Marie Mitchell/ Conversations Columnist

Marie Mitchell/ Conversations Columnist

Nothing says love louder than flowers. Candy. And jewelry. Right? That's what Valentine's Day promoters would have you believe about this over-commercialized pseudo holiday.

I certainly support showing love for your significant other, family and friends. As often as you can. And in as many ways as possible. But, wouldn't it be better to do this 365 days a year rather than singling out one day to profess your undying love?

Plus, there's so much pressure to "show out" on Feb. 14. To blow your budget by publicly and expensively demonstrating your love. To be the envy of everyone at school, the office or wherever the gifts of love are displayed. Some couples have such exceptionally high expectations about Valentine's Day that they become deeply disappointed if the day doesn't unfold the way they'd envisioned. It's like a competition to outdo others and brag about what presents the boy/girlfriend showered on you and how much they spent to make your dreams come true.

Good Housekeeping indicates Valentine's Day has become a whopping 20-billion-dollar enterprise. That's heartening if you're in the flower, jewelry, candy, greeting card or restaurant business. For flowers: consider a dozen red roses -- the universal symbol of love. Average cost: $3.50 per rose. That's $42 per dozen. For the flowers alone. Add a vase, delivery and tip, and that boosts the tab to $70-plus. Now, a single rose will actually do. Freshflowers.com says it still signifies a loving commitment, just on a smaller scale. Or you could go bigger. Apparently 24 roses clearly state "I'm yours," while 36 mean "you're head over heels in love," and go-for-broke 50 roses "expresses a love that has no bounds."

Since I'm a menace to any living flower, plant or shrub, Mason has finally learned not to buy them. I either kill the plant with kindness by overwatering it. Or it dies from neglect. Plus with three cats, there is no safe place to display a bouquet of flowers without them knocking the vase over and soaking the couch, carpet and themselves.

Jewelry is another go-to gift idea. You could blow anywhere from $20 on a pair of earrings, to several thousand on necklaces and rings. Engagement rings are especially popular. About six-million people pop the crucial question on Valentine's Day. Personally, I'd prefer a special day just for hubby and me to celebrate rather than share our engagement with millions of others. Forever. And always.

If you're not sure what to buy your sweetie, one fool-proof gift is chocolate. Milk. Dark. Cream Filled. So many exquisite choices. All perfectly packaged with hearts and Cupids. Candy makers sell about $1.8-billion worth of chocolate for Valentine's Day. Which proves my point. You tell them, Charles Schulz (cartoonist): "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."

On average, guys say they budget about $338 to celebrate this one day. A chunk of that goes toward eating a nice meal at a fancy restaurant that offers special deals. Oddly enough, this is one night we avoid the crowds and either order take-out or settle for something simple that we fix ourselves -- canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Cards are a big deal on Valentine's Day. Teachers receive the most. When our kids were younger, I loved making homemade cards with and for them, or turning shoeboxes into adorable mailboxes for school valentines using construction paper, duct tape, lace and bows. For classmates, I preferred Valentines with activities. A scratch-off design. Crossword puzzle. Temporary tattoo. However, I didn't necessarily enjoy writing the names of 30 classmates (times my four kids) on those tiny envelopes and sealing them. Now, many Valentines are simply designed and delivered electronically.

If you're on a budget, there are other inexpensive, yet endearing, ways to express your love, year-round. Some things that money can't buy. Some things that can show you love someone more sincerely, practically, lastingly and economically, than any store bought present.

Examples: pick a household chore. Any chore will do, as long as it's started and completed without your significant other having to make suggestions, or give gentle reminders, helpful hints or resort to outright nagging. It could be as simple as stacking the dishwasher or putting the clean dishes away. Scouring the bathtub. Battling the dust bunnies under the furniture. Replacing lightbulbs. Fixing that leaky faucet. That love language speaks volumes, and resonates throughout a relationship.

Don't get me wrong. I still enjoy a thoughtful card on Valentine's Day. And a box of chocolates. But when Mason braves the cold on a late night run to the grocery store to fetch milk for breakfast, while I stay warm and cozy, snuggled under a mountain of blankets, surrounded by purring cats, I know he truly cares.

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