Consuming Issues: Valentine's Day the thrifty way

If you are free-spirited, romantic and generous, stop reading now. This column is not for you. It is for mean-minded sourpusses who tut at shop displays of heart-shaped chocolates and recoil from gushing declarations of love in greetings cards and who suspect that the biggest beneficiaries of St Valentine's Day are not star-crossed lovers but retailers.

Invitations to big spenders abound in the first weeks of February. The website Red Letter Days alone offers 15 trips for St Valentine's Day, of which the most extravagant is a North Pole fly-in. A couple jet to the most northerly airport in Norway, Svalbard, and board a helicopter for the geographic North Pole, where they toast being on top of the world with champagne. It costs £21,000.

Joining London's premium Supercar club for a year is £10,570, while a night at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Oxfordshire for two is a wallet-thinning £799.

Harrods helpfully suggests fripperies for Him and Her. The wrist of a much-appreciated Him, it suggests, would be improved by a £1,325 Technomarine UF6 Magnum Chronograph (incorporating a time-telling facility). For Her, what could match a £57.95 pair of Vivienne Westwood diamanté heart earrings?

Advice for skinflints, though, is as rare as a value Valentine's card. A skinflint should not really buy flowers, especially at this time of year when florists apply the theory of supply and demand with ruthless efficiency.

Chains will probably outdo the busy local florist. Marks & Spencer is the cheapest, couriering a dozen Fairtrade roses on 14 February for £19.50 (you must order by 5pm Friday.) Asda will deliver a dozen red roses for £19 on Saturday. Even a miser should steer clear of garage flowers and buy some attractive and fragrant blooms later.

Royal Mail expects to handle 12 million Valentine's cards this year "as admirers and partners send their tokens of love and affection to that special person". If you have a live-in lover, saving a 39p first-class stamp buys a pleasing Curly Wurly. Shops sold 24.5 million Valentine's cards last year, at an average of £2.36, making them more expensive than cards for any other occasion.

"No one wants to look like a cheapskate when they're telling someone they love them," the Greeting Card Association says cheerfully. The artistic could make a bespoke and individual card.

If you insist on buying a present now rather than picking one up in the New Year sales when retailers offload unsold gifts, there's no need to pay full price. Your partner will never know about promotions, providing you hide the receipt, and it will make no difference to the gifts. VoucherCodes.com has 10 per cent-off offers for Hotel Chocolat, Ann Summers and Hotels.com.

Now to the special meal. Why not book the Valentine's special at a local restaurant, eating a fixed-price menu served by overstretched waiters in a room crammed with surly spouses and oval-eyed young lovers?

Alternatively lavish time and effort on a home-cooked meal. Riverford organic suggests baked St Eadburgha cheese, followed by braised mushrooms with buttered linguine and an espresso-infused chocolate pudding.

Or book a table for another time, explaining to your sweetheart that, while an incorrigible scrooge, you are also reassuringly pensive.

Heroes & Villians

Hero: British Gas

Much as I would like to think it was my vilification of British Gas in this column a fortnight ago that prompted it to slice 7 per cent off gas bills this week, I suspect it was more closely related to the release next month of a near 50 per cent rise in full year profits. Now that Britain's biggest energy supplier has knocked £55 off bills – for which it deserves a muted handclap – all eyes on the other greedy, lazy members of the Big Six who control 99 per cent of domestic supply. Roll on a Competition Commission investigation.

Villain: Coco pops

It's hard to pick out any single example of a bad breakfast cereal, because most of them are stuffed full of sugar and salt. So thanks to Kellogg's for making this week's villain so clear-cut. Not content with loading its chocolatey cereal with 30 per cent sugar, Kellogg's ran an advertising campaign on television and on bus stops, some of which were located close to schools, suggesting that children should eat Coco Pops as an after-school treat. Fine now and again, but I don't understand why any parent would allow their offspring to eat them once a day, never mind twice.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

    Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice