September 10, 2012

Anniversaries and Other "Love" Holidays: On a Budget!

I'm happy to say that the Hubs and I just celebrated five wonderful years together as husband and wife! Marriage is always challenging, but when you add a military lifestyle to the mix, things get really interesting. We've had our share of ups and downs, for sure. But we are here for each other no matter what the circumstances.

The Hubs and I had a beautiful wedding, but never a honeymoon. To make up for it, on our first anniversary, we took a week-long trip to the Outer Banks...

Beach in Rodanthe, NC 

... and since our first celebratory trip, we've never actually spent another anniversary together again, until now.

This is one of those instances where the military gets in the way of your plans. Most civilian couples spend their special day together, but we've spent countless holidays apart. Birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving... you name it.

We've developed certain habits to combat the disappointment. Instead of flowers and a fancy dinner on our day (impossible, since we were always apart!), we combined several occasions together into one big celebration. Our birthdays fall just on either side of our anniversary, so we usually miss out on those days together too.

Our plan? To pick a weekend, or a whole week (whatever we have time for!), and celebrate with a trip together. During the trip, we enjoy our fancy dinner together. We relax at the spa. We go hiking or shopping, anything that strikes our fancy. Usually, we surprise each other by picking out gifts while we're out and about, something we can remember the weekend by. These trinkets are scattered around our place, constant reminders of the memories we share.

SO, you can imagine our consternation this year, when we were together on our anniversary. Out of habit, we already planned a weekend away together next month, to the International Balloon Fiesta, including a dinner reservation at the Melting Pot.

What to do on our anniversary then? We didn't want to spend gobs of money, because our vacation is just around the corner...

This started us thinking. Instead of blowing tons of money on various things, we wanted to do as much together with as little money as possible.

And you know what?

Our day was AWESOME. With very little funding, we had one of our best days. And I can't resist letting you in on all our secrets!

1. Greeting Cards: The price of greeting cards runs from the inexpensive $0.99 cards to the $7.99 musical numbers, or even higher. Often, the Hubs and I skip cards altogether, instead writing each other fun little notes. This year, we took the idea a bit further.

Did you know there are many places online where you can personalize and create your own cards? Some sites contain instructions on how to build your card from items around the home; others are sites which offer print at home, either for free or a  minimal cost.

This year, the Hubs made me a 'surprise inside' card, shaped like a Hershey's kiss (pictured above)! After untying the ribbon, several layers of sweet messages greeted me. He found the tutorial online here: Personalized Pyramid Card

I'm a more traditional girl, mainly because if I tried to make a fancy card, it would wind up as a pile of crumpled paper. I don't have enough patience. Instead, I found a printable site and personalized the card before printing it at home! There are many, many sites which offer this option, but here are a few I found:

Greeting Bee FREEBIES

2. Breakfast in Bed: This is a super easy way to say 'I love you'! If you're anything like me, then you do all the cooking. One of my favorite things is when the Hubs cooks for me, instead of the other way around.  Boxed pancake mix is simple, and inexpensive. You can dress up this basic breakfast by serving your pancakes with heart-shaped strawberries on top.

What if your significant other doesn't like pancakes? Or, heaven forbid, strawberries??

There are other solutions! Check out these links for some fun ideas:

Romantic Breakfast Recipes

More Recipes

... and even more!

How to decorate the tray

Tips from Mr. Breakfast

            3. Flowers: Flowers, flowers, flowers... so beautiful, so lovely, and so expensive. And yet, women love flowers. Even me!

For the Hubs and I, it's hard to justify funds on a gift that will eventually die. Not everyone feels this way. But there are a few tricks out there to save some dough. For example, instead of spending $100 on a professional arrangement, purchase a simple bouquet at your local grocery store and arrange the flowers yourself.

Arranging flowers a little too scary for you? Try out these tips and tricks: 10 Fun Tips for Flower Arranging. You can do it!

Another great idea to earn some brownie points? Make your own paper, tissue, or origami flowers. Don't be afraid to try something new! If you fail, you can always buy that expensive bouquet, right?  Take a look at some of these Paper Flower Tutorials.

4. Movie night: Another dating tradition, movie night. Sadly, by the time you buy tickets, popcorn, candy, and drinks, your movie night has become an expensive money pit. If you're looking to save some cash, but still have a great time, try some of these money-saving options:

a. Rent from Redbox. At $1.25 a rental, you can watch several movies without hurting your wallet.

b. Browse your personal collection. Put together a movie evening full of your (and your significant other's!) favorite picks.

c. Fancy up your microwave popcorn: Topping ideas, and Popcorn recipes

                    d.   Pick up candy at the supermarket or dollar store.

                    e. Buy your favorite soda/beverage, but serve it with heart-shaped ice cubes.

                    f. Instead of uncomfortable movie-theatre chairs, set the stage with comfy seating                                 arrangements. Use big, fluffy pillows on the couch, offer blankets for snuggling. Be                                 creative!

                   g. Make 'tickets' to commemorate your special day

                   h. Pick a theme. Example: If you're watching "Finding Nemo", have gummy fish or goldfish,                    tint your popcorn blue, etc.

5. Dinner Reservations: Dinner out can really stress your budget. Between appetizers, drinks, entrees, and dessert... it's expensive! Plus, you have to factor in the tip. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save your budget in this area.

a. Instead of eating out, pick up takeout from your favorite restaurant and eat in. Serve dinner on your best china or plates. Heck, serve it on paper plates, picnic style! Get creative and use what you have around you. The cloth napkins that were a wedding gift you never use? USE THEM NOW!

b. Candles always set the mood. Light just a few, or light dozens, whatever you like.

c. Play romantic music in the background. No appropriate music on your iPod? No worries! Start a selection on Pandora or Songza.

d. Cook dinner yourself! Even if you burn it, you can always go to plan B (order pizza and laugh about it!)

Check out these sites for romantic dinner ideas:
Candlelit Dinner Ideas

Romantic Recipes

Aphrodisiac Foods

6. Don't forget Dessert!: Chocolate is almost always a great way to go. Buy it at the supermarket, or make it yourself, but spruce up your dessert with romantic notions. Use heart-shaped cookie cutters or patterns. Add cupcake toppers, or candy hearts. Make fondue and feed it to each other. The ideas are endless! But, if you can't think up any on your own, here are a few ideas:

25 Romantic Desserts

Chocolate-Free Romantic Desserts

Heart-shaped Ideas

All of these things are great ideas to make your day special and not burn a hole in your pocket. But don't forget the MOST important item on the list: ENJOY EACH OTHER. You never know when it might be your last celebration together. Take each moment, and make it last. It doesn't matter how much money you spend, or where you go... what matters is that you're together.

One last tip before I go... record your memories. Take pictures, treasure keepsakes. These items are not only wonderful and sentimental, but they make great ingredients for your gifts next year!

Happy celebrating, my friends!

Thanks for reading, friends! 
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