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: Bring the love back

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.

If you've been following our advice, you won't even feel obligated to get her flowers on V-Day.

Primer Tip: Need a jumping off point for what to write? Check out this article.

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 style inspiration.

Live with her?

Leave a “Good Morning” note on the bathroom mirror for her to wake up to in the morning.

The Dinner

If you've got the cash and the patience to brave a restaurant on Valentine's, take her.

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

SET THE MOOD

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

Primer Tip: Make a playlist of her favorite music, download her top “Top 25” playlist from her music app of choice.

The Rules

There are certain rules you must follow to make this night special. Stick to these and you'll be fine.

  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.
Primer Tip: Serve her some light drinks in some real cocktail glasses to impress. Garnish your with fresh fruits or herbs to take the taste and appearance to a whole new level.

Check out our Wine Chart for picking a wine she'll love.

Getting Started

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

Ditch the $12 bottle of stuff you normally give her and buy some upper-shelf liquor to mix up her go-to cocktail (Vodka Soda? Gin & Tonic?). Just because you're not going out doesn't mean she can't have an amazing cocktail.

Need drink ideas, wine suggestions or cocktail glasses?

baguette with cheese

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

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Do chicken if that's more her thing.

COOK A STEAK JUST LIKE GORDON RAMSAY

Conversation

To further distinguish this evening from any other dinner at home, we can't simply talk about our days. Use this as an opportunity to learn more about your partner. Try opening up a deeper conversation with light questions like:

  1. “Who was the worst teacher you had in high school?”
  2. “Who was the most influential person in defining who you are today?”
  3. “What's the highest name on your family tree you know?”
reeses peanut butter cups

The Rest

Stash the dishes and move it to the couch.
Refill glasses and continue the conversation.

What kind of guys would we be if we robbed our dates of candy on Valentine's Day? Instead of buying the overpriced stuff in heart-shaped boxes (which is only ever just okay anyway) pick up some of her favorites. Reeses? Kit-Kat? This is good candy and it's cheap.

Pull these out as dessert while you continue your amazing conversation.

Talk all night or let the chemistry between you two take over…

Happy Valentines Day

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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.

  • Alfredo Ruiz

    it is also a good idea to do something by you to demonstrate that you can invest time in her interests or tastes, like surprising her with something she finds unique, even if sometimes you think can be “different” i.e. my gf likes to go to the movies and add m&m’s to her popcorn or having a flamed apricot cake which are rare, a good book separator made, sometimes this things speak up a lot more than buying stuff, just a humble opinion

  • Toro

    a charcuterie plate is always a slightly easier thing to prep in my opinion than a full meal.

    I bought a a scrap piece of walnut and sanded it down and oiled it, then served various charcuterie that was quick and easy to prepare.

    a baked a small wheel of brie w/ honey and thyme
    i browned some pecans in a pan with some butter, then drizzled with maple syrup and sea salt.

    I got a baguette from a good local bakery, along with a couple really good homemade jams.

    also got some fresh figs cut in half.and some grapes.

    on the savory side, I had some nice cuts of meats and a couple additional hard cheeses.

    and, of course, wine