Consumer Watch: Here are some Valentine gift ideas that won't break the bank

Why not think outside the (candy) box and try something different for Valentine's Day this year? (Photo Illustration: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Almaje)

While beautiful flowers and sumptuous dinners are always a great Valentine's gift for your (male or female) honey, if money's tight this year, do try some inexpensive date ideas to salvage your bank account and your romance. If readers live in sunny and warm climes, they can arrive at outdoor brainstorms, such as moonlit walks on the beach or drinking wine under the stars. For those of us in chillier surroundings, a more ideal plan includes warmer romantic circumstances.

* In lieu of a fancy restaurant, try an indoors picnic date night, either casual or dressy. Make it a swankier picnic by including dishes like lobster and champagne or simply stick with sandwiches and cokes. Dining on the living room or the den floor - complete with fat pillows and a romantic Valentine's fire - often beats going out in the blustering February night to dine among a hundred of your nearest and (not so) dearest.

* Tired of that heart-shaped box of ordinary chocolate candy? "Oh, but my honey loves sweets," you protest. Head for the kitchen! Have on the ready all supplies and ingredients to make his or her favorite dessert and the two of you make it together. Not much could be more romantic (and fun) than sopping the bowl with one spoon and, ultimately, tasting the result.

* Speaking of dessert, instead of dining out, try an economical eatery (or even cook dinner at home) and then waltz over to an upscale restaurant for an extravagant and exclusive dessert.

* For guy givers, consider a Pamper Yourself package. While this isn't necessarily a bargain gift, it's sure to be much appreciated. A day spent at a spa to include a facial, a pedicure/manicure, or a massage will separately cost a fairly insignificant amount when purchased separately; on the other hand, pull out all the stops and treat Sweetie-Pie to all these services for a day (and a night) well spent.

* Take a cooking class together. Several places around our area offer this service. While I don't wish to specify one venue, go online to find an historic B&B that also offers a spectacular Valentine's Morning Breakfast cooking class. The menu and instructions include the following: Creme Brule French toast; crispy maple pecan bacon; Southern-style home fries; and sweet red-rimmed wine glasses complete with raspberry-infused champagne. After preparation and cooking, plight your troth again to one another. Yum!

* How about a couple's wine tasting? Total Wine at several locations in and around Atlanta or even local wine stores/wineries provide a class in which the couple samples wine and chocolate pairings for, usually, around $20 per person. Go online to choose the class and location for which you're most interested.

* Writing from the Heart is, in my opinion, the most romantic Valentine's gift of all. " Knock Knock What I Love About You Fill in the Love Book Fill-in-the-Blank Gift Journal" is a little book from Amazon, costing less than $10. If you order RIGHT NOW, you've still got time to use the book's simple prompts that make it easy to express yourself. With completion of each line - voila! - you've given a uniquely personal gift that your loved one will read again and again.

* And speaking of reading over and over, decorate a box, jar, or other similar container that holds any number of one-a-day "I love you because" catchphrases. I think I originally suggested this to readers several years ago after having presented to Hubby as a piggyback concept from a couple of years before my mother died. For that event, each slogan began with "I love my Mama because" For my own sweetheart, I chose to come up with a single month's worth of "becauses," although the number of days to draw each piece of paper is as great as your imagination (and allotted time) allows.

photo Ellen Phillips

Contact Ellen Phillips at [email protected].