Everyone always says, “It’s the thought that counts.” Here at Primer, we’re more apt to say, “It’s the effort that counts.” Especially when it comes to over-commercialized holidays built on a dozen roses… of lies!
Read more: The Surprisingly Bogus History of Roses on Valentine’s Day
This year, we set ourselves a challenge: how many high quality Valentine’s ideas could we come up with that cost nothing? Nada? Zip? Zilch? Zero?
Is it even possible to put on a decent Valentine’s day without dropping at least some cash?
The answer: absolutely. Especially when you combine, mix, and match small ideas and sweet touches that don’t require currency.
What do all of these ideas have in common? They require a little forethought and some elbow grease – but hey, anything beats paying week-of prices for flowers, candy, or jewelry.
A caveat for the literal-minded: some of these ideas assume you already have a few basic items – like eggs and candles – that are part of your normal weekly budget. Ditto for gas or a few swipes on public transit. When we say zero dollars we mean “zero dollars above and beyond what you spend to, like, live.”
11 Free Ideas For Valentine’s Day
On their own, these ideas are probably a bit too small. The key to using this guide is picking a few based on your Valentine and combining them to make a well-rounded Valentine’s Day that’s romantic and unforgettable. So let’s get creative and reveal 11 totally free things you can do on Valentine’s day.
Breakfast In Bed
An oldie-but-a-goodie. Get up early, brew coffee, and make a simple breakfast of eggs or cereal. Bring it in on a tray with your phone playing their favorite gentle morning music or some woodland ambient sounds from Spotify for an extra touch. If their favorite coffee spot isn’t prohibitively far, get up early and bring back their go-to order.
Read more: A Barista’s 4 Fundamentals to Making Better Coffee at Home
Read more: How To Crack An Egg With One Hand
Make A Scavenger Hunt Of Memories From Your Relationship
A scavenger hunt leads you from one place or object to the next with a series of clever clues. For a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt, start a couple days early. Think back on highlights and special moments from your relationship and write clues that lead to objects around the house. Shoot for 5-10 clues like, “the book you gave me on our third date.” End somewhere meaningful, like a favorite photo of the two of you.
Volunteer For A Cause They Love
It costs nothing to spend the day helping at a kitchen, walking shelter dogs, or phone-banking with other passionate folks. Volunteering at their favorite charity or nonprofit is sure to make memories more valuable than some grocery store carnations.
Write A Poem
Start by reading a few classic and contemporary love poems selected by the Academy of American Poets.
Read some examples: Love poems selected by real poets.
Next, do some free writing. Pick a feeling, use imagery, be specific, and don’t judge your efforts too harshly – you can’t go wrong. Set it aside for a day, then come back, pick out the best bits, and presto! You’ve got your poem.
Scrounge decent card stock at work or repurpose that old resume paper you’ve still got floating around.
Swap Cars And Detail Theirs
It’s a genuinely awesome surprise to get your car back spic n’ span.
After Candlelit Drinks At Home, Head To A Gallery Opening
Fix something from your home bar, then hit the town to soak up some culture.
No booze in the house? Openings usually have complimentary wine and snacks!
Cover Their Mirror With Sweet Post-it Notes
Forget Sweethearts candy – do your own version to surprise them in the morning. Write one note for each letter of the alphabet – start a thought, memory, or emotion that begins with “A” and go from there!
Alternative Pro Idea: Pick 10 favorite memories from the past year and write down each on a post-it.
Host A Couples Game Night
Make it a potluck and grab your favorite board game. Marvin Gardens, anyone?
Fill A Jar With Future Date Night Ideas
This pairs perfectly with a few other ideas on this list. Start with simple date ideas, like taking a walk at your favorite park, to the complex, like a pizza tour of your town, to the daring, like crashing a gala event.
Get home early and make your shared space spotless. This might seem like a cop out – and if you already have a house cleaner, it probably is. But all the parents are nodding their heads: do the cleaning, make it shine, and give your partner the gift of time. This will hit big when combined with other, more overtly romantic gestures.
Find A Museum Or Event That Speaks To Their Interests
Many museums have free nights – and smaller ones can be hidden gems of discovery. Put in some research time and make it something that really speaks to their interest. You’ll score big points on thoughtfulness and attentiveness.
If You Cheat And Spend $10…
Look, these were fun and simple and very cheap so we wanted to include them.
If you can afford to spend a very modest amount – and want to – you can upgrade many of the ideas above, or:
Add Drinks To Any Free Date
For ten bucks, grab a beer or house wine before that art opening, free museum, or event. For $20 make it cocktails.
DIY Spa Night
Dust off your emergency candles, spring for some fancy bubble bath or bath bombs and maybe a single rose to cannibalize for the petals, and make it a stay-at-home spa night. Massage recommended. Steamy tunes required.
Fill A Jar With Their Favorite Candy
Assuming you don’t have it on hand already, spring for their favorite drugstore candy and combine with another idea or two – perhaps some memories or a poem?
Get Corny Decorations For Your Night In
Nothing says I love you like crepe paper hearts and banners. Swing by the dollar store on your way home and do it up… then cook dinner.
Looking for a full plan for you Valentine's Day? Check out our beginning-to-end, stay-at-home Valentine's Day.