Valentine’s Day is a day for celebrating the romantic love in our lives. We can often feel excited when this day rolls around every February because we want to make our special someone feel like they are the most important person in the world. It’s an opportunity to shower them with gifts, praises, and fun experiences.
But if we’re in debt or trying to control our spending, the demands to have an epic moment for your partner and all the lavish jewelry commercials we see can make us feel like not celebrating the holiday at all.
To keep the romance alive and keep our budget from bursting out of control, here are 9 frugal date ideas for Valentine’s Day.
1. Make Dinner at Home
Because Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday night this year doesn’t mean you have to go out to an expensive dinner. Thinking of your own dinner dishes and making the meal together can be a smart way to relax and save some money.
“Mine and my husband’s favorite frugal date is cooking together!” shares personal finance expert, Jessi Fearon. “No recipe. No plan. Just tossing together random things and seeing how they turn out. We have created some amazing meals (and some not so amazing meals) together and it’s one of our favorite ways to enjoy time together.”
Related: My Food Budget is Out of Control
If the idea of no recipe makes you feel intimidated in the kitchen, there’s no shame in having a guide for your frugal Valentine’s Day dinner. Recipe or no recipe, this is a time for you and your partner to make some memories and have fun.
2. Volunteer Together
Giving back in your local community can support your neighbors in need and make you feel great. Volunteering with your partner can be an unforgettable experience and you truly grow your bond together.
There are so many missions, causes and people who need help right where you live. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Feed the hungry at a soup kitchen
- Collect food and bring it to your local food bank
- Volunteer to read at a local elementary school
- Donate blood at Red Cross (can’t get any more Valentine’s Day red than that!)
- Help out at a local animal shelter
If you want to get romantic, find a cause or opportunity that you know is near and dear to your partner’s heart. Set up the plan beforehand and tell them you have a surprise day prepared. It’ll be an experience both of you will not forget.
3. Attend Local Community Events
You don’t have to go far to be entertained. Oftentimes, a day or night of fun is right in your backyard (and can help you stay out of debt).
“One thing we’re trying out this year is going out to catch live shows for some date nights,” says Elle Martinez, author, and host of the Couple Money Podcast. “There are different events that cities sometimes sponsor and local bands that have great shows. My tip is to take advantage of local gigs, including ones around colleges. You can sometimes have an incredible date night on the cheap and a new favorite band.”
With this dating strategy, you get music, romance and local culture all in one frugal experience!
4. Do a Babysitting Exchange
For those of us with kids, we know that planning frugal date ideas (no matter what you’re planning on doing that night) can be expensive because you need to pay a babysitter. With the average cost of a babysitter sitting around $17 for one child and $19 for two children, it’s no wonder most parents are skipping out on Valentine’s Day.
If you’re plugged into your community and have friends who are in a similar situation, consider starting a babysitting exchange. Here’s how it could go:
- Be the first to offer to invite your friends’ kids for the night so your friends can have a date night
- If you haven’t lost your mind from watching your kids and their kids, offer it again
- Eventually, your friends may reciprocate. Ask them if they’d be open to it one night in the future.
- If they don’t want to or it doesn’t feel right, partner up with another couple
If you plan ahead of time, you may land yourself with a night of free babysitting on Valentine’s Day! Worst case scenario, you help out friends who could use a break and your kids get someone to play with. And this could be done any time of the years as you plan frugal date ideas.
5. Research Discounts and Coupons Online
Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial allow you to find some excellent deals on out-of-the-box activities you can do with your significant other. A few minutes of research will give you loads of ideas and could save a good deal of cash.
“Showing your significant other you love them this Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to drain your wallet,” shares Jacob Wade, the blogger behind I Heart Budgets. “Something as simple as grabbing a coupon deal to your local Mini-Golf joint can provide hours of fun, for less than $20. Then grab a bite at your favorite restaurant during Happy Hour, and you can get drinks and apps for half off. For $50, you can eat well and share a ton of laughs!”
After poking around coupon deal sites, you can learn about new activities that you never even thought of before. This also gives you a chance to support local businesses in your area.
6. Get Active
If this holiday is truly about the heart, then take care of yours with your partner and exercise together. Perhaps you may have nicer weather where you live in February, you can go for a run, a bike ride or a nice long walk through a park you’ve never been to.
If you have colder weather in February (like me), try your hand at some winter activities to get your blood pumping. Cross country skiing, skating or fat biking gets you outside and encourages you to use equipment and gear you already have.
If you’re lacking the winter gear, check out some discount options on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist so you’re getting outside more with the love of your life. When you get those endorphins pumping, you may become a happier couple.
7. Make and Enjoy Dessert Together
After you’ve finished that nice healthy bit of exercise, it’s time to enjoy some Valentine’s Day dessert with your partner. If you know about your significant other’s favorite dessert, buy the ingredients ahead of time and coordinate the activity of making it together. You can bake a chocolate cake, whip up some peanut butter cookies or even make some homemade churros.
If you want to do less work and more dessert eating, ice cream definitely does the trick according to Jonathan Teixeira, founder of WalletWin.
“Grab a few containers of ice cream at the store, hit the toppings isle (don’t forget the whipped cream), and make a giant sundae, or if you’re feeling extra romantic, a milkshake with two straws!” says Jonathan. “Inviting another couple or two over to join you for dessert can easily be followed up with a board game or two for a fun night.”
8. Perform Random Acts of Kindness
One of the quickest ways to bring a smile to your face is to make someone else smile. By performing random acts of kindness with your partner, there will be smiles all around.
You could create Valentine’s Day care packages for homeless neighbors and hand them out together. These care packages could include things like wool socks, personal hygiene products (toothpaste, toothbrush, nail clippers), Valentine’s Day candy, and cards letting them know they are important and loved.
If you prefer to be incognito with your random acts of kindness, go to a drive-through with your partner and pay for the order behind you and see if you start a chain of people paying-it-forward.
Who knows? This activity could spark more kindness in your relationship too!
9. Create a Challenge (and Skip the Typical)
Try to look at Valentine’s Day as a challenge to try something new.
“Whatever you do, ditch the boring dinner,” says personal finance speaker Martin Dasko. “That’s already been done many times and most places will be filled up. Try to use this as an opportunity to get competitive. Do something that you wouldn’t normally do. Go for a bowling night, take a paint night class, or try a wine tasting seminar. Try something out of the ordinary that you’re going to be talking about for a long time to come.”
With new experiences, come new memories. Even if your frugal date ideas are new, go for it anyway. Your vulnerability and your willingness to try something new will speak volumes to your partner.
Valentine’s Day is all about spending time with someone you love. There’s no rule that says you have to go broke to show your partner how much you care. Get creative and have some fun with your frugal date ideas!