Valentine’s Day is coming, mamas!

Uh oh, I can hear the collective groans from here. Yes I know about the pointless consumerism, empty gestures and all the usual complaints that tend to bubble under the surface at this time of year. Believe me, Frugal Frannie will happily join that chorus, but I’m also crazy about romance. I’ll take any excuse to put on a flamboyant display for my loved ones.

loveValentine’s Day? That’ll do me! Love is awesome. Having said that, I won’t show it with Hallmark cards, tacky white teddy bears, long-stemmed roses or baby’s breath. No thank you! What a waste of money! Tut, tut, tut.

I’ve got that Beatles song in my head: Can’t buy me loo-ove, no, no, no, no.

Go ahead, put it on! It’s the official soundtrack for today’s blog…


Do, don’t buy, I say!

As you might expect from a frugal mama, I think love is better shown by doing than buying. There are plenty of loving gestures that don’t cost a cent. I’ve come up with 20 of them, as a matter of fact. Maybe I can awaken the dormant inner romantic in a few of my more curmudgeonly readers and inspire them to do something magnificent. You don’t have to do it for Valentine’s Day. Do it because it’s nice.

It’s a good feeling for the kiddies too, I reckon. They like seeing big people loving each other, no matter how many fake vomit noises they might emit. Unpartnered? Want to leave your spouse in Timbuktu and never come back? Celebrate anyway. Do the same loving things for your kids, your friends or (best of all) YOU! Just because you haven’t been lucky in love doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some cherishing and pampering. Give it to yourself!


Introducing Frugal Frank…

frankAs for me, well, I have been lucky in love. My dear Frugal Frank is possibly the only person I know who is even more of a miser than I am. Seriously, he takes it to a whole new level.

The day he used a clapped-out sheet to patch a hole in another ancient sheet, I knew it was love.

My heart was gladdened with laughing delight when I discovered that he used to spend the wee hours of his youth searching on pub carpets and down the backs of chairs for gold coins to get a cab home. It reminds me of my own days as a teen, spending hours diving for coins at the bottom of the local pool so I could spend them on lollies at the kiosk.

At first I was alarmed when I saw him gleefully gobbling up half a punnet of raspberries he found on the street, but as he pointed out, I would have no problem foraging for fruit on a tree. Is there a difference? I have grown to admire him for scoffing strangers’ half-eaten food at restaurants, although I could NEVER do it myself. I’m far too embarrassed and anyway I have too much of a (probably spoilt western-induced) phobia of other people’s cooties.


I think sometimes he takes it a bit far…

beersI get the downright willies when he does the same thing with other people’s abandoned beers – scary thoughts of spiked drinks fill my head and I wish he wouldn’t. Still, he’s been doing it for almost three decades now.

That’s part of love isn’t it? Accepting those things about your beloved that really get your goat. Again, for that, I prescribe a hefty dose of romance. It’s the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.


The infamous veggie burger incident

burgerLike any couple, we do have the odd point of difference, like the time he served me some veggie burgers that had been sitting in the fridge for a suspiciously long time. I know Frugal Frank too well so I checked the compost, and there were the rest of the veggie burgers, a-bloom with a garden of iridescent blue mould.

Naturally, Frugal Frank looked at me with suspiciously innocent-looking blue eyes.

“There wasn’t any mould on the ones we ate,” he said.

Nice try, Frugal Frank, but I know to check the bin these days.

That’s love for you, though. You take the good with the bad (or downright rotten). The flip side of this is that I don’t have to convince him not to waste food.


Don’t get me started on council pick-up days…

A few times I have been close to tears, begging him to take me home as he drives up street after street ogling the loot on council pick up days. You have no idea. He can go for hours, driving at about 10k/hr with his gleaming eyes on stalks. From the moment we receive the little slip of paper in the mail, Frugal Frank gets a slightly manic look in his eyes and I whimper quietly to myself.

I’ve got to admit that I forgive him when he makes money on Ebay from what he finds. We also made a great bed head out of a discarded wooden table once. It would have ended up in landfill. Hurrah for council pick up days.


