Though many of us are still recovering from the holidays, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you took on holiday debt you haven’t paid off yet, you probably don’t want to add more debt this Valentine’s Day.
While many people feel pressure to spend for the holiday, a 2023 WalletHub survey found 23% of Americans actually expect their significant other to spend less on Valentine’s Day gifts this year. In fact, 1 in 4 Americans expect their Valentine not to spend any money on a gift this year. And about half of Americans say they would break up with their significant other if they spent money irresponsibly.
Even if you do plan to spend on your significant other this holiday, it can be challenging to come up with fresh ideas – especially ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day on a budget.
With all that in mind, we’ve compiled 10 inexpensive or free Valentine’s Day gift ideas so you can celebrate well and have financial peace of mind. From romantic gifts to funny ones, tailor your choices to your partner’s preferences and you’re sure to have a happy Valentine’s Day.
Creating a Valentine’s memory scrapbook can be a fantastic, inexpensive option for gifting. If you’ve made lots of memories together over the years, you’ll have plenty of photos and mementos to choose from. But even those newly dating can make a scrapbook, perhaps with memories of their first date.
A memory book doesn’t have to cost a lot. Mobile apps like Shutterfly and FreePrints allow you to get prints of your photos for free. Items like ticket stubs, menus, maps, or even sporting event wristbands can help you immortalize the moments at no cost. Scrapbooks or blank journals are a great option; a wide variety of options are available on sites like Amazon.com or Walmart.com. You could even make a shadowbox and change the display each year.
Flowers are a traditional option for Valentine’s Day. But as the holiday approaches, prices skyrocket.
Instead of pricey cut flowers which often don’t last long, consider a potted flower for the gardener in your life. Indoor plants like orchids, violets, and gerbera daisies have beautiful blooms that bring color to a room.
Perennials like azaleas, hydrangeas, and other flowering shrubs can also be a good choice. When the weather permits, you can plant them outside where they’ll remain meaningful each year. Just be sure you have the right climate and planting site for the flowers you choose; a sad or shriveled shrub may not provide the annual warm-fuzzy you’re looking for.
If your significant other really adores a bouquet, celebrating a week after the official holiday may be a cost-saving option. Prices for flowers typically fall as vendors try to get rid of their stock after the holiday.
Customized jewelry, like necklaces, bracelets, and rings, is a gift that can keep on giving. The right one can provide years of enjoyment. Options are available for mothers, daughters, romantic partners, and everyone in between.
While this isn’t the cheapest gift available, you might be surprised; there are affordable options available in the $25 to $50 range. To make sure your gift is a keeper, be certain you know your loved one’s style. You can even consider customizing a piece with their initials, coordinates for a significant place, or an important date.
Experiences are now the preferred gift to receive. This is particularly true among Gen Z, whose members would prefer to engage in a fun activity rather than purchase retail goods, says Professor Maggie Daniels of George Mason University. Based on her research, she suggests going on a hike that ends with a picnic; trying a new activity together such as pickleball, archery, geocaching, or paintball; or completing a challenging game like a heart-shaped puzzle or a multiplayer online adventure.
Daniels also recommends creating anticipation with clues or early surprises the week before Valentine’s Day. Simple things like a text with a single line of poetry, a sweet note, or a heart-shaped cookie could fit the bill.
If you have a bit to spend, consider a weekend getaway. Look for last-minute deals online and make your destination a surprise. Or look for places you’ve never been within a few hours of your home. Just be sure your partner knows what to bring to ensure a positive experience. See 21 Tips for the Cheapest Ways to Travel on a Budget for ideas.
While most of us think of Valentine’s Day as a one-on-one experience, you don’t have to go it alone. Planning an outing or gathering with other couples can be fun. Shared experiences also enhance meaningfulness and evoke positive memories, says Daniels.
If you’re celebrating with a group, you could rent Airbnb or VRBO cabins with fun activities nearby, go glamping, or just rent hotel rooms in a fun location. If members of your party don’t have much to spend, choose a more affordable option. Try a movie marathon with quizzes, a romantic party-game night, or a group picnic.
There are plenty of ways to have fun on a budget. And research shows that giving experiences leads to more happiness and better social connections, so they’re a great option for Valentine’s fun.
This adventure merits its own mention, because what could be more romantic and unexpected than a hot air balloon ride?
