10 Simple Ideas for Celebrating Valentine’s Day On the Cheap

Wondering what to do for Valentine's Day? Here are some unique gift ideas that won't bust your bank account.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Whether you love it or loathe it, there’s no sense in ignoring it—but you don’t need to buy into the Hallmark holiday games, either. Why not celebrate it as a day to simply share your love for the people in your life—whether that’s a partner, a best friend, your children, or even your dog? Here are 10 ideas for celebrating the holiday that won’t bust your bank account.

1. Make chocolate-covered fruit. Surprise your sweetheart or family with a simple, yet decadent dessert. Simply melt down some dark chocolate, dip in strawberries, banana slices, or other types of fruit, and chill them in the fridge for a few hours.  For a more elaborate black-and-white version, check out this recipe.

2. Give a custom mix tape or CD. Yes, tapes—and even CDs—are pretty old-school these days, but if you want to show someone you care, it helps to have more than an MP3 file. Download your partner’s favorite love songs (we recommend Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am,” Bright Eyes’ “First Day of My Life,” and “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, just to name a few), and burn the album to a CD. Then create a custom cover that reflects everything your loved one loves.

3. Have a movie marathon. Instead of braving the unhappy crowd of couples on Valentine’s Day, snuggle in for an epic movie night. There’s no need to go for romance films: Pick up whatever you and your movie-watching partner(s) will enjoy, whether that’s a cheesy horror flick like Army of Darkness, a girls’ night Sex and the City marathon, or a family viewing of Finding Nemo.

4. Cook a gourmet brunch. If you’re no culinary master, skip the 5-course dinner and try your hand at Sunday brunch instead (a day early, but so what?). Start prepping the night before, and focus on tough-to-mess up dishes like the fabulously simple “no-knead” bread, pumpkin muffins, and a frittata. For those of age, a mimosa or Bloody Mary would be appreciated, too. (Check out Smitten Kitchen for more sleep-in Sunday brunch tips.)

5. Host a game night. Whether you’re single or all coupled up, it can be fun to spend Valentine’s day with your friends. Invite over a group of buddies for pretzels, beer, and an evening of Scrabble or The Settlers of Catan.

6. Give a spa gift certificate. True, spa treatments can often be pricy—but with the prevalence of daily deals sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, you can score a half-priced massage or facial almost any day of the week. Check out the DealGator coupon aggregator to see what’s on offer in your hometown.

7. Buy handmade. A handcrafted wall decal or scarf is way better than a generic tie or sweater. Take a look through the always-wonderful offerings on Etsy to find something that your loved one will adore.

8. Make it yourself. If you’ve got a crafty streak, now’s the time to pull out the stops. Create a handmade card (or a whole set for your child’s pre-school class), or knit a scarf or blanket for someone you care about. Find some great craft projects here.

9. Create a photo album or collage. Surprise your loved one with a hardcover photo album filled with photos of the two of you—sites like Shutterfly can produce beautiful albums for minimal cost.

10. Buy chocolate. Yes, it’s clichéd, but hey, it’s delicious.  Our favorite (in case you were wondering) is Lake Champlain—you can’t go wrong with the Five-Star Bars. Just remember to save a bite for your sweetie.

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