Perhaps J. Lo said it best: Love don’t cost a thing. But when Valentine’s Day rolls around, it can be tempting to show your S.O. just how much you care by spending more than you should. But no matter how much you want to impress your one and only, going into debt is never the way to show your love. Instead, you can get creative with date ideas that are romantic and incredibly cheap — or even completely free.
If you don’t believe in the power of a little creativity, then take a quick walk down memory lane. We bet some of your favorite memories with friends and family didn’t cost a dime. Here’s how to create a little of that same kind of magic this Valentine’s Day.
Have breakfast together (Yes, it can be in bed)
Maybe most days you’re rushing to jump in the shower and run to work from the moment your alarm clock sounds, but why not try to slow it down a little? Set the alarm for an hour earlier, and create a sweet A.M. date with a cozy breakfast together, recommends Dafna Mizrahi, a catering and events manager and the founder of Curamia Tequila. “With today’s busy schedules, practicing wellness avoids bringing home unnecessary stress from a workplace or a busy day of running around errands,” she says.
If you feel like firing up the stove, create an inexpensive meal of eggs, vegetables, and plant-based sausages. Or keep it simple with yogurt and granola — or even overnight oats, which you can make the night before. All of these options are incredibly budget-friendly. Then, all you need is a cup or two of coffee, and to bask in the early morning sunshine — no phones allowed.
Go for a long walk or hike
Think about the nature in your area. Do you have a beach nearby? A park? What about a mountain? Seek the beauty of the great outdoors with your significant other by inhaling fresh air and moving together. There’s a reason why you’ll often see elderly couples strolling hand-in-hand. It’s a simple way to build a connection with little effort. Wherever you call home, invite your favorite human to join you and leave the phone at home, recommends Susan Trombetti, CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking. If you live in a colder area, make some hot cocoa for the journey so you’re toasty. And if you’re somewhere warm, then a picnic is always an incredible way to spend a romantic afternoon.
Create intentions as a team
Once you’re part of a team, your goals are no longer focused on yourself — you and your partner will have joint milestones to meet throughout your life together. Part of ensuring you’re on the same page is having open discussions about your dreams, and setting intentions together. As a sweet way to get even closer, Mizrahi suggests the fine art of manifestation. If you’re new to this practice, don’t sweat it. Mizrahi says it’s as easy as searching for ‘intentions to start your day with’ on YouTube, and you’ll run into many great options you can listen to. “This will set the tone for the day, and they are free,” she continues. “Plus, it could help you create habits that in the long run will help the relationship with your partner.”
Visit an artist’s open reception
If you’re dreaming of a super-fancy gala, but you don’t exactly have the funds to buy a seat at the table (or a work of art, for that matter) then visiting an artist’s open reception can fulfill your dreams. Not only are they usually free, but they’re also an exciting way to invite exciting discussions into your relationship, says Denise Parnell, a lifestyle content creator. “Get dressed up and spend the evening getting to know each other better while exploring the works of an up-and-coming artist,” she continues. “In addition to being a sexy date night option, openings are a fun way to support local artists, and they typically serve wine and passed hors d’oeuvres.”
Create a theme night with your favorite cuisine
Rather than ordering takeout, create a fun theme night with your partner at home by cooking together — and setting the scene. For example, if your favorite restaurant serves Mexican cuisine, have a taco date, suggests Mizrahi. “They are easy to make, completely versatile in the sense that you can make them virtually out of any ingredient and very satisfying,” she explains.
Start by reusing some of those Christmas lights you recently put away, and put on a playlist with some of your favorite salsa tunes. Throw in a margarita or two if your funds allow it, and kick back for a fun night.
Go for a bike ride
If you don’t have money in the budget for a gym membership, or if you don’t quite feel safe heading back to lift weights with COVID, we get it. Enter bike riding. Bike rides through a park in your local city are not only a tad bit dreamy — they’re energizing too. Those extra endorphins you’ll generate will make you feel happier, more confident and allow you to experience your hometown through a new lens. “You can even pack a lunch, stop, and talk to get to know each other, and have an amazing date. Or pick up a quick cup of coffee after your ride to warm up if you live in a colder climate,” Trombetti says.
Sample your way through the farmer’s market
The best part about visiting a farmer’s market is you don’t have to spend a dime, and you still get introduced to new sights, smells, people, experiences and ingredients. Check your local farmer’s market schedule for special market days that feature live music or entertainment, food trucks, or group fitness classes, Parnell says. “The options for your date are endless: Start off grabbing a coffee and shopping with vendors, then you can get a bite to eat from a food truck and catch up on your week.”
Go ‘out of town’
Never discount the experience of a day trip, especially if there’s a town an hour or so away that you’ve been talking about visiting but just haven’t gotten around to yet. Or maybe there’s a town that you visited when you were first dating, but you’ve heard there are some new things to see. Figure out what you’re willing to spend, and then make a plan accordingly. Maybe you do coffee instead of lunch. Or maybe you spring for lunch instead of dinner. Just make sure you leave yourself $10 to spend at an antique store or junk shop, in case you stumble upon a funky pair of candlesticks that you just can’t live without. Just keep the location within a short driving distance so you don’t over-do-it on gas — and then get excited. “Set the mood from the moment your trip starts by curating a playlist and blasting it during the drive. Share why you picked certain songs and any memories associated with them,” she continues. “By the time you arrive, you won’t even realize you are only minutes away from home.”
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