If there’s any holiday that can really sneak up on you, it’s Valentine’s Day. By the time mid-February rolls around, most of us are still recovering from the December holidays and/or just settling into a new workout routine, hobby, or budget. This is exactly why having a mental catalog of cheap Valentine’s Day date ideas to choose from is always a good idea. This way, come V-day, you have already thought of some affordable, thoughtful ways to spend time with your partner.
Meet the Expert
Briony Leo is a licensed psychologist at relationship coaching company Relish and shares that, generally speaking, one of the most foolproof ways to plan an affordable and meaningful Valentine’s Day date is to break it down by preferred love language (acts of service, physical touch, receiving gifts, or words of affirmation). “After all, we each have different preferences that really speak to us and help us feel seen and connected,” Leo says. “Being guided by the love languages you share with your partner can result in a great date.”
If you know your partner’s love language, then planning something that fits your budget and makes your significant smile will be a piece of cake. And if you don’t, no worries, as any of the below date ideas will be something that shows how much you love and care for your partner. When it comes to Valentine’s Day, that old, cheesy saying is actually true: It’s the thought that counts!
Here are 20 easy ways to put some thought into a special evening and plan a budget-friendly Valentine's Day with your love.
Make Your Partner’s Life Easier
The simplest way to create a date that your special someone will love and appreciate for weeks to come is to plan it around things that will make their life easier, says Leo. (This is especially true if your love is all about acts of service.) Consider identifying something that would make your partner’s life easier, like helping tidy up their garden or reorganizing their favorite space and surprising them with the change. Maybe you can reveal the surprise on Valentine’s Day itself and complement it with their favorite takeout or a beloved playlist. Want to keep it even more simple? Give your partner a night off of all their usual duties.
“Alternatively, you might just offer to cook your partner a delicious dinner and tell them to relax and let you take care of things,” Leo shares. “People whose love language is acts of service really like practical support over gifts.”
Have an At-Home Spa Day
If your loved one cannot get enough of physical touch (and/or this is their love language), planning an at-home spa day is a surprisingly affordable and intimate way to spend Valentine’s Day. “You can plan an intimate evening with some how-to massage videos on YouTube and some scented oils, taking it in turns to give mind-blowing relaxation massages,” Leo says. “You can really set the scene with dim lighting, fresh towels and robes, relaxing music, and scented candles.”
Maybe for this Valentine’s Day, the new candles, robe, or oils can be part of your gift to your partner, with the experience of sharing massages together being the cherry on top. It’s not the same thing as going to a professional spa, but it will save you a lot of money—and probably be a little more romantic, too.
Go Halfsies on an Experience-Based Gift
While this idea isn’t totally free, it is a great way to be more thoughtful about the money you spend on each other. Instead of guessing what your partner might like, consider ways you can invest in something that will bring you closer together in the long-term. After all, chocolates and fancy meals only last for an evening or two. "Combining your buying power to purchase something you can both use and enjoy, like new tennis racquets to allow you to exercise together or fitness trackers that you can sync up," Leo says.
To make the day of Valentine’s Day itself more exciting, you can plan to put your new gifts to good use for the first time that day, whether that means taking your new bikes on a trail or using the museum membership you purchased together for the first time.
Write a Love Letter
If your partner can’t get enough words of affirmation, the act of telling them exactly how you feel about them is sometimes all it takes for a wonderful and memorable date. For an affordable (but unforgettable) Valentine’s Day, perhaps you could write a long love letter to your partner and present it to them after doing a favorite hike, spending time at the park, or doing something else together that you both love.
If you want to make it even more romantic, maybe you could write the letter in the pages of a leather-bound notebook and promise that you’ll write another letter next Valentine’s Day in the same notebook, keeping a record of your relationship for years to come. In any case, the key here is taking the time to write down exactly how you feel and working this into the day. It costs nothing but makes a huge impact.
Make a Surprise Gallery Wall
Gifting someone you love a photo of the two of you together is always special, and incredibly thoughtful, too. If you’ve never given your partner a photo of the two of you together that you love, why not now? Creating a mini gallery wall full of photos of you and your partner that you’ve hand-picked will not only make their day, but it’s something you both can enjoy for years to come.
Don’t want to go to the trouble of hanging a dozen frames on the wall, or can’t choose the right location? No problem. This can be part of your Valentine’s Day date night. Surprise your loved one with all the framed photos and then spend the evening together hanging them up, talking about the memories they represent over a pizza and a bottle of wine. The whole experience could cost less than $100, but it’s probably something you’ll both remember for a long time.
You can find hundreds of affordable frame options from Amazon and IKEA. Just be sure to double-check the size you need for the photo and account for a mat if applicable.
Visit a Bookstore Together
For people who love to read, there can be nothing more romantic than picking out a book. It’s a physical object that you can enjoy in the moment, but can sit on your shelf and remind you of a particular time in your life for years. If you and your significant other are all about reading, considering having a Valentine’s Day date at the bookstore. You can bring coffees or hot chocolates and browse the aisles discussing titles and authors. At the end of the trip, you both could purchase a book for each other and inscribe it with a note, the date, and any other romantic thoughts you might have.
Cancel Plans—and Enjoy Each Other's Company
This one is pretty simple, but it’s more impactful than you might think. When’s the last time you canceled everything on your schedule, turned off your phone, shut down your computer, and simply spent time with your partner with zero distractions or background noise? For people whose love language is quality time, there’s nothing better than this, but sometimes it’s hard to do, especially for those with kids or a busy work schedule. The good news is, though, that this kind of date usually costs nothing.
