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20 Cheap or Free Valentine's Day Date Ideas

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Tom Lohr loves holidays—just not Christmas. He is still bitter about not getting the GI Joe Gemini capsule as a present in the mid-60s

You don't have to decimate your paycheck to have a memorable Valentine's Day experience with your partner.

You don't have to decimate your paycheck to have a memorable Valentine's Day experience with your partner.

Cupid Is Out for Your Cash!

Valentine's Day comes at a very inconvenient time. You have just finished taking down the last of your Christmas decorations, all while mulling over the numbing cost of the holiday in your head. Then, without notice or warning, you wake up to find that Valentine's Day is only a few days away.

Despite it not being an official holiday—or even a day of historical significance—it puts almost as much pressure on gift-giving as Christmas. If you believe the TV commercials, your sweetheart will only be pleasantly surprised and satisfied if you give them either a large diamond bracelet or a Lexus.

Since most of us don't live in the land of free money, we have to stick to some sort of a budget. For many, that budget is fairly devoid of expendable cash. Still, with Valentine's Day bearing down on you, why not set a trend for all future Valentine's Days and commit to gifting something to each other (or the both of you) that costs little or nothing.

Don't cave to the rampant commercialism; think thrifty, get frugal, and enjoy a holiday that cost next to nothing. If your loved one will only be happy if you give them an expensive gift, then give yourself the best gift you possibly can—a new partner or spouse. While you mull over picking out a new partner, here are 20 ideas for Valentine's Day dates that won't break the bank.

1. Go on a Walking Tour

If you live in a city of any size, it likely has walking tours. The tours might include architecture or ghosts, but it will get both of you outdoors, and you'll get some exercise while discovering something new about your town. Many cities offer paid walking tours, but with a little research, you can find the same information online and conduct your own for free.

Watch a Classic Movie Together

Watch a Classic Movie Together

2. Watch a Classic Movie Together

Raiders of the Lost Ark does not count as a classic. Think 1970 or earlier. Chances are neither of you has one on your must-watch list. There are so many slick new productions to wade through that most of us forget about the classics? Pick one that neither of you have seen. A good choice is one that you have both heard of and is well-known in pop culture. I did this once and watched Easy Rider—which, by the way, sucks—and now I have that piece of film history checked off.

Play a Board Game

Play a Board Game

3. Play a Board Game

Gather around children, and let me tell you about a time long ago when the internet did not exist and neither did PlayStations or Xboxes. Back then, people played cards or board games to entertain themselves. If you haven't played a board game in a while, you should. They are actually making a comeback, and there are now board game nights in coffee shops and other venues.

There is something about having physical pieces on the table and in your hand and having to communicate with the other person playing. Break out or borrow a board game for Valentine's Day, and then look your partner lovingly in the eye and say “I have two hotels on Park Place . . . that's gonna cost ya.”

Go Skyline Gazing

Go Skyline Gazing

4. Go Skyline Gazing

If you live in or near a medium or large-sized city, there is undoubtedly a vista where people go to take in the city's skyline. Some are iconic, some are quaint, and many are just lovely to look at. It's even better if you can find a spot where you can view the skyline from your car. Afterward, make out like it's your second date.

Visit a Used Book Store

Visit a Used Book Store

5. Visit a Used Book Store

People actually used to read before the internet and video games. You have probably been putting off reading for a while now . . . like four to seven years. For little money, you and your Valentine can pick up a used version of that book you have been meaning to read since you were 16. Want to get really kinky? Pick out books for each other.

6. Get Into the Kama Sutra

Provided you don't have any major artificial joints, visit a website that lists at least the bulk of the Kama Sutra positions. In case you didn't know, the Kama Sutra is a book that describes and illustrates over 400 sex positions. Chose one to try, or better yet, pick one, take a break, and then let your partner pick one. It is Valentine's Day after all. If you can't lay your hands on the book or find a website, there is a Kama Sutra app you can dig out of the inter-web.

Stargaze and Identify Constellations

Stargaze and Identify Constellations

7. Stargaze and Identify Constellations

Looking up at the stars has been considered romantic for centuries. Today, we actually know what most of those stars are. Try identifying as many as you can, and then download a free app to see how well you did. Try to find the constellation that signifies your partner's astrological sign.

Visit a New Coffee Shop

Visit a New Coffee Shop

8. Visit a New Coffee Shop

The two of you probably have a favorite coffee shop you spend some time at. On Valentine's Day, find one in a different part of town and have a cup of coffee or tea. There are some really funky coffee houses out there; enjoy the vibe!

Have Wine and Pizza

Have Wine and Pizza

9. Have Wine and Pizza

You are going to eat whether it's Valentine's Day or not. So splurging on a take-out pizza won't hurt that much. Before you order, make a trip to the local wine store and pick out a bottle of vino together. There are tons of great wines for under $15 a bottle.

Pro Tip: if you are also going to try the Kama Sutra thing, do not get double cheese on your pizza. Don't ask me how I know this.

