11 Cheap Valentine's Day 2018 Date Ideas That Prove Money Can't Buy Love

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When you're balling on a budget, trying to plan a romantic, creative date for your partner can feel super stressful, and that pressure is never more intense than on the most ~romantic~ day of the year: Valentine's Day. But instead of panicking and lamenting all the expensive activities you can't afford, you should arm yourself with plenty of cheap Valentine's Day date ideas — because it's totally possible to sweep your partner off their feet without demolishing your bank account balance in the process.

"When it comes to Valentine’s Day, I think too many people get caught up in the ritual and the ceremony of the day and often forget the whole point of the holiday in the first place: to spend time with the one you love and make them feel loved," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "This can be done for basically no cost whatsoever and even something as simple as coming home earlier to cook them a supper or sending them a message telling them how much you love them and what they mean to you is good enough for you to make your point clear to them."

It might be a cheesy cliche, but it really is the thought that counts — especially on a holiday like Valentine's Day. And while a kind word or simple, thoughtful act can both go a long way on their own any day of the year, that doesn't mean there isn't ample reason to also plan an inexpensive, creative Valentine's Day date with your partner. Here are 11 ideas for cheap, romantic dates that will allow you and your partner to look past the bows, hearts, and frills and focus on what really matters: nurturing your connection with one another.

1Cook An Aphrodisiac Meal Together

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I know it's hard not to be tempted by the drool-worthy prix fixe menu at your favorite restaurant, but if you want more bang for your buck, research a romantic, aphrodisiac-inspired recipe, hit the grocery store, and invite your partner to cook with you.

"Cooking is a perfect activity for couples," Amy Reiley, author of five aphrodisiac cookbooks, including the bestselling Eat Cake Naked, tells Bustle. "You're forced to put down your media and be present with one another, work together and fall into a rhythm...With the money you save [versus] dining out, you may even be able to afford something that feels indulgent but really isn't, like roll-your-own sushi. Or just pick up an already cooked, rotisserie chicken and concentrate on an aphrodisiac dessert you can make together."

2Go On A Romantic Camping Trip

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Weather permitting, organizing a romantic outdoor getaway with your partner is a fun, cheap way to spend V-Day. Even if your outdoor escape is into the backyard, getting some fresh air and snuggling up in a sleeping bag together will make for one relaxing and romantic night.  

"Camping is a fun and cheap alternative to a traditional date," Julie Kukral, Social & Content Marketer for Hipcamp, tells Bustle. "You can learn a lot about your significant other when you opt for a night of romance in the woods!"

3Fill Out Kids' Valentine's Day Cards For Each Other

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If you want an adorable way to surprise your partner on Valentine's Day morning, just take a walk down memory lane — aka the CVS aisle with all the kids' Valentine's cards.

"Nothing says 'I love you' more than drugstore cardboard hearts and little kids' Valentine's cards in a box!" Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and owner of ExclusiveMatchmaking.net, tells Bustle. "Wake your partner up with these drugstore finds and little notes on why you love them in each little Valentine. It is thoughtful and cute."

4Volunteer To Walk Shelter Dogs

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If you and your partner are animal lovers, what could be more romantic than volunteering your time on Valentine's Day by offering to walk dogs together at your local animal shelter? As if being accompanied by a fluffy friend isn't sweet enough, you'll also have plenty of time to talk (and flirt) with your partner while you walk around with your pooch — and you can treat yourself to some much-deserved ice cream on your way home.

5Go Play In The Snow

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Wherever there's snow on the ground, there's opportunity for a fun, active, and cute wintry date. "Go sledding, skating, snow tubing, snow shoeing, ice fishing, or simply go on a snow hike or build a snowman together," Justin Lavelle, dating expert and Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified.com, tells Bustle. "The point is you’re together and enjoying some outdoor fun. Cap it off with cups of hot cocoa and a game of Scrabble in front of the fireplace."

(Psst: If you live somewhere that's not snowy, go to the local ice skating rink and have a contest to see who falls down the least.)  

6Recreate Your First Date

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If you want to get creative without really getting creative this V-Day, pull the ultimate romantic move and recreate your very first date with your partner.

"When you are just getting to know someone, a coffee or a drink is totally appropriate first date fodder," Jennifer McDermott, Consumer Advocate & Communications Manager for personal finance comparison website finder.com, tells Bustle. "While that activity may not fly once you’re official, taking your significant back to the first place you established a connection is super romantic."

7Have An Indoor Picnic

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If your idea of a perfect date is just lying on a blanket with your partner while you sip wine and eat an array of snacks, plan an indoor (or outdoor, weather permitting) picnic for your partner this V-Day.

"Valentine’s Day brings cold weather for most people, so an outdoor picnic is not an option," Lavelle says. "But you can have a little Valentine’s picnic indoors instead for a fun twist. Make a yummy picnic-type lunch or dinner complete with a picnic basket, blanket and wine, of course. Have a fireplace? Even better! No matter what it will make for an interesting and inexpensive date and you won’t get any bug bites."

8Play Hooky & Have A Daytime Date

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Obviously, you shouldn't actually play hooky from work (at least call in sick!), but if you and your partner are both able to take the day off, spend it exploring your city together and going to places that are less crowded during the working hours — like the movies or a park.  

"Nothing says romance like skipping work and going on a daytime adventure," McDermott says. "Parks, movie theatres, trains and ferries are quieter during the weekday, the world will feel like it’s just the two of you. "

9Snuggle Up For A Romantic Movie Marathon

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Sometimes, the most romantic date ideas are the simplest and most classic. The perfect example? It might be a Valentine's Day cliche, but having a movie marathon of all your favorite love stories is still a fun, cozy way to spend the holiday.

"Create a cozy nook with some pillows, a couple of cozy blankets, your favorite sweets and snacks, and a selection of the most romantic movies from every era," Lavelle says. "Make it a sleepover in front of the TV to go all out. You’ll fall in love all over again!"

10Have A Game Night

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If movies aren't really your thing and you'd rather do something a little more active, having a board game night is both low-cost (if you own board games, that is), and a fun, competitive date that's perfect for Valentine's Day.

"A little healthy competition is good for any couple," Lavelle says. "Make V-day a game night. Think Jenga, Scrabble (add in a V-day twist by only allowing sexy or romantic words), and the Newlywed game. This is also a great option for a double date."

11Go On A Driving Tour Of Your City

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It might be impractical to do this if you'd have to pay a car to chauffeur you around, but if you own a car, taking your partner on a driving tour of your city — and stopping at your fave cheap spots along the way — is a great way to spend Valentine's Day.

"Drive by historical sights, visit your favorite neighborhoods, find homes you both love, and swing by your childhood home or the spot of your first date, if possible," Lavelle says. "If you have Sirius radio or old CDs you can play your favorite shared songs from different times in your relationship. Cap off the night with a trip to the ice cream shop or grab a dessert to share at a favorite restaurant."

Ultimately, it doesn't matter how much money you're able to spend while planning a date on Valentine's Day. Even if the date is totally free, as long as you plan something thoughtful and romantic, your partner is sure to be swooning by the end of the night.