The Beatles sang “money can’t buy me love,” and while we know this is true, the pressure to spend a ton at Valentine’s Day can make anyone question these classic lyrics. Seriously, Americans are expected to spend $25.9 billion on Valentine’s Day this year—an average of $192.80 a person.1
That’s a lot of heart-shaped everything, fancy dinners and romantic gestures. But guess what? You don’t have to spend nearly $200 to show your love—or to have a memorable, fantastic time together! Here are 14 cheap Valentine’s Day date ideas to impress your date (and your wallet).
1. Enjoy dinner and a movie at home.
Dinner and a movie is a total classic—but it can get real pricey real quick. Nice restaurants mean 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.
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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’ve got. While everyone else is scrambling to find a reservation and a babysitter, you can relax at home.
2. Hit the open road.
Just get in the car with your love and drive! If you want to save on gas, have a not-too-far destination in mind like an antique store at the end of a winding country lane or a park where you can walk around under layers of warm 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. (Put your song somewhere on there 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 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 food on hand to snack on. You can’t go wrong with red velvet cupcakes, candy conversation hearts or the gold standard—a heart-shaped box of chocolates.
4. Visit the museum.
Two tickets to a local museum usually aren’t too crazy expensive. And sometimes you can even find coupons. Learn a little about art or history—and each other! 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.
Pack a lunch, grab a few water bottles, and hit the trail. There’s nothing like getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life to help you connect. You’ll be amazed at the quality of conversation you can have with someone while you’re hiking up a mountain or through a trail in the woods. And bonus points for all the 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?
6. Stroll a garden nursery.
Skip the $100 delivery of a dozen long-stemmed roses and take a trip to a tree nursery instead! Why drop major cash on flowers that are just going to die (shocker) when you can invest in a plant that will keep on giving? Grab a small 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).
7. Go window shopping for furniture.
Skip this idea if you’re worried it’ll just make you feel discontent with what you have right now—but if you’re the type who likes to dream big or say, “What if . . .” this can make for a fun evening. Find a fancy furniture store and walk around picking 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.
If you want to gamify the night, play The Price Is Right and try to guess costs. Whoever gets the most items right (without going over), gets to pick what 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.
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 as low-key as you’d like (grilled cheese and tomato soup for the win). 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.
Get out that box of old photos, watch your wedding video, or read through love letters you’ve given to each other. 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!
10. Go on a picnic.
If the weather is nice, get outside. Make sandwiches or hit up Aldi for wine and everything you need to make a delicious and budget-friendly charcuterie. Then find a quiet spot together to sit and relax. You don’t have to be 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 and have a picnic right there on the living room floor.
11. Grab coffee together.
There’s nothing more romantic than coffee and conversation. Okay, maybe. But it’s up there! For around 10 bucks (which is totally doable with some clever coffee shop hacks), you can have a memorable Valentine’s Day date that’s literally hot (unless you go for iced coffee, of course). And if you need a little help on the conversation part, check out the dating deck of our Questions for Humans cards.
Hang out in the coffee shop if the vibe is right, or take the coffee to go and enjoy a starlight stroll. Or you can grab a coffee inside a bookstore and sip that drip while you look at books. As long as you’re together and caffeinated, you can’t go wrong.
12. Go stargazing.
The best kind of cheap Valentine’s Day date? The free (and still romantic) kind. And guess what—stargazing at night will cost 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. Own a telescope? Then bring it along for the ride. But don’t worry, you can still see the stars without one.
Bonus: 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 you budget out how much you want to spend before you walk in. Because once you get there, 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 one knocks out two birds with one stone—you’ve got your gifts and Valentine’s Day date idea taken care of here. Hit up your local thrift store with two crisp $10 bills to spend on gifts for each other. Then have fun going around the store hunting for just the right gift for your love.
Will you score an ugly porcelain bunny statue or a charming music box that plays your song? Either way, it’s not a night you’ll quickly forget, especially with that ugly bunny staring at you from the bookshelf for years to come.
Budget for Your Cheap Valentine’s Day Date
No matter what you decide to do 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 spending-crazy on a commercialized holiday for goodness’ sake, 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.
And don’t forget to be intentional with your money too—that means budgeting. Whichever Valentine’s Day date idea you end up going with, 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 we sure love it.
Listen: You have nothing to prove to anyone. Not your Instagram followers, not that annoying girl at work who always talks about the lavish gifts from her boyfriend . . . no one. This is your relationship and your budget. So, make Valentine’s Day about you and your valentine. Now that’s romantic.
Budget for Valentine’s Day (and Every Day)
Use our free budgeting app to make a plan for your money during the month of love, and the other 11 months as well.Download EveryDollar