Can we all agree that Valentine’s Day is the most fraught holiday of them all? Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s remind ourselves what the holiday represents and how we could all use a lot more of it: love! It’s about love, people—not forking over exorbitant amounts of cash, as Hallmark would lead you to believe.
Free yourself from the shackles of the almighty dollar this Valentine’s Day. Let go of the guilt, worry, and budgeting and do something easy and free. So, you can focus on what’s really important: each other.
1. Breakfast, Coffee, Or Tea In Bed
If done right, it’s every breakfast lover’s dream come true. Of course, if your significant other is not into a big meal in the morning, don’t make them a massive plate anyway. Bring them what they actually love, whether it’s a full continental breakfast, a slice of toast, or a cup of their favorite coffee or tea.
2. Fill Out A Gratitude Worksheet Together
There’s a lot of pressure to show your partner how much you love them via the number of dollars you spend on Valentine’s Day. But there’s so much more to a relationship than your receipts. Rather than focusing on the financial, use a gratitude worksheet to recalibrate your relationship. There are many free gratitude worksheets available online—simply print, fill out, compare answers, and prepare to swoon.
3. Go Stargazing
Maybe it’s the Midwesterner in me talking, but it’s hard to get more romantic than a night of stargazing. Plus, good ol’ Mother Nature offers these celestial shows free of charge. If you’re in an urban area, it might take some gas money to get somewhere remote enough to have high visibility. Otherwise, all you need is a dark spot, a blanket or two, and clear weather (though getting caught in the rain has its own romantic flair).
4. Dinner At Home
Just because you’re not eating out doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the dining out experience. Decorate and set the dinner table with a tablecloth, flowers, your fanciest dinnerware, or anything else to “dress it up” and make it feel different from an ordinary night at home. You get bonus points if your home-cooked meal is your partner’s favorite, but sometimes, making something from the pantry is good enough. It doesn’t have to be complicated and Michelin-rated to be appreciated.
5. Create A Playlist
Remember the thrill of making your crush a mix tape in high school? Just because we’ve transitioned to the world of digital tunes doesn’t mean you can’t still do that. Creating a custom playlist for your sweetie is a lovely gesture on its own. But it’s also a great addition to #4 or #3 (hello, romantic date soundtrack). Even if they’re not your favorites, loading up a playlist, CD, or mix tape with your partner’s favorite songs shows you’ve been paying attention, and that’s damn sexy.
6. Play A Board Game
Sometimes, just making the time to do something one-on-one is all it takes to show you care. Playing a board game is an interactive activity, rather than a passive one, like watching a movie. And who knows? “Netflix and chill” could have nothing on a risqué night of “Risk and chill.”
7. Watch The Sunset Together
Since Valentine’s Day happens in the winter, this might be happening before you’re both finished with your responsibilities of the day. So, it might take some organizing to accomplish this one. Still, it’s well worth it for a bit of romance. Watching the sunset together is a beautiful, contemplative activity that can set the mood for the rest of the evening.
8. Take A Hike
Spending time outdoors is a great opportunity to generate some endorphins and bring you and your partner closer, either with conversation or blessed science. No hiking trails nearby? A walk through the local park or around the neighborhood can have similar benefits. The important part is to get moving with your boo.
9. Solve A Puzzle
Like playing a board game, solving a puzzle is an interactive activity to do with your partner. You and your sweetie can work towards a common goal, strengthening your teamwork skills and learning more about each other in the process. Besides the obvious symbolism of solving a puzzle together, this is an excellent, low-cost way to spend a chilly February night.