The Beatles famously sang “money can’t buy me love,” and while I know that’s true, the pressure to spend a ton of money on Valentine’s Day can make anyone doubt these classic lyrics. Seriously! Americans planned to spend $25.9 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2023—an average of $192.80 a person.1
That’s a lot of heart-shaped everything, fancy dinners and over-the-top romantic gestures. But guess what? You don’t have to spend nearly $200 to show your love or have a memorable, fantastic time with your significant other. Here are 14 cheap Valentine’s Day date ideas to connect with your partner (and protect your wallet).
1. Enjoy dinner and a movie at home.
Dinner and a movie is a total date night classic—but it can get real pricey real quick. Dinner at a nice restaurant means leaving a tip (always tip, especially on holidays!). And movie ticket prices are so high it feels like you ought to at least get a high five from the actors in real life for what you just spent to watch them on the big screen.
Here’s how you can take this classic date and give it a thrifty twist. Set up a candlelit dinner at home and watch a romantic movie on whatever streaming service you already have. While everyone else is scrambling to find a reservation and a babysitter, you can relax at home.
2. Hit the open road.
It’s a simple but memorable adventure . . . Just hop in the car with your special someone and drive. If you want to save on gas, choose a not-too-far destination, like an antique store at the end of a winding country lane or a park where you can walk and sip hot cocoa in layers of warm, cozy clothes. Find a town you’ve never visited, hit up a famous landmark, or revisit an old favorite spot and recreate a photo together.
Don’t forget to make a playlist to listen to while driving around. (And make sure you include your special song for an extra romantic touch.)
3. Have a game night.
This is an ultimate cheap date night. Who doesn’t love a good board game and a little friendly competition? Dust off a few classics from your closet or buy (or borrow) a new game. Are video games more your thing? Then you can go that route too.
All that gaming will probably make you hungry, so have some Valentine’s-themed snacks on hand. Pick up some red velvet cupcakes, candy conversation hearts or the gold standard—a heart-shaped box of chocolates.
4. Visit a museum.
Tickets to a local museum usually aren’t too crazy expensive. And sometimes you can even find coupons or free culture passes through your local library. Learn a little about art or history—and each other—as you wander through the marble halls. Point out your favorite (and least favorite) pieces. Or, if you want to give the date a fun new twist, make up new names for the artwork or pretend to be stuffy art critics.
Combine this idea with your home-cooked dinner and a movie or game night, and you’ll have a packed day full of fun.
5. Take a hike or enjoy an easy nature walk.
Pack a lunch, grab a few water bottles (or kombucha, for you super healthy people), and hit the trail. There’s nothing like getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and getting into nature to help you connect. You’ll be amazed at the quality of conversation you can have with someone while you’re hoofing it up a mountain or moseying along a quiet trail in the woods. And bonus points for all the fresh air and exercise you’ll get in. It’s Valentine’s Day, after all, so why not get your heart in shape while you’re at it? (And if the great outdoors is so not your thing—ahem, guilty—a long walk through the neighborhood works too.)
6. Stroll a garden nursery or botanical garden.
Skip the $100 delivery of a dozen long-stemmed roses and take a trip to a tree and flower nursery or botanical garden instead. Why drop major cash on flowers that will die in a few days when you can tour some beautiful gardens for hours or invest in a plant that will (hopefully) live for much, much longer? At the nursery, you can choose a bush or tree for your backyard or pick up some flower bulbs to plant now and wait for them to pop up when the weather gets warm (spring is coming, you know). If you tour botanical gardens, don’t forget to snap some pics to capture the beautiful views. (Cute couple photos, anyone? Yes, please!)
7. Go window shopping for your dream home furniture.
Skip this idea if you’re worried it’ll make you feel discontent with what you have right now—but if you’re the type who likes to say, “What if . . .” and dream big, window shopping can make for a fun evening. Find a fancy furniture store and walk around pointing out some favorite items. You don’t have to buy that blue crushed velvet couch that costs more than your first car, but you can have some fun imagining.
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If you want to turn the night into a game, play The Price Is Right and try to guess what your favorite pieces cost. Whoever gets the most items right (without going over) gets to pick what restaurant or takeout you’ll eat for dinner.
Quick note: Don’t get the salesperson’s hopes up when you’re there. Make sure they know you’re just browsing.
