Love Don’t Cost a Thing: 11 Affordable Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

valentine's day gifts
Aine under Creative Commons

Last year, Michelin-starred British chef Adam Simmonds offered to come to your home to cook a Valentine’s dinner for you and your beloved. The eight-course menu featured Almus white caviar, Pacific bluefin tuna, Wagyu beef, gold leaf and more exquisitely prepared delicacies.

The price tag for this impressive feast? $99,466 (or 61,000 British pounds).

While an almost-$100,000 meal is a bit out of the price range for most couples celebrating Valentine’s Day, here’s a list of 11 ways to show your devotion without plunging deep into the red. These fun Valentine’s Day ideas will make your loved one feel special while saving you both money.

1. Play Outside

Exploring the great outdoors is romantic — and free. Depending on your local climate, you might be able to enjoy a hike, a beach picnic, or a snowshoeing adventure. A walk around the park is always a good way to enjoy time together, whether it’s sunny or you’re splashing in rain puddles.

Pack up some stoneground crackers, salami, brie, grapes, and a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck (or your favorite budget wine), and head out to a special place to enjoy the view and a romantic picnic while watching the sunset.

Even fairly warm climates often have seasonal skating rinks during this time of year. Many areas also have indoor options for those that love sliding and gliding year-round. Hold hands and take off around the rink.

2. Dine in Style in Your Very Own Dining Room

Who says you have to go out to have a memorable and meaningful Valentine’s Day dinner? While restaurants are doing bustling business with pricey prix fixe menus, why not celebrate in your own dining room?

Add a nice tablecloth and a few candles, and a cook up a storm. Start with prosciutto wrapped asparagus or devils on horseback. Then, for an entree, consider creamy pesto shrimp, a delicious salmon recipe, chicken parmigiana or even a heart-shaped pizza. Savor chocolate covered strawberries or chocolate truffle cookies for dessert.

3. Fire up the Fireplace

If you have a fireplace or a backyard fire pit, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to enjoy a crackling fire. Grab some marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate, and make your own s’mores. Or, lay a blanket down in front of your fireplace and enjoy some tasty fondue.

4. Cuddle up to a Movie

Celebrate the holiday of love with a romantic movie marathon. AMC offers a list of the 50 most romantic movies for inspiration.

Microwave a bag of popcorn, or make your own homemade kettle corn, and enjoy. You can even get paid to make fun of the movies online afterward.

5. Head to a Movie Premiere Before or After Valentine’s Day

While Valentine’s Day itself is not a peak time for free movie premieres, keep your eyes out in the weeks before and after for opportunities to get tickets to advanced movie screenings.

6. Make a Romantic Gesture

Instead of shelling out upwards of $100 on long-stemmed roses, present a single rose in your teeth, tango-dancer style. It’s all about thought and presentation, and your date will likely remember your romantic gesture far more than a pricey bouquet sitting on the dining room table.

7. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

Spend the evening looking through old photos and remembering some of your favorite times. Give your love a memento from your first date together. Put together a photo album or slideshow, complete with music and video, for your thoughtful trip down memory lane.

8. Go Retro

Go back in time to your school days. Present your date with confectionery hearts saying, “Be Mine,” “True Love,” or “Let’s Kiss,” or anything else you’d like to spell out for your sweetheart.

9. Trade Massages

Gather some lotions and oils together, and spend the evening giving each other romantic massages. Bonus point: give your loved one a certificate for a “free massage any time.”

10. Play Games

No, not mind games. Break out the Scrabble board and spend an evening wordsmithing with your Valentine. Pick up the controllers and enjoy a two-player video game, either fighting side by side against a common foe, or challenging each other. Puzzles are another great option for an evening together.

You can easily find games and puzzles for very low prices at local thrift stores — but make sure all the pieces are there! Dollar stores and even eBay are other great places to find low-cost games.

11. Watch the Sky Together

Bundle up and head outside to look up at the stars together. Bring a skywatching chart or download an app and spend your evening appreciating the galaxy. Learn a few skywatching basics, and set out with your skymap, telescope and binoculars (or just your eyes) to enjoy the universe.

If you’ll be in Tucson, Arizona, consider heading over to the all-day skywatching party on Valentine’s Day at the East Campus Observatory of Pima Community Collegefrom 10 a.m. through 9 p.m.. It will include speakers and offer telescopes that are filtered to safely look at the sun. There will also be opportunities to look at nebulas, planets, galaxies and more.

Your Turn: How are you planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.