Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Jan 31, 2013

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Guess what time it is? Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day season again. There are only a few weeks left until that wonderfully expensive holiday defined almost exclusively by gift-giving is here.

What’s that? You’re low on cash? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

It turns out you don’t need to spend a ton of cash or even borrow some money in order to have an enjoyable Valentine’s Day with the one you love. There are a whole host of things you can do on a budget—gifts included—that won’t break the bank this February.

First, let’s take a look at things you can do that are actually free.

Free Love

Cheap Valentine's Day DatesAs Valentine’s Day fast approaches, you better move quick and start making some plans. No one likes a last minute, randomly thought up date or gift—even if it’s free. Here’s a way to show some love to the person you care about totally for free.

If you are lucky enough to live near the coast—or by a scenic body of water—then grab a blanket, some refreshments, and get to the beach! Nothing quite says “I love you” and like crashing waves, salty sea air, and soft sand. Sure, some beaches might be state owned and cost a few bucks for parking, but that is certainly cheaper than an expensive restaurant with overpriced food. At the beach, you can have one of those romantic walks by the shore, a quick dip, and some snuggling when a chill breeze hits.

Love birds that live by lakes and ponds can also get in on this action. A tranquil picnic near a lake can be a picture perfect romantic Valentine’s Day afternoon; just be sure to pack some  bread in case any ducks show up demanding a piece of the feast.

Maybe you and your love met at a nearby place? Now is a great time to pay that place a visit and reminisce. Maybe you both have a funny story that happened at a specific spot in town? Go there and relive that memory.

For those looking to have a good time without driving to a park, lake, or beach, there is always an opportunity closer to home.

Staying at home gives a couple the chance to pop in a romantic movie and cook dinner at home. Since this Valentine’s Day will fall on a Thursday, a generous gift may be a nice home-cooked dinner for the one you love. This goes double if that person usually cooks for you and could use a change of pace. You’ll only be spending money on the food and drink you purchase, so if you can find sales at a local farmer’s market or grocery store, then so much the better.

Speaking of sales, let’s talk about how to have a romantic time this Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank, even when buying more than simply dinner.

Love on a Budget

Here’s the bad news: you will probably have to spend at least some money.

Here’s the good news: you don’t have to spend a ton of cash to make it special.

Right now, there are a few weeks until Valentine’s Day. That means that stores haven’t yet jacked up their prices in the name of profit. So now is the best time to purchase that box of chocolates you plan on giving your loved one.

But this pre-emptive action shouldn’t be used for everything. Buying flowers weeks or even days before Valentine’s Day is a great idea… if you want to give some dead and withered flowers. So stay clear of that idea unless you have a green thumb that lets you magically preserve flowers.

For both of these traditional gifts, remember that quantity doesn’t necessarily outweigh quality. Try to work on delivery and see if there is a special way you can give your gift to the one you love. A single rose with a beautifully hand-written note can be more powerful than a bundle of three dozen roses. If you are musically talented then a special song and a single rose can be overwhelming. Likewise, a box of 24 chocolates may not be as great as a square of three chocolate dipped strawberries (maybe a strawberry for each year you’ve been together)!

Cards are another gift item that is very traditional. Fortunately, you don’t have to pay a lot of money for a card, or (heaven forbid) a custom card. There are a number of blank cards available in most department and gift stores. These won’t have flowery pre-printed poetry, so you will have to write meaningful words for your loved one, but this will make the card all the more sentimental (with the additional benefit of saving money).

In that same vein you can always custom-make a gift. Are you great at arts and crafts? Well if your loved one is in need of a new wallet and you are proficient at leatherwork, then you know exactly what to give them. This path isn’t for everyone and not all of us are artistically gifted, so proceed with caution and always keep the feelings of your loved one in mind.

If you are going to put in some elbow grease to create a custom gift, you might also consider getting a long over-due chore or task done for the person you care about. Have you promised to fix that sink but never get around to it? Have you promised to do those taxes this year but keep delaying? Get that long overdue chore done now and prove that you not only keep your word, but you also care.

These are all great gift ideas and they don’t cost a ton of money. Just be wise with your spending and you won’t have to go into debt this Valentine’s Day. In fact, you might even get praise for doing something out of the norm. When it comes to love, no one wants to be plain-old-ordinary.

Whether or not you spend a bit of money at the end of the day—or Valentine’s Day in this case—just keep in mind: something is always better than nothing.