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

Ad failed to load

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.

Ad failed to load

1Cook An Aphrodisiac Meal Together

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

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


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


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."

Ad failed to load

4Volunteer To Walk Shelter Dogs


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


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


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."

Ad failed to load

7Have An Indoor Picnic

Africa Studio/Fotolia

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

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

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

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

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!"

Ad failed to load

10Have A Game Night


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


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.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Bustle Editors On CPAC + 'Making A Murderer'

Adulthood is, essentially, just waiting until the weekend hits — which is why I know we're all glad it's finally Friday. Whether your plans are to catch up on all the Netflix content that'll be leaving the platform at the end of February, a weekend g…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale