Are you ready for Valentine’s Day?
If you’re planning on celebrating, you might also be frantically checking your budget — wondering how to afford it.
Though it’s just one day a year and flies by oh-so-quickly, Valentine’s Day can help you rack up a big bill if you’re not careful. There’s the dinner, a gift, a fancy outfit, maybe a cab ride, too much wine and all those roses.
And if there’s one thing you shouldn’t skimp on, it’s telling your significant other how much you love them.
So we’ve pulled together some ideas to help you woo that special someone and avoid being hit with a huge bill at the end of the night.
Follow these tips to bring the romance in under budget — without leaving the evening wanting for more.
1. Wear Cheap Clothes That Don’t Look Cheap
If you’ve got a good eye and smart strategy, you can have a hot wardrobe of hand-me-downs and thrift-store finds — and no one will ever know.
To find the perfect outfit for Valentine’s Day without spending a ton of money, start hitting thrift stores now.
Your best strategy is to simply look often — turnover is high and the best stuff goes fast. Stop in every few days to piece together a wardrobe, rather than planning one big shopping spree.
2. Buy a Smart Gift That Doesn’t Look Cheap
Ignore the pressure. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to give a thoughtful gift.
You can find a craft bar of chocolate and really good cheeses for under $10.
Throw in an affordable bottle of good wine, and you’ve got a creative basket filled with aphrodisiacs for under $25!
Or give it a personal touch with a thoughtful homemade gift.
3. Go on a Cheap Date That Doesn’t Feel Cheap
“Date night” may send one person’s heart aflutter with excitement, but it can cue a cold sweat in the one footing the bill.
Being romantic can also be expensive. Even the frugal dater is often willing to overspend to avoid looking cheap on a date.
But you can be frugal without looking cheap — even on a date!
Local events like bar trivia, poetry readings, live comedy or bingo night usually only cost about $5-$10 per person. They’ll also keep you occupied, without any pressure to force conversation.
Looking for a place to chat more? Find a board game cafe.
It’s an affordable destination that suggests more effort than simply grabbing coffee together. The atmosphere is just as conducive to conversation as it is to quiet competition.
A special night with a long-time partner can be as simple as playing board games, putting together puzzles or creating art together — no kids, friends or phones to distract you.
Check out our 25 fun, budget-friendly date ideas for more inspiration.
4. Cook at Home Without Looking Cheap
Skip the crowds and save your money by cooking at home.
But don’t just make any meal — make a great meal, without spending a great amount of money.
Dress up favorites like macaroni and cheese, spaghetti or grilled chicken so they taste expensive without costing extra.
A tiny bit of flair in the plate’s presentation and table dress can make affordable meals feel fancier than they are. Serve with extra love to really woo your Valentine!
See all 10 recipes in our list of cheap meals that taste expensive.
5. Throw an Affordable Party Without Looking Cheap
Whether you’re planning a party for two or hosting a Pal-entine’s Day for your single friends, wow all the guests without overspending.
Decorate with some handmade crafty hearts, serve drinks in a punch bowl instead of a la carte and plan fun party games to keep everyone occupied without costing you a cent.
If you’re the guest for a special evening, don’t show up empty-handed just to save money. Pick up one of these bottles of wine under $15 to keep it classy — without breaking the bank.
Your Turn: Do you have a date planned for Valentine’s Day? What are your tricks for saving money?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more