Santa Fe On A Budget: Valentine’s Day

Braden Anderson | - February 5, 2013

"A Valentine's Day excursion for under the price of a cheesy stuffed bear..."

Santa Fe. The City Different. A culturally rich mecca of fine arts, this city has been the destination for scores of world-renowned artists of every sort. An ancient city that has procured a legacy of creative innovation, present on nearly every corner and certainly in the minds of its denizens.  Such a unique and inspiring history coupled with the beautiful physical landscape must surely be defined in one powerful word:


Welcome to “Santa Fe on a Budget”, a lifestyle guide for the rest of us.

Santa Fe has a cost of living nearly eight percent higher than that of the national average (according to Sperling's Best Places) and boasts about itself as a history-rich tourist destination and a journey's end for many collectors, artists, experts and other generally well-funded types. In a town that can easily accommodate the finer tastes of six digit salaries, the rest of us have to find ways to make each paycheck stretch a little further. Here you'll find hints on the cheapest ways to do the things you already do, as well as great new ideas for food, entertainment, shopping, travel, and more that won't break the bank. So stay tuned to “Santa Fe on a Budget” to find out how you can keep more of YOUR money in YOUR pocket.

With February 14 right around the corner, there’s no better place to start this series than with Valentine’s Day. A day in which the right move can make a relationship, and the wrong move can break it. The dreaded V-Day is the broke boyfriend’s oldest enemy. According to the National Retail Federation, American’s are expected to spend nearly $18 million on Valentine’s Day this year. So, how can you say what you need to say, without paying what you can’t pay? Well fortunately for you, Valentine’s Day, in its modern form, is a great chance to show your special somebody how you feel without having to take out a loan simply by avoiding some more standard, and expensive, options.

Cards and flowers are great but enough of them to show your sweetheart that he or she means more to you than all the other sweethearts that got flowers and cards will add up. What’s more, they are about the most impersonal gifts you could give. Do you really feel exactly the way that card says you feel? Unless you live in a Lifetime Channel movie, or write for Disney, my guess is no. Boyfriend or Girlfriend, everyone wants to feel special and that they are one of a kind, especially on this day. So personalize it. The awesome thing about personalizing gifts is that, usually, you are forced to make it. If you are making a gift you are essentially doing two things: 1) showing that you care enough to spend the time to put that personal touch into a special gift for your significant other and 2) saving a pretty penny by NOT getting something that says “I care about our relationship about as much the average person is supposed to care, I guess, statistically”.

The average American male will spend more than $168 this holiday, according to Though even with the cards and flowers taken care of, there are still dinner, gifts, and special plans to budget in. If you’re like me, that budget doesn’t look like much. So, how do you wine and dine with finances unrefined? Here’s to hoping you have something, anything, in your fridge or pantry. A home cooked meal can seal the deal. There is something inherently intimate about preparing your own food. Aside from being a great way to skirt around the fact that you can’t afford to take your date out to Vanessie for that $200 steak dinner, cooking a meal for your significant other is a great way to say “you mean more to me than any menu item can say”. It’s also a great way to show off a little talent in the kitchen. I vehemently believe in the old adage “The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” and I would extend that to include women. One of the quickest ways to anyone’s heart is by proving to them that you can provide them with a tasty and heartfelt meal. Not Chef Ramsey? That’s okay, because if you’re like me, your fridge probably isn’t full of filet mignon, shallots or asparagus anyway. My vote for the best homemade Valentine’s meal on a budget?  Heart-shaped pancakes. Anyone can make a pancake, sure. The trick to making it special is adding some pink food coloring (or fruit juice if you’re trying to stay organic), and fryin’ up those flapjacks in a heart-shaped pattern,  which you may want to practice a bit before the moment of truth. A delightful pink, heart shaped-pancake says “I want you” while the remnants of a burnt glob of batter say “You should probably date somebody else…”  Have no fear, check out this website  for some tips on making that personalized Valentine’s Dinner shine.

Okay, so, dinner is planned but how do you make it a special night?  Well, if you were able to scrounge up enough to buy a box of Bisquick, then I’m hoping you have a gallon or two in your gas tank. Again, if you’re like me, a gallon or two might be ALL you have in your gas tank. So a trip up to Ojo Caliente is probably out of the question. Fortunately for us less financially endowed, Santa Fe is surrounded by excellent and romantic locations just outside of town. A trip up Artist Road to some of the great hiking trails that overlook the city less than five miles out of downtown, is a great way to keep the night moving along smoothly, and inexpensively. In my opinion, there’s nothing more romantic than enjoying a personalized meal while watching the sun go down over the City Different. The best part?  If you do only have a gallon in your gas tank, at least you can coast all the way back down to town… 

There you have it. For under the price of a ridiculously cheesy stuffed bear holding an even cheesier stuffed heart you have created, from scratch, one of the more memorable Valentines’ Days your significant other has had in a while. Not only did you save some money but you personalized every aspect of that special day. A diamond tennis bracelet might be out of your budget but you can say “You’re special” without spending a dime, and in fact, you may have even said it better by taking the time to do something from your own heart. A diamond may last forever, but taking the time to make dinner and plan an enjoyable excursion creates a memory that will last just as long (although, to be fair, diamonds last a really long time, too).

Of course, if you don’t have enough gas in the tank OR food in the fridge for even these options, then maybe you should rethink having a girlfriend or boyfriend. Just get a job instead, and hope for the best next year… Or…  Get a hamster. They don’t do corporate holidays. In fact, although I could be wrong as I’m no hamster specialist, I don’t think they do holidays at all. Lucky you….

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