7 budget-friendly ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day

A rope with paper hearts and a note being held on by clothes pins.

When your budget is tight, it can be a challenge to think of ways to affordably make your special someone’s Valentine’s Day a celebration to remember. But don’t fret; inexpensive doesn’t have to equal lame. To spark some ideas, here are seven tips for showing your love in creative, meaningful and budget-friendly ways.

  1. Create a scavenger hunt. This can be fun whether you’re celebrating with your sweetheart alone, or with a group of friends. Clues like sweet or fun notes, puzzles, or small gifts can be scattered at special spots around town or hidden throughout the house if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Here are some tips for creating a scavenger hunt.

  2. Have a morning date. Restaurants tend to be overpriced and overcrowded on Valentine’s Day evening. Instead of a dinner out, consider a special breakfast date. Whether you go for a full breakfast at a favorite diner once the kids are off to school, or just have time for coffee and a yummy pastry at your local coffee house, it’s quality time and a great start to your day.

  3. Give movie night a comfy twist. Who needs sticky floors and noisy fellow moviegoers? Create your own special cinema! String a few fairy or holiday lights, light some candles, make a big bucket of popcorn and supply your valentine’s favorite candy and drinks. Choose a couple of their favorite movies (or recent releases you’d both like to see) and create a cozy retreat on the couch with blankets and pillows where you can cuddle and watch the movies in peace.

  4. Say it from the heart. Cut some paper into small squares, and on each slip, write down something you love about your valentine. Roll up each note, slide it into a balloon and then inflate and decorate with the balloons—which will become so much more meaningful as your valentine pops each balloon to find a love note. If you don’t have the lung capacity to blow up all those balloons, do the same thing with sticky notes, and then cover your valentine’s mirror (or window, or even refrigerator in a pinch) with the notes. You can even arrange them in the shape of a heart.

  5. Send a sweetheart of a valentine. Use the Valentine Re-mailing Program to send a valentine from Loveland, CO: The Sweetheart City. Put your valentine, card or letter into an envelope, address it to your valentine and stamp it. Then mail it to the Loveland post office in another envelope, and they’ll do their romantic magic on your missive to your sweetie. (Details at the link above.) 

  6. Handmake a card to remember. Tired of the same old, same old greeting cards you find in the store? Make your own card. It doesn’t matter whether you use card stock, construction paper, stickers, glitter or your kids’ crayons to get your message across; as long as you say it from the heart, it will be special.

  7. Have a kid day. Except in this case, you’re the kids. Play games at your local arcade, visit your local hands-on children’s museum (usually not too expensive, but look for coupons), play putt-putt golf if the weather permits, or just hop in the car and play car games or sing to the radio at the top of your lungs while you take in the local sights. End your day at your favorite pizza parlor or burger joint, then go home and roast some marshmallows in your fireplace or backyard fire pit (snowball fight afterward optional) before you go back to being a grown-up again.

These seven tips are just a sampling of inexpensive ways to make your Valentine’s Day special. A few quick bonus ideas: Create a special playlist of your valentine’s favorite songs; pick up coffee, muffins or an evening treat and head out to watch the sunrise or sunset together; order carryout for dinner and have a Netflix binge, or board or video game night; host a potluck meal for your most special friends; spend your evening creating a special scrapbook of memories (photos, ticket stubs and other mementos) and reminiscing together.

Whatever you decide to do, just trust us on this: When you put a little effort into your Valentine’s Day plans, your valentine will remember not only the sentiment but the energy you put into it for years to come. And that will mean more than the most lavish gift or fancy dinner. Happy Valentine’s Day!