Celebrate Valentine's Day Without Breaking the Bank

valentines-day-cheap-datesIt doesn’t matter whether you’re spending Valentine’s Day with yourself, platonic friend(s), or a sweetheart, here are some great cheap ways to celebrate for UC Davis college students or other folks on a tight budget:

Go out on the 13th.

Just by pushing your Valentine’s date up one day, you avoid massive crowding at restaurants, expensive menus, and the unspoken pressure of having a date on February 14th. You can steer clear of ordering the non-optional appetizers, desserts and drinks and share a meal at your favorite restaurant, ordering off the regular menu.

Find a free event.

All cities and college campuses have regular events put on by students or community groups; this might be something that you and your significant other rarely make time to check out. Even if it’s just an A Capella concert, improv show, or a local high school is putting on a musical, finding time to do something free and entertaining can be a fun date, and something special.

Go out for dessert.

You might not want to shell out fifty dollars or more for a nice restaurant and expensive dinner, but you can still have the romantic experience of a Valentine’s date. Check out the dessert menu at a normally expensive restaurant. Even the fanciest and most expensive restaurants don’t often have desserts that cost more than $10 – and there’s always something romantic about eating a really great dessert.

Explore your city.

Chances are, wherever your college is, there are tourist attractions, museums or landmarks that you have yet to see. Use Valentine’s Day to take an adventure across your town and cross a couple items off your college bucket list. Your college ID might also give you free admission to some museums.

Play with dogs!

You might live in a college residence hall, but that’s no excuse to not want puppies in your life. Most animal shelters allow people to come in and play with the dogs (and cats!) for a little while. It’s a great way to give the animals a little exercise, as well as a great way to spend a few hours getting to know your date. You’re guaranteed to have fun picking out and giving names to your future dogs.

Find a free class.

Many gyms, dance studios and karate studios offer one free (or discounted) class to those who are interested in learning. These free passes can let you and your date try out a new skill or hobby, or just the opportunity to spend some time fooling around! The best part of this date is that you might discover something you’re great at, or want to continue learning.


Groupon, Living Social and other coupon sites offer tons of discounted activities in almost every city. The catch with Valentine’s Day is that most coupons blackout high-trafficked holidays, meaning that you can’t use any discounts on Valentine’s Day. However, try to check out the “Events and Activities” section. Even though they’re not selling candlelight dinners, what could be more fun than a February 14th psychic reading or round of monster mini-golf? 

Take a walk.

Nothing is cheaper and takes up more time than a long walk! If it’s not below zero degrees where you live, try talking a walk somewhere scenic that your date has never been. This is also a great idea for a first date – no pressure to pay, and you’ll learn tons about each other. If you live in a city, you can also do some window shopping and find out more about what your date likes.

At-Home date

A favorite for those of us that forget to make reservations, the at-home date has all the good intentions of a regular date, but for a quarter of the price. Make your favorite meals together, set the table nicely, and light some candles. If you live in a dorm, clean out the common room and order some take-out. You’ll have a great time talking and be able to control your food and environment.

Winter activities.

There are plenty of winter activities that don’t involve taking a weekend-long ski trip…try sledding or ice skating. Both of these shouldn’t be more than a few dollars, and can entertain you all day long. After, stop for some hot chocolate. 


If you’re looking for a way to spend some time with your Valentine, and help others, try to spend some time volunteering together. A food bank, animal shelter, or other local cause can usually use an extra set of hands – or two. Check out where you and your date can spend a few hours to use your Valentine’s Day to give back.

For more ideas, visit studentadvisor.com.