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3 charitable ways to celebrate Valentine's Day

This post was updated Feb. 14, 2018

Cupid fairy with basket of hearts_sharonscottagequilts-blogspotHave you finalized your Valentine's Day plans? Good for you, you fool for love!

Hey, I'm not judging. I'm just not that much of a romantic. That's why Valentine's Day is not that big of a deal in our household.

Except for an exchange of cards, with the hubby and I each giving the other one humorous and one sentimental Hallmark greeting, Feb. 14 is just another day.

Yes, the length of our relationship is one reason why Cupid's big day is predictably boring every year. But it works for us.

Plus, our lack of more elaborate romantic gestures means we've saved a lot of money over our many years together.

That allows us to splurge on other things without being hemmed in by conventional considerations and calendars.

It also means we put those unspent Valentine's Day dollars to other uses, like tax-saving charitable donations.

Gifts galore: The hubby and I definitely are in the minority when it comes to traditional Feb. 14 displays of hearts and flowers. We simply exchange cards, real paper ones, not e-hearts and flowers.

A National Retail Federation (NRF) survey of attitudes about the mid-February holiday found that around 55 percent of adults plan to celebrate Valentine's Day this year.

Those celebrations include gifts of candy and/or flowers, greeting cards and a special evening out. Not surprisingly, younger smitten celebrants, specifically those aged 18-34 in the NRF survey, are significantly more likely than older generations to treat their dates to an evening out.

Even the 30 percent who indicated they won't officially recognize Feb. 14 this year still have some type of "celebration" plans. These plans range from treating themselves to something special, purchasing "anti" Valentine's Day gifts or planning a get-together with family or friends.

Economic boost: The U.S. economy loves Valentine's Day, too.

The NRF projects that lovey-dovey Americans will spend a near-record $19.6 billion on their valentines this year.

That's an increase from last year's $18.2 billion, according to the annual NRF survey conducted in conjunction with Prosper Insights & Analytics. The 2018 Valentine's Day projected spending is expected to be the second-highest amount in the survey's 15-year history, topped only by the 2016 record of $19.7 billion.

On an individual basis, consumers are expected to spend an average $143.56 on displays of love on this holiday. That, too, is up from last year's $136.57 average.

Jewelry stores will get more than $4.7 billion of that Feb. 14-related money, according to the NRF, with another $2 billion going to flower vendors and $1.8 billion for candy.

Other expenditures on this official day celebrating love will be for cards (see, the hubby and I are contributing to the economy!), clothes and a special evening out.

Frugally fond: Of course, you could take the "it's the thought that counts" approach if your significant other is of the same mindset.

One of the ways to be romantic and save some bucks on Feb. 14, according to Lauren Schwahn at NerdWallet, is to do it yourself when it comes to dinner and gifts.

"Get crafty, clip flowers from your yard, make a card or prepare a meal to save money," writes Schwahn. "Valentine's Day is the perfect occasion to make your beloved's favorite dish or try out a new recipe."

Saving money and adding your personal touch, says Schwahn, is a win-win.

Tax breaks for being a charitable sweetheart: Or you could divert some of your Valentine's Day dollars to a charity.

If you go that route, Feb. 14 also could be a tax win, as long as long as you follow the tax code rules on contributing.

Here are three Cupid approved ways of how to do that.

1. Remember the forgotten: Our personal relationships get the most attention on Valentine's Day, but a lot of folks don't have the luxury of celebrating this holiday.

You can let these folks that you are thinking of them, too, by making a donation to or volunteering at, for example, a children's hospital, nursing home, a homeless shelter or a domestic violence center.

If the organization that runs these operations meets Internal Revenue Service tax-exempt rules, then your financial gifts could be a tax deduction on your 2017 tax return. Your volunteer work at these facilities also could provide some tax breaks.

Even if the hospital itself is not a nonprofit, it might have a foundation to which gifts might be deductible.

2. Don't give flowers, help grow them: Yes, those fresh flowers are lovely and the scent of roses can't be beat. But instead of buying flowers, consider supporting a community garden or beautification project.

You'll be tossing out those wilted roses or daisies or carnations in just a few days, but your gift to a group that works to maintain natural resources will help that nonprofit blossom.

Here in Central Texas, we're especially proud of The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the nonprofit named for the First Lady who championed natural beautification efforts.

LBJ and Lady Bird enjoying Texas wildflowers_Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
President Lyndon Baines Johnson's and wife Lady Bird's love of their native Texas' wildflowers prompted efforts by the First Lady to beautify the nation's highways. (Photo courtesy The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)

The internationally recognized botanic garden just outside of Austin, Texas, focuses on the research into and preservation of native plants.

One of its missions is educating Texans about how using homegrown flowers, trees and grasses in our personal and commercial landscapes can not only enhance our surroundings, but also save and improve water quality, as well as provide habitat for wildlife.

3. Love your furry family members: NFR found that we'll spend $751 million this year in Valentine's Day presents for our pets. As a cat lover, I totally get this, even though our furry family member always likes the boxes more than what they contained.

It's even sweeter to think of those pups and kittens that need homes.

If, however, you can't adopt a pet now, consider giving to your local animal shelter. Again, if it's a nonprofit, your donation could be tax deductible.

Check out similar charitable groups in your area, or give to national ones that support such efforts or other causes near to your heart.

You can even make the charitable donation in honor of your Valentine.

That kind of thoughtfulness could ensure that your beloved will be your Valentine for many, many more years.

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