Can I share a little “love” confession with you all today? As much as I love “love” I’m not a super romantic person. I mean, I love the actions of showing love like cleaning for someone, paying for someone else’s coffee or lunch, or holding doors open. I don’t love the ridiculous romanticism that comes with love like over-the-top rose petals in the bathtub or choreographed marriage proposals. It’s the INTJ in me but I think, “What’s the point?”
I need purpose, friends! I think that’s why I have such a love / hate affair with Valentine’s Day. I love the concept of spending the day showering your loved ones with gifts, affection, and romance but I hate the idea of trying to force it to seem like a cheesy rom-com (no hate to the rom-com fans out there).
It was a bit hard for Brandon at first because the women he dated before me expected romance straight out of the movies. They expected to wake up to a room full of Valentine’s Day balloons or to receive three-dozen roses delivered to the office. I simply expect to wake up to cuddles, a cup of hot coffee, and a clean dishwasher. Is that really so much to ask?
I also hate the idea of shelling out so much money for over-the-top romanticism when it’s really the little day-to-day things that I want, need, and crave. Seriously. It’s time-consuming, wasteful, and ridiculously expensive. I’d rather take that $300 he was going to spend on flowers and stock our savings or pay down some debt. At least then I’d see reward rather than fluff.
The problem though? Brandon and I speak totally different love languages. I’m a physical touch and acts of service person (so give me the cuddles and the clean dishwasher) while he’s a words of affirmation and quality time person. Words of affirmation I can easily do but sometimes that pesky definition of quality time frustrates me. Is it “quality” time if I make nachos and we watch a Valentine’s Day-themed horror movie? No? Well, it is to me but I get it that most people don’t consider “My Bloody Valentine” a quality romantic date even though I love it and find it perfectly acceptable.
Right now, we have financial goals that don’t include shelling out major money for expensive date nights or lavish gifts. We are focused on paying down debt and building our savings because, #lifegoals. So, we decided to focus on planning date nights that are productive (for me) and encourage quality time (for him).
Here are 12 of my favorite budget-friendly date night suggestions
Because you can have fun together without breaking the bank.
1 – Get in the kitchen
I mentioned once before how much Brandon and I enjoy being in the kitchen together. It’s why we occasionally use those meal-planning food boxes, as a fun food and wine at-home date night. For Valentine’s Day, we like to bake so we will usually try new cookie recipes or attempt to bake a fancy cake. Once we hosted our own home version of Cupcake Wars which is extremely difficult with only one oven (we didn’t think it through…). As long as it requires sugar and icing, it’s acceptable for this at-home date night.
2 – Scavenger hunts
I recently wrote all about our Valentine’s Day Scavenger hunts and how much we enjoy going out on Valentine’s Day to accomplish our people-watching hunt. Often, you can just go for a walk downtown and cross people off your list. Sometimes we’ll stop in a wine bar or a dessert cafe to catch a few more people on our list but it’s usually no more than parking costs and dessert/coffee.
3 – Breakfast or brunch
If you follow me on Instagram then you probably already know how much Brandon and I love our breakfast dates! It’s our favorite time together because it is so much easier to be intentional with one another over pancakes than burgers. I don’t know why it is, it just is. We also prefer breakfast dates because restaurants are nowhere near as busy in the morning so we get our date and we are able to spend our night cuddled up together at home.
4 – Or do lunch
If Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday then you may not be able to meet for breakfast and dinner out might not fit in the schedule (since most of us have very hectic evening routines). If that’s the case for you, opt to do lunch instead. Most restaurants have lunch specials which are far less expensive than dinner and if it’s a weekday you’re probably not going to indulge in more than a single drink (if any) which saves on the bar tab.
5 – Book an at-home spa
By “book” I mean grab all of your creams, masks (like my current favorite), exfoliating scrubs, and other at-home spa items from underneath your sink and put them to good use! You can pamper yourself, or spoil each other, but sometimes it’s just nice to turn off the TV, turn on quiet music, and sip a glass of wine while wearing an exfoliating mask. Right? Add in a foot massage and that sounds like freakin’ heaven to me!
6 – Find a festival
Maybe it’s just an Atlanta thing (it’s not, I’ve lived other places and I know this is true for every single place I’ve been) but there are usually at least a dozen or more festivals, fairs, parade, or other event going on. Often, I have found that the events are free but there are a lot of food and shopping vendors. If you’re able to resist the impulse purchases, you can have a lot of fun (and take a lot of pictures!).
7 – Be a tourist
You don’t have to live in a city to do this and still have a great time. My parents live in West Virginia and when we visit there we always do the “tourist” things for that area like hiking, camping, and exploring the historic old buildings. In Atlanta, we find ourselves visiting places like Centennial Park, Piedmont Park, and some of the art displays. Discover what your area is famous for and go check it out! Often, you’ll find a lot of the places are either free or very affordable. If you’re in or around a major city you can also check out CityPASS for a huge savings on admissions to popular places. We bought the CityPASS for Atlanta last year and saved a huge amount of money.
8 – Make it game time!
One of our favorite games is Battleship, but that’s probably because it’s one of the only games you can really play well with only two people. Sometimes we’ll turn the movie Battleship on in the background just to up the cheese-factor of our evening. Ha! We also absolutely love the Escape Room game from Spinmaster.com although you’d need another couple if you were going to try that. Other times we will play Mario Kart on the Wii or one of the other games we have for the PS4. Once we went to a couples yoga class at our gym just because we were both curious but also too embarrassed to go alone. Now I do yoga via yogadownload.com which works great for me and is a lot easier on our schedule.
9 – Go camping or stargazing
Ok, so being real, Brandon and I loathe camping! I hate being outside with the dirt and the bugs; I just prefer to be inside the clean warmth of my own home. I make a temporary exception on Valentine’s Day but I don’t stay out all night. Sometimes, I’ll just throw down a bunch of blankets and pillows so we’re outdoors stargazing for a few hours. If you enjoy the outdoors, it’s definitely something to try.
10 – Go hiking and have a picnic
We can be in the north Georgia mountains in about an hour or so which is nice when we want an outdoorsy day. I’ll often pack a picnic backpack (like this one I bought for Brandon) with a bottle of wine and a few picnic foods. My own backpack has extra socks, bottles of water, first aid items, a camera, a blanket, and other little things. We’ve carved our initials in a tree, sipped wine and told stories, and taken pictures. It’s a fabulous quiet date but it can be so romantic!
11 – Get creating!
Sit down and go over your to-do lists, your “one day” lists and your Pinterest boards to see if there are any things you can get done on Valentine’s Day. It can really help you bond together by working on shared tasks and seeing your accomplishments. Once, we painted our entire master bathroom. Another time we rearranged our living room furniture and hung shiplap over a cabinet. Other times we’ve just made our own DIY mugs with sharpies for each other. If you do it, keep your design to yourself until the reveal. So fun to see what you make for each other!
12 – Play bartender
You need a semi-stocked home bar in order to pull this off because if you have to go to the store and purchase the alcohol then you’re going definitely going to be out of the “budget-friendly” date night arena. I recommend buying a book like Tequila Mockingbird (drinks with a literary twist) and trying out the new drinks at home. You can either make samples of each cocktail or you can drink your way through them one by one until you can’t mix anymore. It’s ok to be a little tipsy since you won’t be driving anywhere anyway. Sometimes we’ll turn on our own dance music and have an at-home dance party as well. 😉
What do you think? What are your Valentine’s Day plans this year? Any budget-friendly date night ideas you want to contribute to the list?