For many Americans, celebrating Valentine's Day means planning romantic evenings out, buying thoughtful gifts, and more. But in the current economic climate, many struggle to pay the bills and may not be able to afford to spend the day the way they may have in previous years. In December 2022, inflation reached 6.45%. This combined with rising consumer prices and credit card interest rates contributes to a higher cost of living for many people.
If you’re on a budget or are looking for affordable, out-of-the-box Valentine’s Day ideas, you can still celebrate without breaking the bank. Here are some free and inexpensive ideas.
Affordable and Creative Valentine's Day Gifts and Ideas
You don’t have to spend much money to have a special day with the person you love. Here are some affordable at-home Valentine’s Day ideas to consider:
- Have breakfast in bed or cook something together. Not only is this a cheap Valentine’s gift for him (or her), but it also gives the two of you a relaxing start to your day. Make your significant other’s favorite breakfast and get some store-bought flowers to set the mood. On average, cooking a meal at home is almost five times cheaper than eating at a restaurant.
- Make a collage or photo album. Creating a collage of your memories can be a great way of expressing your love. Plus, you’ll have something to look back on in the future – and potentially add to over the years. You can buy a scrapbook kit for less than $30 online at places like Amazon.
- Have a DIY spa day. Draw up a bubble bath, light some scented candles, put on some nice music, and give each other massages if you’re looking for something romantic.
- Set up a fort and watch movies together. Use whatever blankets, pillows, and cushions you’ve got and create a makeshift fort. Put on your favorite movie or have a marathon. Not only will this give you some quality time together, but it’s also perfect if the weather is gloomy, not to mention completely free.
- Play some games. If you and your loved one enjoy board games or cards, this can be a great activity for you. Add a bit of friendly competition by giving the winner a prize like a “no chores day” or back massage.
- Do an art project together. If you and your partner have an artistic side, try a new arts and crafts project together. Draw each other, paint something, make a latch hook design, or do anything else you enjoy.
More Out-of-the-box Valentine’s Day Ideas
Looking for some other inexpensive and creative Valentine’s Day gifts? Here are some great out-of-the-box Valentine’s Day ideas you can do (without spending a lot):
- Explore the great outdoors. Doing a fun, active activity like renting a kayak costs only between $10-20 an hour on average.
- Have a romantic picnic. Go to a park or scenic area and have a romantic picnic complete with homemade goods, some wine (or your favorite non-alcoholic beverage), and a blanket. If it’s rainy or chilly, you can set up a picnic in your living room instead.
- Have a romantic trivia night. Head to a local bar for trivia night. Or set up an at-home trivia night with your friends, coworkers, family, and significant other. For a DIY option, prepare a bunch of cards with personal, funny, and romantic questions about each other. Get everyone to bring a homemade dish or two while you’re at it.
- Go ice skating or roller blading. If you’re looking for something more active to do this Valentine’s Day, hit the ice or roller rink and enjoy an afternoon or evening together.
- Go dancing. Consider taking a dance class. The average cost of taking a dance lesson is between $75-100/hour, so while it's on the pricier side, it can still check out cheaper than an upscale restaurant meal or a vacation. Plus, you'll learn a new skill.
- Visit a museum or art gallery. Many cities like Washington, DC, Chicago and Los Angeles offer free or discounted entry to their exhibits. Additionally, check your credit card company to see if your benefits or points program offers free museum deals, like this program from Bank of America.
- Look for an online deal. Groupon and similar sites offer couple’s experiences like spa days, indoor skydiving, and romantic meals – all for a low price.
More Money-Saving Tips this Valentine’s Day
Along with taking advantage of some of these creative Valentine’s Day gifts and ideas, you can save even more money in the following ways:
- Use what you have at home. Whether you want to have a romantic dinner or do an art project together, see what you already have before you go shopping. You’d be surprised at what you can put together with the items you already own.
- Set a budget. Even if you don’t have much spare cash, you can still celebrate Valentine’s Day in a memorable way. Set a budget for the special day and stick to it. If possible, start planning ahead for next year. Simply set aside $10 or $15 a month starting now. By the time February 2024 rolls around, you’ll have $150 to $200 – enough for a romantic, thoughtful gift. When you set aside money in a savings account, you earn interest on your deposits and can link with your checking account to ensure you're regularly saving.
- Redeem your debit or credit card rewards. Some debit cards and many credit cards come with cash back rewards. If you’ve accumulated any rewards, now might be a good time to redeem them. While you’re at it, see if you have any spare gift cards lying around from Christmas or a recent birthday. You might be able to afford more this Valentine’s Day than you thought.
No matter what your budget is this year, you can still have a romantic or fun Valentine’s Day without having to pull out your credit card. Try out one of these out-of-the-box Valentine’s Day ideas this year and start saving up for the next one.