Stores love Valentine’s Day—even more than lovebirds do.
They aim their marketing efforts and cheesy commercials like arrows straight for the heart. Millions of bucks are spent each year to pull on heartstrings and push everything from fancy dinners and champagne to pricey flower bouquets and sparkly stud earrings. Because after all, love is a diamond, right? Wrong.
Here’s the thing though. All that advertising still somehow works! Last year, Americans shelled out more than $27.4 billion for Valentine’s Day.1 That’s over $196 per person! Now, that was pre-pandemic, and after living through all that 2020 held, people might be wanting to spend way less this year. If that’s you, we’ve got you covered with these 10 cheap Valentine’s Day date ideas for you and your love to enjoy.
1. Enjoy Dinner and a Movie
Okay, we know, dinner and a movie is the most traditional date in the book, but don’t knock it. This year, you can get creative with it—and you might have to depending on what kind of COVID-19 restrictions are in place where you live. So how about a candlelit home-cooked meal and a romantic movie on Netflix? Your meal doesn’t have to break the bank either. Order a pizza, splurge on delivery food, or grab your meal to-go from your favorite local restaurant. While everyone else is scrambling to find a reservation and a babysitter, you can relax at home.
2. Hit the Open Road
Just get in the car with your love and drive! You might spend a little money on gas, but you’ll create some lasting memories as you travel to a town you’ve never visited or even hit up a famous landmark. You could also revisit the special places around town where you’ve created fun memories and take pictures together there. Don’t forget to make a fun playlist to listen to while driving!
3. Have a Game Night
This is the ultimate cheap date night. Who doesn’t love a good board game and a little competition? Dust off a few classic board games from your closet or pick up a new game and make a night of it. Are video games more your thing? Then you can go that route too. All that gaming will probably make you hungry, so have some Valentine’s-themed food on hand to snack on. You can’t go wrong with red velvet cupcakes, candy conversation hearts, or the gold standard—a heart-shaped box of chocolates.
4. Visit the Museum
Two tickets to a local museum usually aren’t too crazy expensive. Learn a little about art or history—and each other! Combine this idea with your home-cooked dinner and a movie or game night, and you’ll have a packed day full of fun.
5. Take a Hike
Pack a lunch, grab a few water bottles, and hit the trail. There’s nothing like getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life to help you reconnect. You’ll be amazed at the quality of conversation you can have with someone while you’re hiking up a mountain or through a trail in the woods. And bonus points for all the exercise you’ll get in! It’s Valentine’s Day after all, so why not get your heart in shape while you’re at it?
6. Stroll a Garden Nursery
Skip the $100 delivery of a dozen long-stemmed roses and take a trip to a tree nursery instead! Why drop major dough on flowers that are just going to die (shocker) when you can invest in a plant that’s going to keep on giving. Grab a small bush or tree for your backyard or pick up some flower bulbs to plant now and wait for them to pop up when the weather gets warm (spring is coming, you know).
7. Cook Dinner Together
Despite what every Valentine’s Day commercial tells you, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make memories. Send the kids to Grandma’s house and make a special candlelight dinner together. It can be as fancy as you’d like (filet mignon) or as low-key as you’d like (grilled cheese and tomato soup). Put some soft music on in the background. We recommend a little Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Nat King Cole for the perfect Valentine’s romantic tunes.
8. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
Get out that box of old photos, watch your wedding video, or read through love letters you’ve given to each other. Nothing gives you butterflies in your stomach like remembering the love you’ve shared throughout the years. Spend some time remembering where you’ve been and looking forward to all that the future holds for the two of you!
9. Go on a Picnic
If the weather is nice, get outside! Make sandwiches or grab some cheese, crackers and a bottle of wine. Then find a quiet spot together to sit and connect. You don’t have to be at a four-star restaurant to have some quality conversation with your special someone.
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And if the weather outside is too cold for a picnic (you know, winter and all), then lay out a blanket and have a picnic right there on the living room floor.
10. Do a Thrift Store Challenge
All right, this one knocks out two birds with one stone—you’ve got your gifts and Valentine’s Day date idea taken care of here. Hit up your local thrift store with $10 for each of you to spend on gifts for each other. Then have fun going around the store hunting for just the right gift for your love. Will you score an ugly stuffed pheasant bird or a charming music box that plays “your song?” Gag gift or heartfelt—you never know what you might find.
And remember—quality time doesn’t cost a dime. If money’s tight, you can’t go wrong with a sincere love letter and one-on-one time spent with each other. Whatever kind of Valentine’s Day date idea you end up going with, just make sure you budget for it! Let our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, help you stay on track and keep you from being tempted to go overboard this Valentine’s Day.