Valentine’s Day can be a magical day of the year for any couple. It can also be an extremely expensive one. After all, those romantic gifts, picturesque outings, and steak and lobster dinners by candlelight really start to add up after a while.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of activities a couple can do with one another without spending a fortune. From intimate movie nights to taking advantage of any free outings in your neighborhood, here are some of the best date ideas for couples on a tighter budget this Valentine’s Day.
A Leisurely Hike (Weather Permitting)
A mutual exercise session is always a great option for a prospective date. In the case of hiking, too, you don’t even need a gym membership to get started! All you need is a sliver of the great outdoors that allows you and your significant other to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, whether it’s an official hiking path or simply a trail near your house.
There are all kinds of benefits when it comes to hiking, both from a physical and mental health standpoint. But even more than that, it’s a wonderful opportunity to spend time with that special person in your life free from distractions. Of course, as February’s weather can be famously erratic, be sure to check the forecast before you venture out.
Hit The Gym
New Year’s might be behind us now, but it’s never too late to start your resolution to exercise more. That being said, what better way for couples to motivate each other than actually going to the gym at the same time as your partner?
Gym dates may be an acquired taste, but there really is no question that watching your partner pumping iron, jogging on the treadmill, or stretching out fundamentally encourages you to similarly give it your all. With how reasonably affordable gym memberships are, too, you’re able to spend time together and get in better shape, all at comparatively low costs.
A Movie Night at Home
The most popular date ideas are usually the simplest; and of course, it doesn’t get any easier than just sitting together in your living room and popping on a movie with your favorite person.
Personally, I’d suggest starting a list ahead of time for future movies you’d like to watch together. Not only will it give you something to do if you ever have a free night together, but it’s incredibly satisfying crossing movies off that list as you wind your way through the queue.
You can even add a little extra flair to your date by microwaving some popcorn or picking up some boxed candy from your local convenience store (often, they’re sold at much lower rates than the candies you buy at the movie theater).
Stretch Out With Some Yoga
The last entry on this list related to exercise (we promise), yoga can be a somewhat less intense option for couples new to working out together. But don’t let the social stigma around it fool you — in many ways, it can be as physically demanding as completing a set of mountain climbers or burpees at the gym.
Like any physical activity, there are endless benefits that come with yoga, the exercise regimen helping you deal with stress, getting rid of pesky muscle aches, or allowing you to unwind after a long day. For beginners, we recommend following a free online yoga channel that guides you through each exercise (Yoga With Adriene is a particularly strong choice for the uninitiated yogees).
Even if you’re having trouble striking some of the poses, at the very least you’ll likely have you and your partner laughing hysterically any time you botch Downward-facing Dog or the Happy Baby Pose.
A Visit to a Free Museum
Museums are a fantastic place to visit on any date. Be it an art museum, a history museum, or a science exhibition — what better place is there to mutually gush over a subject that you and your partner share an avid interest in?
While not all museums are free, a decent amount of them are (especially smaller regional museums outside of big cities). Even if they come at a cost, it’s likely the price of admission won’t be that high. Plus, once you’re inside, you’ll be able to spend as much time walking through the museum as you like. Unlike going to the movie theater or a swanky restaurant, you can spend the whole day there if you’re so inclined.
Going to a Free Concert, Club, or Event in Your Local Area
Ever since the unofficial end of the pandemic, cities and towns are surging with social activities, many of which come at either favorably low rates or are completely free. For example, popular bars or restaurants in your area might have a live band playing, or special discounted dates ideas for you to take advantage of.
All you need to do is search online to see whether any special events are happening in your county or a nearby city. It may be a bit of a drive depending on where you live, but it’s definitely worth it if you’re looking for an outside-the-box date idea on Valentine’s Day.
Painting Together and/or Completing Artistic Pieces
You don’t have to be creative in order to enjoy painting. In fact, like yoga, the worse you do, the more likely you are to laugh alongside your partner, each of you competing to see who hands in the most disastrous piece.
But in all seriousness, as is the case with every entry on this list, the activity itself comes secondary to the time you actually spend with your partner. It doesn’t matter if you’re painting, drawing, dabbling in an adult coloring book, or playing some musical instruments together, so long as you’re together and you’re both having a good time.
