Valentine’s Day Ideas That Are More from the Heart Than Your Wallet

A stuffed teddy bear holding a small bouquet of roses
Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush

Valentine’s Day gets a bad reputation for being a “Hallmark holiday,” but the first valentine was sent decades before Hallmark even existed. Esther Howland, “The Mother of the American Valentine,” brought the tradition of sending cards to loved ones to the U.S. way back in the 1840s!

Because of her, February 14th is still one of the best days of the year to show the people you love that you care about them. The only problem is it can be hard to find the perfect gift without spending a lot of money.

From flowers to jewelry, the typical Valentine’s Day presents are expensive and impersonal. However, with a little creativity and few of these tips, you can put together the perfect gift that won’t break your bank.

Forget Restaurants, Hit The Kitchen

Getting dressed up for a nice meal at a fancy restaurant is a great way to spend Valentine’s Day, but for an impressive and personal date try cooking on your own.

Start with a cheese and a bottle of wine – you can find great ones for less than $20 – then cook up your valentine’s favorite meal. If you’re feeling confident about your baking skills, a cake after dinner would be the perfect finishing touch. All in all, you can have a personal gourmet meal for half the price of a restaurant. 

Bonus if you live in a warm area: take the wine and cheese outside and have a picnic!

Not everyone is a chef, of course, but there are other ways to have a romantic meal at home. For instance, Aldi sells heart-shaped pizza, pasta, chocolate, cheese and more, and Chic-Fil-A is selling chicken nuggets and sandwiches in heart-shaped tins through February 29. If you do decide to hit the grocery store for anything, the most romantic thing you can do is save money while you’re there. Use Ibotta and other cash back apps on all your Valentine’s Day shopping and use your savings for an extra dessert!

Give The Gift Of Music

Music can be personal and romantic, and there are tons of ways to turn it into a great gift. For starters, you can put together a mixtape or Spotify playlist featuring all of your and your valentine’s favorite songs.

If you want to go the extra mile and have some musical talent, try writing a song yourself. If you’re not musically inclined but have friends that are, see if they’d give you a quick private concert to really make your Valentine’s Day special.

Even without any musical talent, something personalized and handwritten like a poem or a card would make a perfect present.

Celebrate All Weekend

This year’s Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday, and not just any Friday. The following Monday just so happens to be President’s Day, meaning some people will have the day off from work. Instead of an expensive dinner date on Friday, try planning a cheap weekend getaway.

Hotel and travel prices are usually lower than average in the winter, meaning even a quick road trip can be a fun, affordable, romantic weekend. Stretching Valentine’s Day across the weekend can make it more romantic and let you stretch your cash a little further as well.

Get Creative With Candy

Buying a box of chocolates or other sweets for Valentine’s Day has basically become a necessity but you can probably do better than the heart-shaped box you got from the store.

Use the candy to write a message to your Valentine, or leave a trail through your house to a table with dinner set up. It’ll feel more personal than a standard box of sweets and really make an impact. Pro tip: you can do the same with flower petals.

Ask Your Valentine

While some people love surprises, your best bet might be asking your sweetheart directly what they want to do for Valentine’s Day. Instead of picking up diamonds and flowers for the sake of it, see what your Valentine really wants. There’s no better way to guarantee you’ll make them happy.