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Five Frugal Dates for Valentine’s Day

Fix Your Own Price by Fixing It at Home

Let’s say that at most high-end restaurants in your area, you both could normally eat a nice meal for less than $100, including tax and tip. Your Valentine’s Day meal at that same restaurant could wind up being a “prix fixe” meal, which could range from $150 to $300 or more. Why sit in traffic and wait for a table only to get robbed, when you can make her a nice meal at home?

You do the math. Even if you buy some steaks, a couple candles, and pick up some new fancy cloth napkins for dinner at your place, you’re still well ahead of the game. And at your home, you can control the lighting, the music, the mood, and make sure to leave the mushroom sauce on the side, just how she likes it.

If you’re not the type who cooks well, find one thing you can make–maybe you’re a good grill man, maybe you’re a pro at steaming vegetables–and then supplement it with side dishes purchased at the local supermarket’s deli section. Some fancy Brussels sprouts or sweet potato mousse will go a long way towards adding class to the meal, and can be microwaved while she’s not looking. Just make sure you have one wow item. Since you’re saving money by not going out, you can splurge on the fancy veal, the lobster, or even just dainty savory crepes. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to look elaborate and romantic. And nothing adds instant wow to a frugal meal like a bottle of champagne.

If you love to cook but are afraid to let your date see your disgusting hovel, click here for some tidying up tips.

Prepare a Valentine’s Day Basket

But let’s say that the economic blues have really hit you hard this year. Since Valentine’s Day is forever associated with gifts, candy, and knick-knacks, why not wow her with quantity if you can’t afford quality? Get a basket, any basket (a leftover wicker basket from Easter or a Thanksgiving ornament might do, or you could salvage a basket from a cheaply bought bath gift set at Walgreens), decorate it with pink and red ribbons, and fill it with personalized Valentine’s Day goodies for the one you love!

Like a balanced meal, the balanced basket should contain all the essentials: a little stuffed animal, a little candy, a heartfelt card, and maybe some other thematically appropriate goodies. Don’t be afraid to hit up your local dollar store–the bounty of dollar stores overflows when it comes to strange holiday doodads, and you might just find a card or figurine for that television show she loved so much before it got cancelled.

And if she’s the type who just has to have some flowers, you might luck out by adding in a potted beauty from your local nursery. Expensive roses are overdone, but she might just love a live orchid, or you can choose from one of the many great flowers that would suit her specific needs. Just make sure when you give her the basket, you peel off all the price tags, so she won’t mistake your gesture of love for an evaluation of her true worth.

Buy Her a Romantic DVD

Though Valentine’s Day is often associated with flowers and candy and other perishables, why not get her something she can enjoy all the way until next Valentine’s Day? Many women respond well to visual stimuli, so get her something pleasing to the eyes that will let her forget, for ninety minutes, the storms brewing in the economic world around you both.

The best part about giving your special someone a DVD is that you can both watch it together immediately while you cuddle on the couch. At $10-25 dollars a piece, you’ve got yourself an instant date that won’t break the bank. And if you’re willing to plop down more money, and ninety minutes just isn’t enough together time, you can always get her that box set of Sex and the City or Friends she’s been talking about.

If you’re the kind of guy who balks at watching schmaltzy romance movies, never fear–the modern film world provides countless opportunities to be filled with love without filling with nausea. You might find inspiration from our 20 Chick Flicks Guys Love.

Make Her a Movie Memory

If watching movies isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps it’s because you have ideas for your own films just brewing inside of you! If so, why not make your loved one a little clip of your own as her Valentine’s Day gift? All it takes with today’s modern technology is a camera that can take video (some camera phones even have this feature), and a willingness to humiliate yourself in the name of love.

This film can be in any format you like, but it’s best to post it on a film sharing site such as YouTube, so she can share it with friends and maybe even post it on her Facebook or MySpace page. If you have any Flash animation skills, you can make her a cartoon of yourself as Romeo and her as Juliet. If you want to make a montage of photos, you can put them to her favorite song. Or you can just go in a public place and act out a personal devotion of love with the help of a couple friends.

If you’re of a musical persuasion, this is a great chance to surprise her with a new song all about her! Just make sure you add appropriately hilarious footage to go along with it, and don’t be afraid to soak it in all the sweetness you can muster.

Compare Your Love to a Summer’s Day

Guys in Florence, Italy have it easy: they can just take their dates to the Uffizi Art Museum, point to Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, and say “She’s not nearly as beautiful as you!”

But in your own town, you probably have at least one museum or library that has a great event geared towards Valentine’s Day. For those couples with one or more kids in tow, this can be a godsend, as the kids can cut paper hearts at the crafts table while the parents check out cocktail recipes or the history of Cupid in Renaissance Art. If you’re in a southern state and the weather holds up, you can even have a picnic afterwards. For those still experiencing the chill of winter on February 14th, there’s nothing better to break up an afternoon of art like a cup of cocoa at the local coffeehouse (few museums come without some kind of cafe).

Get creative, and check your local daily newspapers or websites for tips! For some random examples, Los Angeles’ Japanese American National Museum is hosting a free animation event on Valentine’s Day, the Dallas Museum of Art has free performances of African music, included in the price of a ticket to see their world-class King Tut exhibit and Denver’s Molly Brown House is hosting high tea, the price of which includes a tour of their Victorian era underwear exhibit! If seeing whalebone corsets or golden fertility goddesses doesn’t sound like a hot date, then there are about a thousand cheap and free events going on all around you, many of which include advice from experts in the arts of love.

These are just some of the many great ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day on your own terms. Though they may seem different, they all require that you dole out heaping helpings of creativity, which your date is bound to appreciate. What successful ideas have you tried for a frugal but fun Valentine’s date?