How to Pull Off a Last-Minute Valentine's Day

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- It's the day before Valentines Day, but it's not too late to admit your decision to do nothing for it may have been one big mistake.

Last-minute Valentine's Day plans happen. It's happened twice in the seven years since I met my wife. The first time was on our first Valentines Day, when we'd gone out on our first date just a weekend before and it occurred to me she just might have thoughts about the holiday ahead. The question would you like to be wooed? was uttered and the clock began ticking. The second time was last year, when my wife and I had just finished moving into our new house and realized Valentines Day was just a few days away. Admittedly, that second one was just poor planning on my part.

In neither case was there a need to freak out or panic. Maybe it was resourcefulness on both our parts, or maybe it was just a case of diminished expectations due to the circumstances, but the modern world is uniquely suited to helping out poor, scatterbrained souls such as myself. Both e-commerce and increasingly efficient bricks-and-mortar options are making it somewhat less impossible to make Valentine's Day plans with minimal notice.

It's just a matter of knowing what your options are. If you waited this long with the hope Amazon Prime would bail you out, forget it. If you made it this far and think there's a table left in town that doesn't sit beneath a fluorescent logo or feature a loyalty card promising a free sundae after 12 trips, you may be in luck.

This is where OpenTable and services of its ilk become your greatest ally. They'll show you not only who still has seats, but what times they still have available and roughly how much the whole thing is going to cost you. Granted, most restaurants draw up special prix-fixe menus for the occasion that eliminate favorites and jack up the price, but every so often you find an exception. It'll be a tough draw this close to the date, but sitting down to eat sometime between 6 and 8 p.m. isn't out of the question. Also, keep in mind that Valentines Day is not only weekend-adjacent this year, but adjacent to a long Presidents Day weekend for many folks. If you can buy into the whole Valentines Day Weekend approach, you may be able to get by with Saturday or even Sunday night dinner reservations.

If you're even on the fence about buying flowers this late in the game, just forget about roses. Despite the fact there were 233 million of them grown for Valentines Day last year -- which, according to The Society of American Florists, is three-quarters of all flowers bought for the holiday -- they're still sold at a ridiculous premium for a flower that can bloom twice a year and grows rampant during the warmer months. A dozen that will fetch as little as $10 in the summer will easily go for $40 to $50 this time of year. Not only are you a little late for calling in a delivery, but the average $50 cost before Valentines Day jumps to upward of $80 this close to the deadline and puts an unnecessary middle man between you and your local florist.

At this eleventh hour, a delivery person shouldn't even enter the equation. Use Yelp or just about any search engine to find your local florist and have the conversation that just about any couple planning a wedding around this date tends to have: What flowers are in season in February. You'll find that lovely stargazer lilies, daffodils, forget-me-nots and a broad array of tulips are among the flowers in high supply around this time of year for low cost. In fact, last year, a tulip grower in my neighborhood saved the day with $5 bunches that made a large, brilliant bouquet for less than $20.

Finally, if you're looking to extend the evening by heading out to a movie afterward, consider that Valentines Day always inflates the box office take a bit. Last year, moviegoers spent $32 million on Valentines Day alone -- or nearly double what they spent on every other Thursday combined in February. The good news is that those moviegoers typically spend on whatever new and vaguely romantic tripe Hollywood throws at them. The Nicholas Sparks novel adaptation Safe Haven was the top-grossing Valentine's Day film of 2013 and accounted for more than a quarter of the day's take.

This year's lineup of new releases features comedian Kevin Hart filling the Rob Lowe role in a remake of the 1986 film About Last Night, Colin Farrell playing a burglar trying to reincarnate the love of his life in Winter's Tale and a bunch of Gossip Girl alums behaving badly in a remake of the 1981 film Endless Love that gave the world the ham-fisted Lionel Richie tune of the same name. Oh, and a reboot of the RoboCop sci-fi franchise. Our advice: Don't see any of them.

If your significant other is really into film, Oscar nominees including Her, Gravity, Wolf Of Wall Street, Philomena and American Hustle are still in theaters. Their older counterparts -- 12 Years A Slave, Dallas Buyers Club and Captain Phillips -- are still $3 to $4 options on the second-run circuit. If you just haven't been out in a while, The LEGO Movie, The Monuments Men, Ride Along, Frozen and Lone Survivor all still have legs and all have been seen by just enough people to keep the holiday crowds to a minimum.

There are plenty of other do-it-yourself ways out of this, including making presents, cooking dinner and preparing dessert -- even convenience stores and health and beauty stores in some states will hook you up with a decent bottle of wine for the occasion. Unless you're certain both you and the one you love are steadfast in your fundamental opposition to this commercialist holiday that trails only Christmas in retail spending, just realize you still have plenty of time to ensure that it won't be a complete disaster.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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