39 Valentine’s Day Ideas on a Budget
As soon as you sweep up the New Year’s party confetti, Valentine’s Day is knocking at the door. For a day focused on love, it can sure bring some stress – especially if money is tight. Check out our list of ideas to find something that shows you care without sinking your budget.
Creative Valentine's Day Ideas for Everyone
1. Make a playlist and dance it out
Back in the day, if you wanted to impress your crush you’d make a mixtape of all your favorite songs. Nowadays, music apps like Spotify make it easy. Make one special playlist for your loved one, and then transform your living room into a dance floor. It might sound cheesy, but quality time and physical touch are love languages for a reason, and you both might realize you needed this more than you thought.
2. Prepare an at-home picnic
Create a little Valentine’s Day picnic indoors for a fun, affordable twist. Make a picnic-type lunch or dinner complete with a picnic basket, blanket and wine. It will make for an interesting and inexpensive date, and you won’t get any bug bites.
3. Make a candlelight dinner for two
Whether you're wanting to avoid public restaurants or just need Valentine's Day ideas on a budget, there's an easy solution: Make a romantic dinner yourself. Build a menu of your favorite dishes, add a couple of fancy place settings and some candles, light up your fireplace, and you won’t miss the restaurant. If your date also likes to cook, this can be a fun way to spend some time together.
Pro tip: No fireplace? No problem. Fire up a virtual fireplace on Netflix and add to the ambiance.
4. Pick up a yummy dessert
An easy and tried-and-true option for those wishing to express their love: pick up a box of chocolates or their favorite cake. If you’re on a budget, this is a great way to make your loved one feel special without spending more than you can afford.
5. Sign up for a virtual class
Experiences are the key to inexpensive Valentine's Day gifts. Looking to shake up your Valentine’s Day routine? Pick out something new for you and your partner to try. It could be a new fitness or dance class, a cooking class, or any hobby that you've been interested in learning about together. The rise in virtual classes means everyone now has access to opportunities and teachers they normally wouldn’t. Some courses and subscriptions even offer free trials so you can save money.
6. Put the phone away
A completely free way to show your love is to give your partner your undivided attention. Make February 14th a special day by turning your place into a phone-free zone. Then allow yourself to be completely present with your partner as you go about your evening.
7. Try something new
If you're cooped up at home again this Valentine's Day, you can still shake things up with a new experience! You can pick out new board games to play together or even fire up a new streaming app to watch shows and movies that you may have been missing out on.
8. Get outside
No matter what the weather is looking like outside, there's probably something for you to do in the great outdoors! If you're in a warmer climate where the roads aren't covered in ice, dust off your bicycles and head out for a bike ride. Or, if you're in a cold climate, bundle up and take your sweetie ice skating. No matter where you go, don't forget to pick up a sweet treat before heading home.
Valentine's Day Activities for Kids
9. Go on a zoo date
If your family is full of exotic animal lovers, a trip to the zoo could be just what you need. Just make sure you call ahead of time to see if your zoo requires reservations to ensure social distancing.
10. Set up a scavenger hunt
Is staying at home preferred this year? Keep your kids busy with a scavenger hunt. Hide their favorite treats or other small Valentine's gifts around the house. You can also hide things in the yard or along your favorite secluded walking trail if you have one.
11. Make something
Ask your kids to do a project with you. You can make heart-shaped brownies filled with sprinkles to satisfy their sweet tooth. Or you can make crafts such as heart-shaped garlands or homemade Valentine's Day cards!
Affordable Valentine's Day Date Ideas
Rather go out? With the surge in COVID-19 cases in recent months, there may be some restrictions at local restaurants and other public places. Even so, there are still plenty of great ways to enjoy a date night this Valentine's Day on a budget.
12. Go on a food truck date
Whether you live in a major metropolitan area with an abundance of food trucks and cuisine options or you reside in a small, one-taco truck town, there’s just something about ordering something delicious through the window of a brightly painted truck that makes people happy.
13. Go wine tasting
Depending on where you live, this is another option where you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a date night to have a good time. Many wineries offer free tastings with the purchase of just one bottle of wine. Most wineries will probably be busy for Valentine's Day, so it's a good idea to book ahead of time.
14. Pay a visit to a used bookstore
If you and your honey are bookworms, a low-key afternoon at your favorite used bookstore is about as romantic as it gets. Grab a coffee if the store has a cafe, then peruse the shelves at a leisurely pace. For added fun, try picking out books for each other.
15. Go on a date on February 15th
Personal finance expert Erin Lowry has the perfect idea for couples on a budget: forget tradition and go out on the town the day after Valentine’s Day. Avoid the V-Day “love tax” and dine out the next night when the restaurants are far less crowded and the regular menu has replaced the prix fixe.
16. Be tourists in your own town
“Travel is a state of mind,” according to author Paul Theroux. “It has nothing to do with existence or the exotic. It is almost always an inner experience.” Take these words of wisdom to heart by getting out and exploring parts of your own city you never knew existed.
17. Visit a museum
Spark conversation with your loved one by immersing yourselves in the art world. Unlike restaurants, museums don’t typically hike up prices on Valentine’s Day. In fact, many offer free days to the general public or suggested donations rather than a set entry price. Our suggestion? Visit a museum that’s open at night for an “after dark” vibe.
18. Book an indoor rock climbing session
Reach new heights in your relationship with a rock-climbing session at an indoor gym. Doing something physically challenging together is a great way to connect, which is why some folks say that the couple that sweats together, stays together.
19. Sing your heart out
If you’re musically inclined, why not serenade your sweetie with love songs at your favorite karaoke bar? If you like the idea but can’t carry a tune, don’t be shy. Sometimes laughter is the best way to someone’s heart.
