47 Cheap (or Free) Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day

Dollars & Sense on 02.08.12
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Photo: Amy Suardi/Frugal Mama

It's that time of year again, but Valentine's Day doesn't have to be just another occasion to pull out the credit card or ingest a half-ton of sweets. Here are some simple ways to keep it cheap, spice it up, and make it fun.

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1. Skip the expensive wine-of-the-month club: promise to hand-deliver a bottle every month and pair it with a candle-lit dinner after the kids are tucked in.

2. For $5, hire someone on Fiverr to do something silly and sweet, like deliver your Valentine's message in a claymation video.

3. Forget overpriced roses; instead buy a bouquet of the flowers you had at your wedding.

4. Instead of imported European chocolates, choose domestic brand Ghiradelli, which came out on top in a Cooks Illustrated blind taste test.

5. Update the classic mix-tape gift: Burn a CD or make an iTunes playlist full of love songs or good-times melodies.

6. Shop online and check out eBates for Valentine's Day coupons and deals (and, of course, rebates).

7. Bake your sweetheart's favorite dessert instead of buying a gift, and serve it with pink candles.

8. Make one of these stunning heart wreaths from materials you have on hand, and stick in an "I love you" note.

9. Buy seed packets or bulbs of your honey's favorite flower -- they're much less expensive and last a lot longer.

10. Instead of buying candies, make homemade chocolate truffles in 25 minutes or easy chocolate bark with supermarket ingredients.

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11. Relive your first date (even if it was at a cheap local pizza place).

12. Get a Groupon or Living Social deal for a place you wouldn't normally splurge on.

13. Share an entrée.

14. Instead of going to your favorite restaurant and ordering your favorite meal, make the dish (or as close to it as you can get) at home.

15. Recreate Lady and the Tramp with a spaghetti and meatballs dinner, some candles, and a showing of the movie.

16. Skip dinner and go out for a leisurely brunch, when prices are lower and crowds are fewer.

17. Set your alarm and surprise your partner with breakfast in bed.

18. Instead of going out for food, get drinks or coffee over a game of Scrabble or Monopoly at a cafe or pub.

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19. On the day before and the day after Valentine's, trade babysitting with another couple so you each can enjoy a dinner out -- without the inflated prices.

20. Wait to have a candle-lit dinner after the kids are in bed or cozied up in front of a movie.

21. Surprise him or her at work for an impromptu one-on-one lunch.

22. Have a romantic living room picnic with music and low lights.

23. Drop off the kids at the gym childcare, then meet for a sweaty workout, a dip in the jacuzzi, and a pink smoothie in the cafe.

24. Bring the kids and do something exciting -- like going to a sports game or visiting a tourist site in your own city.

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25. Make a Valentine's craft to decorate your house or give away, like crayon hearts or a candy topiary.

26. Make heart-shaped bird cookies with birdseed "sprinkles" and tie them to branches in your back yard.

27. Cut your child's sandwiches into heart shapes using cookie cutters.

28. Instead of buying valentines for your child's classmates, make them (check out these 12 ideas for inspiration).

29. On Valentine's Day morning, make these heart-shaped pancakes with regular pancake mix and red food coloring. 

30. Give your kids a ticket for a chore-free day or a stay-up-late night.

31. Instead of buying a Valentine's treat for your dog, make funny Red Velvet Pupcakes.

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32. Pull out scrapbooks, home movies, and photo albums and remember how your story began.

33. Give your partner a genuine compliment; Sometimes we get too busy to notice how much our loved ones do for us.

34. Give him or her a coupon book for perks and pampering.

35. Concede an argument.

36. Write a heartfelt letter.

37. Do something that the other person hasn’t gotten around to doing yet. Maybe it’s the dishes, or cleaning out the garage.

38. Learn a few basic massage techniques, and then try them out.

39. Propose something you'd never do, like antique shopping with her or going to the car show with him.

40. Write down what you love about the other person on heart-shaped notes and sprinkle them around the house.

41. Watch your favorite TV show's Valentine's Day episode. (Don't have one? Try the "Valentine's Day" episode of The Office.)

42. Check out a romantic movie from the library.

43. Stamp and mail your sweetie a card, even if you live in the same house.

44. Instead of using a store-bought card, write on a Valentine's picture you ask your child to draw for you.

45. Check your city's calendar for free events.

46. Agree to do that project you've been dreading: scribble on a paint chip, "Let's paint the kids' room this weekend."

47. Write a list poem called "14 Things I Love About You."

What would you most like to get on this list? If you're like the me, it's the free ones that would mean the most. I guess love is more precious than money.

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