Getting out of the house for Valentine’s Day can be way more costly than your typical date. The first time I planned a Valentine’s dinner out with my now husband, we were two college kids working just enough to keep gas in our tanks. A dinner for two, even at a mid-level chain, was going to cost us more than either of us could spare thanks to the limited holiday menus being offered at most restaurants that year.
Since that first Valentine’s Day, our budget has shifted several times. Some years we’ve had the funds to dress up and eat out, but many years have been spent paying careful attention to every dollar we spent. It’s easy to feel like being broke puts a damper on the romance, but we’ve come to enjoy getting creative with our funds and our plans for the holiday. Here are a few fresh ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day when you are hopelessly broke.
A themed date-night in
Staying in might seem like the obvious choice, but it doesn’t mean your date has to be typical or boring. Take on the challenge of planning a themed date night that matches the movie of your choosing. Watching “Midnight in Paris?” Find a local bakery with housemade croissants and pick out a mid-priced champagne. Is “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” more suited to your quirky movie tastes? Dine on take-out Chinese, a favorite of the couple in this love story.
Set a ridiculously low budget
Your budget may already feel tight, but why not make it fun by turning it into a challenge? Choose a really low number, like $5 each, and challenge your significant other to finding a creative date you can accomplish without breaking that budget. If gift giving is a priority in your relationship, your $5 budget can be dedicated to hunting down the most unique and meaningful gift you can find for one another.
Skip the meal
Dinner out may feel like a non-negotiable part of the Valentine’s Day experience, but there is no harm in skipping it and opting for a less expensive activity. Think of it as a chance to save some money and come up with an original activity for two. In our moderately sized city, there are four different museums that don’t charge for admission, and we love to spend a slow Friday night browsing a new section of a museum we have explored, grabbing a cup of coffee to wrap up the evening. If the weather is mild enough where you live, opt for outside, going for a hike or a walk through your favorite part of town.
Exchange handmade gifts
I know, handmade gifts are the oldest suggestion in the book, but don’t tune me out just yet. Thanks to the internet, you can easily find directions and inexpensive supplies for some incredibly unique and thoughtful gifts. If your guy has facial hair, he might like homemade beard wax with a custom scent. A friend of mine is uber crafty, and her husband loves movies, so she’s been working on a cross-stitch sampler of the main characters from “The Goonies” for his gift. For your lady, homemade body butter is almost always a win during the dry winter months, or if you’re feeling really brave, try one of these basic woodworking projects. Of course, a well-thought-out letter costs nothing, doesn’t require any skills (other than speaking your heart) and will be treasured by your significant other well into the future.
On Valentine’s Day, a lot of restaurants have promotions that are tres expensive and those specials are often the only option. We’ve recently noticed that the everyday menus at many restaurants are way more budget-friendly, so this year, my husband and I have rescheduled our Valentine’s Day altogether. We have plans to eat out the weekend before, when there are smaller crowds and cheaper menus. This is a good idea for the couple who really enjoys dinner out but simply can’t justify the dinner ticket that comes with a Valentine’s Day meal.
After spending eight Valentine’s Days together, the memory of the time spent together, placing a priority on connecting with each other, and celebrating our relationship has always mattered more to my husband and me than what we ate or what we did. As you make your plans this February, remember that your budget shouldn’t get in the way of celebrating with your special someone or expressing gratitude for the time you’ve spent together.
Originally published on February 9, 2017.