The Ultimate Guide to a Romantic and Frugal Valentine’s Day

Showing your love for someone special should not be expensive. Here is the ultimate guide for celebrating Valentine's Day on a budget.
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My husband is my favorite person to be with, but we don’t take the time to reconnect one-on-one as often as we should. That’s why, this Valentine’s Day, I’m determined that the two of us are going to do something special. It has to be something fairly cheap, though.

We’re saving all of our spare pennies for a vacation, so I have no interest in paying big bucks for hours of babysitting so that we can sink even more cash into dinner and a show.

Here’s what I’ve learned about planning a romantic and frugal Valentine’s Day.

1. Eat Out for Cheaper

You can go out for a nice Valentine’s Day dinner without paying full price for your meal. It does take a little planning ahead and flexibility about which restaurant you go to. Purchasing gift cards ahead of time can shave several bucks off of your total bill. also sells restaurant gift cards, and you can often score these at bargain prices.

The selection of discounted gift cards changes regularly as they are usually Deal of the Day offers. They recommend following Amazon Deals on Twitter(@amazondeals) so that you don’t miss out on the best deals.

2. Have an Indoor Picnic

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If you’ve ever strolled hand-in-hand to a secluded spot and stretched out on a blanket with your darling, you know just how romantic a picnic can be. But alas, in many areas, February just doesn’t have the right weather for a comfortable outdoor picnic. No worries, though: it’s just the right temperature for an indoor picnic. All it takes is some blankets and a spread of tasty food. If you have a fireplace, that’s even better, but it’s certainly not a necessity. Set the atmosphere by bringing together an assortment of blankets and pillows in bold colors and rich textures. Serve a simple but sophisticated menu that includes an antipasto tray, a loaf of bread, olives, and chilled shrimp. One of the best perks of an indoor picnic? Clothing is entirely optional.

3. Watch a Movie

No, chilling on the couch isn’t the most adventurous or out-of-the-box idea for a date. But really, who says that Valentine’s Day has to be all about huge gestures? If you’re both a bit worn out, it’s perfectly okay stay in for the night and cuddle up together to watch a movie. As long as you’re together, that’s what is most important. Besides, if you watch an ultra-romantic movie, you may find some relationship inspiration.

Watch for date ideas, cheesy pickup lines, and new kissing techniques to try. And, yes, it is acceptable to try out those techniques while you watch!

You could settle in with an old favorite, but it’s also fun to try a new movie or something that you have not watched before.

4. Take a Walk

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Is your Valentine’s Day super busy with little time to meet up as a couple? Carve out some time before bed for an evening walk. A few months ago, a friend challenged my husband and me to spend half an hour of uninterrupted time talking to each other every day for a week. We found that the best way to do this was by taking a walk at night. By getting out of the house, you can make the best use of a limited span of time because you aren’t as distracted by kids, phones, and household chores.

Strengthen your relationship by walking while you talk. A side-by-side conversation is less intimidating than a face-to-face one, so you may feel freer to discuss important things. Plus, walking is good exercise, so you are helping your bodies as well as your partnership. Even if you can’t spend the whole of Valentine’s Day wining and dining your loved one, if you can set aside a bit of time for a hand-in-hand walk, you will have used the day well.

5. Get Competitive

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During my wedding shower, my bridesmaids and I played several fun games.  I remember one card game in particular I loved so much. I never would’ve guessed that it would turn out to be one of our most favorites! We played that game again and again as a young couple. From late night card marathons to lazy Saturday rounds, our relationship bond grew through the simple act of playing a game together. Playing games is good for your relationship because it encourages you to interact and engage with one another.

For Valentine’s Day, take the game playing to a whole new level with a couple’s game night. Invite two or three pairs of friends over for an evening of competition. Ask each couple to bring a game and a snack to share. To keep the event thematic, give everyone a Valentine-related instruction for the snacks, such as foods that are red.

