How to Plan a Valentine’s Date You Can Afford

The following is a guest post by Tara Alley, a freelance writer who enjoys writing about living a frugal life and encouraging others in the attempt to do the same. You can follow her @hopesiempre.

The average cost of a first date currently tops the $100 dollar mark, and I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty hard for me to put that and frugal in the same sentence. With Valentine’s Day approaching, the date we feel obligated to put even “more” into, I can’t help but cringe when I think of the money that’s going to be spent on uneaten chocolates, so-so meals at outrageously overpriced restaurants and the mildly funny, mildly crude flick. We tell ourselves over and over that “it’s the thought that counts” but then still manage to get sucked into showing that thought with our dollars. If you’re dreading Valentine’s Day because it’s just not fitting into your budget, don’t worry. There are plenty of alternatives out there, and in my opinion, most of them highly outrank an overpriced meal and a box of stale chocolates. Here’s a list of easily accomplished ideas & tips that won’t break your bank but do have the potential to sweep your date right off her feet!

Dinner & Dancing. In the comfort of your own home! Plan to cook a spectacular dinner together and make a whole evening of it. Pick something you’ve never made before but have both always wanted to try. You might totally blow it, and it just might taste horrible, but you’re guaranteed to have fun! Or you can skip dinner all together and do an assortment of delicious desserts! Ice cream sundaes smorgasbord! Finish up the night by popping in a rented movie of dancing lessons. Nothing better than learning some new moves without the embarrassment of a crowd of people AND for a couple dollars via the local movie store!

Hike & Picnic. Take a long walk together. If you can, get up on the top of a hilltop and spread a blanket out for a yummy spread of appetizers while watching a sunset. Exploring is always romantic. Accompanying gift: favorite wine/foodie snack.

Give a Coupon Book. Do you remember these? They’re incredibly thoughtful and any one will LOVE getting one. Make a collection of coupons for your date to cash in at their whim. Fun ideas: “I’ll Do the Dishes for You.” “Good for 1 Foot Massage.” “My Saturday is Your Saturday.” “One item off the Honey-Do List.”

Re-create Your First Date. If you’ve been together for awhile, this is a really fun idea, and chances are good that you didn’t spend $100 on that first date 10+ years ago. Accompanying gift: newly framed picture of your first picture taken together.

Plan your Dream Future. Spend the night in dream world and talk about your biggest dreams/hopes together. Plan what your dream house would look like, look at pictures in magazines, start a list of what you want to see and do together in the next year.

Coffee shop date. Catch up and enjoy each other’s company over a cup of espresso. It’s a splurge from the every day, but it’s not an $80 meal. Accompanying gift: their ultimate favorite coffee beans & a mug.

Find a local museum, a state park or outing area like an ice skating rink that doesn’t have an entrance fee and go take advantage of it! Surprise your date with doing your research ahead of time and showing her all the things you think she’d love. Accompanying gift: a scrapbook to keep track of all the future outings like this one.

Tips: Celebrate after Valentine’s Day. Everything’s cheaper: flowers, chocolates, etc., and if you do want to eat out, you can get into a restaurant easier. Skip the roses, they’re overpriced. Go for something more affordable and just as pretty (tulips). Make gourmet truffles. SO easy! And very impressive! Write out notes in advance and give one a day before Valentine’s Day. Surprise her with a handmade gift. Pick an activity like mini-golf, bowling, or the discount movie theatre.

It really is the thought that counts, so whatever you do, put some thought into it, starting now, and I guarantee you that you’ll impress your date infinitely more than you would with no thought and a large check.

Further Reading:

Best Free Movie and TV Sites

Six Great Ways to Save Money on a Wedding

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