Celebrating Valentine’s Day on a Budget at Home

Staying in this year? here’s how to make the day special without overspending:

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. No matter what it will make for an interesting and inexpensive date and you won’t get any bug bites.

3. Make a candlelight dinner for two

Here’s a surefire way to please your honey when you can’t afford a fancy restaurant meal: Make a romantic dinner yourself. Build a menu of your favorite dishes, add a couple of fancy place settings and some candles, and you won’t miss the restaurant. Pro tip: No fireplace? No problem. Fire up a virtual fireplace on Netflix and add the ambiance.

4. Pick up a yummy dessert

An easy and creative 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. Take a virtual class

Looking to shake up your Valentine’s Day routine? Tons of fitness and dance instructors around the country have taken their classes virtual, meaning everyone now has access to teachers they normally wouldn’t, and many courses are offering free trials so you can save money.

6. Stage a love-themed scavenger hunt around the house

Here’s another unique way to celebrate your loved one on Valentine’s Day. The website That Sweet Gift recommends making it special by creating a scavenger hunt with personalized clues that only the two of you will understand.

7. Enjoy a “Palentine’s” date over Zoom

Your friends are important, and chances are they miss you as much as you miss them. Schedule the time, grab your wine, and spend some time chatting with your friends.

Affordable Date Ideas

Rather go out? While many places have altered their seating, lowered capacity limits, or started requiring reservations, there are still plenty of great ways to go out this Valentine’s Day.

8. 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.

9. 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. Right now, most wineries are requiring reservations so they can maintain social distancing requirements, so book early. 

10. 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.

11. Go on a zoo date

If your love of animals is more exotic than domestic, what better place for a fun Valentine’s Day than your local zoo? Make sure to call first to make sure reservations aren’t required to ensure social distancing rules.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. Go on a “yappy hour” walk

Did you know some restaurants are offering 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.

18. 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 six-pack and a sunset on the beach, even better.

19. 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 affordable options for gift-giving this year:

20. 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.

21. 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.

22. 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.

23. 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, a dollar store, or your own pantry.

24. 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!

25. 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 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?

26. Purchase a festive PopSocket

Are you constantly competing with your loved one’s cell phone for attention? Why not lean into it with a SopSocket that says “there’s enough room in this relationship for the three of us.”

27. 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.

28. 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.

29. 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.

30. 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.”

31. 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.

32. 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.

33. 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.

34. 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.

35. 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.

36. Share a couple’s pendant

Not all Valentine’s Day jewelry has to come in an eggshell 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.

At first it may feel like it’s easier to just skin Valentine’s Day this year. 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.”

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