6. Reminisce about the Past

I didn’t manage to get my wedding ceremony recorded on video. We had someone who was planning to film it, but her camera battery died just as the first attendants were walking down the aisle. Live and learn, right? But, if I did have a video, Valentine’s Day would be the perfect time to watch it.

I do, however, have plenty of photos and a box filled with relationship memorabilia. Do you have sentimental treasures like this stashed away at your house, too? Set aside some time on Valentine’s Day to go through them with your sweetie.

Don’t limit yourselves to rifling only through memorabilia from your shared history. For Your Marriage suggests showing each other childhood photos and trading stories from your growing-up years. If you’re okay with bearing the good, the bad, and the ugly about those awkward teen years, have fun and flip through each other’s high school yearbooks.

7. Massage One Another

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A couple’s massage at a local spa is quite the indulgence, but you can give each other the same relaxing treatment at home. For Valentine’s Day, try some new massage techniques out on one another. Here is a quick and easy trick that can help you give a good massage, even if your hands aren’t as strong as a professional’s: rub a tennis ball along your partner’s shoulders. Remember, though, that a full massage experience is more than just a back rub. 

ESSENCE advises also paying attention to your partner’s ears, neck, scalp, jaw, and hands. On their site, you’ll find instructions for massaging each of these areas.

Don’t forget the massage oil. Using just a bit of oil allows your hands to slide freely over your partner’s skin. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend big bucks on a specialty massage oil for your Valentine’s Day massage session. Grapeseed or avocado oil from your grocer’s shelf will do the trick nicely.

8. Take a Class Together

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My friends recently signed up for a dance class together. During the month of February, they are going to learn moves that will help them get their groove on the next time that they go to a wedding reception. Since this romantic class is offered through a local community college’s extension program, the cost for two people is pretty reasonable.

Community colleges are not the only places to find affordable hobby classes that you can take together. Check program schedules at art shops and vocational schools. Community centers and libraries are other places to try. Many times, these organizations offer a special lineup of events for Valentine’s Day. You may find a French crepe cooking class, a couple’s painting program, or a partner yoga session on the schedule for February.

9. Give Handmade Gifts

Early in our relationship, I made my then-boyfriend a pull-out photo album for Valentine’s Day. Surrounding the photo of the two of us was a collage of clip-art photos representing various aspects of our relationship. Almost 20 years later, my now husband still displays that frame in his office, and looking at it never fails to bring a smile to my face because of the unique way in which it captures memories of the first year of our dating relationship.

There’s something ultra-romantic about a gift that you made yourself. It says, “I was thinking about you,” in a deeper way than most store-bought items can. They suggest gifting a map of the special places in your relationship or crafting a memory candle with a favorite photo.

10. Prepare a Romantic Bath

Warm water, candlelight, and that special someone all add up to a pretty romantic evening, and you don’t even have to leave your house to accomplish it. To really pamper your partner, prepare everything ahead of time so all that’s left to do is relax. Sprinkle rose petals around the area, decorating with tea light candles, and having fluffy towels waiting for after the bath. You can purchase a towel warmer, but setting the towels on your heating vent is a cheaper DIY option.

Combine the Valentine’s Day bath date with a handmade gift by making heart-shaped bath bombs for the occasion. You will need silicone heart molds and some household supplies, including jojoba oil, witch hazel, baking soda, and a mesh strainer. Head over to AttaGirlSays for the full recipe, which makes five to six bath bombs at a time.

We also have a bath bomb recipe that’s perfect for the holidays as well.

11. Plan Future Dates

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A Valentine’s Day date is nice, but continuing the romance throughout the year is even better. Let your honey know that you are looking forward to a whole year together by presenting him or her a Valentine’s Day gift of 12 months of planned activities. Do the February activity on Valentine’s Day and then enjoy the rest of the dates throughout the year.

