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Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Chris Panteli
Valentine’s Day on a Budget
People spend about $25 billion on Valentine’s Day, according to surveys done over the last couple of years. But celebrating with your loved ones doesn’t have to be so expensive. You don’t have to sacrifice a good time with your partner just because you’re on a tight budget.
Here are some pocket-friendly ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day so you can make your loved ones feel special without the pressure to splurge.
Free outdoor experiences
You don’t have to stay holed up in your house to avoid the pricey outdoor experiences. Keep an eye on your local groups or Facebook events as there may be free community events that you can enjoy together, recommends Kendall Meade, a certified financial planner at SoFi. Also, look out for nature spots where you can set up a romantic picnic or go hiking together, she adds.
Shared activities instead of gifts
If you’re struggling to set aside money for both fancy gifts and experiences like a romantic dinner, consider picking a shared activity, something you both want to enjoy. For example, Meade and her husband enjoyed a hockey game last year.
Plan together what you want the day to look like, says Erika Kullberg, lawyer and personal finance influencer. “You don’t have to do it all on Valentine’s Day, you can choose what matters most to both of you.” This can be a new activity you try together, like horseback riding, or a relaxing day out with a couple’s massage.
Fancy celebrations at home
Celebrating at home doesn’t have to be boring. You can create a thoughtful table with items you already have at home – a fancy tablecloth, vases, and decorative items, says Emily Simmons, creative director at interior brand Ruggable. If you choose to buy new stuff, she recommends avoiding something too Valentine’s-themed so you can use it again for other special events in the future.
Another simple and cheap but fancy idea is to print out a designer menu of what you’re enjoying today, Simmons says. “This can be a nice souvenir to keep for years to come.”
Making instead of buying
Buying ready-made things will almost always be more expensive than making stuff yourself, so instead of skipping your favorite items entirely, consider making them at home. For example, Meade makes her mom’s favorite dessert, chocolate-covered strawberries, at home for just $10, which would otherwise cost around $35 (plus shipping) for 6 strawberries.
The internet is full of easy ways to do this. Matilda Littler, a finance influencer going by the name A Millennial Saver on Instagram, frequently posts cheap recipe ideas to enjoy ‘boujee on a budget” so you can make your favorite treats at home. Perhaps this can be a fun shared experience to enjoy quality time together.
Creative date ideas
Movies and meals tend to be expensive and crowded around Valentine’s Day so consider doing something different. Littler recommends making a date jar with several ideas written on differently colored papers based on how much they would cost. For example, blue paper dates are free, green paper dates are under $10 and orange paper dates are under $50.
Cheaper alternatives to expensive gifts
Being on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on gifts completely. Consider cheaper alternatives to popular and expensive gifts. For example, instead of ordering from a florist, Meade recommends getting flowers from local stores like Trader Joe’s where you can get a dozen roses for $10, which would cost you above $75 at a specialized flower shop.
Talk about money
While it’s not the most romantic option, Valentine’s Day can be an excellent time to bring up expectations, especially if you’re expecting a flashy surprise that may not be coming, Kullberg says. “You don’t want your partner to be disappointed at the end of the day when a big romantic gesture doesn’t appear.”
It can also be a great time to talk about finances in the relationship. As Meade says, “By discussing how much you plan to spend on one another you can help avoid any disappointment or resentment if one person spends more.”