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Feb 12, 2018

How to Have a Very (Very) Cheap Valentine’s Day

By Emily Winter

Last-minute, inexpensive ideas that are way more fun than going to a white tablecloth restaurant.

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So you forgot to make a reservation two months ago for an overpriced, mediocre prix fixe Valentine’s Day dinner. Congratulations. You just saved yourself from one of the most forced, awkward date nights of the year.

You also saved around $200, if you include tax, tip, and that overpriced bottle of wine.

But now what? It’d be pretty weird if you actively avoided your significant other on Valentine’s Day.

Instead, here are some last-minute, inexpensive Valentine’s Day ideas that are way more fun than going to a white tablecloth restaurant:

Treat it like a holiday you actually like

As people who crumble under the pressure of a romantic holiday, my boyfriend and I have a tradition of pretending Valentine’s Day is Halloween. We prep by researching scary movies we haven’t seen, and then binge all night. Added, unrelated bonus: He always fries up some cheese curds for my Midwestern appetite. We consider this greasy, scary tradition the perfect anti-Valentine’s Day date.

Stage a social media Valentine’s Day candy battle

  • Step 1: Buy one of each Valentine’s Day novelty chocolates or candy at your local pharmacy or grocery store.
  • Step 2: Make yourself—and your home—Instagram-ready.
  • Step 3: Armed with homemade scorecards (and some wine), photograph you and your S.O. as you determine, once and for all, which Valentine’s Day candy is the best, and which need to be discontinued immediately.

Not only is this a fun and useful project, but it’s also great excuse to indulge in delightful treats in heart-shaped boxes. And, most importantly, you and your partner will get SO! MANY! DOUBLE TAPS! Get as competitive as you like, as long as it doesn’t devolve into a fight (which would defeat the purpose).

Break out the game board: Games. They’re not just for groups!

There are plenty of great games for two. If you’ve got a competitive spirit, I recommend Onitama, Patchwork (my boyfriend and I play this one constantly), Mr. Jack, and Jaipur. I’ve also found Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne adapt well to two players.

Add wine and aforementioned boxed chocolates and you’ve got bona fide, real deal couples time.

Laugh together

A night out at a comedy club is a great date. But here’s something you may not know. You don’t need to spend big money on tickets to see the best comics in your area. Really!

Skip the pricey comedy club and look through your local listings for a free or cheap independent standup show.

And if it does turn out horrible, you and your significant other can officially say you’ve had an “unforgettable experience.”

Worried that a bad comic could bomb your romance? As a comedian, I get why you might be skeptical—there’s a lot of bad comedy out there. Pro Tip: Google the host and some of the comics on the lineup. Do they seem generally likeable? Yes? Then give it a whirl. Most comedians will be extra gentle and friendly to couples who’ve decided to spend their Valentine’s Day watching live comedy, so you should be in good hands. If you’re nervous about being picked on, don’t choose a table near the stage.

And if it does turn out horrible, you and your significant other can officially say you’ve had an “unforgettable experience.”

Create a signature cocktail

There’s something so satisfying about finding drink recipes online and mixing yourself the kind of complicated, nuanced cocktail that would cost $15 at an upscale bar. Better yet, make it a challenge: Each of you is tasked with finding a drink recipe you think fits your partner. After collecting the ingredients, you each make a complex cocktail for your significant other., and explain why you chose that drink. Dirty martinis encouraged!

There’s no shame in going the traditional route. If it’s not Valentine’s Day without a white napkin in your lap, then go for what will make the day most special to you. There’s no shame in ordering in and watching your favorite movies on Netflix either.  —it’s the perfect date for a couple who is madly in love, but also very, very tired.

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Written by

Emily Winter

Emily Winter is a writer and comedian in New York. She's written for TV Land, Glamour and Fusion TV.


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