Before the COVID-19 pandemic stole center stage last year, people planned their 2020 Valentine’s Day as usual — going out to dinner, exchanging gifts or both. And while dining in a romantic restaurant complete with flowers, wine and candles isn’t an option for many people this Valentine’s Day, that doesn’t mean the day dedicated to love and friendship has to be a total flop.
And it also doesn’t mean that you have to spring for expensive gifts to make the day special. According to the National Retail Federation, men are expected to spend $231 this Valentine’s Day with women spending an average of $101. But who says you have to conform to statistics? You don’t have to spend anywhere near that to celebrate one of the most romantic days of the year with your significant other.
Instead, use the pandemic restrictions as an opportunity to forge new Valentine’s Day traditions — cozy, at-home experiences that will serve to spark creativity, bring you closer together and keep more money in your respective wallets.
Last updated: Feb. 4, 2021
Bake a Valentine's Day Dessert Together
Cost: $5 and up
No matter if you’re a novice baker or have pastry chef skills, baking a Valentine’s Day dessert with your sweetheart can be the perfect way to celebrate. A cake mix, one dozen eggs and some premade frosting will cost you around $5. You could even spring for some conversation hearts or Valentine’s Day-themed M&M’s to add the finishing touches to the frosting. Or if you’re beyond box-mix baking, you can tackle something from scratch, like these Valentine’s Day desserts from Food Network.
Play a Murder Mystery Game
An immersive murder mystery game is a fun and intriguing activity that can last hours. A variety of two-player themes exist such as death at the dive bar or murder at the festival. While murder mystery games just for two are more limited than games for larger groups, you can find them on sites like Amazon. And to sweeten things up while playing, snack on one or more of these healthy-ish Valentine’s Day treats from Taste of Home, like heavenly filled strawberries or decadent dark chocolate granola.
Enjoy a Virtual Chocolate Tasting
Co-op Food Stores is offering a Valentine’s Day Chocolate Tasting on Sunday, Feb. 14, which includes five different chocolate bars for approximately $36. Ethel M Chocolates is also offering a Valentine’s Day virtual chocolate tasting for two for $45 on Saturday, Feb. 13 and Sunday, Feb. 14. The price includes a 14-piece chocolate selection in a heart-shaped box. The catch is that either of these experiences must be purchased by Feb. 7 so that the chocolates can be shipped to you in time for the tasting.
If time or money is a factor, you could also organize your own chocolate tasting by purchasing your own bars or truffles and following this chocolate-tasting guide from Ghiradelli.
Have a Picnic in the Park
If your local park isn’t an option, you can also picnic in your backyard. Or if the weather is drab, you can set up the picnic in your living room. And if you don’t own a picnic basket, improvise. Use an ice chest if you’re heading to the park. If you’re celebrating at home, no picnic basket is needed. For picnic-style seating, arrange large, comfy pillows on the floor if you stay indoors or spread a blanket on the grass if you opt to go outside.
Your Valentine’s Day picnic fare can be anything you choose. Some ideas include wine, cheese, assorted crackers, chocolate-covered strawberries, frosted cupcakes — and don’t forget the chocolates.
Movie Night With a Valentine's Theme
Cost: $2.99 and up
Rent a romantic comedy or watch a movie with a Valentine’s Day theme, such as Valentine’s Day from 2010. The movie features an all-star cast, including Bradley Cooper and Jessica Biel. To make the night even more special, consider ordering a heart-shaped pizza from Papa John’s. Also, check with Pizza Hut, California Pizza Kitchen and Papa Murphy’s, which have all offered heart-shaped pizzas in the past.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Valentine’s Date Night Ideas That Won’t Cost a Fortune