You can find 12 months of pre-planned date ideas for this gift at Find Joy in the Journey. Some of the suggestions are elaborate dinner-and-entertainment type dates, and others are quick fast food meals with a simple activity to enjoy together. There are even ideas for cheap date nights that involve staying home for an evening of playing video games or romancing one another.

Find Joy in the Journey suggests paying for the dates ahead of time by purchasing gift cards and tickets and including them in the gift. To make this a more affordable present, you could plan the dates now and pay for them as you go. This spreads out the cost over the course of the year. Either include a mix of low-cost and pricier dates like they did or go full-on frugal with 12 months of cheap or free date ideas.

12. Cook Together

When you prepare your own food, you can eat a gourmet dinner at a fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal. Cook your Valentine’s Day dinner as a couple and you’ll have dinner and an activity all rolled into one. The only caveat is that, if you are a bit of a control freak in the kitchen, you’ll have to step back and let your partner be involved.

With defined areas of responsibility, you’re less likely to step on each other’s toes and more likely to enjoy the cooking process. A Couple Cooks adds a few suggestions from their own experience with cooking together. They recommend taking your time, keeping up with the dishes as you go, and enjoying some light snacks and wine while you cook so that you don’t end up famished by the time the meal is ready. Hop over to their site for a full Valentine’s Day menu for couples to prepare together. It features a light salad, a pasta dish, and dumplings. There’s even a chocolate ice cream made with coconut milk for dessert.

13. Make a Box of Chocolates

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Chocolates are a traditional Valentine’s Day gift, but the good ones can be rather expensive. Making your own is a frugal alternative. You can have fun crafting them as a couple or make them in secret as a surprise for your sweetie.

14. Search Deal Sites

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On deal sites, you may be able to save 50% or more on Valentine’s Day gifts or activities. These websites typically sell reduced-cost vouchers that you can redeem for goods and services from local or online business. According to Spouse Dates, you can use these sites to find deals on restaurants, flower arrangements, and activities to do together. These could include wine tastings, spa treatments, or romantic trips.

Personally, I’ve also used these sites for cookie bouquets, gourmet chocolate-covered strawberries, and drive-in movie theater tickets.

You can usually find deals for metropolitan areas near you and also ones that are available nationwide through online ordering. Two of the most popular national sites to use are Groupon and Living Social. On either website, enter your zip code to get started, and the site will suggest vouchers that are available in your area. To help you find one that’s good for Valentine’s Day, refine your search by selecting applicable categories, such as Escapes or Things to Do.

15. Volunteer Together

There’s nothing so sexy as a person who cares about others, and seeing your special someone serving may lead to a deeper love between the two of you. Instead of indulging one another in gifts and elaborate dinners, spend the day investing in an organization that is important to the two of you.

Volunteering together keeps your relationship fresh and exciting, strengthens the bond that you share, and helps you discover what is most important to the two of you. Suggestions include volunteering at an animal rescue program, a senior center, or a homeless shelter. You may even enjoy it so much that you will decide to return again and again after Valentine’s Day.

Another way to extend your service past the one-day holiday is to go on a volunteering vacation. You could either take a February trip or book the trip and present the travel documents to your honey as a Valentine’s Day gift. Couples who volunteer abroad have the opportunity to see the world together while also making a difference for others. On your service trip, you can try international foods and have new experiences together that you wouldn’t get at home.

Granted, serving on the other side of the world is more expensive than volunteering at the community center across town, but it can be a cheaper way to see the world than a vacation where you stay at fancy hotels and eat in classy restaurants. Plus, your travel costs will be a two-for-one deal; for the price you pay, you will both be helping others and seeing new parts of the world.

Valentine's Day should not be expensive. Both of you can enjoy this special day without breaking your wallet.

Do you agree that romance can be had on the cheap? I’m really looking forward to the sweet intimacy that my husband and I will share simply because we’re spending time together and not because we’re spending big bucks. What low-cost plans do you have underway for Valentine’s Day? Leave your ideas in the comments below.

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