Frugal Ways to Celebrate Love and Nourish Joy

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My husband and I got married just a few days before Valentine's Day. Originally we had scheduled the wedding for just after Valentine's Day, and my husband being the Dutchman that he is, was excited that our anniversary would always fall at a time when roses would be on sale. Needless to say when we changed the date, we had to find new ways to be frugal for our anniversary.

With that in mind, I thought I'd put together a list of a few ways to have fun for Valentine's Day without spending undue funds. Despite all the commercial advertising in our culture telling us that we need flowers, jewelry, and an expensive night out to show how much we love another person, there are deeper riches to be found in finding simple, creative ways to celebrate love and nurture romance.

Instead of going out for dinner, do a formal dinner at home. Use a nice tablecloth and your best dishes. Put on candles and music. Prep a multi-course meal ahead of time. If you really want to, get dressed up. If you want to include the kids (mine love this kind of thing), have them help by setting the table, serving the meal, and choosing the music.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, but equally joyful and love-celebration-worthy, have an inside picnic. Serve easy-to-eat finger foods – a fresh loaf of bread, cheese, pate, hummus, fruit, dessert and drink a good wine or ale. If you don't have small children around, consider doing fondue as well. Cheese or chocolate are especially fun!

If you want an excuse to go out together, go out during “happy hour” when food and drinks are less expensive or go to the best restaurant you can afford for coffee and dessert.


Plan a progressive dinner with friends. Enjoy an appetizer, entree, or dessert at each home.


Give your children the chance to be artsy and decorate the house. Handmade hearts, color-specific drawings, collages, balloons – whatever you'd like to make it festive.


Make handmade cards and gifts.


If you have time alone, use it as an excuse to pamper each other. Give each other massages with rosewater-scented olive oil, wear thick terry robes while you drink champagne or raspberry water kefir in fluted glasses, and curl up together in a cozy place.


Play your favorite music and dance the night away, even if you both have two left feet. Have fun no matter how awkward or graceful you are!


Rent a classic movie, like Casablanca, or choose an old favorite to watch together.


Take a romantic walk by the river, in a historic neighborhood, or through a public garden or park. If you see a cafe, stop to linger over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.


Find a free or inexpensive play or concert at your local community college, university, or a local city theater. Youth orchestras also often have excellent concerts for cheap prices – and you're supporting burgeoning artists!


Bake a sourdough black forest cake for your beloved.


Gather wild flowers or flowers from a friend or neighbor's garden and put them around the house.


Spend the evening together playing with words – play a simple board game like Wordigo, write poetry together (choose a style, like haiku, to get yourself started), or make a list together of things you're grateful for (see if you can think of 100 things by the end of the evening). These activities can be surprisingly intimate, joyful, and just plain fun.


There are lots of ways to have fun without spending much money - even on special date nights!

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