conspicuous consumption, but it wasn’t always that way. In the 16th century, formal messages were sent on this day, but it was not until close to the end of the 18th century that the economic aspects of Valentine's Day began to kick in with commercially-printed cards. In the United States, however, commercial cards weren't printed until the mid-19th century.

Of course, it didn't take long before cards were merely seen as the entrée. Candy, especially expensive chocolates, and flowers, especially timely marked up expensive red roses, also became necessary to express the joy of love.

Valentine’s Day is not only popular in Canada and the United States, but it’s also celebrated in a myriad of other countries. It's now a global juggernaut occasion, with each country evolving its own traditions around the day.

While you certainly want to be sure to send flowers and thoughtful ecards, Valentine's Day should be more than equating romantic love with spending money.

Here are 7 helpful suggestions to go beyond the commercial aspects of this special day.

7 Ways to Make Valentine’s Day Special

1. You can still spend money on Valentine’s Day. The key is to minimize how much you want to spend and maximize the value of what you spend. At a certain point, spending money alone no longer yields much satisfaction; it’s rather like eating too much candy.

2. Create your own gifts. For instance, if you’re a gardener and lucky enough to live in a non-snowy climate, pluck a handful of flowers from your garden. If you’re a cook, whip up a delicious meal for two.

3. Even if you're not a cook, bake and decorate some cupcakes. They're pretty easy not to screw up -- fr this occasion, store bought cake mix will do. And if you're baking a dozen, you can afford to mess up a few in the decorating process. Those ones can be for 'taste-testing.'

4. Come up with love vouchers -- silly coupons made out of construction paper for one day of each week with a thoughtful gift. Here are some examples:

“This voucher is good for one day of dishwashing, redeemable within the next three months.”

“This voucher is good for one month of watching your favourite television show without any channel surfing on my part, redeemable within the next three weeks only.”

You get the idea. Go wild. Enjoy the process. Make it fun. Share a good laugh.

5. Give the gift of time. One reason why people get into a relationship is because they want to get to know someone better. Unfortunately, we are all so busy that you probably have not given your lover the gift of your precious attention. Valentine’s Day can be a day when you can do things like go for long hikes and have deep, philosophical discussions about the meaning of life and love -- or just enjoy the quiet of being outdoors.

6. Create your own home entertainment event. Instead of going to a restaurant and a movie out, why not create your own special home environment, where you can serve your own meals. It can be as frivolous as popcorn or more sublime, like a gourmet meal served on a table lit with candles. You can also create your own entertainment menu: choosing from different board games, playing video games, and watching favourite DVDs. If you're worried about what you're cooking, prepared foods in groceries stores are pretty reasonably priced these days.

7. Do something special all day. You don’t just have to create a special evening together at home, you can stretch the idea out to include the whole day. In the morning, you can go for a hike; in the afternoon, walk by a lake; and in the evening, go star-gazing. Notice how all of these activities can be done at zero cost.

Valentine’s Day is more about spending time with the person you love than spending money on each other. It can be more than just a day of gift giving, at least not presents of the costly variety.

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