We promise not to tell your partner that you waited until the last minute to buy a Valentine’s Day gift. Pinky promise. But you probably shouldn’t leave this link open once you decide on an idea from this list. Better to let them think you spent weeks intentionally planning it on your own. Yeah, they’re that good.
Sure, Valentine’s Day is a sweet reminder to express love and gratitude to our favorite people. However, big romantic gestures like fancy jewelry or weekend getaways aren’t realistic when you’re on a budget–especially if you’re trying to pay down credit card debt or save money for a rainy day fund. With that being said, you can still lean into the occasion without breaking your bank account’s heart.
A thoughtful gift is sometimes worth more than one that costs a lot of money. Although we’re no experts on relationships, we do know these ideas can save you big time if you have a payment coming up for that Buy Now, Pay Later splurge last week.
Host a romantic dinner at home
Replicate the ambiance of a cozy restaurant right from your living room. We believe in you, no matter how tiny your apartment may be. All you need is a dining table, two chairs, and preferably a lit candle as your centerpiece to pull the vibe together.
Your menu doesn’t have to be high-brow. Start with an appetizer you and your partner both love like some sourdough and a plate of olive oil to dip. Who doesn’t love free bread? For the entree, cook something easy that could even offer leftovers for the next day. Think pasta or personal pizzas. Don’t forget dessert–it can seriously be as simple as your date’s favorite ice cream flavor.
Making someone food (even if it’s a tad overcooked) is an underrated expression of love, especially when the cost of groceries is right up there with rent these days.
Make a photo album of your memories
Nothing is more valuable than the memories you share with your special person, despite what your local jewelry store will want you to believe.
Remind your partner of the best times you’ve had together with a photo album. Include pictures of you both looking your best, say in front of the beach while on vacation. But don’t be afraid to throw in some unflattering shots like you sound asleep on the ride home. Write a caption under each selection. You could even compose a short message at the beginning commemorating the date and year.
When you inevitably annoy your SO for how loud you chew your food or leave the counter dirty after breakfast, you can ask them to open the album as a reminder of why they still love you.
Volunteer at your local animal shelter
Okay, okay, this idea sounds pretty niche, but it could just be the most fun you and your date have this Valentine’s Day if you’re both animal lovers.
First things first, reach out to your local animal shelter for what their needs are at the moment and if you can help. Some may need assistance with walking dogs, others may need extra hands with their cat sanctuaries. While you’re there, the crucial thing to remember is that the animals and your service are more important than your time together.
One plus about this date is that you can observe how well your partner treats animals. Remember, someone who isn’t kind to furry friends probably won’t be kind to your heart.
Give a sampler of their favorite things
Flowers are nice to look at. But they die. And they die quickly.
If the perfect gift is on your mind this Valentine’s Day, then give one they can keep for longer than a week or so. Pick five of their favorite things that cost less than $20. You can grab that book they keep talking about wanting to read, or you can drop in a vinyl record of an album they play nonstop. Toss in their favorite snacks and maybe include a pair of socks in their favorite color.
The key here is to buy small things that make them the happiest. Like a signed autograph of your favorite selfie. As long as each item represents something unique about their personality, they’ll cherish this gift more than a wilted, smelly bouquet.
Pin your favorite date spots on a framed map
Do you remember where your first date was? What about their favorite movie theater? Is there a special spot in the city you both love to grab dinner?
Pin all of these locations on a framed map they can hang in their apartment. You can even write on a post-it note any memories you shared there–even the cringey ones like stepping in dog poop after your first kiss at the park.
Just don’t include any locations where you argued about who eats out for lunch too much. Be more realistic with your budget expenses instead.
Not to sound overconfident, but we’re pretty sure if you try any of these ideas, your partner will be ready to book the wedding photographer by summer. Or at the very least forget about that time you accidentally skipped their family outing for a happy hour. Maybe we shouldn’t go that far, but if they don’t appreciate these examples of thoughtfulness…then, find someone else who does. Preferably one that knows their credit score and not just their Venus sign.