8. Cook dinner together.
The kitchen is the heart of the home, am I right? Send the kids to Grandma’s house (or turn on a movie upstairs and give them a pizza) and make a romantic dinner together. It can be as fancy as you’d like (filet mignon, anyone?) or low-key and casual (you’ll never go wrong with a grilled cheese and tomato soup). Put on a little Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Nat King Cole in the background to set the mood with the perfect Valentine’s romantic tunes.
9. Take a trip down memory lane.
Pull that box of old photos, your wedding video, or old love letters you’ve given to each other from the back of the closet and remember the good old days. Nothing gives you butterflies in your stomach like remembering the love you’ve shared throughout the years. Spend some time remembering where you’ve been and looking forward to all that the future holds for the two of you. (And while you’re at it, write a letter or create a time capsule to open together in a few years.)
10. Go on a picnic.
If the weather is nice, get outside. Pack a couple sandwiches or visit Aldi for a bottle of wine and everything you need to make a delicious and budget-friendly charcuterie board–complete with cheese, crackers and fruit. Yum! Then find a quiet spot together to kick back, relax and enjoy each other’s company. You don’t have to splurge at a four-star restaurant to connect with your special someone.
And if the weather outside is too cold for a picnic (you know, winter and all), then lay out a blanket, turn on a YouTube fireplace, and have a cozy picnic right there on the living room floor.
11. Grab coffee together.
There’s nothing more romantic than coffee and conversation. Okay, maybe that’s not true, but it’s up there. For about $10 (which is totally doable with some clever coffee shop hacks), you can have a sweet, memorable Valentine’s Day date that’s literally hot (unless you go for iced coffee, of course). And if you need a little boost on the conversation part, check out the dating or couples decks of our Questions for Humans cards.
Hang out in the coffee shop for a while if you like the mood, or take your coffee to go and enjoy a starlit stroll. You can also order coffee inside a bookstore and sip while you flip—the book pages, I mean. As long as you’re together and caffeinated, it doesn’t matter where you are.
12. Go stargazing.
What’s the best kind of cheap Valentine’s Day date? The free (and always romantic) kind. And guess what—stargazing at night costs you absolutely nothing. If you live far away from a lot of city lights, this will be pretty easy to pull off. But if you don’t, then just go for a drive outside of the city so you can see the stars. (Don’t forget a picnic blanket and some pillows.) Own a telescope? Bring it along for the ride. But don’t worry, you can still see the stars without one.
And if you want to take this date to the next level, naming a star after your significant other makes for a pretty great last-minute gift.
13. Visit an arcade.
Hop in a time machine and go back to simpler times—like when your biggest worry in life was getting eaten by the Pac-Man ghosts. Retro arcades are popping up more and more these days. And the best part is, it usually costs between 50 cents to $1 to play a game. Just be sure to budget out how much you want to spend on games and pizza or drinks before you walk in. Because once you’re in, it’s a little too easy to bounce from game to game without realizing you just dropped $30.
14. Do a thrift store challenge.
All right, this date idea knocks out two birds with one stone—you’ve got your gifts and Valentine’s Day date idea taken care of in one place. Pop into your local thrift store with two crisp $10 bills. Then have fun poking around the store hunting for just the right gift for each other.
Will you score a first edition vintage book or a charming music box that plays your song? Either way, it’s not a date you’ll quickly forget, especially with that special book to read for years to come.
Budget for Your Cheap Valentine’s Day Date
No matter what you decide to do to celebrate this Valentine’s Day, remember this: Quality time doesn’t have to cost a dime. If money’s tight, or you just don’t want to go overboard spending on a hyped-up holiday, you can’t go wrong with a sincere love letter and one-on-one time spent with each other. Make the day about being intentional and thoughtful together instead of trying to keep up with strangers’ perfect social media posts.
And don’t forget to be purposeful with your money too—meaning, head into the holiday with a budget. Whichever Valentine’s Day date idea you end up choosing, be sure you plan ahead for how much you’ll spend. And if you don’t have a budget yet, download our free budgeting app, EveryDollar. It doesn’t come in a heart-shaped box, but I sure love it.
Remember, guys. This is the time to celebrate your relationship using your time and money. So, make Valentine’s Day about you and your valentine. Now that’s romantic.