1. BAKE COOKIES INSTEAD OF BUYING EXPENSIVE CHOCOLATES.
TV and movies might tell you that a heart-shaped box of chocolates is an essential gift. But high-quality truffles can be extremely expensive, and lots of the cheap Valentine’s Day chocolate options don’t taste so great. Forego the chocolates altogether and bake some homemade cookies or desserts. Not only are homemade cookies cheap and delicious, but they’ll show you really put effort into prepping for Valentine’s Day. And if you really want stick to the classic heart motif, just buy some heart-shaped cookie cutters.
2. MAKE CREATIVE VERSIONS OF EVERYDAY FOODS.
Fun fact: Almost any food can be shaped into a heart. To bake a batch of heart-shaped cupcakes, just place a marble in the top of each cup of your cupcake pan between the tin and the paper liner. For a romantic breakfast in bed, twist slices of bacon into hearts before you toss them on the frying pan, and cut a heart into a slice of bread to make a heart-shaped “egg in a basket.”
3. COOK DINNER INSTEAD OF GOING OUT.
In the same vein as baking heart-shaped cupcakes, a homemade dinner is a romantic way to show you care. Grab a pack of tea light candles and make the perfect playlist to finish the transformation from home to romantic restaurant.
4. LOOK FOR RESTAURANT DISCOUNTS ONLINE.
Before you make a dinner reservation, look for a good deal online: Plenty of upscale restaurants offer coupons and discounted gift cards that can be purchased online.
5. PLAN YOUR VALENTINE’S DAY TOGETHER.
A lot of the pressure people feel about planning their Valentine’s Day comes from being unsure of their significant other’s expectations. But making plans together can be just as romantic as planning a surprise—plus, it’ll allow you and your significant other to come up with a romantic outing that fits your budget and your interests.
6. ENJOY THE GREAT OUTDOORS.
Going for a hike or a sunset walk in your local park is a blissfully peaceful (and blissfully cheap) Valentine’s option that’ll let you avoid over-packed restaurants and spend some quality time with your significant other. America has nearly dozens of National Parks, many of which have pre-planned Valentine’s Day activities you can sign up for; pair with a picnic if the weather is warm enough.
7. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE AND GO TECH-FREE.
Going without our phones has become such a rarity these days, the simple act of unplugging our devices can help make any day feel a little more special. According to one study, 81 percent of people habitually interrupt meals or conversations by checking their texts. Unplugging on Valentine’s Day will let you and your beloved focus on each other, without distractions, no matter what V-Day activity you choose.
8. CHECK OUT A FREE ART EXHIBIT OR COMEDY SHOW.
Find a free comedy or open-mic night at a local club. Or browse gallery listings to find an art exhibit that sounds interesting. You’ll be supporting local artists—plus, some exhibit openings even offer free wine and cheese.
9. TAKE A CLASS TOGETHER…
Learning a new skill together is always a fun and affordable date idea: Take a dance lesson, learn pottery, or take an improv class—it doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you’re spending quality time together.
10. …OR TEACH EACH OTHER A NEW SKILL.
Sharing your knowledge and expertise is a great inexpensive way to spend a day together. Teach your significant other your favorite recipe, the world’s greatest magic trick, or how to fix a bike—or whatever great trick you’ve got up your sleeve—then have him or her share a favorite skill with you.
11. RECREATE YOUR FIRST DATE OR A FAVORITE MEMORY.
Whether you’re re-watching the movie you went to see on your first date or re-visiting the spot where you first met, recreating a relationship highlight is a fun and romantic way to look back at the early days of your relationship, and celebrate your future together.