Budget-Friendly Valentine's Day Ideas

>> Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Beloved reader Alaina wrote us recently to ask a GREAT question: "Do you have any ideas on making Valentines Day special and meaningful, but on a budget? My boyfriend and I like to do something small and sweet, but this year especially we're on a tight budget. Any suggestions?"

Of course, we put our thinking caps on immediately and starting coming up with ways we'd choose to celebrate the day on any price point under $100. You can also thank Alaina for coming up with some fantastic ideas, too. My favorite is the all-HIS movie marathon. I never let Stephen pick the movies we watch (mostly because he's into sci-fi, horror, and action -- all genres that don't exactly mix with my comedy, romantic-comedy, more comedy, and drama taste). But maybe that'd be a good gift for him this year.

Hmmm . . .

$100: One-Hundred Dollars and Zero Cents
  • Of course, the classic drinks ($25), dinner ($50), and a movie ($25) date is always appropriate for Valentine's Day. But I challenge you to patronize local establishments only. In this economy, the little guys are hurting -- so it's better to visit your local Giuseppe's than Olive Garden. Or the corner arts theater instead of Regal Cinema.
  • Take a day trip somewhere. This somewhere can be 30 minutes away or 2 hours away. But try to stick close to save on gas money. We did this recently and it didn't cost very much. Just break it down. If you stick within an hour of your hometown, you need only spend about $20 on gas. Coffee for two while you walk around town will set you back $10. A lunch or casual dinner is another $40 . . . and that leaves a hefty $30 for miscellaneous expenses, like stuffed-animal bears with the name of the town plastered on a T-shirt. Etc.

$75: Seventy-Five Dollars and Zero Cents
  • Take this day as an opportunity to spiff up your space. A fresh coat of paint on your bedroom walls is a mere $35. A couple new throw pillows? $30. And some sexy scented candles can be snagged up for $10. The romance generated by giving your bedroom a little TLC . . . priceless.
  • In the spirit of pampering yourselves, use your cash to book yourselves spa appointments . . . IN! You can go to your local TJ Max or Home Goods (Marshall’s, etc. discount stores) and pick up everything you need (towels, bathrobes, peppermint foot lotion, bubble bath, you-name-it) for $75 (or less, really). So why spend that – each – on a single spa treatment? Plus, it’ll give you incentive to clean your bathroom :)

$50: Fifty Dollars and Zero Cents
  • Staying in is something we’re totally into. So, cook a lavish dinner IN. Grab your favorite cookbook and make a meal you’ve been meaning to take a stab at but haven’t had the time. That's what we did last V-day (as pictured above). Plus, if you visit your local wine and spirits store, you’ll find tons of great wines for under $10 a bottle. That leaves $40 for all the fixings you’ll need for a feast for two.
  • Since V-Day is on a Sunday this year – why not start the day off right by grabbing brunch? Diners are great places for cheap, but delicious brunches. And on your way home, you can stop by a museum or catch a matinee.

$25: Twenty-Five Dollars and Zero Cents
  • Like to give gifts? Being on a budget doesn’t need to hamper your fun. But make it a challenge. Budget only $12.50 for each other, and see what thoughtful item you can get that will make the other’s day. Stephen bought me a grocery store bouquet for $10 a couple Fridays ago . . . made me smile, and didn’t set us back like roses would have. Plus, gerbera daisies were our wedding flowers and, therefore, more personal. It forces you to get creative, too. And the grocery store is a great place to find all this stuff, by the way. You can go, split up, and then exchange your goods on the way home.
  • And who says you have to go out for a full meal to celebrate your love? Dessert’s the thing on the 14th of Feb that has everyone mushy and gooey. Dine in for the main event and then treat yourselves to dessert OUT somewhere divine. You may even have enough cash left over to rent a few flicks for the night.

$0: Zero Dollars and Zero Cents
  • Oh, we’ve been there. But love is free, and you can certainly do more with less . . . or nothing at all. Look around the house and see what you’ve got. Have an evening of unplugged games (get some ideas in our board games for pennies post) – no Wii allowed. Learn a new cooking technique together (and if you’re looking for a new cookbook, go check out our giveaway). Give each other a massage. Have him paint your toenails. Whatever. But just do stuff together with what you have. Because when it all boils down . . . you really only need each other. Awww.
  • Along this same vein – do something for you partner you might not usually do. Like wash the dishes, in our case. Maybe make up one of those little coupon books and fill it with tasks and treats you can give for free. Stephen loves banana cake, and I hate it. So, I’d make a coupon that says “Good for ONE tasty Banana Cake” (That’s what she said? Ohhhh . . . sorry, it’s the bananas. Should have come up with a different example.). 
What does Alaina suggest? Check 'em out . . . 
  • Make an apple pie -- my boyfriend's weakness -- and dust off the good old Super Nintendo for a night of old-school video games. 
  • Gift him different kinds of beers -- it's fun to surprise him with new ones, but it seems the best ones are the most expensive ones. (We hear you, Alaina!)
  • Go to our favorite Chinese place and each buy the other one dinner. We both love Chinese so much, and it would be our 'gift' to one another. 
  • Have a movie marathon. There are so many movies that he says "I can't believe you haven't seen that!" or "You HAVE to see that!" so I also thought about having a movie marathon that he's 100% in charge of. 
    Bottom line: No matter your budget, you don’t need any dough to bake up some romance on Valentine’s day this year. Just be smart, stick to your budget, and remember that it’s really just a made-up holiday . . . so no need to spend big. It’s the little things, really, that make an impact.

    Do you folks have any budget friendly activities to suggest? We'd love to hear 'em. Just leave a comment!

    If you have a question you'd like us to answer, just email us at neverhomemaker@gmail.com -- and we'd be happy to get back to you -- soon. And be sure to check out the details about our Something for Nothing Giveaway of Martha Stewart's Cooking School cookbook -- to celebrate 500 (and now 612) followers :)

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