Head to a Flea Market, Thrift Shop, or Used Bookstore
Shopping can be an incredibly rewarding experience for couples out on a date, regardless of whether you purchase anything or are simply window-shopping.
If you are in the mood for buying something but want to avoid high prices, you can always visit a flea market, a second-hand clothing store, or a used bookshop. It’s a great way to support smaller local businesses while also saving you a bundle. Again, even if you decide not to get anything, visiting such places make for an excellent outing on any given day.
Form Your Own Book Club
A book club for two people? Some might say it’s impossible. But honestly, what’s more romantic than reading the same book as your significant other, both of you mulling over the meaning of your favorite passages or complaining about certain characters?
Starting your own book club is far easier than you might think. All you have to do is talk with your partner, decide on a book together, and start reading. You’re always free to buy a hard copy of the book (preferably from a used bookstore – see above), but to save a few extra bucks, you can check it out from your local library instead.
Binge a New Show
Another classic date idea, starting a new show with your partner and then watching it as quickly as possible has satisfied many a couples over the years, especially since the advent of streaming.
Whether you subscribe to Netflix, HBO Max, Paramount+, or some other service, there is literally no shortage of shows worthy of your attention. And of course, what better way to enjoy them than with the company of your loved one? From binging a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother to restarting Game of Thrones for the thirty-third time, there’s no easier date idea than indulging in your favorite TV shows together.
Outline a Future Trip Together
If money is tight at the moment, there’s very little chance of you being able to go on a vacation any time soon. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t plan a trip, listing all the places you want to go with your partner and then forming a basic itinerary for said vacation.
Planning vacations may seem a little Type A for some, but it’s an activity you might spend a surprising amount of time having fun with. After all, what’s more exciting than opening a map and jotting down all the places you want to visit? Naturally, you don’t have to set any plans in stone, but it’s always nice to have something to look forward to in the near future.
Making a Romantic Dinner Together
Ah, yes, dinners — perhaps the most important part of any Valentine’s Day experience. Truthfully, few things are truly as romantic as a fine dining experience. As great as a trip to your favorite steakhouse or seafood restaurant might be, though, there’s something incredibly intimate about you and your partner making dinner at home.
To avoid the achingly expensive bill that comes after your meal out, we recommend staying indoors on Valentine’s Day and making your favorite dish instead. Like every activity we’ve detailed on this list, cooking can be an extraordinarily fun activity for both of you to take part in.
Build Your Own Dessert
Similar to the above point, dessert is another main romantic ingredient to any successful Valentine's Day celebration. Whether you opt to stay in for the festivities or not, we highly suggest constructing your own dessert to feast on after your weighty Valentine’s Day dinner.
Your best bet when it comes to a V-Day dessert is probably a homemade ice cream sundae, complete with all the fixings. (Nine times out of ten, you’ll be able to get a large pint of ice cream from your grocery store for the same cost as a single scoop from your local ice cream shop.) If you’re feeling fancier, you can try baking a cake or pie from scratch — although Toll House or Pillsbury products make for tasty options as well.
Play a Board Game or a Video Game Together
What activity brings people closer together than board games or video games? The former gives you an opportunity to directly interact with your partner; the latter serves as a fun and rewarding experience that requires both of your efforts to succeed.
To be sure, certain video and board games — especially competitive ones — might fracture your evening and kill the mood for your night together. With that in mind, it’s preferable that you stick with games that see both of you competing on the same side rather than against one another. Anything that has the potential to see the night in frustration or a screaming match (such as Risk, Sorry, or even Call of Duty) should be avoided at all costs.
Build a Puzzle
Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation fame once said that he and his wife usually conclude their day by building a puzzle together. As with most pieces of advice from Ron Swanson, it’s a stellar idea, both you and your partner spending some quiet time together poring over a puzzle.
Alternatively, you can take a page out of Jon Stewart’s book and complete a crossword puzzle with your loved one. If you’re up for a harder challenge and truly want to live like the former Daily Show host, you can even try taking on The New York Times crossword puzzle — commonly considered one of the most difficult daily crossword puzzles currently in publication.
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).