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6 Inexpensive, Romantic Valentine’s Day Date Ideas

By Lainie Petersen

valentine's dayWhile you may not want to feel like a cheapskate on Valentine’s Day, there are other things to consider – such as sticking to your budget and not adding to personal debt. It’s important to make your spouse or partner feel special on this day, but sometimes personal spending limitations can put a damper on the best of intentions.

Fortunately, the Internet makes it easy to research inexpensive (and even free) entertainment options in your area, as well as low-cost, high-quality restaurants. With some planning, you should be able to enjoy a memorable evening that won’t leave you in the red until payday.

Inexpensive Valentine’s Day Date Options

1. Dine In Before Going Out

When planning an evening that incorporates a meal and other activities, such as a concert or a movie, think about eating at home before going out. Not only will you save a substantial amount of money, but you get to control the atmosphere, allowing you and your date to relax and dine without having to worry about crowds, lost reservations, or overworked waiters.

If you don’t have confidence in your cooking skills, put together a platter of charcuterie (cured meats, sausages, and pâtés), cheeses, bread, olive oil, and delightful nibbles, such as Marcona almonds, candied walnuts, and dried or fresh figs. Add a bottle of good wine and you’ll have a tasty, romantic meal for two. You can even make your own Valentine’s Day dessert recipes to top things off.

dine in before heading out

2. BYOB

Wine and liquor can easily double your restaurant bill. Check out one of the many online BYOB dining guides to find restaurants in your area that allow you to bring your own, and be certain to call the restaurant ahead of time to check their corkage fees. Then head to a wine shop and ask the owner or salesperson to help you select some great wine to compliment the cuisine at your chosen eatery.

3. Avoid Fixed Price Meals

Many restaurants promote special fixed price, multi-course meals to Valentine’s Day couples. While it’s understandable that a restaurant would want to reduce the workload of its kitchen staff by encouraging customers to order the same meal, it doesn’t hold that these meals are a better value than ordering à la carte, particularly if you and your date aren’t big eaters.

Have a look at the restaurant’s regular menu and compare costs and offerings – you may not be saving much by going with the fixed price. Be sure to also pay attention to the portions offered in the special fixed price meal, as sometimes these meals “for two” only include one appetizer or dessert for you and your date to share.

4. Consider Using Coupons

Using restaurant coupons on a first date or at the beginning of a relationship can be awkward, but couples in long- and medium-term relationships are usually comfortable enough with one another to acknowledge that they’d like to save a little money. If you have coupons for restaurants, bars, or various attractions (such as movies, plays, or concerts), don’t be afraid to use them. Just be sure that they are valid on Valentine’s Day, as some businesses restrict coupon use on holidays.

5. Splurge on Cocktails or Dessert

If you choose to eat a light main course or dine at home, you can free up your budget so that you can enjoy some special craft cocktails, champagne, or scrumptious desserts as part of your evening. Many restaurants will be happy to seat you and your date at the bar so that you can enjoy a bit of luxury on Valentine’s Day, particularly if you show up later in the evening (after 9pm or so). Bar seating is also a great way to get a seat at a popular restaurant that’s otherwise completely booked.

cocktails and dessert

6. Enjoy Some Budget Entertainment

If you can’t afford pricy theater or concert tickets, don’t despair. Quality entertainment for a few bucks (or nothing at all) can be found in most areas. What you choose to do depends on both your budget and your interests.

In some places, museums and cultural centers may be open late, offering exhibits and performances either for free or at very reasonable ticket prices. Coffeehouses, improv clubs, fringe theater companies, and local bars may also be running their normal program of entertainment that you can enjoy for a minimal cover charge and the price of a drink or two.

Other options include art galleries, libraries showing classic films, and wine, beer, or food tastings offered at gourmet markets. Follow it up with a long walk through a nice part of town and your frugal, but thoughtful, evening will end on a beautifully high note.

Final Word

If you are looking for a unique and reasonably priced Valentine’s Day gift, keep in mind that The Bronx Zoo’s 58,000 Madagascar Hissing Roaches are in need of names. For a very frugal $10, you can name one of these roaches on behalf of your special someone this Valentine’s Day. For $25, he or she will also get a hand-painted chocolate roach, and for $35 you will receive the Cocoa Roach Duo. Romantic? Probably not, but this is a great way to support a worthy organization and give your Valentine a gift to remember. Otherwise, consider giving another romantic, inexpensive gift to make the day complete.

What ideas do you have for affordable Valentine’s Day dates?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen holds master's degrees in Library and Information Science, Theological Studies, and Divinity, and spent five years working in regulatory compliance for a major education publisher. A lifetime Chicagoian, she recently spent almost a year living in the woods of Southern Oregon before deciding to head back home to her family and friends.

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  • Sean H

    This is some great advice! I had some stuff planned but I am changing my plans to save a little bit of money. Thanks Lainie.

    • http://twitter.com/lainiep lainiep

      Great to hear it, Sean! I would love to hear about what you ended up doing!

  • Jeff Crews

    Another great things is to work free things out. I was able to get tickets to a NHL (over $100 value) for free. A nice dinner before that, and I am golden!

    • http://twitter.com/lainiep lainiep

      That’s quite a score, Jeff! Thanks for sharing!

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