“If you both value quality time, you’ll do well to schedule a fun and exciting activity together—just the two of you. Maybe this is a bike ride over the weekend, or heading out to the nearest body of water to watch the sunset and sip champagne,” Leo says. “As straightforward as it sounds, making time for each other when you’re doing these things together is a great way to stay connected. The activity can be as big or small as you want.”
Do a Craft Together
If your partner is into crafting, you probably know. They might go all-out on holiday decorations, or spend a lot of their free time sewing, knitting, or creating. If this sounds like your significant other, then doing a fun, Valentine’s Day-themed activity or craft together could be a romantic date that’s right up their alley.
As LA-based entertainment expert and event planner Paul Zahn says, “Why not craft a fun DIY 'Why I Love YOU' tree of Valentine's Day messages to each other? This simple activity is budget-friendly, as you can use items you already have at home. It is also a fun activity leading up to Valentine's Day dinner!”
To execute, he breaks down the steps: “Simply take some branches and spray paint them a fun, festive color (or even use a house plant) and put them in a container—like a wine decanter. Then, each person picks a different color of paper and then cuts them into hearts and folds them. Then use a hole puncher to punch a hole so you can hang it from the branches. A few days leading up to V Day, the couple will write down what he/she LOVES about their other half. Then close the heart and string it up on a branch. After Valentine's Day dinner, the couple reads what the other wrote about them as they go through this table centerpiece and share...Who needs greeting cards when you basically write your own?!"
Have a Wine Tasting at Home
For those who love wine, there’s nothing more exciting than a fun and engaging wine tasting at home. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated at all. “Pick out a selection of wines, get cozy in your living room, and do your own wine and cheese tasting,” relationship expert and matchmaker Rori Sassoon says. “Want to make it even more romantic? Play some light jazz or soft music to make a more intimate ambiance. It’s like going to your own private vineyard.”
Host a Casino Night
If you’ve ever been to a fancy casino, you probably know what a thrill the experience can be. You might get dressed up, or head to the poker table after a few drinks. It can feel glamorous (even if it isn’t always for your bank account). As Sassoon suggests, having a fancy casino night at home can be affordable, fun, and a great excuse to dress up.
“Play cards and backgammon at home, and make a few martinis. Want to make it feel even more like date night?” Sassoon says. “Shower, dress up, and get ready as if you were really going out on the town!”
Have a Backyard Glamping Night
You’d be surprised how easy it is to recreate glamping in your own backyard — and for almost no money. If you have a fire pit or outdoor fireplace, the experience is even better. Set up some chairs with the coziest blankets you can find, a bucket of champagne, and hang twinkle lights in the backyard. Put out your partner’s favorite slippers (or a new pair, if you want to give a small gift). You can play some romantic music or a black-and-white film to add to the ambiance. Look at the stars, make marshmallows, and cozy up together to end the evening.
Make a Scrapbook Together
Most couples have a series of old shoe boxes or folders that haphazardly store their relationship memories in the back of a closet or drawer. They include things like old movie stubs, photos, love letters, and other mementos. As special as these keepsakes are, though, it’s all too easy to inadvertently toss them if they’re stored in these types of places. For a Valentine’s Day date that’s affordable, crafty, and surprisingly romantic, you and your special someone can have an evening together going through all of these relationship memories and putting them into one place that you can easily access and keep safe.
You could make some fancy cocktails and a home-cooked meal for the occasion or simply split a bottle of wine and some take out while you go through and organize the papers, photos, and other details. The best thing is that you’ll have a relationship memento at the end of it that you can easily go through (or even better, add to) for every Valentine’s Day to come.
Enjoy Breakfast in Bed
This is an especially good one if you’re in a busy season at work. Wake up just a little bit earlier, and cozy up with your S.O. for an hour or so before you start the day. Just don’t forget to make extra coffee.
Have a Picnic
Lay out a cozy blanket in the park (or living room if it’s too cold). Pack a basket of all of your favorites, including cheese, wine, and cured meats. Don’t have time to prepare? If you’re at home, Seamless or Postmates can deliver whatever you need, but just remember that will cost you more.
Reminisce by Looking at Old Photos
Scroll through your photos on your iCloud or Facebook account—it will be fun to see how you’ve changed over time. This is especially a good one if you’ve been together for a while. Finish the night with a new photo to add to the mix.
Explore the Great Outdoors
Go canoeing—paddle out to the middle of the lake and take in all the beauty of nature. Bring a bottle of bubbly to enjoy together. Call a snow-filled place home? Go ice-skating! Bundle up and head out for a night of romance on the ice. If you think of it, ask a passerby to get a photo.
Have a Candlelit Dinner at Home
Few things are more romantic. You’ll spend at least half as much as you would at a restaurant, and you won’t be kicked out to make room for the next seating. End the night by baking a delicious treat—and preferably something with chocolate, in honor of the holiday.
Stage Your Own Photo Shoot
Nothing says “I love you” quite like cute photos together. Have a friend take some adorable pics, which you can put up around your place (and on social media if you’re into that). Make this extra special by ordering a Polaroid camera or tripod so you can test out a new tech tool at the same time!
Rent a Movie
No line, no loud neighbors eating popcorn, no braving the cold weather. Instead of just watching something on Netflix, bite the bullet and spend a few dollars renting a new release on Amazon.
Want to take your romance to the next level? Find out more about your partner's love language below.
Additional ideas and reporting by Michelle Guerrere for MyDomaine.