Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'My simple tip for a thrifty February: ignore your Valentine'

In The Red

Thank goodness – February is finally upon us. Or it will be, in just two days time. It coincides with a Monday, so its joys are diminished ever so slightly by the prospect of a five-day wait until the weekend. But still, you can't ask too much can you?

The reason for my joy at the prospect of a new month is that it marks the passing of January – Officially The Worst Month For All Of Humankind. It's not just a bad month for those of us attempting to fulfil over-ambitious New Year's resolutions, be they dietary (failed!), financial (semi-successful) or physical (successful). It's a bad month for anyone trying to shrug off the financial hangover of December. What with the arctic winter we've been having, fuel bills are bound, inevitably, to soar. And – speaking of resolutions – all those fresh beginnings cost money. Year planners, calendars, diaries add up – when you factor in the health-giving foods, supplements, diet books, gym memberships and so on, the total is even higher.

So, bring on February I say. Of course, no month is without its perils. Firstly, with the January sales over, we're suddenly expected to pay normal prices for our shopping. Though it could be worse: at least we're not paying December's inflated prices. And, naturally, now our official month of penitence (failed or not) is over, regular social activity will resume – and with it the money that costs: lunch bills, bar tabs, transport costs, birthday gifts, the lot. Still, it shouldn't make too much of a difference. My ill-thought out plan to give up drinking for a month had failed by 2 January (whoops!) and since then I've spent pretty much as usual on my social life.

So far, then, so good: February doesn't look too bad. Until you remember the biggest trapdoor: Valentine's Day. Already the shops are full of nauseating romantic gifts to give to one's boyfriend/best friend/mum on the 14th. Chocolate lollies, gaudy cuddly toys, overpriced bouquets: does anyone actually want these monstrosities? I don't. And I certainly don't want to spend any money on them. So here's my tip for a frugal February: ignore your Valentine. Pretend Valentine's Day doesn't exist. Don't rent a movie and buy a bottle to share with friends. Don't make a reservation at some overpriced restaurant and pay for a stale set-menu meal. Don't even think of posting a card. Ignore it. Without Valentine's, you've got a relatively spend-free month. Simple!

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