Here, some ideas for giving from the heart without putting you in the red.

The Ghost of Christmas Past meets Cupid's kiss -- or in other words, you can add to the holiday credit card debt a romantic dinner, a dozen red roses, a box of gourmet chocolates and maybe even a trip to the jeweler.

Just as you're lamenting financial overindulgence from the holidays, along comes Valentine's Day with its expectations of romantic displays and other heart-felt gestures of love and friendship. Here, some ideas for giving from the heart without putting you in the red.

Fireside or candle-lit picnic. Instead of splurging for dinner at a posh four- or five-star restaurant, prepare an intimate picnic at home. Lounge in front of a roaring fire with a home-cooked gourmet meal or an assortment of your favourite cheeses paired with a bottle of wine or champagne.

A single red rose and home-made truffles. You'll save on the hefty price of a dozen red roses and a box of gourmet chocolates (both of which are typically inflated for Valentine's Day) as well as demonstrate a little originality.

Add some colour. If you're among the one third of people who still plan to spend on flowers, here's how to stretch your dollar: Skip the roses all together and create your own bouquet of your valentine's favourite flowers. Another option is to buy a potted plant with a little colourful foil and a big bow (it will last longer too).

Romantic get-away. Forget the far-flung destination and look for l'amour a little closer to home. Turn off the computer and the cell phone and make your home your castle with lots of your favourite foods and uninterrupted time together. Another option might be a getaway at a local hotel or B&B.

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by:
Cynthia Ross Cravit