Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be expensive. There are several cheap Valentine’s Day date ideas you can do, because love doesn’t — and shouldn’t— cost money. And, TBH, not everyone can shell out money for a $200 prix fixe dinner. But here are many, many ways around this. One year, I made my then-boyfriend heart-shaped pasta. After all, we were both the stereotypical “starving artists” in L.A. and had always appreciated creativity more than how much money the other person could spend. We also made each other gifts — I made him a collage of photos with captions and he wrote me a notebook full of poems.
Aside from being creative, homemade gifts and date ideas always score lots of dating points, if you’re into that sort of thing. I know some therapists and dating experts may say not to keep score in a relationship, but you know what I mean. What if your partner cooks dinner when their version of cooking is usually putting a frozen pizza in the oven? Major points, right?!
“A great date is in the details,” Christina Coster, MA, Event Consultant for Rapport Relationships, tells Bustle. "Everyone loves a personalized experience, as it shows you’ve been listening when your partner mentions what is important to them. Keep your ears perked when you are together — have they mentioned a favorite meal that reminds them of home, a bottle of wine that they discovered while they were studying abroad, or a flower that puts a smile on their face? Integrate that into a cozy night at home. If you prefer an activity, have they mentioned a hobby or sport they really enjoy but maybe don’t get to do much? Head to your local craft store, grab some supplies and a bottle of wine, and set up a temporary studio in your apartment."
I could not agree more! All that said, here are 11 cheap Valentine’s Day date ideas, because it truly is the thought that counts and Valentine’s Day certainly doesn’t have to break the bank.
1Cook Together (Or Separately)
I get it — maybe Seamless knows you more than your kitchen does. So now’s your chance to either surprise your partner with dinner (or breakfast or lunch, btw!) or one of you can make dinner while the other makes appetizers and dessert.
“Sure, fancy dinners are nice, but you can make some really great memories that will bond you together as a couple if you try something new,” Rachel Russo, MS, MFT: matchmaker/dating & relationship coach, founder of Rachel Russo Relationships, tells Bustle. “If you want to stick with the food theme, you can test out some new recipes at home or take a cooking class. The truth is, if you are creative enough, you can find ways to do what you want at cheaper prices.”
2Go Camping (In Your Living Room)
Not much is more romantic than candlelight, right? How about indoor camping, but without having to ward off mosquitoes in the process? Why not surprise your partner with their homemade meal — or just apps and desserts — in a tent that’s set up in the living room? Or forget the food and just lie down together and tell each other stories, like about all the things you love about them?
Add some candles (probably battery-operated ones, so your Valentine’s Day date doesn’t involve the fire department!) and perhaps some chirping cricket sound effects on Spotify, and you’re all set. You can also even add a string of star-shaped lights if you can’t actually see the stars from the tent or window.
3Go On A Mini Road Trip
“My wife and I love going out, but on Valentine’s Day, there are always so many other couples that we tend to find things to do that allow us to share some quality time together,” Tyler Turk, Founder, Crated With Love, a monthly date night subscription box, tells Bustle. “Usually, we plan a small weekend getaway either the weekend before or after. We try and find a new city we have never been to, and spend the day exploring. Besides gas and food, it doesn’t cost us much and we are still able to spend some time celebrating our love near Valentine’s Day.”
I agree, and also am a big fan of the exploring-a-new-neighborhood idea in your very own town or city that neither of you has been to. You can either decide together, surprise the other person, or just point to a place on a map.
4Go Play Games, Video Games
There aren't many dates I like more than ones that take place at a good old-fashioned arcade. And when you hit up places like Headquarters Beercade in Chicago, the machines are all free.
So all you have to buy is drinks (if you want — you’re not obligated!). You can also invent a game, like compete with your date in as many games as possible. If they have tickets at the arcade, you can also use them to buy each other cute Valentine’s Day gifts at the end. Gift dilemma solved!
5Get Outside And Get Active
"Doing something where you and your date can get to know each other better, connect, and, most importantly, have fun is the best approach," Justin Stenstrom, Editor-in-Chief of Elite Man Magazine, tells Bustle. "So with this in mind, you want to pick a place where some type of activity is involved. Some of the best options I've seen include going to a paint night, bowling, a place like Dave & Busters, mini-golf, skating, or checking out a low-key event, like an outdoor festival or fair."
6Go To A Cat Cafe
Yes, at cat cafes, you can go cuddle up with cats, as well as with each other. Most are up for adoption, so if your partner has been wanting one, maybe the end of the cat cafe date can end with you surprising your partner with one?
7Have A Night In
"Cook them a delicious meal at home instead, have a night in with a bottle of fizz, chocolates, and a movie (nothing beats a night on the sofa together!), and/or give them a gift they’ll truly love that doesn’t cost the Earth," Caroline Brealey, Matchmaker at Mutual Attraction, tells Bustle. "I once had a musician I was seeing write me a song, and it was so romantic and priceless. A thoughtful gift trumps an expensive one every time.”
I agree. The more you pay attention to what your partner’s ideal night would be, Valentine’s Day or not, the better. Plus, thoughtfulness is inexpensive.
8Go For A Walk
Yes, going for a walk is a cheap Valentine’s Day date, but it’s not just any walk. Perhaps you’ve set up surprise notes along the walking route. Or perhaps you timed the walk for the sunrise or sunset and have a champagne toast and heartfelt card waiting.
9Play In The Snow
Use the winter weather to your advantage. There’s been no better time than Valentine’s Day to go make a snowman (or woman) with your partner. Or, have a snowball fight. Or, make snow angels. Or, ice skate. The snow possibilities are endless! I once went on a moonlit snowshoe tour, and it was a-mazing. This wasn’t on Valentine’s Day, but I ended up meeting a girl who became a future friend for Galentine’s Day.
10Go To A Lookout Spot
This is another cheap Valentine’s Day date that can be as romantic as you want it to be. You can bring along a picnic and love letter for your partner, but you can also enjoy the view — not just each other, but of that mountain peak or those ocean waves.
11Color Or Have A Game Night
Coloring for adults is all the rage these days, so why not have a coloring night with your partner? You can get a bunch of different coloring books and color the night away. Of course, you can add food and drinks and thoughtful gifts for each other, too. You can also up the coloring game and make it into a contest. Or, throw some board games into the mix, perhaps some love-themed ones, too, like The Newlywed Game. After all, how well do you really know your partner?! The game will help you find out — and also bring you closer.
See, that wasn’t so bad, thinking up ways to have a cheap Valentine’s Day date. The ideas may be low in cost, but they’re high on fun.