Before you decide to sail the skies, be sure this adventure is a good fit for your mate. If they get airsick or have a fear of heights we suggest you try a different romantic adventure! Likewise, check the weather before your date, tell them what to wear so they can enjoy the ride, and have a backup plan in case of rain.
All warnings aside, a hot air balloon ride can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you and your loved one (and the balloon operator) to share. Look forward to breathtaking views and floating above your day-to-day life.
Naming a star after your significant other is one of the most romantic gestures, well, under the heavens. Sites like starregister.org and nameastar.com allow you to name a visible star anything you like. Some sites even provide an instant printable certificate for $19.95 – an affordable yet meaningful Valentine’s gift option for last-minute gift-givers.
If you’re looking for something special this Valentine’s Day, consider asking an artist to create a custom piece for your partner.
Local artists and artisans are easy to find at art fairs and events. From potters to painters, many will agree to do a custom piece as a commission. While this can be expensive, less established artists are often willing to create pieces for more reasonable prices. Better yet, if you have a talented friend, ask them to create something for you.
You can also seek out artists on Etsy or Instagram. Many talented artists can help you create a custom piece or work with you to design something. You may even find a piece they’ve already created that makes you think of your special someone.
To make this gift a true success, make sure you’re familiar with your love’s style and what they like. Not sure? Almost anyone will appreciate work featuring their favorite pet. Small originals can be had for very reasonable prices.
Need more affordable gift ideas? You could even select a favorite photo of the two of you and have it printed on a canvas. Check out sites like Canvaschamp.com, CanvasonDemand.com, and CanvasontheCheap.com. An 11x14 canvas could run as low as $12.
Cook up a little something together this Valentine’s Day with a couples’ cooking class. A surprising number of classes are available at retailers, culinary schools, and independent teaching kitchens. This is a great way to combine an experience gift with a Valentine’s Day meal.
Bear in mind that you may need to set up your course well in advance. While many places offer date night classes on the weekends, a Valentine’s Day course may fill up quickly and cost you more.
As an added bonus, this gift could pay off well into the future as you use your new skills at home.
If you’ve never made a time capsule, Valentine’s Day is a great time to try this sentimental trip down your future memory lane. It’s easy, fun, and an inexpensive gift.
Step one, pick a container. You can buy a cute box, use a plastic bin with a lid, or even just find a cardboard box. If you like, decorate it with cute paper, photos, emojis, drawings, or anything you like.
Step two, you and your partner each assemble items with sentimental value. Use items that say something about who you are at this stage in your life – and this stage in your relationship. Consider writing a letter to yourselves, either separately or as a couple. You could even write a love letter for your person to read five years in the future. You can talk about your hopes for your relationship, your future, answer questions you choose – anything you like.
Step three, choose when to open the box. You could open it in a year, three, five, or even 10 or more. It’s a fascinating look both back and forward, and a fun activity for a special night. Bury it outside or in a closet or basement. Put a note on the box that says “open on…” with the date you choose.
Subscription gifts are a great Valentine’s Day gift. They continue to give your special someone a loving surprise each month or quarter through the year. Choose something your person loves and your gift is sure to be a success. Choose something you both love and you’ve got a slam dunk.
Subscriptions could include beef jerky, wine, beauty products, coffee, even British TV. Edible options abound, including cheese clubs, hot sauce, fruit, seafood, candy, and meats. There are plenty of non-food options as well, from boxes for runners, readers, and fashionistas. You can even get monthly scented air fresheners, puzzles, stickers, board games, plants, or flowers. Subscriptions are available for almost anything these days, so do your research and find something your person will love.
If you’re on a budget, you could always DIY your subscription. Are both of you movie fiends? Choose a new movie each month to watch together – you could borrow DVDs from friends or choose one from a streaming service. Do you both love craft beer? Bring home a surprise six-pack each month – maybe with a rose! – and share. While this requires a good memory and organizational skills, it can be a ton of fun. It can also spread out your spending over the year, making it easier to budget for.
Regardless of which Valentine’s Day activities you choose, keep your partner’s preferences and your budget in mind and you’re sure to have a great Valentine’s Day experience.
Chocolates, cards, and flowers top most lists of traditional Valentine’s Day gifts. Others include jewelry or handwritten poems.
A Trustpilot survey found Valentine’s Day will cost an estimated average of $157 in 2024, according to NASDAQ.com.
Search the internet for “best restaurants near me” to find great options near you. Or eat in – cook dinner for your sweetheart keeping it low-key and inexpensive.
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