It’s in his genes…

jeansFrugal Frank also wears the same jeans for years and years. I’m not kidding. He cuts the legs off to patch holes in the butt as they age, then he wears them as shorts. I mean, he lives in them until they are practically falling off his body in tatty shreds.

He loves the softness and comfort of ageing clothing, just like me. Both of us share a similarly unceremonious attitude to clothes shopping. We tend to go to the op shop together about once a year, try on a pile of clothes and walk out with our annual wardrobe update. Bam! Done. Next!

He wears T shirts until they are transparent and developing small holes because they are so old. He has one shirt that says Reagan Hates Me. It’s nearly reached the end of its life after about 30 years, but I’ve already planned to cut the picture off the front and sew it onto another shirt.

I love that T Shirt and I love Frugal Frank. People like that just don’t come along every day of the week. I love that he’s cut his own hair for his entire adult life. Gosh, there are just so many reasons why he’s the man for me.

We’re a little bit different and a little bit the same and there is a myriad of reasons why we just seem to click. I’m crazy about him.

We’ve always given one another frugal gifts: things like mobiles made from salvaged objects, home made artworks, cheap romantic outings and little hand-drawn cards. They are all the more special because they were made at home. We are lucky (or crazy) enough to be quite arty, crafty people.

Not everyone could do it like us. Arty or not, all of us can do something that will make our loved ones feel as special as they deserve to feel.

Here is a list of ideas for Valentine’s Day. Hopefully I’ve managed to dredge up something for people of all walks of life. Whether you are partnered or not, I hereby give you full permission to give yourselves some lovely cheap treats. What have you got to lose?


These 20 ideas came to me in about an hour. The possibilities are infinite, however.
May they inspire you! Enjoy.


1. Pamper nights.


Instead of going out, why don’t you treat one another to a pamper night each? Basically, one partner does all the cooking, cleaning and kid-wrangling for a night while the other indulges in some much-needed ‘me time’. The pamper night recipient has the whole night to do whatever they want – crafts, reading a book without interruption and eating chocolate in the bath, whatever. The pampering recipient also has the right to call out for drinks or snacks or whatever they might want.

Ok, this might not be the most romantic night, but it is an EXCELLENT way for parents to show each other some love. This is something that might work for those who are on a budget and can’t afford a babysitter or an expensive meal, or those who have a new baby. Frugal Frank and I give each other pamper nights quite regularly, and it really helps both of us as individuals as well as our relationship. Honestly, sometimes time-strapped parents want nothing more than a good chunk of ‘me time’. It might not be as lovey-dovey as a dinner for two, but it’s real, it’s cheap and it does wonders for all involved.


2. Write a love letter.

swalk This is a cheapie, but so very powerful. Pour out your heart. Raid the kids’ texta stash and design a card. Make a funny collage out of old magazines. Write a silly poem. Cut out hearts with a pair of scissors and put them in random places around the house. Whatever comes to you, do it. Is your paramour the strong silent type? They’ll pretend to dislike it but secretly their heart will be melting like caramel, I just know it! Failing that, reach their heart via their stomach and…


3. Bake a cake. Because everyone loves cake.


4. Give each other a massage.

Lie down, grab some oil (olive oil is perfectly fine) and have a go! You don’t need to be a professional to give a nice massage. There are some good videos on YouTube if you want to learn a few techniques.


5. Have a coffee date.


It’s not free, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than dinner for two and it can be just as lovely. Yes, I get it. Sometimes the crowded local café emits unflattering fluoro lighting and is about as romantic as the emergency ward at a hospital. Don’t let that deter you. Grab a take away coffee and find a nice spot in a park. Maybe visit an old haunt from your early days… aah…


6. Go for a bike ride and a picnic.

This is a nice one for families, just pop a couple of special treats in the basket for the two big people.


7. Make a box of truffles.


This is a great way to turn a block of chocolate and a bottle of cream into some very posh looking sweeties that would cost a bomb if you went out and bought them. We made truffles one Christmas and wrapped them in origami boxes we made out of old National Geographic magazines. They looked so cute!


