How to Nail Valentine’s Day Without Dropping a Ton of Money – A Visual Guide

Valentine's Day doesn't need to be expensive, commercial, or stressful. We've got an outline for an amazing evening at home, no jewelry required.


The Purpose.

Valentine's Day should be a day of celebrating the love of your life through romantic gestures..

Unfortunately, it has become dreaded by men and women alike for its over-commercialization.

This year, skip the heart-shaped box of chocolates and the overpriced roses and give your significant other a day that is both simple and story-worthy.

The Setup. 

A mailed card to her office

Pick up a card today, write a short, heartfelt note to her, and address it to her office.

Sending flowers to the office is classic, but it's overpriced and creates a big show. Be more thoughtful and less dramatic by sending a card.

Give her a taste of what to expect

In the card, or in person, let her know you're planning something special at home. Tell her to wear something she thinks you'll like.

And give her your primer best. 

Take some time and put thought into what you're going to wear. Part of the fun of going out to a nice dinner is getting dressed up.

We're staying in, but we still want the night to be special so show her how attractive her boyfriend can be. Check out The Getups and re-watch Crazy, Stupid, Love for inspiration.


In the unlikely event you haven't been hit by the economic mess, feel free to take her out to that schmancy restaurant she's been eyeing.

For the rest of us: We're cooking at home, and it's going to be even better.

Set The Mood

People like restaurants for the ambiance. Make up for staying in by creating a romantic mood with low lighting and candles.

Step up your music game and make a playlist of her favorite music.


  1. She can be present while you cook, but she cannot help. At all.
  2. As the waiter/bartender/host it's your job to make sure she's got something delicious to drink and something light to eat while you cook.

Getting Started. 

Pick up a bottle of wine, but don't serve it until dinner.

Instead, ditch the $12 bottle stuff you normally give her and buy some top-shelf liquor to mix up her go-to cocktail.

While you cook, and she enjoys her cocktails, set out a warm baguette and brie wedge for her as an appetizer. (bonus points for a small plate of olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette) 

The Meal.

Pan-seared rib-eye steak with a baked potato and broccoli with butter. (do chicken if that's more her thing)

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Talking Points. 

Stash the dishes and move it to the couch…

Refill glasses and continue the conversation.

As long as you can keep up your end oof the conversation, this night should be better than a thoughtless over-priced dinner and a $100 necklace.

Talk all night or let the chemistry between you two take over. The rest, as they say, is up to you. 

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.


  • Reply February 9, 2012


    Great article. Certainly a big help for us guys who are strapped for cash.

    As always, thank you.

  • Reply February 9, 2012


    One of the best articles I have read on the subject of Valentines Day.

    Thank you for all your hard work.

  • Reply February 9, 2012


    Thanks for the great ideas! Primer again for the win on covering what is pertinent to guys like us.

    Another inexpensive “thoughtful” idea is a scavenger hunt or trail of sweet notes that you’ve hidden earlier. She’ll love how original and thoughtful you are and it gives her something to talk about with her friends the next day.

  • Reply February 9, 2012


    David and Matt, so glad you guys liked it! Thanks for the nice comments, I really appreciate that.

  • Reply February 9, 2012


    Kevin, Great idea!

  • Reply February 9, 2012


    the article looks (and sounds) good indeed, I wonder what will we say AFTER v-day xD

  • Reply February 9, 2012


    How do you make sure the card gets there on Valentines day and not a day earlier or day later?

  • Reply February 9, 2012


    If the card gets there a day early, it’s not the end of the world. Better early than late.

  • […] How to Nail Valentine’s Day WIthout Dropping a Ton of Money – Primer […]

  • Reply February 11, 2012


    iTunes tip = awesome.
    Along the same lines, stalk her on Pinterest. Easiest way to find out things she likes, recipes she’s been wanting to try, stuff she’s been wanting to buy.

  • […] How to Nail Valentine’s Day Without Dropping a Ton of Money – A Visual Guide – Primer […]

  • Reply November 15, 2012


    That is such a man’s meal

  • Reply February 10, 2014

    Jacob Crim

    The girlfriend and I have always talked about doing a French themed day. Where we eat French food, drink champagne and watch our favorite French films all day. We still havent done it. So I have found three stunning French recipes I am going to prepare for her. Got the champagne already. And I am finally going to see Amelie. I’ve never been this excited for Valentines Day.

  • Reply February 13, 2014


    Glitch mob is a great band. Should also consider Astronautica, which has a more romantic element to it.

  • […] How to Nail Valentine’s Day Without Dropping a Ton of Money – A Visual Guide – Primer […]

  • Reply February 15, 2017

    Joe Dopirak

    I skimmed back over your Valentine’s article yesterday for some last minute polish on the dinner I planned for my new fiance. Had flowers ready for when she woke up in the morning that I hid in our apartment building the night before, left a note and got some proposal pictures framed from our engagement in December. Had dinner planned to make but picked up a baguette for an appetizer realizing that her parents got us fancy oil and vinegar for Christmas. It was the icing on top and the cherry was Michael Bolton’s Valentines Day special on Netflix.

    Small detail, but it set the mood exciting her for the thoughtfulness. You guys are still crushing it for me even after I picked the one. More and more useful every day. Thanks gang.

    • Reply February 15, 2017


      That’s so awesome! Happy we could help, nice work!

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