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Cheap Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

I’m big on celebrating birthdays, babies, weddings, holidays and yes, even the commercial holy day of Valentine’s Day. I love love. I love the romance, the chocolate, the red roses, and fancy dinners.

But I hate spending a lot of money. So when Valentine’s Day rolled around one year, I decided to take matters in my own hands and plan a romantic dinner for my husband and me without breaking the bank.

We had dinner at home—instead of a fancy restaurant with an hour and a half wait. I strung lights on the roof of our porch to create a canopy of white lights. I dressed up a card table with a tablecloth, candles and rose pedals. We had a three-course meal for under $8 each, and I even broke out the china we never use.

We gave thoughtful gifts—we personalized gifts instead of buying what was most popular that season. I made a gift box of his favorite coffee and inserted homemade sweets and goodies. He brought me flowers—a beautiful arrangement from the local grocery store (about 40 percent cheaper than a florist) and a gift certificate for a pedicure and manicure.

We celebrated our love—not our wallets. At the end of the night, we could pat ourselves on the back for saving money, but most importantly, acknowledging and celebrating our love in a meaningful, non-commercial way.

Here are some other ideas for cheap (but fun) dates for Valentine’s Day or any day of the year.

Nature Lovers

* Hiking and nature walks
* Bike riding
* Rollerblading
* Exercising

Intellectual Types

* Museums
* Historical sites
* The Zoo
* Factory tour
* Walking tours
* Public gardens

Social Animals

* Pizza party
* Pot luck dinner
* Progressive dinner
* Fondue party
* Sundae party
* Cook out

Ways to Save Throughout the Year

Dining Out
1. If your city as an “Entertainment Book” and you like to eat out, buy it. They have “Buy one, get one free” deals for a number of area restaurants and date places, like miniature golf. They’re in the $20 range, but you can get one for about half if you wait a few months after they’ve come out for the year. If you use it only once or twice, you’ve made your money back.
2. Check their website of your favorite local restaurant for coupons, or sign up for their newsletter to receive coupons in the mail or vouchers for a free meal on your birthday.
3. also has discount gift certificates for local restaurants, but I haven’t had much luck finding restaurants I’d like to visit.

Hotels and Vacations
1. Don’t discount a romantic evening at a hotel. For our wedding anniversary weekend, I used to get a night at an area 4-star hotel for a fraction of the price.
2. Consider rentals instead of hotels when it comes to five days or more of vacation. Timeshare User Groups has classified ads from timeshare owners looking to rent out weeks. They have listings for home and abroad.
3. If you’re visiting Europe, check out staying at a monastery! The average price is $30 a night. There are books and resources that will walk you through how to make a reservation, even if you don’t speak the language.

1. There are cool ways to see new sites and experience parts of your city by renting limos, boats, and even venues. They become affordable when you split the costs among friends. We rented a boat tour at Disney for my husband’s birthday last year. It was $120 total, not much if you split it among the 8-12 people on the boat. The boat took us around the chain of lakes that connect the parks and resorts and then parked in front of Cinderella’s castle as we watched the evening fireworks. A perfect night.

The point is to spend quality time together—so anything goes. My husband and I sometimes turn “grocery night” into “date night”—just being together, buying our groceries, and then cooking dinner for each other. But I don’t consider it a cheap date. We buy a lot of food!

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Cara Davis is a writer, editor and the former editorial director for Relevant Media Group. During the past year she has been on a journey of finding a renewed focus for her faith and her life.