Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and it rarely comes cheap. Consumers are expected to spend $20.7 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That's about $161.96 per consumer, a six percent increase over last year's $19.6 billion.
For some, Valentine's Day is the holiday for love. For businesses, it's an opportunity to hike up prices and capitalize on consumer spending. In other words, it's one of the worst times of the year to splurge. But if you play your cards right, it's more than possible to celebrate on a budget or, even better, leverage Valentine's Day to earn money. Here's how:
Celebrating with a romantic getaway can add up fast. Hotel rooms are generally 25 percent more expensive on Valentine's Day, according to the travel website Hipmunk. Throw in airfare and things will start to get pricey. Instead, curb your spending by booking a staycation at a local hotel or cozy Airbnb.
Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards suggests taking advantage of a sign-up bonus with a cashback card. Many promotions will offer you $100 or $150 back when you spend $500 in the first three months. "You can use that cashback bonus to put toward a hotel night or combine with other points to get yourself a jump-start on paying for a staycation."
You can also earn additional points by putting your Valentine's Day expenses on a rewards card, then paying it off in full at the end of the billing cycle.
The typical couple spends up to $170 on a romantic Valentine's Day dinner, according to Zagat. That's a lot of dough for one meal, not to mention the stress of scrambling for a reservation on one of the busiest nights of the year.
Whipping up a homemade meal in your kitchen can be just as special, and a whole heck of a lot cheaper. Instead of a five-course lobster dinner, consider recreating your first-date meal instead, or going with a budget-friendly recipe, like a decadent pasta dish with homemade bread. Top it off with some fruit and chocolate fondue.
Services like HelloFresh and Blue Apron can also take the headache out of cooking without busting your wallet. Both offer free-trial periods, which you could use for Valentine's Day before canceling. (Neat trick, right?)
On average, most spas charge anywhere from $50 to $90 for a 45- to 60-minute massage, according to consumer resource site CostHelper.com. And you can expect to shell out more if you live in a major metro area or throw in extra goodies like hot stones or a couples massage.
Going the DIY route can be just as romantic (and way cheaper). You can make your own bath bombs in 10 minutes for as little as $5. From there, light a few candles, put on some music, and enjoy the ambiance of an at-home spa.
This is a pretty hands-off way to earn some extra money this Valentine's Day, especially since more people are on the lookout for last-minute gifts. (Translation: Demand is higher around gift-giving holidays, with cardholders having the upper hand.) Sites like GiftCardGranny and GiftCards.com are ideal platforms for offloading unwanted gift cards for a profit. At Cardpool, average resale values range from below 70 to 90 percent, depending on how popular the card is.
On the flip side, those looking to save money on Valentine's day gifts can use these sites to find gift cards on the cheap. It isn't uncommon to find savings steeper than 50 percent off.
A solid side hustle is another way to pad your wallet ahead of Valentine's Day, or even on the holiday. In fact, roughly 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population already engage in some type of independent work, according to a 2016 report by the McKinsey Global Institute. And with Valentine's Day being such a big date night, it's also a prime time for raking in some extra cash.
Uber, for example, charges surge prices during peak times. Side hustlers who moonlight as babysitters will also have an easier time finding work on Valentine's Day — it's the second most in-demand night for sitters. In fact, most parents are willing to spend up to $19 per hour for a sitter, according to Care.com.
Marianne Hayes is a freelance writer covering everything from personal finance to spiritual growth. Her work has been published in MagnifyMoney, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Good Housekeeping and Forbes. Follow her on Twitter @hayesmarianne.
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