Ah, Valentine’s Day, that one day of the year that you spend, spend and spend to have a romantic evening with your sweetheart. You BUY candy, BUY flowers, BUY gifts and BUY dinner. You might even purchase a new dress, or pay to have your nails done or hair cut before your Valentine’s Day date.
Stop! You don’t have to go out for dinner and drinks to show your love and appreciation for your partner. Plus, going into debt is not romantic.
With a little bit of planning and imagination, your Valentine’s Day can be memorable and cheap. Here are 14 creative and cheap Valentine’s Day date ideas that won’t break the bank, but still show you care.
Valentine’s date night at home
First and foremost, if you’re married with kids, babysitting tends to be a luxury. So why not tuck the kiddos into bed and then have an at-home Valentine’s date night on the cheap? Some fun ideas include a movie marathon, complete with fresh popped popcorn and some homemade smoothies. Or set up your laptop or tablet and click on your favorite music site such as Pandora for a fun night of karaoke. Pick a station that you both enjoy and it will provide hours of laughter and be a bonding experience.
Head on over to your local bookstore and spend some time exploring. The best part about this date idea is that it is totally FREE! If you don’t think that’s romantic, remember a few films that allowed libraries to get top billing: Paul says the L-word to Holly in a library in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the romantic Beast gives Belle an entire library to symbolize his love in Beauty and the Beast.
Cooking together is always a fun idea and less expensive than going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. Plus you avoid all the crowds and the hassle of trying to find an available reservation when everything is booked for the holiday. Find your favorite restaurant dish on Copy Kat Recipes. Go shopping together for the ingredients and then cook as a couple.
Pick a theme for your date night in. Feel like going to Paris for the evening? Well then grab a baguette, some sparkling wine and a few cheeses for a tasting. How about Italy? Easy. You just need some pasta, a bottle of Chianti and a yummy tiramisu. Even if the meal doesn’t taste like the restaurant option, you’ll make memories cooking together in the kitchen. You could also make your own fondue, homemade pizza or have breakfast for dinner.
What’s more romantic than stargazing with your loved one? Head to a local park or even your backyard with a blanket, download the free Star Chart app on your smartphone for an easy map of constellations, and pack your favorite beverage. Make sure there aren’t any lights nearby to make it easier to see the stars.
Daytime Valentine’s Day dates
Who says Valentine’s Day date nights have to take place at night? Go on a nature walk, create a scavenger hunt for items to find, pick some flowers along the way and end with a romantic picnic. Dust off classic game options like Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. Make it interesting by raising the stakes with romantic bets. Or start watching a corny soap opera or romantic series as a couple.
Find a local winery or wine shop for a tasting or go on a free winery tour. These venues might have free snacks and local music, if you’re lucky. At restaurants, wine is marked up 300% or more. Instead of drinking your favorite bottle out on the town, pick up wine at the local liquor store. Serve your own wine flights or cover each bottle for a blind taste test. As you sample, savor each sip and compare notes on the flavors and your preferences.
Find a local volunteer opportunity or service project in your area and serve together. You’ll spend quality time together while helping out the community all at no cost except for your time.
Are you musically inclined? Write a song together, or have a lively jam session at home. If you don’t sing or play an instrument, why not take a class together, or learn to play using a video?
Find date activity deals
Keep an eye out on your local deal sites such as Groupon for discounts to paint-your-own-pottery or paint-night outings. You can typically save up to 50% off per person.
Go out for drinks and snacks
Still want to go out? Go out for drinks, appetizers or dessert, and enjoy the rest of your Valentine’s Day dinner at home. You won’t spend as much money than if you ate a whole meal at a restaurant, but you still get that on-the-town excitement. Plus, you can sit at the bar and avoid the mad scramble for holiday reservations.
See a show for less
Want to see a musical or play but the price is too steep? Call around to see if your local theater sells tickets for dress rehearsals. You pay less than the actual ticket cost and get the same experience. Or, see if you can find a discounted ticket from Goldstar. Tickets to shows at community theaters can be more affordable than a seat in the fancy theater in the city.
Build something together
Order in pizza and open up that DIY Pinterest inspiration board you have been filling with ideas. Pick your favorite and get started. Not only will you have a fun time bonding over your craft, but you’ll end up with a better Valentine’s Day present than you ever could have bought at a store.
Work out together
Into fitness? Get a free day pass to a gym whose membership may be a bit out of your budget and spend some time with your sweetie getting physical. Challenge each other to a fitness competition, take some classes and then take advantage of the gym’s sauna or pool, if it has one. Or get some fresh air and plan a day of play in your neighborhood. Go for a bike ride to a local park or shopping district. Play a fun and low-impact game like Frisbee golf, mini golf and bocce ball or visit the batting cages.
Be a tourist in your own city. Go online and print out a travel guide, set your sights on a few locations, create an itinerary and play tourist. Make sure to take pictures along the way. Spice it up by searching for inexpensive places you’ve never visited before. Some local museums offer free or cheap entry. Look for local parks or trails, farmers’ markets, free live music, free outdoor movie nights and more.
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