istock/svetikdIf you want a romantic dinner:
For a cheap Valentine's day date, stay in. You automatically spend more money when you go out because you pay for service and atmosphere plus your entrees. Luckily, you can recreate that romantic ambience at home for free. For a fun and cheap Valentine's Day idea, switch up the feng shui and eat in a room other than your kitchen. Have a picnic by the fireplace or dozens of candles. (Mood lighting is everything.) Sprinkle rose petals around the floor. Make your menu mean something. If you got Chinese food on your first date, eat Chinese. End with a light dessert, like sorbet garnished with mint. (Get our free Valentine's Day guide packed with dozens of quick tips and sweet ideas for an amazing V-Day celebration.)
istock/vicntIf you want to get away:
Websites like HomeExchange.com and Airbnb let you travel across the country (or just across town) without exorbitant hotel prices. Or you can give your home that clean resort feel by cleaning up the clutter. Use these tips from professional housecleaners.
istock/mgfotoIf you want the perfect gift:
For a cheap but meaningful Valentine's Day gift, you’re better off buying an experience rather than a present you can wrap, according to science. San Francisco State University found that people were happier when they bought experiences rather than material objects. Lucky for you, Groupon, LivingSocial, and many other discount sites have deals for different Valentine’s Day date night experiences, like wine tastings, glass blowing, and BYOB paint nights.
istock/joka2000If you want to buy flowers:
Buy them at a store that keeps them refrigerated. Never buy flowers online or from a roadside stand. When you’re searching for the perfect bouquet, make sure it has tight buds. That way they’ll stay open longer when they do blossom. If they’re already open, they won’t last more than a day or two, though you can always try these tricks to make flowers last longer. What’s the deal with buying roses on Valentine’s Day anyway?
istock/miljkoIf you want to buy jewelry:
Buy it in a store, just like your flowers. Online diamond dealers may not actually have certified stones. When it comes to diamonds, look for the four C’s: cut, carat, color, and clarity. For gold, make sure it has the manufacturer’s trademark close to the carat stamp. But don’t feel pressured to choose diamonds just because they’re “traditional” or expected. Rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are more rare than diamonds, equally beautiful, and somehow still less expensive. A Claddagh ring also makes a meaningful gift with its symbols of love, friendship, and loyalty.
istock/alexkichIf you want to be sentimental:
Make something from the heart (it's the perfect combination of a Valentine's day gift that's inexpensive but meaningful). Make a collage of your favorite photos as a couple or photos from different stages of your relationship. (Learn how to preserve old photos.) Burn a mix CD of his or her favorite songs. Organize a gift basket filled with notes or trinkets referencing inside jokes. Creativity is one of the most sincere ways to say “I love you.”
istock/AleksandarNakicIf you want to be adventurous:
Explore your city. Go ice skating. Visit a museum. Take a dance class. Some theater companies have special Valentine’s Day deals for couples that include pre-show events. Set up a scavenger hunt around town, a la Leslie Knope in Parks & Recreation. Granted, this involves a great deal of planning and coordination with different venues to hide clues, but how much fun would it be?!