It’s possible to show love for your significant other without having a five-course meal at a Michelin-star restaurant or sending flower arrangements as big as your beloved. While stuffed animals, chocolate, flowers, or romantic dinners are never bad ideas on Valentine’s Day, there are ways to get creative about showing and giving love that don’t need to be extravagant or expensive to be memorable and romantic.
Before you start your Valentine’s Day plans, though, try to set some reasonable expectations. Discuss your budget as a couple, how much you’d like to spend on an outing or gift, and work together to come up with creative ways to honor your relationship. This way, you end up collaborating and focusing on your relationship overall rather than trying to meet unspoken expectations or feeling frustrated that expectations weren’t met. Talk about how you best give and receive love as individuals so that the other can love you in the way you best receive it. Check out the Five Love Languages book for a good place to start.
Here are eight budget-friendly ideas to celebrate your relationship creatively and romantically this year:
1. Candle-lit date night in
Make Valentine’s Day personal by nixing the distractions, noise, and over-eager waiter and having a date night in. Set the mood by putting your cell phones away, having your meal by candlelight, and curating a personalized playlist with favorite artists and songs that remind you of one another. (For married couples, this could include your wedding song or memorable music from your reception!)
Plan out the menu and make it together while having a drink. Little gestures like flower petals or a printed menu add thoughtful touches to the evening. Offer to plate the meal and serve your significant other. You’ll save money and still create a memorable evening that’s thoughtful, personal, and romantic. (For extra points, offer to do all the clean-up afterwards!)
2. Take turns planning
If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, consider taking turns planning Valentine’s days. One person can take responsibility each year in order to take the pressure off both people. The person not doing the planning gets to feel extra pampered that year while the person planning gets to exercise their creative muscles and go all-out. Giving a person in the relationship a breather, especially after the rush and expense of the holidays, enables them to have some time to mentally rest and plan something a bit more extravagant for Valentine’s the following year.
3. Breakfast in bed
Nothing feels so pampering as getting breakfast in bed. If you’re dating, show up to your significant other’s place with their favorite coffee or tea and pastries. Otherwise, give them a heads-up and come over early with breakfast fixings you can prepare in the kitchen while he or she relaxes in bed. For married couples, get up earlier than your spouse and go all out with a big breakfast spread. Bring plates up on a tray and add a single rose. If you have children, take over on kid-duty for the morning and let your spouse have a relaxed start to the day with peace and quiet.
4. Think outside the box
Standard Valentine’s dinner dates can be overrated. This year, try something new by thinking outside the box. If you’re adventurous, spend the day hiking and end up at a winery or brewery. Catch a matinee movie at a lower price. Go to your local grocery store, load up on appetizers, snacks, and dessert, and go for a picnic (try an indoor one on a blanket on the floor if it’s still cold out!). Scan Groupon or other discount websites for fun activities at a lower price. Check out an up-and-coming band or look for free events in your community. This way, you’ll focus not on spending money, but on creating memories together that will last a lifetime.
5. Celebrate at a different time
Sharing the love and celebrating your relationship doesn’t have to happen on February 14. Wait a day or two or pick another date altogether and you’ll be able to get a lot more bang for your buck. Restaurants won’t be limited to pre-fixed menus, candy and Valentine’s cards will be on sale, and there won’t be as many crowds when going out on a date. Furthermore, you don’t have to only celebrate in the evening. Try going out on a breakfast or coffee date, getting lunch together on Friday during your break, or opt for drinks and appetizers or dessert rather than a full meal. This will enable you to still do something special without going out at the most expensive time of day.
6. Take a walk down memory lane
Truly celebrate your relationship this Valentine’s Day by going through some favorite memories and highlights of your time together. Perhaps you’ve saved ticket stubs from movies and concerts, receipts from dinner and outings, or have a photo album. Open a bottle of wine or grab your favorite craft beer and take some time to look through these things and discuss all the different stories and adventures you’ve gone on or done together. Re-tell each other the story of how you met. Activities like this deepen your bond and re-create the warm fuzzy feelings that brought you together.
7. Spread the love
Rather than focusing only on romantic love, use this holiday to spread love with others: friends, family, neighbors, or those in need. Spend the day making Valentine’s cards for friends and family. Think about connecting with an assisted-living facility to share a sign of love with someone who may be alone or widowed. Leave cards for neighbors with sweet treats. Take the morning or afternoon to volunteer with your significant other or spouse and family. Organize the equivalent of a “Galentine’s day” meal with friends and have everyone contribute something for the table. Love multiplies — and what better way to show love to your significant other than by loving others together?
8. Don’t be afraid to DIY
This year, challenge your significant other and yourself to get creative by making Valentine’s Day “homemade.” Make each other cards from scratch (which are much more personal and special), make a meal and a sweet treat (like chocolate-covered strawberries or cookies), and write each other love letters. These may be simple ideas, but they make the day much more personal and thoughtful. Take turns reading your love letters to one another over dinner. End the night with a slow dance for extra romance!
Valentine’s Day celebrates love itself and doesn’t have to be limited to expensive gifts and elaborate dates. By choosing to celebrate in a personal and intentional way — even if it’s not expensive or complicated — you affirm that love really doesn’t cost a thing.