8. Challenge yourself to make a gift out of salvaged objects, pre-loved mementos or old material you have lying around.

It’s not as hard as it sounds! Pinterest has hundreds of great ideas, from oven mitts to reading lamps. Warning: upcycling is addictive and council pick-up days will never be the same.


9. Just go for a walk somewhere.

moonlight Pack a few yummy things, or don’t. Let’s face it, in today’s society we are already well-fed and appointed. What many of us are truly starved for is simple stretches of time in the company of those we love.

It’s great to make time to talk, hold hands and cherish one another. Walks in the moonlight have a special reputation for a reason. Relive the magic!


9. Cook their favourite meal.


This isn’t so frugal if their dream dinner is caviar and truffles. Hopefully it’s bangers and mash or baked beans. How good is it when someone makes you the thing you love to eat more than anything in the world? Sigh. Hint hint, Frugal Frank 😉


10. Tee up a Valentine’s babysitting swap with another set of parents.

Okay, two of you are not going to have your day on February 14, but who cares? It’s cheaper than paying a babysitter, and so important for the big people to have time to be big people together.


11. A girly one for the single mamas, lesbians, or those with metrosexual males: what about a lovely night making home made facials?

There are loads of ideas on the net for oatmeal and honey masks, sea salt scrubs and the classic cucumbers over the eyes. Sounds like fun to me!


12. Go and catch a band.

Lots of gigs are (subsidised by heavy beer drinkers) free these days. You can’t beat free entertainment! Ok, have a beer. Having several might not be quite so frugal, however! Safety first! Don’t do a Frugal Frank.


13. Relive those heady early days.

Remember when the two of you together was all you needed? Everything was new and exciting. Chances are, you did things together that cost very little. We played lots of Scrabble, did jigsaw puzzles, read books together, tried out new recipes, drew tattoos on each other, sang songs together…

We still enjoy those things today. They cemented our friendship then and they still do. Whatever it was that you did together, schedule a bit of time to do it again.


14. Obviously, there’s another special activity couples do that doesn’t cost money.

I won’t go into detail because MamaBake should keep its PG rating and no doubt lots of little eyes will read these words. I’ll leave this one to your imagination!


15. What about a camping getaway?

Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday this year. Why not escape somewhere for the weekend?


16. Go swimming together in the ocean or at a waterhole.

Perhaps you know a secluded one where you can go skinny dipping… 😮


17. Buy a notebook for writing nice things in.


Inscribe a nice message stating your intention to write little notes of endearment in it over the coming year. Make sure you use the thing! A nice record for you and maybe the kids one day.


18. Ye olde vouchers.


Write vouchers up, offering acts of kindness that the recipient can use at his or her discretion. These can be romantic gestures, but I reckon the unromantic practical tasks would go down better for lots of tired parents.

Some ideas: wash the car, look after the kids while the other partner reads a book, take on the dreaded homework duty for a week, do that icky job no one wants to do (groan). Yes, it’s not very romantic, but a REAL gesture of love and so much more meaningful than long-stemmed roses, am I right?


19. Light candles at dinnertime.


Ok, the meagre savings in electricity would probably be more than offset by the cost of the candles, but it adds a little magic and ceremony to the dinner table. As a bonus, you and the kids will probably sleep much better and have more energy in the morning if you lower the lights.


20. If all else fails, just curl up together with your favourite comfort food and watch TV. Sometimes that is just perfect.


Whatever you do, I hope you have lots of love and gorgeousness coming your way. If you hate Valentine’s day, I still hope that for you because I’m a hopeless romantic.

Until next week, I remain

Your Frugal Friend, Frannie.

PS. I’m fairly sure all these ideas will be just as well-received on any of the other 364 days of the year 😉



Frugal Frannie is a fictitious character based on a real-life mama who loves nothing more than to pinch a few pennies. She’s a saver, socially responsible and a bit of a greenie, with a strong interest in the DIY movement. Over the coming weeks, she will share frugal tips on all sorts of things, including family entertainment, budget date nights, dirt cheap gardening, home maintenance, setting up a frugal craft cupboard, luxury on a budget, cheap entertainment for kiddies, tricks to curb the spending urge and more.

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