20. Go on a “yappy hour” walk
Cheap Valentine's Day ideas can include your four-legged best friend, too. Did you know some restaurants offer to-go cups of boozy beverages? If it’s an option in your state, grab a drink with your loved one and your pooch, and go for a nice long walk. Don’t forget to bring a special treat for the pups.
21. Plan a daylong road trip
Are you and your honey craving a getaway? A road trip can be the perfect romantic escape you need. Download your favorite podcasts, gas up the car and drive to an area you both know and love. If your day ends with a sunset on the beach, even better.
22. Row, row, row your boat
You don’t need to travel to Venice to experience a romantic boat ride. If you’re lucky enough to live near a lake that rents out boats to the public, a row (or pedal) around the lake can be great fun.
Inexpensive Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas
From small Valentine’s gifts to DIY surprises, here are the best and cheap Valentine's Day ideas for gift-giving this year:
23. Write a love letter
In so many ways, love notes hold more sentimental value than a gift. Put some thought into the words and make them count.
24. Frame a photo
Find a favorite picture of you and your loved one, put it in a nice frame, and display it somewhere prominent. Try to find a photo of a romantic memory, like your trip to Cancun several years ago.
25. Offer a “gift certificate” for a free chore
If your partner is habitually overworked, stressed out and strapped for time, this gift is the ultimate act of kindness. Offer to do the dishes for one week, weed the garden or take out the trash for a month.
26. Make a scented bath bomb
Lovebomb your loved one with this fizzy concoction you can make at home. You may have to visit a natural pharmacy for some of these items, but most of them can be found in a grocery store, dollar store or your own pantry.
27. Repurpose a store-bought bouquet
With some ingenuity and a few household items, you can take a lackluster grocery store bouquet and make it sing. All you need is a little greenery to break up the colors, some tape, scissors, copper filament (in case the flowers are droopy), and whatever vase you like. Voila!
28. Create a DIY message in a bottle
Again, you can probably find most of the supplies you need for this project — like a bottle with a cork, white paper, red felt and a glue gun — in your own home, at a dollar store or through online retailers like Amazon.com. Who wouldn’t be impressed by such a romantic gesture?
29. Purchase a festive PopSocket
Are you constantly competing with your loved one’s cell phone for attention? Why not lean into it with a PopSocket that says “there’s enough room in this relationship for the three of us.”
30. Bake heart-shaped cupcakes
Sometimes your best bet is to stick to the classic goodies. If your significant other has a sweet tooth, you can mix up a batch of cupcakes with just a simple store-bought mix and a heart-shaped cupcake pan.
31. Fill the home with scented candles
Unless your beloved is sensitive to strong smells, it’s hard to go wrong with scented candles. Skip the fancy high-end stuff and head to a box store or drugstore where the range of scents and options can rival even the priciest brands.
32. Buy a pair of comfy slippers
At the end of a long day, most of us don’t want to jam our feet into a glass slipper. Nothing says “I love you” like a soft, cozy hug for your loved one’s tootsies.
33. Gift homemade origami flowers
Flowers fade. This year, opt for the more frugal origami option. “Valentine's Day is a day for love, but it also just happens to be the time when every flower shop in town hikes up their prices,” says Justin Meyers, editor of WonderHowTo. “You can literally fold just about anything out of a sheet or two of paper, and depending on how crazy you get, it could take mere minutes to complete.”
34. Pick up some quality spirits
When it comes to wine and spirits, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get good quality. If your significant other likes beer, pick up a six-pack of their favorite craft brew. If they prefer wine, pop into your local wine store and let the experts know what varieties your partner prefers and how much you want to spend.
35. Make a DIY love mug
With a white coffee mug, oil-based sharpies, and 30 minutes in the oven, you can make your loved one a gift that will remind them of you every time they reach for a coffee cup.
36. Hand make chocolate-dipped strawberries
“To me, chocolate is the foundation of any romantic dessert, but chocolate desserts can become heavy very quickly,“ says pastry chef, author and food blogger Jennifer Farley on her blog SavorySimple. “This is why I prefer to simply serve a good quality chocolate with fresh strawberries when I’m planning for date night.” Bonus: You can prepare them the night before for a more relaxing date on Valentine’s Day.
37. Create a succulent terrarium
If you and your significant other share a love of plants and gardening, a mini terrarium makes a charming Valentine’s Day gift. All you need is an assortment of succulents, cactus mix soil, sand, fertilizer and any glass container with a wide opening. Not much of a green thumb? You can purchase a ready-made kit for fairly cheap.
38. Decorate the house
Why should Christmas and Halloween have all the fun? As far as romantic gestures go, surprising your significant other with a house dedicated to your love is pretty high up there. Grab some red construction paper and tape, and you’re halfway there.
39. Share a couple’s pendant
Not all Valentine’s Day jewelry has to come in a robin’s egg blue Tiffany’s box. This year, why not get a piece you can share with your loved one, like a break-apart couple’s pendant? Whether you prefer hearts or puzzle pieces, you’ll feel connected to your loved one even when you’re apart.
Above all, make it meaningful.
If you're in an area with restrictions due to COVID-19 or you don't feel comfortable going out, it may feel like it’s easier to just skip Valentine’s Day. But think of it this way — it could be a blessing in disguise. “Valentine’s Day gives us an opportunity to honor our significant others, but this authentic desire can easily be redirected into excessive spending,” says financial advisor and MoneyZen blogger Manisha Thakor. “The truth is that you are worth far more than any amount of money can measure.”