Valentine’s Day is a big deal for adults, who shell out nearly $13.2 billion each year on cards, flowers, candy and gifts for their loved ones. Surprisingly, it’s also an important celebration for kids in the classroom.
After my son’s first preschool celebration, I was shocked to see what he brought home: candy, pencils, and tiny gift bags filled with stickers and other items, along with some elaborate, Pinterest-worthy valentines clearly crafted by someone more skilled than a four-year-old. Our little cartoon-character valentine cards from Target didn’t quite cut it.
In other words, Valentine’s Day has become a big holiday for kids. For parents, it can be a potential budget buster — especially if you haven’t planned for it.
Here are six steps you can take to help your child enjoy his Valentine’s Day celebration without spending too much money — especially on trinkets the kids will likely lose within a week.
1. Find Out What’s Expected and Allowed
If you’re unsure of what’s the norm at your child’s school — some schools may only want “healthy” treats handed out, while others may not allow small toys that could be choking hazards — please ask your child’s teacher or another parent.
It’s always better to ask a question rather than spending money that you find out later you didn’t need to.
2. Use What You Have
Want to give every classmate a pencil with their valentine?
Look around your house for brand new pencils. I’m not talking about those plain yellow No. 2 pencils, but other ones with designs such as balloons, hearts, animals, etc. Through the years, my kids have amassed quite a collection — we have a full drawer of unused pencils. When we handed them out last year to their classmates, no one knew the difference.
Some valentine cards even have special holders for you to easily attach the pencils. If you prefer to make your own, here’s a cool DIY pencil-holding valentine your kids can create themselves.
3. Make Simple Gifts to Hand Out
They don’t need to elaborate, but with just some markers, stickers and sturdy paper, you and your child can make some handmade bookmarks to give to their classmates. This is a good way to use up all those stickers your child has collected.
Cut out pieces of paper three to four inches wide and write one classmate’s name on each one. Then hand over to your child to decorate with stickers, markers, etc. This idea is cost-effective and has a personal touch. Another easy idea to consider is this heart that uses a pixie stick as the arrow.
4. Visit the Dollar Store
Head to your local dollar store and look for stickers or other items you can hand out with your child’s valentine.
They don’t need to be flashy — small sheets of stickers will be just fine. Dollar stores usually have good discounts on bags of candy, too!
5. Double Up
Thinking of giving each student some candy? Look for candy containers that also double as valentines with a “to” and “from” line on them, which saves you from buying cards as well. Fun Dip and those little cardboard boxes of conversation hearts are just two of the many options you can use as a valentine and a candy “gift.”
If you want to go a little healthier, individual bags of fruit snacks and Rice Krispies bars are another good idea for something to hand out that doubles as a valentine.
6. Don’t Buy the First Bag of Candy You See
Drugstores, grocery stores and warehouse clubs all offer deals on candy. Compare the ads to see where you can get the best price and check whether there are any coupons available, including mobile apps like Target’s Cartwheel.
Don’t forget to check the non-Valentine’s Day section of the store to see what candy they have there and if there are any deals.
A final tip that won’t help you with this Valentine’s Day celebration, but will help next year: hit the stores on February 15 and pick up pencils and stickers with hearts when they’re on clearance. You’ll save a bundle and be ready for next year — as long as you remember where you put them!
Your Turn: How do you help your child celebrate Valentine’s Day without breaking your budget?
MaryBeth Matzek is a mother of two and a Wisconsin-based freelance writer. When not spending time with her family or writing, she’s out trying to find the best possible deal.