Shower Together

Shower Together

10. Shower Together

Hopefully, the both of you intend to shower sometime during the next 24 hours. When was the last time the two of you showered together? It doesn't have to be a utilitarian cleansing. Take turns washing each other. It's a good idea to determine how long you have before the hot water runs out before jumping in, but once you do, all of that lathering will lead to a very memorable Valentine's evening.

11. Pick Out Each Other's Clothes

They say the clothes make the person. Let's face it—some clothing is not flattering, but some can make you look downright delicious. Your partner probably has an outfit that makes you remember why the two of you are together every time they wear it. The day before Valentine's Day, pick out a set of clothes for your partner to wear. At the end of the day, spend some time helping each other out of those clothes.

12. Clean the House Together

House cleaning is a chore that no one likes. Either one of you does it most of the time, or perhaps you take turns or have sections that you clean. On Valentine's Day, commit to giving the house a good cleaning together. It will cost nothing, it will get a nasty chore out of the way, and you will have spent some quality time together. All of that cleaning will probably get your dirty and sweaty. To make the event even more memorable, see the showering suggestion above.

Police the Neighborhood

Police the Neighborhood

13. Police the Neighborhood

I don't mean raid a drug house. "Policing an area" is also a term used for picking up litter. While not sexy, it is something that you can do together and make an impact on the neighborhood.

14. Listen to a Ted Talk

Frankly, there a some really touchy-feely Ted Talks out there. There are also a bunch that are seriously interesting. Pick one out that seems interesting to both of you. Lean back and listen.

Pro Tip: Ted Talks are better while drinking wine.

Grocery Shop Together

Grocery Shop Together

15. Grocery Shop Together

This is definitely is not free or cheap, but you still have to do it wether it's Valentine's Day or the middle of August. Make a list and head to your favorite supermarket. This is another chore that, while normally not fun, takes on a entirely different aspect when you do it together. Want to really spice it up? Pick out something from the international section neither of you have had before and have it as your Valentine's Day dinner.

16. Teach Each Other Simple Skills

There are many things that you are probably good at and learned from one of your parents, from trade school, or just picked up somewhere between birth and death. Pick one that is useful but not difficult to master, and teach it to your partner. You would be surprised how many people don't know how to do laundry correctly or prepare a simple meal. Learning how to use a new power tool is a good idea, as is learning how to parallel park.

Clean the Car Together

Clean the Car Together

17. Clean the Car Together

Do you know what is under your car seats? A whole bunch of nastiness and a half dozen petrified french fries, that's what. This is the outdoor version of cleaning the house together. While not super fun, it is something that both of you will feel good about after it is accomplished. A clean car is a pleasure to drive. Give that stink wagon you commute to work with a makeover.

Plan Your Next Vacation

Plan Your Next Vacation

18. Plan Your Next Vacation

Vacations are far from cheap or free, but planning them is. It's never too early to decide where the two of you will get away when you get a week off together. Each of you can make a list of 20 places you want to visit that are within your normal vacation budget (so, maybe Australia is out). Go over the two lists together and write down the destinations that are on both of your lists. From that pared-down list, research them together until you pin down that perfect vacation spot.

19. Learn Something New Together

While teaching each other a simple skill is useful, learning something that neither of you knows anything about is better. Like sushi but don't know how to make it? Now is your chance. How about learning to make five different go-to mixed cocktails? Or, you could solve the mystery of how to fold a fitted sheet (get back to me if you figure that one out).

Bake Something Together

Bake Something Together

20. Bake Something Together

Sweets make for a traditional Valentine's Day gift, but cakes don't bake themselves. Neither do cupcakes or pies. Baking something together is a way to get creative and collaborate with your partner. It's an activity that will be both romantic and delicious. You can also savor the memory for a few days as you eat your creation piece by piece.

Frugal Can Be Fun

Frugal Can Be Fun

Frugal Can Be Fun

Not all of the listed activities are things you would usually do for enjoyment, but they are all things that are more enjoyable if done with someone special. You will be surprised at how satisfying that can feel to knock out a dreaded chore in half the time because the two of you tackled it together. It also reinforces the fact that the two of you are a team.

Obviously, all of these activities are easy on the wallet. Have a serious discussion about Valentine's expectations with your partner. Chances are they dread picking out and paying for gifts as much as anyone. Vowing to spend little or nothing celebrating Valentine's Day can be both bond-building and financially rewarding since you'll both be sticking it to the man. You know . . . that man that says your lover will only be happy if you buy them a Lexus?

Comments

Ben Reed from Redcar on January 30, 2021:

A wonderful and varied selection. I'm very fond of double cheese on my pizza - so a difficult choice to make for your selection number 9. A really enjoyable read.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 27, 2021:

Wishing you an early Happy Valentine's Day. You certainly have a good assortment of ideas for Valentine's Day!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 27, 2021:

You certainly have many suggestions in the article, Tom. Happy Valentine's Day!

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