Yesterday was my second anniversary with wonderful and oft-talked-about Luke. I'm going to avoid getting all mushy gooshy, but I love him to death. We're both very happy we made it to another milestone, and we can't wait to see what's in store for us from here.
We had some pretty nice plans for our anniversary, but it all got thwarted when we both found out we were in possession on a collective $150 in our checking accounts. Ouch. We decided to be responsible adults and cancel our plans for the sake of saving the cash we have until we're back working. It got us thinking, though, about how to celebrate an anniversary without spending a lot of money.*
Make the Gifts
Some of my favorite ideas? Make a mix CD with all the music that makes you think of him or here, with "your song" (if you have one) as the final track. Make a scrapbook out of all those Facebook photos, movie ticket stubs, loving doodles, and flower petals you have laying around. Decorate a small box and fill it with scraps of paper detailing all the little things you think are so wonderful about your boyfriend or girlfriend-- I gave one of these to Luke and I called it his "Self-Esteem Box." Put together a comic book depicting his or her proposal to go steady. Pretend you're a wee little child again and make a bracelet, necklace, or ring out of beads and stretchy string. As long as you put thought into it, your significant other is bound to love it, and all with minimal damage done to your wallet. If you're not into making gifts, though, try sitting down together and giving each other a strict budget. As long as you both stick to the rules, $15 won't feel cheap.
Research and Development
Decide ahead of time what you'd like to do, and then find out how much the special day will cost. Make phone calls and look at websites so you know exactly what you're getting into. You may have heard of a play on Saturday night that's "really cheap," but you don't want to find out at the ticket booth that it's actually way over your budget or that you needed your student ID to get in for a reduced price.
Remember: Your Student ID is Your Friend
Following up on the previous note, you student ID can be a Godsend when it comes to saving cash. For instance, back at home, I can go see a movie for $7 if I bring my Clark ID, versus the $10.50 it would run me without (and if you want to go to a movie, for goodness sakes, sneak in the candy! Ladies, bring a large purse and get a big bag of sweets to share at Target). Many plays and musicals have discounted "student rush" tickets, but they're usually limited in number and you have to buy them at a certain time (research this!). It may be possible that if you go to a town with a lot of colleges, you can get into events like dances and concerts at other universities as long as you have your card with you. Also, a lot of museums have student discounts, which is awesome because for a relatively low price, you can get an entire day's worth of activities.
Splitting the cost of a date is often a huge relief, and going Dutch may even make a trip to somewhere pretty nice pretty doable. For instance, my boyfriend and I love going to The Cheesecake Factory, and when we're there the bill is usually around $40. It's a pretty pricey meal for young people who don't have "real" jobs, so it's a lot more enjoyable when we split it, since neither of us is worried about paying so much money or is feeling guilty that the other is spending half a day's pay on cheesecake and strawberry lemonade (best stuff ever).
Start a Special Occasion Savings Account
Why not? If everything's on the up-and-up and it doesn't seem like too big of a commitment, go to a bank you can both agree on (preferably one with a lot of ATMs in your area-- you don't want too many withdrawal fees) and start a joint savings account just for fun. It only takes a few minutes to set one up, and you don't even have to start with very much cash in it-- my bank requires a minimum balance of $5. Make a habit of each of you depositing into the account whenever there's a little extra cash to spare and watch it grow into something big and wonderful. I mean, let's say every week for one year, you put in $5 and your special person puts in $5. Now we do the math and.... voila! $520! How easy is that? And if you don't have a job during the school year, you can just put a little more away each week when you're on vacation-- or consider that the same $5 each during about 4 months of summer vacation would make for a cool $160. More than enough for dinner and a movie, am I right?
Work With What You Have
Okay, so let's see.... I have a nice new camera and plenty of free time. How about a photo scavenger hunt? Got a video game console? What about a [your favorite two-player game here] marathon (you could even start a new file and try to beat it in one sitting, or check out used games and buy something completely ridiculous on the cheap)? Have the box set for your favorite TV show or movie series? Microwave some popcorn, procure some sugary treats, and snuggle up together in your warmest blankets and watch from beginning to end. You met through a friend in a game of Monopoly? Borrow it if you don't have it and recreate that first encounter-- you know that game can keep you busy all day. Got a bed? Well, you see where that's going. You already have plenty to do if you take the time to really assess what you already have. I know you may have watched Family Guy together a zillion and one times, but if you set it up as something extra special, it will be extra special, trust me.
Forget What "Everyone Else" Does for Their Anniversary
If your best friend and his girlfriend went hot air ballooning over the Grand Canyon, who cares? I mean, that's pretty cool, but it's not you. You might feel jealous over what the people you know have done on their special days, but you have to remember that everyone is dealing with different circumstances. Maybe they dug into their savings, or got some free tickets, or asked their parents for a little extra cash to make the night amazing. That's all well and good, and I'm not knocking people who want to make something extravagant happen, but it's not necessary, especially if you're doing it just to keep up with the Joneses. Comparing your situation to someone else's can really screw with your standards.
ANECDOTE ALERT: When my boyfriend and I started casually looking at engagement rings (just for fun-- we're not planning on getting hitched for a few years yet), I had in mind a single ring a friend had shown me when she was briefly engaged. It cost $700-- cheap by engagement ring standards-- and was 1/2 carot. I thought it was beautiful, and when we first got roped into trying rings on by a very eager saleslady at Kay's, it was all I wanted to see. In fact, I tried on the 1 carot version of the ring and thought it was way too big. But as I got caught up in the joy of looking at all these rings and reading about diamonds online, I got more and more convinced the ring I liked wasn't "good" enough. It was too small, too low quality, and from a mall jewelry store. The more I read, the more I thought we'd have to find a big ring at some swanky store that my boyfriend on his what-will-then-be-law-student budget would have to save up thousands just for this one gesture. I did try on a ring at Zales that I was in love with, but found out after I was drooling over it that it was almost $3000. The boyfriend started sweating at that point, but I wouldn't ask him to spend that much, especially when we're just starting our lives together. But still, I kept thinking about what if my friends aren't impressed by my ring? Who cares? All that matters is you. If you think your ring is special and wonderful and amazing, everyone else's opinions can screw off.
A long example, maybe, but all I'm trying to say is that the more you allow yourself to make value judgements based on what everyone else is doing, the more you may fall into the trap of becoming dissatisfied with what you might really want. You can spend whatever your heart desires to on your anniversary, whether that be nothing or your life's savings.
How do you-- or would like to-- celebrate your anniversary? Got any of your own patent-pending money-saving tips for the financially challenged?
*We haven't celebrated yet, but we're contemplating taking Clark's free mall shuttle to try Red Robin for the first time-- they've got seriously tantalizing commercials, people.